Diversity is a hot topic right now and there are growing criticisms for authors who choose not to include diversity in their books. If you’re an aspiring writer who wants to write about diverse people in diverse situations, it’s important to do it right - and here are some of my thoughts on how best to do that:
- Do your research - I cannot stress this enough. You need to know enough about a culture to include it in your writing in a decent way. Too little research and you might be left with some hurtful stereotypes - or with an unrealistic character. What resources can help you with learning about cultures?
- Books - Books featuring characters from cultures you’re interested in or about places your characters would be from can be immensely helpful.
- Travel - Many authors travel around to get ideas about the people and places they’re going to be writing about. If this isn’t something you can afford to do (and trust me - you aren’t alone in that), prepare as if you are going to travel there. Watch travel videos about going to the country or city your characters are from and read travel guides for these areas. Even if you can’t go and learn from immersion, these resources can give you a decent feeling for a culture or people.
- Language - If you’re basing characters on a specific culture, getting an idea of that culture’s language can be immensely useful. Reading books about the language or watching videos teaching important phrases can give you an insight into how minds in specific cultures work, what’s important to people in this culture, and what is considered polite/rude in this culture.
- Meet lots of people - Sure - you might not know a lot of people with a strong knowledge about every culture you wish to include in your book. However, knowing lots of interesting and diverse people can help you learn to write characters who are very different from each other and distinct and important. Expanding your social group to include people who are different from you can also help you to write more in-depth characters.
- Ask for advice/guidance - If you aren’t sure you’re properly representing a particular culture or making your characters individual enough, have someone else read over your story with a specific prompt in mind - Are these characters distinct and different or do they all blend together? Is this a sensitive and effective way to include a diverse character in this story? Having friends read over a story that you’re working on with these things in mind can help you to be more conscience of these things as you continue to write and can also give the people in your life a chance to get very involved in your work. It can also prompt some interesting discussions and perhaps a new way to connect with the people who are important to you.
- Be willing to admit that you don’t know everything - In my mind, this is a very important thing for every writer to acknowledge. While writing, it’s important to keep an open mind to new things you learn and the tips that people offer you. While writing about diverse people, this is especially important - if you’re writing about characters who are very different from you, you can’t afford to shut out the advice of people who have more experience than you. This being said, don’t be afraid to take that advice with a grain of salt - what one person thinks is very important to include may not have a place in your book.
What tips would you add to this list? How would you go about writing a character different from you?