The Most Effective Way to Promote Diversity in Your Stories

It’s a writer’s choice whether they want to focus on diversity or not.

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This is all my opinion and you are more than welcome to share your thoughts in a comment below. Please be kind and considerate of others.

Promoting diversity is something we seem to be a little obsessed with lately. There isn’t anything wrong with that, the same way there isn’t anything wrong with being excited about LGBT(QA+?) characters in Star Wars. 

No, there’s nothing wrong with praising someone for wanting to promote their acceptance of diverse populations. There’s nothing wrong with being the one to say, “Hey, look how diverse my cast of characters is! Look! Do you see it?” To a point.

Eventually, if you point enough fingers at how diverse a piece of writing is, whether it’s a screenplay or a short story or a book or any other form of writing, you actually stop promoting diversity and start promoting the false assumption that accepting diversity means you have to shout it from the mountaintops. Which just isn’t the right way to go.

Promoting diversity should be subtle.

Honestly? If you want your work to promote diversity and promote the general acceptance of all populations, the best way to do this is to NOT make a huge deal about it. We are past the point where praising a book or T.V. show for including LGBTQA+ characters is news-worthy or necessary.

It is 2016. At this point, what we need to start doing, instead of distributing headlines every time a writer does this, is just accept it as normal and move on. The writer has a right to include characters of any gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, etc. they want to. They do not have to.

But if we are ever going to start treating diversity in literature as something that just should be done naturally, we need to do it without drawing unnecessary attention to it. Think of Dumbledore. J.K. Rowling has said the beloved character was gay. Did we hear about it in the Harry Potter books? No. Why? Because it wasn’t crucial to the story. You don’t always have to say it out loud for it to be true.

Just make it part of the story.

We talked a little about this when addressing characters struggling with their mental health. You can incorporate different issues and characters into a story without making them the main focus of that story. Can a story have two men fall in love without it being controversial to the other characters in the story? Can a story mention race or mention different gender roles without making the reader have to stop and form their own opinions?

That being said, of course stories that promote diversity are going to make people stop and think. But that doesn’t have to be the reason we write stories with diverse populations. Do it because that’s how it should be done, not because you are trying to make a statement. Some writers try too hard. It’s not their fault, though.

Why does this stuff still make headlines?

Some journalists and publications have a way of blowing things out of proportion because it gets people talking. But the only way to combat that is to just shrug and say, “Well, this is how the real world is, and ideally, it doesn’t have to be as big of a deal as it’s made out to be.”

No matter where you turn, there are always going to be people who, apparently, only exist so they can find something to complain about and do so without holding back. There are always going to be people who find something wrong with the way you word things. Your story will either not be “diverse enough” or “too much.” You cannot please everyone. There will always be criticisms, the same way there will always be people who still think we need to praise every single person for just doing what they should be doing regardless.

There’s nothing wrong with drawing attention to the good things writers do. But we do need to back off a little. After all, it’s a writer’s choice whether they want to focus on diversity or not. If they don’t, that doesn’t make them insensitive. It just means their story didn’t need to put diversity at the forefront. Not every single story does.

How do you think writers can better promote diversity in their work without making a huge deal about it? Or do we still need to continue to promote diversity the way Nerdist did in their post about STAR WARS? Is there a dividing line between accepting diversity and over-promoting it?

Image courtesy of Nerdist.

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