Okay something has been bothering me a bit lately. There is a huge hue and cry about diversity in writing lately. That we as writers are not doing our job by writing diverse characters in our books. That we need to write less white characters and more of everything else.
Now as a writer who put characters in my books of all kinds this had me thinking for a bit if I was doing enough. Guess what? I am.
I decided to pull up the most recent census data for both the US and Canada. Why both? Well I am an American living in Canada so it made sense right? When it comes to my home country the figures surprised me a bit. The break down of races in the US is a lot less than people try to tell you. I have put more diversity in my books than there really are in the US.
Well you see in the US 77% of the population is that dreaded color, white (yeah like me) so it is 23% that breaks down the rest of the wonderful colors of people who live in the states. The black, the brown, the yellow and the red…or more accurately those of Asian decent, African descent, Latino or Hispanic descent and of course those of Native descent.
In Canada, my adopted country, the break down is even most white. In fact if you look at the breakdown the next largest group is those of Native decent. Interesting because Canada seems more racially diverse when you look at the shows and news.
In most cases when you are reading a book the character’s clothing is described but not always their face. You have no idea if the character is a beautiful caramel skinned goddess or so pale that they glow in the dark (my skin tone!)
If we go on to describe our characters in our books, it is because we want you to see the character as we see them. From the rich mahogany of her skin to the deep sapphire of his eyes we want you to see our character.
Now for other diversities. Yes, most characters I write are straight. It is what I know and of course we write what we know. Writing LGBT characters takes research to get right. I want them to be right, not a caricature of what I think they are. I will work toward good ones I hope.
But what about those who are not as physically able? Now in my work I have a lot of action, so I haven’t yet written a handicapped character but that will be coming. As a writer who is slowly growing older I am finding my joints are stopping me from doing things I want to do. This will help me write but like everything, I will need more research so as to not insult those who are less physically able than I am.
And finally there are two types of diversity that we don’t see enough of. That of strong characters who are neither sexy/thin or under the age of 35. I admit I have fallen into the trap of writing a lot of characters that are around 25-40 and are all in the sexy/buff build. We write them because we want our books to sell but since I mostly don’t write romances why should I do this? I mean what is wrong with a strong big bodied woman who happens to be a grandmother?
I think there is an audience out there that would be glad to read about that woman. So why not write her? It couldn’t do worse than any other of my books right?
Try doing this readers and writers, put in a character that is not common to your work and really write them. Don’t just make them the background, make them your main character. Don’t make them a teenager in an adults body. Write a nicely rounded adult character with all the wisdom that they earned by making it to adulthood and even grandparenthood.