Hello everyone! I am new blogger here, and I am excited to start sharing with you all!
I want to start off this post by stating a fact: I am a white female. Another fact? I am writing a novel with a main character who is black and another main character that is Native American. Putting aside the countless debates of race and writing that could happen with the previous sentences, I think it’s important to spend the time to talk about the craft of writing diverse characters.
If you’re like me, the challenge of writing POC was not only a daunting one but an extremely important one. I was a little afraid, because when I started dreaming up the project, I didn’t see white characters. I saw diverse people taking up my pages, and I didn’t know if I was capable of doing something like that because of my lack of experience. So, I talked to my writing friends, all of who helped me tremendously and inspired my greatly, and I decided that this was something I wanted and needed to try.
Regardless of your race and the race of your characters, we as writers have a responsibility to our craft. I don’t know if I am going to succeed or fail. But I know I’m taking on this task because I see a need for diverse characters being represented well in literature. I see people who not only underrepresented in literature but are also represented in the same manner over and over again. I feel for these people, and, though I know I can never feel the same pain as they have, I do know I want to use my own privilege to do something to help.
So, on this blog post today, I want to talk about the question of how does one represent a diverse character well, especially if they’re not a part of that culture. Well, as in not being offensive or stereotypical, and well, as in crafting a novel that people see as respectable and productive. Though I am not an expert, here are the things I have encountered in my detailed process of planning this novel.
- Research, research, research.
This one is pretty obvious. Spend the hours looking at respectable articles, speaking and listening to the cultures, looking at videos, following blogs. In general, just spend as much time as you possibly can diving yourself into the culture that you are not familiar with so that it translates well into your page.
A great resource that was given to me was Writing With Color. Check these super helpful people out!
- Understand the stereotypes with the intent to destroy them.
Make sure you pay extra close attention to the stereotypes. It’s pretty easy to type in “stereotypes of —- people” and you will get results. Writing those down, checking those out, spending the time to make sure your diverse characters do not fall into those pitfalls is extremely important.
Examples include the stereotypes of the sassy black friend, the Asian spiritual guide, the magical genius Native American who also detests all kinds of modern technology.
Let’s set out with the intent to crush these stereotypes, writing friends.
- Reach out to people of those races and cultures.
Bottom line is, if you are a non POC writing with POC characters, you are not qualified to do it. In order to become qualified a lot of steps are involved, but, you know who is qualified to write POC characters? Those POC people! So, when you have your novel written, or you have your ideas, reach out to those people in your life. They are going to be the ones who can help you make sure your story and characters are as accurate as possible.
4. SUPPORT DIVERSE WRITERS & AUTHORS
This is in caps because it is extra important. You want to help the representation of diverse people in the writing and reading world? Support those diverse authors and writers! Give them a read, give them a follow, give them a like, give them something! Let’s help one another help one another.
5. Feel the emotion but don’t be possessed by it.
In your research, you’re going to feel a lot of emotions, see a lot of angry people, and feel a lot of different things. Some of the best advice I got during this experience is don’t let those emotions completely control you. If you get lost in the years of racism and stereotypical betrayals, it’s going to alter your writing in ways you don’t want. As a yogi and a mediator, I know that spreading good vibes is essential to productiveness and positive outcomes. So, using anger as a starting point for your writing won’t get you far, trust me. Feel the emotion, let it fuel your passion, but don’t let it consume you
6. Try your hardest.
Duh. Your teachers were right. Please but your all into a project like this. POC characters are already badly misrepresented enough.
Once again, I want to say I don’t have a finished product to prove all of these things are right. But I am trying. Over all, I think it’s super important to have these conversations with other writers, especially those who are going through the same journey and who are maybe thinking the same things.
It really comes down to one thing: showing people respect. Above all, treat your characters as they are, people. If you take the time to research and plot, feel the respect for the culture, and try your hardest to write complex, diverse characters, then you’ve already done the first, most important steps.
What are your thoughts? Are these steps valid? Do you think non POC people should try and write characters who are POC? Let me know in the comments!