Writing Diverse Characters for Fiction, TV or Film – a review

Life has thrown up more diversions – okay, my weak will did. I still intend posting a Thursday Creation Review every week – as originally planned. Well at least until my five outstanding reviews are written – three crime, one historical and one historical-fantasy. I’m hesitating over adding my review of the TV series Good Omens until I’ve read the book.

Anyway, today – a day late – it’s a non-fiction writing guide up for review:

Writing Diverse Characters for Fiction, TV or Film

by Lucy V. Hay

We’re living in a time of unprecedented diversity in produced media content, with more LGBT characters. more characters of color, more disabled characters, and more characters from various religions or classes. These characters also appear in genre pieces, accessible to the mainstream, instead of being hidden away in so-called “worthier” pieces, as in the past. This book discusses issues of race, disability, sexuality and transgender people with specific reference to characterization in movies, TV, and novel writing. Using such examples as the film Mad Max: Fury Road and the novel Gone Girl, the book explores how character role function really works. It discusses such questions as the difference between stereotype and archetype, why “trope” does not mean what Twitter and Tumblr think it means, how the burden of casting affects both box office and audience perception, and why diversity is not about agendas, buzzwords or being “politically correct.” It also goes into what authenticity truly means, and why research is so important; why variety is key in ensuring true diversity in characterization; and what agents, publishers, producers, filmmakers and commissioners are looking for—and why.

 Review 5 stars

This timely and excellent book was everything I’ve needed especially since attempting to write a novel about a queer Welsh detective and her Tamil partner. (There are days when I feel totally out of my experience zone.)

This is essential reading for any serious writer – especially one aware of the value in addressing the ‘diverse issue’. It was full of invaluable advice and information for me – a WASP, albeit one with Latin blood and in a wheelchair.

Lucy Hay has researched the hot issue of ‘diversity’ for many years. She has become a prolific advocate of diverse characters in all areas of fiction as a writer, script editor and blogger who helps writers via her www.bang2write.com consultancy, which I follow. This book builds on her knowledge and suggests how writers can embrace the thorny topic – “as long as they do it justice” with “due diligence”

That ‘due diligence’ means recognising where the debate is going, the mistakes and progress, how to ensure diverse characters function effectively – and not as stereotypes – plus, the potential and the pitfalls. Hay provides a wealth of observations, suggestions and links with which writers can develop their own craft. Many assets are provided to inform those that are serious about ensuring they tread wisely.

These range from a definition of ‘diversity’, and the myths surrounding it, to examples from modern movies and novels to explain aspects of how to handle ‘diversity’ – and how not to. All Hay’s thoughts provide food for further discussion and research.

I’m still learning and researching the best approach to diversifying my plots. This book has great insights that will help me as a writer as I progress into this complex area. Many of my characters are not ‘diverse’ like my leads, but there are techniques that Hay provides which will help them stand out as unique as well.

This book is timely and important so a guide that will be a stalwart on my desk as I now have both Kindle and paperback versions.

Utility – five stars

Content – five stars

Topicality – five stars

Authenticity – five stars

Readability – five stars

Structure – five stars

Editing – five stars

I’m Fine… but the MS is not

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What should I say? Do I remain polite? Or complain?

But it’s good manners to say “Good morning” and ask how someone is, then remark on the weather. People don’t really want to know how I am, any more than they want to learn about my writing.

My wheelchair is invisible and all they see is the smile on my face… the smile that keeps me going, along with my writing. Depression, openly demonstrated, doesn’t sit well with MS, even if it lurks behind me most of the day.

I have real friends that understand, many writers that I met online, some even suffer with invisible illnesses and know the secret of hiding the pain. Yet there are days when the pain gets too much and I scream aloud, my body jerking with uncontrollable spasms. On those days both writing and thinking are jumbled. But I’m not the only sufferer that writes.

Writing is a healer and a distraction. Without writing my brain would have ground into a snail slither. Writing keeps my ‘little grey cells’ devising new ways to kill people, and new motivations for deviousness. Sadly, I can’t write down everything that flickers along the scrambled pathways.

So I’m Fine… on the outside, but I’m suffering inside, struggling to get the words out whether by voice or keyboard. The MS is taking time to emerge because the MS is making my life a daily struggle. But I will win, given enough time.

Yes, I flinch when I read MS. To me it is not a ManuScript, but a MonSter called Multiple Sclerosis.

And others live with their monsters and triumph.

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This is my monthly post in the Insecure Writers Support Group Day and there are many words of wisdom out in cyber-space. I’m only number 180 among 297 other bloggers. If you click here there are links to all of them and you can visit as many as you want. All thanks to Ninja Captain Alex J Cavanaugh and his co-hosts Krista McLaughlin, Kim Van Sickler, Heather Gardner, and Hart Johnson!

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