Read with Pride: Simon James Green

Hi guys. Today, I’m here with a delayed blog tour post. This was meant to go up on the 8th July but for some reason, WordPress did not want to work with me and it deleted the post and would not let me do anything on my blog until now. Originally, this post was part of the Read with Pride campaign run by Scholastic which was a blog tour featuring their variety of LGBT+ books. As part of this celebration, I have a guest post from Simon James Green, author of Noah Can’t Even who is giving some tips on including diverse characters in your novel.

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OK, so I don’t hold myself up as some sort of authority on this, but Noah Can’t Even does feature some main characters that you would label ‘diverse’ so I’m happy to share a few thoughts accordingly!  I honestly believe this is something most authors want to get right and fear getting wrong. These are the basic rules that I try to follow. I’m not saying they’re exhaustive, and I’m not saying you have to follow them too; they’re just the things I try to keep in mind. I’ve written this from the perspective of writing gay characters in particular because, you know, that’s what I do:OK, so I don’t hold myself up as some sort of authority on this, but Noah Can’t Even does feature some main characters that you would label ‘diverse’ so I’m happy to share a few thoughts accordingly!  I honestly believe this is something most authors want to get right and fear getting wrong. These are the basic rules that I try to follow. I’m not saying they’re exhaustive, and I’m not saying you have to follow them too; they’re just the things I try to keep in mind. I’ve written this from the perspective of writing gay characters in particular because, you know, that’s what I do:
1) Your diverse characters are human, by which I meanthey’re nuanced, subtle and complex, like all your characters should be. Crucially, they are always more than the thing that makes them part of a minority group. The things that make us human apply across the board, regardless of sexuality, race, gender, disability or religious beliefs. I don’t let the diverse aspect of a character define them. Sure, it might impact on their lives in various ways, but it’s part of a bigger, much more complex picture. Quick way of saying this: write your diverse characters exactly like you write all your characters. No-one is ever just one thing, one trait. 
2) Careful of stereotypes. It’s a tricky one. The gay best friend, who is always upbeat and fun and takes your MC shopping because he has fabulous fashion sense? It’s a stereotype, and yet, I have known quite a few gay guys who are really like that, so what do you do? What I would do, is delve deeper and expand my understanding of the character. Every character has a public persona – but I like to ask ‘what are they like in private, when they think no-one is watching and judging?’ What is the raw version of them? I think that’s where you get the real interest and break out of the stereotype, making your character more than just a cardboard cutout in the process. It isn’t just about not being offensive – it’s about good writing. And it comes back to the first point: it’s about being human. Three-dimensional, fully rounded, lots-going-on, human.
3) Research your diverse characters. There’s no shortage of blogs, vlogs and articles where you can gain a deeper understanding of your characters. Writing a young teen boy who is questioning his sexuality? There are masses of very brave lads on Youtube who have made videos explaining what they’re going through. Watching them is a heartbreaking, exciting, messy, complex and beautiful journey – and one that can’t fail to add richness, truth and honesty to your own work. I believe you need to think like an actor when approaching characters that are removed from your own experience, and thorough research is a big part of that process so you can immerse yourself in the reality of their world.
4) Get it read by people who are part of the group to which your character belongs. Get some second opinions. Listen to feedback and criticism, and make changes. The only caveat I would add here is to remember you’re still only getting one person’s opinion on something, and that doesn’t mean it’s a guarantee you won’t upset someone else. 
5) Hold your hands up if you get it wrong and don’t be a dick about it. 

And there you have it – my simple 5-point plan for including diverse characters. Now remember, don’t be scared – the first point is the most important: they’re human. And that’s what we’re all doing here – writing about what it means to be human, in all its glorious, strange, weird and wonderful ways. Go forth and be diverse!

Massive thanks to Simon for graciously writing that guest post for my blog and a massive apology to everyone that this is late! Sometimes, technology hates us but be sure to check out all of the Read with Pride blog tour posts.

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