Thursday, February 24, 2011

Diversity in Your Writing

There was a boy with skin as dark as the earth & a girl with eyes as blue as the deep & they loved each other so well that people could not tell them apart, for in their hearts, there was no difference between them.
(storypeople)

Skin color found its way into my novel, and it’s important ... but not the defining characteristic. (Kekla Magoon)


Do you bring diversity into your stories? Some writers feel uncomfortable, nervous they won't do the characters justice. But I say, show the world as a microcosm in your stories. Because until differences become matter-of-fact, they will continue to stick out like a sore thumb. We come across people of differing faiths, skin colors, and sexual orientation everyday, and so should your MC.


We went to our first birthday party this weekend where the boy had two dads. I talked about it with my six-year-old on the way home because it presented us an opportunity to show him how things are in the world.

I said, "Isn't it so cool there are different kinds of families? A Mom and a Dad, two Dads, two Moms, or just one parent. The most important thing is that there is love and kindness in a family."(you can't go much deeper than that with a six-year-old)

His response? "Yeah, it's cool. Can I play Angry Birds on your phone now?"

How well did his response speak to my point? :D

(jamaicans.com, publicbroadcasting.net)

20 comments:

Jen Daiker said...

Personally for my writing diversity has never made it's way in, however if it does I will certainly embrace it. I see nothing wrong with the fact that our society is different now so with that comes different stories, lives, and overall feelings.

I love what you said to your six year old. It was deep enough, regardless of whether or not they would have rather played angry birds, lol.

Anne said...

I love adding diversity to my stories. I don't do it to make it unique, just realistic. ;)

Pk Hrezo said...

Oh yeah, I use diversity a LOT. It's what fascinates me most in this world and I'm not afraid to write about it. After all, a story with just one type of person would be just as boring as a world with just one type of person.

Lindsay said...

Like Jen, I haven't come across this yet in my writing, but when it does I will embrace it. Our world is made up with so many wonderful people, stories etc., and connecting with those through writing is wonderful.

Misha said...

Diversity is always difficult. I feel a little differently about it though.

I believe that diversity will stop being a big thing when people stop making a big thing about it.

I'm not talking about sweeping it under the rug. I'm just talking about dealing with it like the normal thing it is.

So if I one day, I bump into a character that is "diverse" in some way, I will carry on writing him/her like normal.

I refuse to be all: "Look at me! I made a nod to diversity... RIGHT here!" Because that is not the way to fade it into people's perceptions.

I love your boy's reply though. That is the way it should be.

:-)

Rachele Alpine said...

The picture of the two hands at the top of your blog is beautiful. I love it. I admit that I don't use diversity enough, and you're right, it's so important to write into stories. I need to make an effort to do that more (especially as a teacher; I should be setting a good example!).

Erica Mitchell-Spickard said...

I love finding the quirks in my characters to show the diversity. Finding varying backgrounds of life is a lot of fun. At one point, however, I started to find that I was over doing it and it felt unnatural to the story or it just became unecessary information. I've learned to keep it in nice moderation now and that's what was most important for me ;)

Theresa Milstein said...

Because I've lived much of my life in diversity, it makes its way into my novels. The one I'm shopping doesn't have diversity but that's because the town I chose for the setting isn't diverse. But my current WIP has a half-Asian half-caucasion chick. Her ethnicity is only hinted at since it's not really the story.

And that's what's nice about the comment from the boy.

Kristin said...

You're an inspirational mama lady!

Ben Spendlove said...

That reminds me of something my brother said when he was little, maybe two or three. My cousin's husband Dave is a big guy, a former football player. He's also black, and joined not only a white family, but a very white community.

After a family get-together, my mom asked my little brother if he noticed anything different about Dave. He thought for a second and said, "His hair?"

Lourie said...

Angry Birds. hahaha. And yeah, you can go so deep especially with a six year old boy. ;)

Maddy said...

Interesting topic! I don't remember the last book I read that had some sort of diversity. I wish there were more out there. I'm not sure why people are so afraid of color. The other day when I asked who's the new manager, my co-worker whispered "the black guy" sitting over there. I found it odd. Why are we tiptoeing around race?? To me, prentending it doesn't exisit is just about as bad as thinking it's the only thing that matters.

Stephanie Faris said...

Definitely something I need to work on. I read Prom by Laurie Halse Anderson and was amazed at how she worked it in. It definitely provided a more realistic atmosphere to the story.

(Florida) Girl said...

Diversity also makes a story more delectable...more juicy morsels for the reader to get caught up in.

Anstice (Tizzy) Potts said...

My current WiP is set in sub-saharan Africa, and most of the main characters are black native Africans, though there are also some white Africans, so I suppose it is quite diverse. As a writer my main worry is about how I can realistically portray a culture that I do not belong to, and how it would be recieved by people from that culture. Perhaps they would find my interpretation patronising or offensive? That's why I think it's important to research a lot about a culture before you write about it-perferable speaking to people in person and visiting that area so that you can write about it with more truth. I think it's also important to include diversity for a reason, not just because you want it to seem more realistic/modern etc.

Pamela Gold said...

There's always going to be that one critic or reader who will tear up your writing no matter what it's about. I say go for it. If the setting of the story is set in the current, show off all the diversity. Even if it's not set in current times, it was just more hidden. Even more taboo if you ask me.

Elana Johnson said...

I think if it has an impact on your story, you should include it. Otherwise, it sort of screams to me "The author tried to include diversity, so I'm Asain!" You know?

Devin Bond said...

I don't think people should try to make a book diverse. It feels forced and contrived. It should just be. Like in real life.

If it fits, it fits. If it doesn't, it doesn't. If you imagine someone Asian or Black, they should be that. Just my opinion, though.

I really like that you tried to show your son it was acceptable to have two dads or two moms. :) People should be more like that.

Abby Minard said...

You are so right. When I thought of my WIP, it's a YA fantasy, one of my characters is gay. It's not a big deal,and it's really not part of the story. But he just is. My MC's love interest is dark skinned. Anyway, I try to always teach my daughter about diversity, and she knows that two boys and two girls can get married if they love each other.

If it fits the story, then by all means do it.

Kaitlin Ward said...

It's definitely something I try to think about, for accuracy. It's not realistic in an urban setting for all the characters to be white. It's just not. Same goes for considering religion, sexual orientation, etc.

And I love your mommy teaching moment! (And his response! My almost three-year-old also really likes Angry Birds. I'm not sure if I'm proud of his skill, or concerned.)