How should you approach writing diverse characters who are members of groups and cultures other than your own?
Here are FIVE tips for writing diverse worlds and characters:
- Do your research – Don’t rely on stereotypes. Read books written by authors from cultures you want to include. Specifically seek out books that reflect their cultural experiences. And, of course, first person research is the best…meaning talk to people.
- Write the story – Just like with any project, you can get bogged down in the research phase and never actually put words on the page. No words on the page means there is nothing to edit. Write. The. Story. Then…
- Use a sensitivity reader – Ok – let’s rewind a bit….what is a
sensitivity reader? A sensitivity reader is a member of the group you are
trying to represent who reads your work to help you ‘get it right.’ They are
NOT a line or story editor, but they do provide input on character situations,
reactions, and generally make sure your depictions are accurate and culturally
sensitive. In short, they try to keep you from putting your proverbial foot in
your mouth. Some publishers have sensitivity readers on staff. I’ve helped out
a few author friends and friends of friends by doing sensitivity reads for
Reach out to your writer friends and ask for recommendations for this type of help. Time is money, so be prepared to pay. Depending on word count, a sensitivity read can cost less than $100 - $200 or more USD.
- Find and use diverse alpha and beta readers – Especially if you are self-publishing your work, another set of eyes (or several sets of eyes) is always a good idea. Just make sure that the readers you select are representative of the world and characters you’ve written.
- Don’t be afraid, be sensitive – Some authors are so afraid of ‘getting it wrong,’ they avoid including diverse characters. I get it…social media hasn’t been kind to authors of some of the more outrageous and insensitive stories that have been hits lately. If you follow the points I’ve listed, you will avoid most – if not all – the pitfalls some authors have fallen into. Don’t make any assumptions about a different cultural group. Instead write the story and ask for input with an open mind and an open heart.
By being more inclusive, you will create more detailed and richer worlds for your audience. Plus, who knows, you may just find some new readers along the way.
|C. MORGAN KENNEDY|
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