by K. Ceres Wright
As our world becomes more diverse, so must the pop culture and media that reflect it. But many writers who are not persons of color may ask how they can reflect diversity in their work without sounding as if they’re pandering to ethnic or minority audiences, or without using stereotypes.
First, writers must ask themselves whether they should add minority characters to their work. What’s your motivation? Just because? To make more money? Or are you truly committed to putting in the research and the work to make your diverse characters as rich and nuanced as the others. You want to create complex characters, no matter their background, who will draw you in, force you to accept their strengths and flaws, and still make you pull for them to win in the end—however winning looks—whether it’s realizing their own inner strength, or defeating the evil boss. Underneath, people are people, and their motivations should drive their actions more than their color.
As writers, we’re told to “show,” not “tell” … to let the reader “see” the characters more than be told the particulars. Let the reader use context clues to figure out that Christine is the daughter of a Japanese mother and African-American father, or that Trevor’s heritage is deeply embedded in the Caribbean. You want to give characters of color the same depth and humanity you give others. Don’t leverage cheap stereotypes and their prepackaged content. It’s lazy writing. Writing the other is harder, and it deserves particular attention as a result. Don’t do it unless you are willing to invest in a whole lot of time and commitment and get into some heavy conversation about what it is like to live our lives, deal with racism and micro-aggressions and fear and hate.
Reasons for Diversity
General blog with specific categories:
Arranging for a sensitivity reader:
Describing skin tones:
Learning about White privilege:
Using appropriate terminology for people with disabilities:
Writing about slavery: