Going in line with my earlier posts about consent is another issue that’s becoming important to me. Representation.
This one is a stickier subject–especially for writers. It’s one thing to rally up and say we need more X representation, but knowing how to go about achieving that can come with some difficulties.
So many of our stories are about straight, white men. We see them everywhere–in movies, on TV, in our books. Recently on the literature front, we’ve seen an influx of leading ladies, which is good. It’s a fantastic start.
But so few of our stories have anything besides straight, white people. If we look around us, anyone can see that the world is filled with a plethora of different people, of all genders, skin colors and ethnicities, sexual orientation, and religions. Where are their stories? Why is it always the same person appearing over and over again on our screens and in our books?
Well, honestly, I don’t know the answer to that question. I possibly don’t want to know.
What I do know, though, is I think this is a terrible disservice to the actual world we live in. Also, pretty boring. When every character is the exact same, things get dull. And not only that, the books and television shows and movies (not to mention video games) start blurring together. Nothing is different. Nothing sets each of them apart from another.
And I don’t know about any of you, but I’d like for my story to be different from anything that’s come before. I’d like to have something that feels real, as opposed to a rehashing of the same old yarn.
I think a lot of it has to do with character representation. As in, PoC characters. LGBTQ characters. Non-binary gendered characters. All of these are issues of representation.
The issue of representation, for me, starts with the writing. We’ve all heard the adage “Write what you know.” For once, I think this is a great line. Every one of us has something in our lives that makes us unique, whether it’s your ethnicity or heritage, your gender–or fluidity of it, your orientation, or even just your past and the events that you survived to make you you. All of these things shape you and make you the person that you’ve come to be now, and there is no better person to tell that story than yourself.
Now you’ve got a piece of yourself on the page, making your characters unique. Great, now what? It can’t just all be you, right?
When you start to populate your stories with characters, look around yourself. Add in other people, different from your own story, and try to tell theirs. Do research, if you have to. Try give everyone their own voice, their own history, because no two people are exactly a like. And for the love of god, don’t fall back onto stereotypes. We are all people, not cardboard cutouts. Treat your characters as such.
It’s a hard thing to do. It’s easy to tell the same story over and over again, and hard to try to break the mold and tell something different. It’s even harder to try to tell someone else’s story, someone different from yourself.
But if we don’t even try, we’re just going to keep saying the same thing over and over. And that’s a waste of everyone’s time.