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  1. The Bishop

    The Bishop Active Member

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    Diversity

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by The Bishop, May 27, 2020.

    I'm realizing I have issues with diversity in my story. I have three main characters and all of them are white men. Now, I'm not racist. I have all sorts of races in my story as it takes place in a future America, so it's naturally diverse. I'm also realizing a shortage of women. I have women side characters and stuff, but only one or two play somewhat important roles and that. This may all be due to the characters themselves, one of them is very arrogant and ignorant. I refer to some soldiers sometimes as "her" or "she", equally with "he" and "him". But I'm feeling like some people are going to take this to heart and take me for a bad guy. Is this a valid concern I should have? I don't want to change my characters because they're just the way I want them, but I'm worried that the lack of diversity, at least in main characters, is going to be an issue.
     
  2. Historical Science

    Historical Science Contributor Contributor

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    Is their race important to the story? Why mention it at all? Let the reader decide how they seem them.
     
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  3. Fiender_

    Fiender_ Active Member

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    It will be an issue for some readers, sure. As a gay man, I notice when every relationship is straight, and every mention of sexuality is hetero, and it does bother me. I think the best thing you could do is ask yourself why you made each character the way they are in terms of gender/age/race/other demographics, and maybe challenge yourself to not have every major character be the same "default".
     
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  4. The Bishop

    The Bishop Active Member

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    Well, I try not to describe them much but one is from Ukraine, so...white obviously, and another is often described as pale and gaunt, which guant has nothing to do with race but pale is obviously white as well. The third one I'm thinking about leaving him out of much description.
     
  5. The Bishop

    The Bishop Active Member

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    I have thought about making a character or two gay and not so uniform I guess, but I know that if I do then people will begin to assume completely incorrect things about them and other characters. Like if I make one character gay people might think others dislike them for being gay, or others like them because they're gay, which makes that character questionable in their sexuality. It's confusing and frustrating especially when I have all these relationships set up beforehand.
     
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  6. DK3654

    DK3654 Almost a Productive Member of Society Contributor

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    Why do you wanna know, huh?
    There is a lot of different things you can do to add diversity to a story. There is race and gender, of course, but there's also sexuality, religion, physical and mental conditions (e.g. MS, bipolar, amputation), gender expression (presentation of femininity and masculinity), age, ethnic background (e.g. Irish vs Italian American), height, body type, hair and eye colour, even socioeconomic background (poor vs wealthy, rural vs urban).
    If you just focus on whether or not you need to meet a quota of black and female characters, you miss out on all the other ways in which you can represent the variety of different human experience in your story.
     
    Last edited: May 27, 2020
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  7. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Smooth like butter Contributor

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    I write my characters how i envision them. The races, in my opinion, just naturally happen.
    Then again, i typically write sci fi/fantasy, so i can take liberties.
    I am a black female. I have a secondary leading character who is a white male. His partner (heterosexual) is a black male.

    In another WIP, my main character is ambiguous. Her adoptive father is a red haired pirate and his lover is the helmsman (its not stated anywhere in the book, but their relationship is implied and the other characters treat them as a pair).
    I dont set out and plan their races and sexualities because, personally, it doesnt feel natural to do this, and if it doesnt feel natural, how can i write them convincingly?

    Write your characters how you envision them, now how you think your readers would want to see them.
     
  8. Fiender_

    Fiender_ Active Member

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    That suggest, to me, that the character is generally unlikable and perhaps even an antagonist. Not that every minority character in a story needs to be a saint, but when your only gay character is the villain, or your only major lady character is manipulative (or something), it can really paint the wrong picture. Having at least two instances of: character of color, or major female character, or gay character, etc, even if it's minor roles, can help fight any apparent stereotyping or bias in your 'character casting'.
     
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  9. Friedrich Kugelschreiber

    Friedrich Kugelschreiber Contributor Contributor

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    Don't people tend to write what they know? Maybe you just need to get out and met more kinds of people. At any rate, quotas are kind of artificial. It may work for you, but I don't think I could use them.
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2020
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  10. Malisky

    Malisky Fortune cookie Contributor

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    I believe you're overthinking it. Just say the story you want to say with the characters and the relationships you want. It's your creation so the choices are yours and hopefully some people will read this story and will like it for what you make it to be. Writing, or as a matter of fact creating anything while feeling like walking on eggshells sounds very oppressive. At least, I wouldn't feel comfortable walking in public wearing some other person's clothes if they weren't my style and didn't represent the way that I'm feeling.

    Furthermore, people are not diverse just because of their skin color, their roots or their sexuality. They have so much more into them.
     
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  11. DK3654

    DK3654 Almost a Productive Member of Society Contributor

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    Why do you wanna know, huh?
    I don't think you should be walking on eggshells or meeting any strict standards or changing your story in ways that feel too artificial, but I do believe it's worth putting in a little effort. Having a decent amount of general diversity is good for creating a realistic, interesting and broadly relatable story. I think it's something you should just keep in mind. If you find an opportunity to put in whatever kind of diversity in which it feels appropriate to do so, why not do it? Not every story needs to be centred on minorities or marginalised groups, just having some good representation in the background can be a fairly meaningful thing for people to feel some acceptance and inclusion. And every story is going to have some diversity in its characters because people are just naturally diverse. You shouldn't need to force it.
     
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  12. Cephus

    Cephus Contributor Contributor

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    No, you don't have a problem with diversity. You have a problem with the EXPECTATIONS some people have about diversity. You are looking to tick off checkboxes on a list so that people who likely won't buy your book in the first place won't get offended.

    Screw those people. Write the book you want to write. You can't please the continually offended.
     
  13. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    If you are concerned about diversity, but don't have a diverse group of characters in your story, you can at least strive to make them not appear to be bigoted or just plain stupid. If they speak about characters who are not racially or sexually like them, ensure they speak with respect and show some notion that they know what 'the other' is truly like.

    I had to deal with this issue in my own novel, which is set on a ranch in the western part of Montana in 1886. There are no Indians in my story, because by that time most of the native population was stuck on the various Montana reservations and didn't mix with the rest of the population any more—although that is going to change if I ever get around to Book 3. However, I do have a scene where one of my main characters discusses her past encounters and her family's friendship with a small band of Blackfoot that passed through at one point, when she was still a child, and she makes the point that she misses them and wonders what happened to them. There were quite a number of Chinese laborers around at the time of my story, having finished work on the Northern Pacific a few years before, but my characters don't encounter any of them in the course of my plot. However, another character does mention how they were being mistreated by some members of the people in the neighbouring town—which the Chinese immigrants were at the time.

    One of my minor characters unexpectedly presents a racist attitude as part of the plot, and he gets very short shrift from my other characters.

    So while I haven't been inclusive (the way my story is set up, that would have felt like tokenism) I have made it very clear that the West of that period was not populated only by WASPS. And I've made it very clear that my characters are not racist, and the women speak for themselves.
     
    Last edited: May 27, 2020
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  14. Roberta Parsnip

    Roberta Parsnip New Member

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    The only diversity that matters is the diversity of ideas. I say that as a bisexual woman. And I through and through believe that from start to finish.

    I would rather read a whole story of heterosexual males with engaging dialogue and ideas than I would read even one story with homosexuality that may check the box for diversity, but at its core is lacking the light of any intelligent design in terms of its narrative.

    And it would not bother me. I would read it again, and again and again and again and be recommending it to all my friends. But lately people are adding diversity, not because it tells you anything about the setting. Or it tells you anything about the people. Or that your stories ideas are best represented through the unique experiences of a gay man or a black man or whatever. It's to sedate the shallow minded illiterate fools of the internet who do not understand the human experience at its entirety. Who cannot empathize. Who are so childish, they have to be able to vividly imagine themselves as the protagonist in every story. (I dislike them even more as they drag normal people into their worlds with flattering words of "tolerance" and "diversity" when bullying a writer into writing a certain way and campaigning against them when they don't, is not tolerance or diversity. It's anything but!)

    I don't blame authors who fret. These fools I've mentioned have ruined careers and scared people with great talent out of the industry. They've labeled people "racists" and "bigoted."

    If I truly want a story about a homosexual Latter-Day Saint Female, I would write it myself. You should not feel pressured to stifle your own ideas to appease me. Who am I? To think that your somehow doing me some kind of social good is almost insulting. The real social good is when I start lifting myself.
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2020

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