Really Useful Links: Diversifying by Paul Anthony Shortt

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Paul Anthony Shortt

Diversity in fiction has been a hot topic for a while. Those of you interested in speculative fiction may have heard of the recent controversy surrounding this year’s Hugo Awards, for example. Internet controversies aside, this is something to take seriously, especially for those of us who’ve spent all our lives in Ireland, which has, admittedly, been historically lacking in such diversity. Things are getting better, with new cultures joining ours, and changing laws granting rights to people of various genders and sexualities. But it can be challenging, I find, to get past certain habits.

I’ve often said that a story can be anything, and about anything, the author decides. The same is true for diversity. Years ago, I wrote about a typical white male protagonist, not because this choice had a particular impact on the story, but because it was my instinctive decision. I’m white, I’m a man, and I’ve grown up in a culture of white male heroes. So it takes a little extra work for me to think beyond that narrow range.

The thing is, though, that diversifying our writing can open up all kinds of opportunities and ideas. Look at your latest manuscript and ask yourself what it would be like if you changed your protagonist’s gender. What if they were bisexual? Or a different religion? How would that change the story? It can be exciting to push these boundaries, but there’s a lot to take into account, and it’s important to make sure, as with all things, that you do your research. So let’s look at some topics on adding diversity to your work.

1: We Need Diverse Books – This tumblr is the focal point of an ongoing campaign to promote diversity in books and in authors. It’s a solid base point to find out not only how you can add diversity to your work, but also why it’s important that you make the effort.

2: Are Authors Scared to Write Diverse Books – If you’re anything like me, you’re probably quite intimidated by all the many ways this plan could go wrong. The Huffington Post provides a breakdown of the biggest fears that may stand in your way, and how to overcome them.

3: Writing With Colour – This tumblr is dedicated to providing advice on racial and ethnic diversity, with excellent articles and even a whole section dedicated to addressing common tropes and clichés.

4: Writing Religious Characters – This post on F*ck Yeah Character Development helps hook you up with people of various faiths who have offered their services as advisors to their individual religions. Ask whatever you need to know.

5: How Do You Write LGBTQ Characters – While Comicvine’s advice is primarily directed towards comic books, the issues raised in this article can also be found prominently in prose fiction. Your characters cannot be defined by their sexuality.

6: How NOT to Write Disabled People – An often-overlooked aspect of diversity is the representation of people with disabilities. In fact, there are so many badly-represented disabled characters in fiction, as opposed to well-written ones, that finding articles on the mistakes writers make is easier than finding guidelines for doing it well. This is one such article, tackling the most common problems with how disabled people are often written.

7: Offensive Mistakes Well-Intentioned Writers Make – Finally, this is a checklist of things you want to avoid doing. If you catch yourself doing these, or you’ve already got a book out where you’ve done this, don’t worry. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, it just means you still have more to learn. And the say we think we have nothing more to learn is the day we should step away from our keyboards for good.

With diversity being such a significant force in the media, it’s impossible to provide definitive instructions for how to proceed. More and more authors are trying new things. More lessons are being learned. More people are seeing themselves represented in books, tv, movies, and comics for the very first time and it really is changing the game in a big way. Hopefully this list will give you a starting point, and help you see how important it is that we keep doing all we can to bring diversity to our work.

(c) Paul Anthony Shortt

About the author

Paul Anthony Shortt believes in magic and monsters; in ghosts and fairies, the creatures that lurk under the bed and inside the closet. The things that live in the dark, and the heroes who stand against them. Above all, he believes that stories have the power to change the world, and the most important stories are the ones which show that monsters can be beaten.
Paul’s work includes the Memory Wars Trilogy and the Lady Raven Series. His short fiction has appeared in the Amazon #1 bestselling anthology, Sojourn Volume 2.

Website: http://www.paulanthonyshortt.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pashortt

Twitter: @PAShortt

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