There is even more emphasis on writers creating realistic worlds in relation to diversity. But with that comes the responsibility for authors to develop real characters that don’t perpetuate stereotypes that are harmful to minority groups. These groups are more than just ensuring cultural representative, but gender identity, sexuality, disability, and mental health, just to name a few.
Think about the world you live in. Everyone isn’t cis white and straight. Then think about the people you know who are from minorities. Do they tick all the boxes for the stereotypes of that group? Probably not.
I’m a classic example of someone who does not fit in the stereotype box. in regards to mental health. I’m diagnosed with OCD, and am still undergoing treatment for it. But you might not know it when you first meet me.
What do you think of when you envisage a woman with OCD?
- Clean freak?
- Obsessed with hand washing?
- Obsessed with numbers?
- Worried about germs for fear of getting sick?
- Physical compulsions?
Only one of the above really applies to me, and even then, it’s pretty mild by OCD standards.
- I’m one of the biggest slobs ever.
- I do use more hand sanitiser than the average person, but not over the top (I think).
- I have no deal with numbers.
- I’m more worried about infecting other people with germs (sometimes I hold my breath when out shopping if I’m sick).
- I have no physical compulsions. All my compulsions are mental.
I have OCD, and don’t fit the stereotypes for the condition. Chances are, the people you know in minority groups don’t fit in the stereotype box either.
Push yourself further with your writing. Be more inclusive with minority groups. Be more observant and challenge the stereotypes that society has given you when you people watch.
Write diversely and have a diverse range of beta readers and CPs. Use sensitivity readers, and LISTEN to them. And be prepared to take on criticism and learn from it. (And note that having sensitivity reader doesn’t stop you from receiving criticism).
Also make sure you LISTEN to minority groups. Be present on social media sites, such as Twitter where you can find lots of threads that talk about problematic representation. Research issues around problematic representation and LISTEN to what’s being said. (I’m not going to list anything other than OCD as that’s the only minority group that I have the knowledge to talk about.)
Our country is diverse. Our world is diverse. And that diversity should be reflected in our literature art.
So, if you haven’t already, clean out your stereotypes to make your stories a richer place, and a safer place for your readers who might belong to the minority groups that are hurt by those stereotypes.
Sharon is a Young Adult and New Adult writer from sunny Queensland. Her Open Heart Series is out now with City Owl Press. Sharon loves helping out other writers as a Pitch Wars mentor and Pitch Madness hosts. She occasionally has pink hair, loves cats, makes jewellery and bookmarks, and plays far too much Pokemon Go.