3 Quick Ways to Use Realistic Character Diversity In Your Novel

Lately there seems to be a glut of cliche character diversity in fiction not only in print but on television.  Sure there are tons of homosexual characters, ethnic characters and other kinds of characters but there is so much diversity in the world that it seems the go-to character diversity types are being over-represented.  

There are so many diverse groups in the world to explore.

Currently I have been exploring several diverse character types in my current project from an evangelical Christian who never supported Donald Trump to a Muslim Uyghur refugee persecuted by the Chinese government.  It seems that every book or television show now has to have a token gay character or a token ethnic character, which is fine.  However, the question remains: Are we over-saturating the market with characters that are in every other story?

Realistic diversity is actually much more interesting.  The diversity that exists right around you is much more interesting than the token character.  Here are five ways that we can insert some more realistic and hyper-diversity into our stories:

  1. Write What You Know - Yeah, I'm sure you've heard this a hundred times, but have you really considered this adage when selecting character types?  The two character types I mentioned above are character types taken from real-life people I know.  I know a bunch of evangelical Christians who are not Republicans, think we have too many guns, and really despise Donald Trump.  I know a Muslim Uyghur who is a refugee from Chinese occupied East Turkistan who can tell horrific stories that sound like the Jewish Holocaust.  You should look around you, make new friends, meet new people, and find the amazing diversity that lives right near you for inspiration.
  2. Don't Be Cliche - If you watch a lot of television or read a lot of books you can usually start making a list of character types that are overused.  I'm sure there are several that come to mind right away without your having to pick up a book or turn on the tube (which I don't recommend if you want to finish that novel).  Just make a list of character types you see all the time and try not to create those types.  Never think that just because everyone is doing it means you have to do it, too.  Come up with something original using the first tip above to avoid cliche character types.
  3. Write Detailed Character Biographies - I do this with every character that appears in my novel using a very careful character biography template.  Often I find that in creating more diverse and interesting characters (and creating detailed backstories for them) that my plot ends up being much more diverse and unpredictable.  This is the character bio I use:
  • I record the Character Name, Age and where they live.
  • Role in Story - What is their main purpose?
  • Goal - differs from role in that it is their motivation.
  • Physical Description - I usually find a picture of someone on Google Images that suits my needs, but I also describe any distinguishing marks, blemishes, scars, tattoos, hair color, eye color.
  • Personality - Even if they are a refugee from the Chinese they might also be kind of a jerk.  Here is where I record the character's particularly diversity and what makes that special or interesting to me.
  • Diversity Focus - Most importantly I try to figure out what might make the diversity of my character interesting to my readers.  I give a rationale for why I am using this kind of diversity and what it might mean to the overall plot of the novel.
  • Occupation - What is their job?  How do they earn a living?
  • Habits/Mannerisms - These are the quirky things that they do that make them human.  Do they appreciate a good joke?  Do they often tell puns to the chagrin of their neighbors?  Are they polite or crude?
  • Background - This is where you delve into their history and backstory.  Make it as detailed as possible: Where were they born?  What was their childhood like?  How do they know the other characters?  What psychological problems arose from their upbringing?  What has made them who they are by the time we meet them?
  • Internal Conflicts - These must be specific and must be (if they know any of the other characters) woven with their relationships with those characters.  They must have inner demons and angels that make them do the things they do (even villains).  They must be realistic conflicts that make sense within the world you create.
  • External Conflicts - These conflicts must go beyond just "Villain hates hero because he/she/it is a good person/entity".  They must be driven by the internal conflicts.  Remember that it doesn't have to be about person to person conflict but it could be about externals like nature or government or just the way the universe is put together.  For example, my latest villain is against the way he is made.  He is a superhuman whose only power is that he is immortal and he's lived for 6000 years.  He just wants to die.  That is his internal and external conflict.  It drives everything he does.
  • Notes - Here is where you put all the extras.  Anything else you can think of that will make your character that much more lively.  

If you have any other suggestions for writing good (and not cliche) diverse characters in your story, simple add to these in the comments below.

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