Image of Diversity ©Sascha Darlington
Diversity has become such a catchphrase anymore. We need more diversity. For a lot of it, I agree. Movies and TV should appeal to masses. Neither has ever needed to get every nuance right, because those media don’t have to. It’s not expected. It would be nice, but not expected and sometimes not necessary.
What about when it comes to novels? If you pick up a novel, do you expect, need, or want that writer to employ diversity? Should they represent all ethnicities and sexualities in their novels? Is it off-putting if they don’t? Is it off-putting if they do?
As a writer, I want to get what I write right. Maybe that’s the most important thing to me. And by right, I mean I want it true. I want someone to read my work and say: Yes. This I understand. Yes, this is true. I feel that this is one thing, amongst many, that makes novels important. They can attend to so much more than tv shows or movies.
My qualms involving writing about minorities are that I don’t know what it’s like to live their lives. I can try to walk a mile in another person’s shoes, but I know my mile is going to be different from theirs. I don’t want to get it wrong. That to me is the worst thing I could do as a writer: writing about a person and getting it wrong. But does that mean I shouldn’t try?
(Note: This qualm doesn’t just involve minorities, but writing about other cultures. I read a work by a non-American that read as if they learned the culture from tv and applied it across the board to all Americans. Wrong.)
Am I overthinking this?
As writers and readers, if I start throwing in characters of color or alternative lifestyles will you really applaud me if I don’t delve into their lives? Is having token characters something worthy of admiration?
So what started this questioning? I read a review of a very good writer who has always written about characters who ring true and the reviewer said that the lack of diversity didn’t sit well. Ever since I’ve been wondering about the expectation of readers.
What do you think? I have an open mind on this. I am really curious as to whether just having diverse background characters is enough.
Help to enlighten me. Please.