Writing Diversity into NaNoWriMo

Saturday marks the beginning of NaNoWriMo, and it seems like a lot of ideas are in progress and about to be bravely crafted and thrust out into the world (whether your world means the secret between you and your laptop, a self published ebook or crowdsourcing ideas through Archive of Our Own).

As you start world building and fleshing out characters, I’m here to gently remind you about creating characters of color in your latest project.

Are you writing a period romance? Consider a character of color! No, the accented Indian housemaid in your Victorian household doesn’t count. It definitely doesn’t count if you try to write the accent phonetically. Writing about a young family making their way to the American west looking for their fortune? You know the Wild West was a lot more diverse than you think: Cowboys were black and Asians helped to build the railroads. Try including them!

I’ve put together a short, handy guide of writing resources to help you as you create your latest masterpiece (or fluff piece). I hope this helps everyone to responsibly write characters of color and discover ways to introduce issues of race organically.

In the interest of full disclosure, it took all of five minutes to find these resources by just Googling and Tumblr searching “characters of color,” “writing resources characters of color,” and “writing characters of color.” I say this because usually when it comes to writing diversity into books, authors (and TV writers) like to use the “it’s not my experience” card and start claiming they’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Well I (and arguably most people) have never been a cyborg princess in deep space or a medieval sorceress, but somewhere, someone is writing those stories.

Here are some resources to help you get started writing and researching your novel.

Masterposts of Research

Blogs Dedicated to Racial/Ethnic Diversity in Writing

How-Tos and Advice on Writing

But I’m White!

The biggest takeaway is that you shouldn’t use the fear of not accurately representing people of color as an excuse for not being an inclusive writer. This is especially true now that the Internet allows us to bridge these identity gaps and permits us to reach out to marginalized groups and people with whom we may not have ever had direct contact. I’m not saying you should undergo a full sociological study and submit a proposal to the institutional review board, but I am asking that you reach out and talk to others. The best way you can become an inclusive writer, which I am extending to beyond the above discussions of race, is to form relationships with people and to seek their advice and guidance about writing diversity. Through research and interpersonal relationships, you can contribute to the growing diversity in literary voices.

By Karishma

Karishma is a twenty-something living in New York City and is trying her hardest to live out every cliche about Millennials. This involves eating her feelings, drowning in debt and mocking infomercials. She likes sociology so much that she has two degrees in it, and is still warding off her parents' questions about a real career.

2 replies on “Writing Diversity into NaNoWriMo”

I nearly squealed with delight while I read this! I’ve been very aware of how “white” my writing has been (not so much by prose, but by visualisation, if that makes sense) but felt at a loss as to how to even begin approaching it. Am looking forward to checking out all these links!

I think the main character from my NaNo 2012 is the first person I consciously made a WOC. For so very long I subconsciously viewed characters as the people around me and – even living in a large city – those are largely white or mixed. Books are part of pop culture and pop media and one of the many ways to change people’s mind about what’s “normal”.

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