July 7, 2017

5 Characters We Need More of

1. The Multi-ethnic or Biracial character.

I went into greater depth in my previous post about this, but it's still something that makes it to the top of my list. Many writers love to claim they embrace diversity, but it comes down to it, they end up relying on the same handful of stereotypical token minorities (the black thug, the nerdy Asian, Latino housekeeper/landscaper). That isn't diversity. It's just insulting.

The modern world has broken down so many racial and ethnic barriers and it's time for us to start using that in our writing. Diversity comes in all shapes and sizes and, as I explain in my previous article, this just happens to be a group of people that are either exploited or left out entirely. This needs to change.

2.The Elderly

Sure, if we all think long and hard about it, we can come up with some examples of elderly characters narrating the tales of their youth, but that isn't exactly helpful. When you get a story set up like that (while it can work), it often suggests to the reader that there is nothing of importance going on in the life of the older character after they have aged. Which is to say, the most interesting and valuable thing about them is something that has already happened. I want to see more elderly characters as the MC's. I want to see the drama between two old ladies cheating at Bingo, the mundane and the exciting, the adventures and the daily life. It doesn't matter what, I want to see more Senior citizens as the main characters.  

3. Mental Illness 

We really need to break away from lazy writing that inserts "crazy" character here or there so we don't have to deal with giving them an actual reason to kill. To sensationalize mental illness is not only harmful to non-neurotypical people, it perpetuates misconceptions about mental health in general which then contributes to shame and reluctance to seek treatment. It's just bad all around. It's an evil snowball which gets out of hand and it all begins with "he committed that crime because he's crazy". Please don't do that. We need more stories about characters with mental illnesses that aren't exploited for the sake of a flashy punchline.

 4. Disabilities and Impairments

This includes characters over a wide range of options which includes everything from suffering with a hard to pronounce disease, to being hard of hearing, to using a wheelchair, to wearing glasses. Yes. I said wearing glasses. This might sound silly, but what I really want to see is more characters with glasses (who aren't portrayed as nerds). Reality check: How many people do you know with diabetes? How many characters can you think of who have diabetes? It's a small detail for any writer to include and seriously, its not that hard. This is true diversity.

5. The Caring Mother

In far too many books and movies, family is portrayed as either distant or dead. And while that may be the case for many, it isn't a universal experience, despite lazy writers' reliance on it. Disney is well known for killing mothers and, allegedly, this allows the main characters to experience more freedom to be active agents in the story ... but really ... is it so much to ask for some better representation of a good, emotionally healthy family? Sure, every family has their quirks (and dysfunctions), but I still think this is something many genres could do a much better job with. It doesn't necessarily have to be biological mothers, but I think we do a great disservice to the literary world if we only ever portray single parent households. We need to keep things interesting so we don't become repetitive or, heaven forbid, cliche and irrelevant.

What types of characters would you like to see more of?

1 comment:

  1. I'd like to see all of these as well. You hinted at this a bit when you spoke of stereotypes, but most of all I'd like to see more diversity where it's not a big deal. There's a place for stories where the struggles of minorities are a focus, and obviously it will shape the character's experiences and therefore a lot about them, but I'd like more stories where they just are (biracial/disabled/whatever).

    Not sure I'm good at writing them, though. I overthink it and it shows through. Working on that.


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