Last week the article I wrote on diverse YA books went up on Mookychick. I've been thinking a lot about diverse books and that maybe there aren't as many around as there should be because people aren't sure of how to write a diverse character. So here, in a few steps, is how to create a diverse YA character.
1. Choose a character that could be labelled as diverse
This is obvious, I know, but many YA books avoid diverse characters altogether. So, decide to write from that point of view. This can be anything outside the standard straight, cis, able-bodied, Caucasian person. Go wild! This is, after all, your creation.
2. Do your research
This is crucial to creating a fully realised character, especially if you're writing outside your own experiences. I'd suggest We Need Diverse Books, Disability in Kidlit and YA Writers as a starting point. You should also read books with characters similar to yours and read about people who share similar experiences to your character.
3. Avoid tropes
This includes the inspirational disabled person, the poorly written POC best friend, the Caucasian only cast in a high fantasy or sci-fi YA book and the LGBTQIA+ person coming to terms with their sexuality (which is great, but we need more varied stories than that). We need to write these characters as people, working with what they can and can't do and how they interact with their environment.
4. Try not kill off this character
This relates to the above point, but I've seen enough stories where the diverse character dies in some tragic way. If it's not necessary, or if it's just a plot-device, then think through why this character needs to die.
Okay, there you go. From here you could look at creating a diverse cast of characters. One diverse character, especially a main character, is great. Because if you look at the real world it's simply not that way. The world outside your house is full of people who are "different" on many levels and that should be reflected in ours books.
Anjulie Te Pohe
Founder of Koru Mag | Mookychick contributor | Avid reader and writer of YA | Takatapui (Maori & bi/queer) | She/Them | Contact: email@example.com