Writing Diverse Characters

Clipart of figures in different colors with the words "embrace diversity" above the figures.

One of my writing groups has a weekly craft talk where we vote on a topic. This week it was on writing diverse and inclusive characters.

Instead of writing a screed, I thought a bullet point list might be more useful.

If you want to write a characters that is nothing like you whether it is race, culture, religion, sexuality/gender, or any other marginalized groups, keep the following in mind:

  • Talk to more than one person; everyone has a different lived experience
  • Be respectful
  • Don’t make assumptions
  • Don’t write stereotypes
  • When writing a diverse character, think about why this persons race, culture, etc is important to the story
  • Be mindful of the language and terminology you use; a word that one person may find to be appropriate, another one will not
  • When reaching out to support groups, follow their rules of engagement
  • Use Google responsibly for research on primary and secondary sources
  • Describe the character authentically (re: no stereotypes)
  • Utilize your network
  • Don’t make that diverse character’s thing their main attribute such as don’t take someone who is mentally ill and sculpt their personality around their illness or someone who is BIPOC and that is their only quality
  • Write fully formed characters
  • Don’t write characters just for the sake of fulfilling some kind of quota
  • Check your hidden bias
  • Get feedback from sensitivity readers
  • Don’t be ambiguous or assume the reader will infer the character from brief descriptions
  • Don’t compare people to objects or food
  • Understand the difference between race, ethnicity, and culture
  • Don’t make your character a token character (see fulfilling the quota)

Here are additional resources to utilize when writing and researching diverse characters: