One of my favorite things to do with fiction is to do an effective job of writing characters that are different from me. I am a person of faith, but I enjoy writing characters that think differently from me on that. For fiction to reflect the full range of humanity, especially a dystopian story that throws together survivors of different backgrounds, it serves story to include characters from different races, different origins, genders, sexual orientations, etc. There is an added responsibility when writing characters from these varying backgrounds to write them well.
Writing a character well means writing a character with realistic flaws. There is a danger of falling into stereotypical characteristics when trying to do this. Our minds tend to take the path of least resistance and trying to be realistic often can go to choosing the path that is easy and may weaken an otherwise good character.
Writing characters requires writing people. Each individual is complex and two characters that share a common characteristic such as race, orientation, or any other aspect of identity, can be as different from each other as any other characters. It is good to not define a character by one key or token characteristic. It also serves not to ignore that aspect of their identity. If all characters are written the same as they would be otherwise, then why do the distinguishing characteristics matter at all?
There is a balance to be struck, but that is true even if we try to be safe and don’t venture into drawing characters from all aspects of life. It is not a matter of completing a checklist to be sure all permutations are represented, but there is great potential for enriching a story by varying the cast. Writers should be aware of the responsibility to respect and realism that goes with penning characters that are different from us in thought, beliefs, or characteristics.
Check out the latest book and music from a new series by Jay Wilburn:
The Dead Song Legend Dodecology Book 1: January from Milwaukee to Muscle Shoals – http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00YDZKXCI/jaywil0d-20
The Sound May Suffer – Songs from the Dead Song Legend Book 1: January – https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/amazing-circle-of-suffering/id996569862?i=996569871&ign-mpt=uo%3D4
Jay Wilburn lives with his wife and two sons in Conway, South Carolina near the Atlantic coast of the southern United States. He taught public school for sixteen years before becoming a full time writer. He is the author of the Dead Song Legend Dodecology and the music of the five song soundtrack recorded as if by the characters within the world of the novel The Sound May Suffer. Follow his many dark thoughts on Twitter @AmongTheZombies, his Facebook author page, and at JayWilburn.com