Friday, July 3, 2015

Writing Diversity. Not a Black and White Situation

I am struggling with a quandary: Can a straight white person successfully write characters of different ethnicity and orientation?

I haven’t included LGBT characters in my books. It’s not from a judgmental ’tude or even a religious bent. I told myself that I couldn’t write from their standpoint since I am not of a gay person’s mindset.

But somehow, I manage to create characters that do magic, have powers. 

Now, maybe I can do a little magic, making a perfect strawberry rhubarb pie.

But performing real magic—as Justus did in Wilder Mage, releasing the elements he gathered and " shot into the sky from around him, splashing the undersides of the cloud with ebony..."—is beyond my abilities.

So what is the difference between writing about magic that I don’t do and a person of the gay persuasion when I’m not?

The answer might lie with people's taste in literature. At a recent book fair, a person asked me about Wilder. I said Justus is a modern wizard who is hiding his powers from those who would bond him to their cause. As soon as I said the word wizard, she snorted, turned away, and said, “I don’t read that crap.”

Ah. Okay. Well have a nice day.

Maybe there is a kernel of truth to that sentiment, but way less harsh. If it is well written, I read all genres, including non-fiction and LGBT, but my meat-and-potatoes love is Sci-Fi and Fantasy. If it doesn’t interest me—like a tech manual or sports—then trying to create something out of my disinterest seems like hauling a ton of rocks up a steep hill...all work and no joy.

One last word on this subject. As I said, all genres are welcome in my brain. But I would hope the writer doesn’t create diverse characters as a token gesture. Write from the heart. Not the trend. Make them your own and don’t let others judge or decide for you. 

Charity's Birth of a Novel. Every Friday you post a quick update on how you're doing on your writing projects. It can be combined with Camp Nano or whatever personal goals you've set.

All you need is a line or two added to the beginning or end of whatever post you already had planned for the day.Then visit the others in the list to encourage them to keep moving forward.

This week was of time, goals, and structure. I didn't make my thousand words a day goal on my WIPs due to Life and other nuisances. But I did create a better work ethic and participated in blogging and commenting. So Yay for me!

Chimera Mage-27,382
The Adamant-First Edits, first chapter
Of Oak and Dragons-102,000, re-write
Diamond Black-8834 

How did your week go? Do you write what you know and love? Do you try to include all persuasions?


  1. My main WIP is from a gay teenage boy's perspective (and I'm a straight girl). I think it helps to stay true to your characters and just be as authentic as possible. Some writers are just more comfortable writing certain types of characters or specific genres. I used to think I could only write fantasy but I've branched out. I just got an idea for a mystery/thriller and I've never even thought about writing one of those and I'm not sure if I can do it. But I think if you get an idea and you think you can do it, no matter who or what is involved, then you should go for it. I wouldn't want to force LGBT characters (or any character, really) into my stories if they weren't a good fit.

    1. You make me want to write in gay characters now just to see if I can now.

      A CHALLENGE!. Yessssss, LOL

      This is like writing outside my genre, stretching my muse into other categories.

      Holy crap, a most excellent comment. Thank you.

  2. *sigh* I keep wanting to add more diversity, but I'm more afraid of offending people because I get it wrong. In my head we all experience the same emotions, hopes and desires regardless of ethnicity or orientation, but what if I'm wrong?

    1. So write for yourself. Even if no one ever sees it, let it be an exercise.

  3. My gay characters tend to be supporting players, but they're in there. (I was so excited when I had to rewrite a chapter and I was able to express that this character was gay in an organic way.) But when I think about the POV character, I don't know if I could even write a male. I probably could if the right plot presented itself. I guess I'll do it when I'm ready.

    1. strange. Writing from a male pov is no trouble. But I have to work at writing a gay perspective. I am more confused than ever now.

  4. These days anyone who puts words on a page offends somebody. All my characters are really 'me', so I can't possibly REALLY get it wrong. It's just that if you stray too far from the acceptable stereotypes as dictated by certain advocates of 'diversity', some are offended.
    As for gay characters, we gay people are NOT all the same. Some gay people utter racially insensitive things when a Black man fails to support same-sex marriage, others, like me, are Catholics that fight for a more traditional view of marriage (and get a lot of flak for it). As a gay woman I give you my Official Minority Group Member permission to portray gay people in whatever way works in your story.
    I think that if you really CARE about your 'diverse' characters and it shows, most people of the group you are writing about will love your work.

    1. A most excellent comment. Wonderful wonderful.

      I think what it comes down to when writing about something or someone you are not (which is everyone/thing unless it's a autobiography), it is a matter of stretching your writing abilities. Like a writing prompt.

      Again, cool comment.

  5. I think it's hard to write from a perspective of someone you know nothing about and maybe don't feel you can represent fairly. It's easier to guess and imagine when no one else (that we know for sure) can perform real magic, because hey, maybe however we imagine the experience is perfectly valid. But how can I write from the perspective a black person when I've never experienced what it is to be black in this country, or gay? I can possibly understand some aspects of the experience; I do know what it's like to be called names, and looked upon as less than a person but that was just a glimpse, a hint of what it's truly like to be treated differently 90% of the time. That said, maybe those are just MY fears about getting it wrong.

    Good comments here!

    Oh, yes, and I left you an award on my blog should you wish to retrieve it ;)

    1. The Creative Blogger award-not sure I am worthy of it, but I am honored to receive it and to have you as my friend.

  6. first, love Hobb and Butcher's covers, ive been reading soft romance lately and could use some action! sounds like i should watch Mr Robot too - been hearing great things and right up my alley!

    as for writing from a different perspective - i agree we should write what we know. I think many of our characters are based on our experiences and loosely on people we've associated with... i was going to say more, but that'll do. very thought-provoking!

    hope you have a good harvest come august/september! for now, happy july!

  7. I think there's a big difference in expectations.

    If you write a gay character, you'll be measured against people's expectations of one kind or another, either blind and maybe ignorant preconceptions, or people picking up on inaccuracies or perceived stereotypes. No matter how much research you do, someone will have an axe to grind unless you're gay yourself and can say "I know what I'm talking about".

    If you write about a wizards, nobody can argue with how you portray them because it's your world, your rules.


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