How to Write Diverse Characters

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If you're active on Twitter, you've probably noticed that there's a huge push in the publishing world to increase diversity in all genres of literature.

Whether it's an institution like We Need Diverse Books, which grew from a hashtag into a full on organization that provides awards, grants, mentorships and more, or literary agents tweeting about wanting more diverse manuscripts in their slush pile, both readers, agents, and publishers want to see more diversity in today's stories.

A reader recently contacted me about wanting to write a story with a diverse protagonist, but being scared about getting it wrong. I realized this is a fear several writers might have, so here are 3 easy tips to help you write diverse characters today. 

1) Remember

Every character is human.

Whether you're writing about a kid from the Bronx or a farmer in Alabama, your character is just that - a character.

When writing a diverse character, it's important to see them separately from the stereotypes of that diversity, and instead treat them as individuals the way you would treat any other protagonist.

Yes, backstory and dialect and culture and mannerisms are all extremely important details, but they are details. When you start creating a new character, it's important to focus on the fundamentals of character first.

2) Research

The same way you comb through wikipedia pages about archery and create Pinterest boards for your stories is the same way you should approach writing a diverse character. Once you know who your character is and what your character wants, you have to be diligent about adding the details that will make your character authentic and believable.

There are several places online where you can read articles from diverse points of view. Depending on the type of diversity you want to write about, a resource like Huffington Post's Black Voices, Gay Voices, or Latino Voices may be be a good place to start.

Another way to do research is to read fiction and non-fiction books about the diverse characters you are trying to create. We Need Diverse Books has compiled a great list where you can find several diverse books about African Americans, American Indians, LGBTQIA, Islam, Disabilities and more!

But what I would recommend most of all is talking to someone who identifies as the character you are trying to create. Tell them the story you want to write and get their opinions. Ask them what part of themselves they wished they saw in fiction, find out the little quirks and details about their identity that other people would miss.

The more information you have, the more authentic your character will be.

3) Read

After you've written your story, find beta readers that identify with your diverse characters and have them read your book. This is the best way to find out how you've done.

These beta readers will be able to tell you what feels authentic, what feels contrived, and give you suggestions on how to improve your character when it’s time to revise.

If you don't have people in your life you can ask about the character, look online! Get on twitter! Several readers are passionate about increasing diversity in the stories they read, and would love to help you out.

So there you have it! But before you go let me know in the comments - how do you write diverse characters?

Tomi Adeyemi

Tomi Adeyemi is the #1 NYT and International Best-Selling author of book and upcoming movie CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE.