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Handling Diversity in Fiction

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I’m not sure diversity is, or ought to be, such a minefield. We are mostly all the same under the skin with the same basic needs and desires. Sometimes our cultural background makes it hard to accept some of those needs and desires within ourselves, repressing some and giving undue stress to others. It is those conflicts that are the meat and drink of good story telling. As the writer of the first comment says, the degree of acceptance or repression depends on the time and place in which the story is set. How the characters develop and respond to the circumstance in which they find themselves has much more to do with their humanity than their race, gender or sexual orientation.
Anyway, here are Alison Maruska’s suggestions for dealing with characters from diverse backgrounds.

via Diversity in Fiction: Three Keys to Navigating the Minefield

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8 Comments

  1. Perhaps the diversity of characters in my novel is the reason for the negative response I’m getting from literary agents: “Not a good fit for us.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. franklparker says:

    Interesting thought, Rosaliene. Let’s hope that someone sees a ‘good fit’ soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sha'Tara says:

    Ethnicity, oh boy, yes a touchy subject these days. If I have to “ethnicize” a character I either write of what I personally know about, or I do some serious research on the race in keeping with the era being written about. In my current novel for example I have a character who’s of Japanese ancestry; a Moor, a Mongol and “white” Europeans (more or less, I refrain from being specific as to any background) and it all takes place circa 1200 northern Scotland (again more or less, leaving much to the reader to interpret). My trick: don’t get specific; don’t get caught in details that you can’t verify. In work lingo we called it CYA as in “cover your ass!!!”

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Phil Huston says:

    There are so many stereotype pitfalls, not just for ethnicity but the socio-economic-education caste system. I say write your characters they way they feel honestly portrayed to you and the rest is up to the reader.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Chuck says:

    While writing a story that centers around the San Antonio, Tx. area when describing one of the characters I stated they were Mexican with black hair, brown eyes, etc A friend who read the draft was of Mexican heritage and asked, does it matter that you mention they are Mexican. I thought at first no it doesn’t, but I thought, yes it does. Anyone who has lived in Texas knows that these people are rich in their culture. When in the manuscript I discuss the same character being devoted to his family to a fault, now knowing his heritage makes his characteristics meaningful. Perhaps I’m falling into one of the traps, but I believe using diversity if not overly generalized, helps the reader visualize and understand the character. If I’m wrong, please help me understand. Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. franklparker says:

    Maybe you don’t have to specify that he is Mexican in the narrator’s words. Maybe through his own dialogue – maybe telling someone something about his cultural heritage – it would become clear. A bit of ‘show don’t tell’ in fact!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. […] the partner’s eyes. I might add that it also impinges upon the recent discussion here about diversity in fiction because my characters are gay and I am […]

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