We’re All Different

multicolored paint drippings

This started out as a reply to a blog post on Legends of Windemere (Writing Characters from Maligned and Abused Groups), but it struck a chord with me, and I ended up writing my own post about it.

The original blog post is about writing from perspectives other than your own, and doing it sensitively. If your character has a disability, for example, and you don’t, you need to know how that affects your character in their day-to-day lives, how it’s shaped their personality, how it affects their relationships, and their perspective on the world. It requires research and understanding of how real people with that particular disability think and feel.

I completely agree that writers should include characters from all walks of life. I also think there is a place for including minority groups without making a big deal about it. I’ve read so many books that are issue-led, but I don’t believe they always have to be. Right now, I’m reading To Kill a Mockingbird. Some of the characters are black and it is most definitely a book about race relations. There should definitely be books that tackle racism, or the problems trans people face, or the true struggle of people living in poverty. But there is more to a person than the minority group they fall into.

I’m writing a novel at the moment and the main character is homosexual, but I never make a big fuss about it. I’ve written it just like I’d write about a heterosexual relationship, except both the names are female. They love each other, talk to each other, and touch each other in the same way a man and a woman would. People are people, and we’re not all that different from each other.

I get a bit tired of stories where minority groups are always facing a struggle to be accepted. Why can’t people just be? As a woman, I cringe at fantasy stories written this century where the female characters have to justify their existence, or explain themselves in situations where a man would just get on with the job. For example, in The Witcher, Ciri and Calanthe have to remind some of the male characters that women can fight with swords too. And how many times do writers of all genres present it as a surprise that a woman is both attractive and intelligent: ‘She wasn’t just drop-dead gorgeous; she was smart too.’ Why doesn’t that ever happen to James Bond? ‘Not only was he tall and muscular, but he could work out how much change he needed in the shop.’

I understand that minority groups have issues they have to face, but that’s not all they are. I get the feeling that some writers think a white heterosexual is the standard character, and any character that is different requires an explanation. But stories don’t have to be about LGBT to have gay characters. They don’t have to be about race to have black or Asian characters.

Some of my favourite books at the moment are Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series. The main character is a police officer from London who solves magic-related crimes. He’s mixed race: his dad is white British and his mum is from Sierra Leone. Aaronovitch mentions some of the culture when he writes about Peter’s family, but the story isn’t about race. It’s about a police officer tracking down a criminal. He’s just a normal guy living his life, doing his job, just like the rest of us.

The world is full of so much diversity – it’s amazing! Sometimes our differences are relevant to the plot of our lives; sometimes they’re not. I wish more stories reflected the true rainbow of people in our world without getting preoccupied by discrimination.

3 responses to “We’re All Different”

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