Let me tell you about the only diversity writers program you’ll need. I’m here to share how writing diverse characters is a great way to bridge some of the racial divides in the world.
You want to write a book? Awesome.
You want to write a book with diverse characters? Wonderful.
You want to write a book with diverse characters, but you’re nervous or scared you’ll get it wrong?
That’s where I come in.
As an author, you regularly do research before writing a book, – whether it’s learning about technology, the law, towns, and/or local customs. But often, there’s a blind spot when it comes to attempting to write characters of color. Anytime a life experience is something you don’t understand fully or couldn’t come close to comprehending, you NEED TO RESEARCH to make your story realistic and accurate. When it comes to creating diverse characters, a lack of research can lead to characters that are stereotypical and rely on traditional tropes often rooted in prejudice and a history of racism.
Unfortunately, you can’t expect to learn how to create diverse characters from everyone. When people come from a background of the same shared experiences, they often have the same shared biases. Wouldn’t it make more sense to get perspective from someone who has experienced what America is like for a person of color? Writing diverse characters is an amazing opportunity to share someone’s culture.
I firmly believe that a critical first step to creating a realistic character of color, is embracing the difficult conversations and uncomfortable truths that we’ve become too accustomed to avoiding.
There a few things you need to understand before attempting to write characters from the BIPOC communities.
Truth #1 – Your diverse readers are traumatized every time they read a story that builds on negative stereotypes and prejudice.
When a non-poc author attempts to write about the black experience, it often comes across as stilted and inauthentic, and to people of color it stands out in a glaring way. It immediately breeds distrust and breaks the world the author is attempting to create in the reader’s mind. In America specifically, there is a lot of intergenerational trauma that has never been healed. It’s so deep down that the pain from reading these types of characters is automatic and comes out as a reflex. When authors are writing diverse characters, there is an inbuilt skepticism of the story and its writer.
Truth #2 – Most people are not racist. But people do have conscious and unconscious biases, prejudices, or stereotypes they foster that can be harmful to people of color.
If you are writing a racist character, it’s important to be able to add that subtlety and how it manifests. It’s also going to be much more of a dog whistle to black people than white people. Depending on the story you are attempting to tell, it’s important to know what microaggressions look like for your character and when and where to add them within your storyline. You can’t place your own experiences if you are not a part of that culture.
When adding writing diverse characters to your novel, it’s easy to assume that you need to place dramatic, racist, or prejudiced examples of what you think a BIPOC character would act like, think, or experience. But the truth of the matter is, it’s usually those micro-aggressive statements and actions that go unnoticed and unchallenged in everyday life that really impact your BIPOC character. They are just as corrosive as more overt racist acts.
Truth #3 – Even if you personally haven’t offended anyone (that you know of), you may indeed be part of the problem.
There is a famous quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Arguably, the bigger threat for racial justice in the book community isn’t the rampant, overt racist who is more likely to be an obvious, easily detected “enemy”. Instead, the larger problem is the more likable author “friend” who just chooses to look the other way, not get involved, or rationalizes inappropriate behavior, unjust systems, and processes. Silence equals acceptance. We can no longer sit on the sideline while injustices occur around us.
Truth #4 – White author’s words matter. What you write in your books has the power to shape reader’s minds.
It’s a common misconception that just adding a BIPOC as a side character is special, a way for you to show solidarity. That is couldn’t be further from the truth.
One of the biggest mistakes the book community has made in trying to address systemic racial discrimination is to reflexively add one or two black characters they deem acceptable to readers. Once this is done, people pretend the problem is fixed. Many of these characters tend to be saved by a non-poc, have to sacrifice themselves or their livelihood for a non-poc, or perpetuate a negative stereotype that is being reinforced by a non-poc. It’s the modern equivalent of the damsel in distress. Female authors for years have been pushing back on the damsel in distress trope, as they know the mindset these ideas can create.
We must do the same for BIPOC characters. Integrating people of color into a story, without exploring their background, desires, and thoughts is a wasted opportunity for both the author and the reader.
Adding characters unlike yourself will create a better future for everyone. You never know who will pick up you novel and learn something that will change their views on race in a positive way.
The best news about all of this is that I want to help you, help my community. That’s why I created the Diversity and Sensitivity Course for Writers.
Why Join My Free Webinar?
As a writer, your words will have an impact on your reader’s life whether they notice it or not. Being able to write authentic characters who are unlike yourself can be a daunting task. Having a BIPOC teach you the inner workings of a community you are not a member of will allow you to connect with your readers on a deeper level. Your contribution to society through your words will allow readers a chance to see themselves within the pages.
I invite you to join me for my free webinar, where I discuss the topics above in more detail. As one of my loyal readers, I’m giving you the option to order the Diversity and Sensitivity Course for Writers at 40% off as an introductory price! Register for the upcoming webinar for more details.
Click here to sign up for my free webinar on how to write diverse characters the right way.
Are you excited about taking your writing to the next level?
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One thought on “Writing Diverse Characters Correctly”
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