Hey Writers!

                 I want to take this moment to talk briefly about writing diversity without falling into tropes. In the case of writing people whose group you don’t identify with, research is your best friend. Websites like TVTROPES.ORG provide page upon page of commonly played-out stereotypes and could easily help guide a character away from being a token.

                As a diverse voices writer, I see it all too often: The savvy writer has talked to a few people, copied their accent or mannerisms, and thinks they’ve nailed it. Giving your character an accent or writing in Ebonics won’t convince your audience of their identity as much as showing their experience. In my life, people of my group always find commonality in the experience of being a part of that group. It’s something you can relate to without giving too much thought.

                Instead of interviewing someone with the intent of copying them onto the page, ask them personal questions that will help you better internalize their unique cultural experience. Replicating this is much easier and will result in a more fleshed out character.

                Another thing to look into is the ways in which deviation from established cultural norms might affect a person, and then explore how your character might align with this. If it’s expected for someone like your main character to be good at sports, but they’re terrible, explore how this shapes some of their daily reality. If they’re expected to be dainty but they love a good wrestle, does this disrupt their everyday normalcy in any way or bring them any form of grief?

                You also want to keep in mind your audience when you are writing in your specific genre. Do some reading! Do you see a lot of the types of characters you have written in this genre already? How are my characters different? Is it good that they’re different? Is there a blatant lack of diversity in this genre that I could bring to it with my cast?

                If your sidekicks or side characters are bringing much-needed diversity to your cast, don’t pigeonhole them into stereotypical roles just because they only make a few appearances. Show them living their own unique lives as much as you can and they will stand on their own despite their lesser screen-time.

                If it helps, complete the character profile sheet for your top 5 characters instead of just your main one to really find the holes in development needed to give them legs to stand on. Take your time with this, and never be afraid to reach out to forums online, friends, and relatives to be sure you’re capturing a person, and not a trope.

Keep writing.


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