I am confused. And a little bit frustrated.
I love reading stories about diversity. I’ve written a number of posts about the topic, mostly calling for more and better LGBTQ+ representation. This seems to have spread like Fiendfyre across the Internet – lots of people talk about this on their blogs or on Facebook or Goodreads.
Except… except that more and more often, I also see people saying that diversity is silly. Now, that’s just silly for a lot of reasons, the first and foremost being that the freaking world is diverse. But today I want to focus on one particular silly argument against diversity in literature.
I want to examine the following statement: “I’m not really interesting in reading about diverse characters. I’d rather see more well-written characters.”
Huh? Excuse me, what?
Pull up a chair and I’ll use my best teacher-voice and explain something that should be a given for writers. Are you ready? Good. When I say that I want diverse characters, OF COURSE I want them to be well-written.
Is that so hard to understand?
I shouldn’t have to explain this. It shouldn’t be necessary. But I will anyway, because some people apparently don’t get it.
I’m a lesbian, so I’d like to see (among many other types of diverse characters) more fictional lesbians. And when I say this, I don’t mean that I want to read about lesbian characters who are boring or stereotypical or one-dimensional.
Why oh why would you assume that I would be satisfied with those portrayals, that I would count those characters as good representation of diversity?
Yeah, I don’t know either. Back to the drawing (writing?) board! If you don’t think diverse characters can (or should) be well-written, then I’m afraid that I really don’t understand your writing techniques.
I’m not sure why multiple people said, “Authors should focus less on diversity and more on creating interesting characters!” as if they’d discovered a flaw of diverse books, as if people should just stop writing diverse books. Hello, we’re not asking for shallow, cookie-cutter characters who are dull in the name of diversity. Why would we? That would be… dull.
Yes, I want diversity. I want a lot of it and I want it as soon as possible. But I do have standards! I don’t want sucktastic characters who bore you, me, and everyone else.
I guess some people don’t see this as an either/or situation. I wouldn’t mind if someone was arguing for diverse books to be better-written – in fact, I’d agree – but I haven’t seen any arguments like that. The only arguments I’ve seen went something like this: “We shouldn’t worry about diverse books at all until we have better-written books.” Um, no. We can work on both! At once! It doesn’t have to be either/or!
Just like you, we don’t want boring characters. But the answer doesn’t lie in arguing against diversity. Do you want to know how to write characters who are both diverse and interesting? Treat them like you would treat any other characters. Write them like you would write any other characters. That is the answer.