Creating Diverse Characters

by jeanineoloughlin

Thinking Through My Fingers

“Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.” – Issac Asimov

The Earth has an estimated 7 billion people living on its surface. That’s 7 billion unique perspectives and experiences. That world is constantly evolving and we as inhabitants of the same planet are becoming more and more intertwined. Many feel our media is falling behind in showing the wealth of diversity we have in our world as a global culture. It’s important to have a wide range of characters at your disposal as a writer for several reasons.

Conflict is what pulls a story together. It’s what brings the plot, setting and characters together and makes things interesting. If everyone in the story was the same then that makes for very little conflict between them, which becomes boring. The interactions between your characters comes off as stale and one dimensional. Diversity in personality, beliefs, physical description all of the aspects that makes a person unique creates a much more dynamic story and set of characters.

Often times when I find myself “fangirling” over something, whether it’s a book, movie, video game etc. I usually find that I’m drawn to the world that the creator has built. Yes I have my favorite characters or places, but really it’s those deep rich worlds that I fall in love with. The fantasy genre wouldn’t be what it is today without Middle Earth and the diverse rich cultures developed within the world. Lord of the Rings wasn’t just about some short guy trying to destroy a piece of jewelry it was about an entire world fighting for it’s survival. A conflict that brought Elves, Dwarves, Men and Women (Eowyn of Rohan!) coming together to face down Evil. The differences in culture, beliefs, and personalities is what made that story so compelling for me. So the worlds that we build around our stories should reflect that kind of richness of people as well as environment.

Readers are all people, and as I’ve said each person is unique. In order to pull a reader into the story they have to relate to the characters of the story in some way. So in order to connect with a broad audience you should be thinking about all the different types of people who will be reading your book. How can you give them something in their own lives that they can identify with, in the context of your world or story. The characters are the most prominent connection readers have within a story. In most stories the characters are the vehicle the reader is taking through the journey you’ve written. If a reader cannot identify with the characters in some way it makes it difficult for them to connect with the story.

As our world becomes more connected we struggle with connecting with each other on more interpersonal levels and reconciling opposing viewpoints and beliefs. We can achieve this through understanding of each other and books are a great way to expose people to that. Diversity isn’t something we should be afraid of but should embrace and celebrate. So branch out and put yourself in the shoes of someone different, it will be greatly rewarding for you and your readers.

Happy Writing!