There’s a word that scares writers – sometimes outright enrages them. It is the bane of the creative process, the soul-sucking, freedom-leeching, tale-breaking word, that runs all writing into the ground. It is the antithesis for all things good, and wholesome, about the art of novel-writing and story-weaving.
Unfortunately for Stephen King, the word is not, in fact, adverbs.
It seems to ring as foul as any other four-letter naughty word, and brings the most vehement of responses when the mere concept of diversity within writing is brought up. I’ve found, in various writing circles, whether they’re groups on Facebook, Tumblr, or speaking with people in person (yeah, that still happens,) that there’s this divide between people who genuinely like diversity in writing, and those who absolutely abhor it. There is always a reason, of course – but I’m coming to find those reasons, while abundant, tend to be rooted in a few sources, many of them from lack of understanding what diversity is, to the general harder-to-fix issues (like those people are actually just assholes.)
Personally, I like diversity in writing. I like characters, whether I’m writing them or reading them, to be as interesting and unique as the worlds they’re placed in. It’s always baffled me that there are a lot of writers and readers who balk or shun the idea of diversifying writing. And, what I mean by that ‘diversifying’ is, is including characters who might be LGBT, who are people of color, characters with mental illness or physical illness – but it’s more than that, even. It’s writing these characters engagingly, and you know, as people, since one of the problems with diversifying tends to be tokenism and tropes standing in for actual representation. It’s writing your female characters as interestingly and complex as your male characters; it’s exploring the fact that you can have characters that belong to minority or marginalized groups and not make the story surround that marginalization or the only focus that character has; it’s about tackling stigmas often associated with certain groups that constantly get hammered into writing without care.
Basically, it’s about applying the same care, attention, and detail to those characters, as you do the white, cis, heterosexual, able-bodied characters you stick to writing. I promise, it’s easier than I’m making it sound.
These are all concepts that I’ve had conversations over, though trying to address these issues in writing usually ends one of two ways: ‘agreeing to disagree,’ or accusations of trying to make writers be too ‘PC.’ (We don’t count the discussions that devolve into senseless name calling and swears; those are outliers, and will not be counted.)
Barring fixing people’s personalities, then, I wondered if there was a more effective way to open a more constructive discussion about diversifying writing, and tackling the misconceptions, fears, and questions a lot of writers whether new to the game or already deep in it may have. Looking at these conversations and seeing the feedback, I knew that it was something that I wanted to do in more than one post – there are so many angles and so many kinds of ‘diversity,’ not to mention issues within diversifying itself, I didn’t feel one catch-all would work.
This series, then, seeks to do just that. What can’t be done in one conversation will be done in many, with the aim being to provide the insight and tools to people who want to diversify their writing but don’t know how, and perhaps show people that doing so isn’t the big bad monster that they think it is.