Diversity Is About Inclusion, Not Exclusion

Diversity in writing diversitycircle-312343_1280A recent incident at my writers’ group sparked the idea for my post today. A writer submitted a piece where he offered no description of characters that exposed their race. However, the things he chose to write about the characters did make people wonder what race some of the characters were. The main character was a white man married to a black woman, and there were subtle hints — particularly around hair care — of the race of the wife, but nothing explicit. He’d done this on purpose, with the idea that he wanted the reader to imagine the characters to be however they wanted them to be. One of the ladies there, Pam, asked, “Why? Why would you want to be less specific about them? I’ve never heard a good reason for doing this?”

And I totally agreed with her. People motivated by the good intentions of not promoting stereotypes and being inclusive can, by failing to provide certain descriptions, end up with the exact opposite of inclusivity. I can only assume some of the impetus of this comes from Martin Luther King’s most famous oration, the “I Have a Dream” speech. People get in their head the notion that a “colorblind” society is literal, rather than figurative. The idea of judging people based on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin is exactly that. It is a notion based on the idea that we see their skin color — no matter what it may be — and we don’t make any assumptions based on that. We wait until they open their mouths and speak before we judge them to be fools or geniuses (or somewhere in between).

The idea of literally making characters colorless is problematic when your book is set in the real world. Despite King’s dreams, we do not live in a colorblind society. We live in a society where color is an issue in everyday interactions. Pretending it’s not in any sort of real-life settings (be they historical or contemporary), just isn’t very realistic. Now, if your book is set in some type of fantastical or futuristic world that doesn’t have the current world’s hang-ups, then fine.

But, setting it in our world and going all blasé in character descriptions doesn’t work. Why? Because, as an author, you’re failing your readers. Now, do you need to mention the racial attributes of every minor character you see (that rude waiter, or the school teacher who waves hello to your kid)? Of course not. But, if your main character is an interracial marriage, that says something about who he is as well as who he isn’t. And to deny your readers that information isn’t really helping your book or your characters. A character is informed by his or her life experiences as well as by how he or she is perceived. These things all make up who they are. Ignoring those aspects makes for flat characters. Knowing these aspects about a character, but purposely hiding the information can make for confusing prose (as happened with this particular story in the writers group).

We all know there is a lack of diversity in books in mainstream publishing. It’s such a problem that this site was set up: http://weneeddiversebooks.org/mission-statement. While there are diversity issues both in terms of what’s on the page and diversity in who is writing, for the purposes of this post, we’re just discussing what’s on the page. So, if you feel a desire to write diverse characters, do it. Diversity in books is accomplished by having diverse characters in the books, not by having characters who are so ill-described we haven’t a clue who they are.

Now, I think some people may shy away from diversity out of fear of being criticized (that’s my euphemism for fear of being called “insensitive” or a flat-out “racist”). I am aware that the vitriol is real. Backlash for racial insensitivity is no joke and it’s been happening a lot lately. A book about George Washington’s slave was pulled as it was deemed insensitive. There was also the issue of Rick Riordian’s publisher using white cover art for characters who are black in the book. While you certainly don’t want to be insensitive, the answer is not to avoid race in your novels at all.

So, what’s an author to do? Well, first and foremost, be real. Write the characters as you know them to be. Listen to what your gut tells you about them. If you want to write characters like the ones you meet on the street, like family members, like your diverse friends, write them. It’s good to have a wide-ranging palette. Write your characters as real as you know how. That’s your story, so you tell it. But then, get some feedback. If you’re writing characters who are different than you, characters who appeared in your head, but with whom you don’t have a lot of personal experience, ask for help. Have someone from that culture read it and give you feedback. That should help you avoid any really offensive potholes.

I think books are one of the places that gets us close to the so-called “colorblind” society. While authors offer an initial description of characters, we don’t see that description on every single page. It paints a quick sketch in our head, but the content of that character is fleshed out over the ensuing pages. As King suggested so many years ago, we don’t judge them by that quick sketch we saw when they were introduced. We judge them by what they do over the course of the book. And perhaps the real world can take a page from the literary world on that.

Author: RJ Crayton

RJ Crayton is a former journalist turned novelist. By day, she writes thrillers with a touch of romance. By night, she practices the art of ninja mom. To learn more about her or her books, visit her website or her Author Central page.

44 thoughts on “Diversity Is About Inclusion, Not Exclusion”

  1. A very thought-provoking post RJ and not one I have given a great deal of thought to. Initially I was in the camp with your group member, thinking that, unless it is relevant, why bother to point out race for a character.

    On the other hand colour-blindness is possible.When we moved from one town to another my daughter was nine. She told me she had met a new girl and had walked home from school with her. I asked her to describe the girl on case I had seen her around. My daughter told me about her height, the length of her hair, and her build. What she did not tell me was that the girl was East Indian with quite dark skin. When I later asked her why she had not mentioned it she told me she hadn’t noticed. That made me proud. And my son is in a mixed race marriage.

    So I think you will understand why I sided with your group member at first. But you have made me realize that, while race blindness may be the ideal, it is not reality and that by ignoring it in our writing we may be doing our readers, and indeed, society a disservice. It is, unfortunately, still very relevant for how most of us see, live, and move in our real world. And that we have an opportunity as writers to address those issues, however subtly that may be done. The same could be said of other visible differences, such as ability, modest dress for religious reasons – the list could go on.

    Again, thank you. I will look at this with new eyes.

    1. Yvonne, this happened with my friend’s kid – years ago, my friend was keen to invoke a sense of equality and respect in her children, and took great pains when out to seize opportunities – unnecessarily as it turned out – she indicated a West Indian gentleman and said to her young son, ‘what makes that gentleman look different to Daddy?’ to which the son replied, ‘he’s got a beard.’
      But it is a serious point – how much do we need to ‘reveal’ and what does it say about us as writers and our audience?

      1. Caron, I think when we write for our audience, it’s no different than showing them a color photograph. We want to reveal as much as they’d get if they were looking at the photograph. And if they’d be able to tell the person’s skin color from the photograph, then they should be able to tell it from your writing.

        There is nothing inherently offensive in a photograph. So, I think there’s nothing inherently offensive in describing the person the way you’d see them in a photograph. The problem really comes if you use offensive language in a description. Calling someone a sambo or a little pickaninny for a quick reference would be offensive, as well as lazy writing. But saying they had caramel-colored skin is pure description without charged language.

    2. You know, Yvonne, I think kids are really interesting. They always have such different points of views, and as they realize the world isn’t understanding them, they learn what information to include.

      My kids used to do the same thing, and then my son went through this whole phase where everything you said that described the race of someone was racist. And I think there’s a difference between telling people information to help them visually and quickly understand what a person looks like and saying things that are racist. You get into problems when people use racist terms to describe people’s features. And people who don’t wish to be offensive are often very sensitive about their language, as well as people who are listening for offense can be sensitive. But, I think a pretty-fact based written description of a person is important. And it’s no more offensive to describe a person’s race than it is to show someone’s picture. We’re wordsmiths and I think we should try to paint as vivid a picture with our words as if someone were looking at an actual picture. You want living color, not a line drawings for a coloring book.

      1. I have an amusing anecdote from when my son was just three. I hope it doesn’t take up too much space here.
        We sat in a waiting room at a garage while we waited for our car to be serviced. Across the room was another customer reading a newspaper which hid his face. I saw my sonn looking intebtly at the man. Then he turned to me and said, “Mummy, that man’s hands are brown.”
        The paper didn’t move but I expected the man had heard it. I answered, “Yes, and the rest of him is brown, too.”
        “Probably his mommy and daddy were brown, too.”
        “Well,” I said, in a bit of a pickle as to how to explain this, “in some parts of the world, parts where the weather is always hot, most people a re brown.”
        By this time the paper was beginning to shake so I figured the man was enjoying my predicament.
        I decided to take it further and asked my son, “What colour is our skin?”
        He studied his hand, and them mine and decided, “Pink.”
        “That’s right,” I told him, “but we call it white. That’s strange isn’t it?”
        Conversation over – but the paper still shook. He never lowered it so I could see his face though.

          1. Kids are great aren’t they – it’s so sad they can learn prejudice as they get older. I agree, it is good to be clear about a character – although I’m not a fan of a lot of description – there are always things you need to know esp about main characters – and appearance is one of those things. I find a lot of older (white) people think it is wrong to say someone is black, brown, whatever, and the same with disability and sexuality, anything said overtly is still sometimes considered rude, even when its not critical or intended as such. That is why I think writers occasionally shy away from a clear description.
            In the early 1960s, my uncle, a sailor, came home from South Africa with a black wife. This was pretty unusual in those days and in South Africa I believe it would have been treated as a crime. Obviously I was a little child, so I know nothing about how Auntie Sally was treated, I just know that she was warm and loud and happy and she was great at making dolls clothes!

  2. Thank you SO MUCH for writing about this, RJ! Writing should be as specific and detailed as possible, not generic. The ideals are a lovely thought, but in the case of writing fiction, sadly misguided. We need stories that are relevant and emotional, and that means getting the stuff of bias down on the page along with everything else. I feel too that NOT expressing clearly that a married couple is racially (and potentially culturally?) mixed is sort of magnifying the problem. Pretending to ignore color doesn’t make bias or prejudice – or hate – go away. It just shows how lame we are about it all.

  3. So true, RJ. I often think about the subject while I’m writing. I shy away from developing characters I don’t know well; I’d rather not present stereotypes, which I often see on TV shows. Because diversity and equality are important to me, I would never want to offend anyone by ignorance or subterfuge. Perhaps that’s why I seldom step out of my comfort zone.

    1. There’s no shame in staying in your comfort zone. Like I said, there are two issues of diversity in publishing. One is who is writing, and the other is about the characters. So long as there is a diverse group of authors, everyone can write from their own experiences (in essence, writing what they know, the story that is in their zone), and we can still get diverse literature.

  4. Excellent post, RJ. I think you covered the bases pretty well here, and I agree that having an interracial couple in the real world is topical and shouldn’t be glossed over by blase descriptions. Yes, we would all love it if the world were colorblind, but it’s not, so I believe the best way to get there is by showing diversity in our characters without stereotypes. I’m Caucasian, but I usually include several other races/cultures in my cast of characters. I would feel inadequate writing a black or Hispanic or Asian main character (more from the standpoint of culture than race), but I try to be as inclusive as possible. Thanks for a very thought-provoking article.

    1. Good points, Melissa. I think that’s why the diversity in literature movement takes on two aspects: diverse characters and bringing in more diverse voices. If everyone writes what they know, what they’re most familiar with, it works great if you’ve got a representative number of writers. Thankfully, with self-publishing, there aren’t the barriers to the multitude of voices. While we don’t focus on traditional publishing here, there is a lot of concern about access in that arena, and whether diverse books are being rejected by narrow looking gatekeepers.

  5. Great post, RJ. It’s one I’ve thought about a lot, as I have number of different races in my novels. We are living in a time when political correctness is growing but in a way that adds confusion in the realm of writing. I’ve avoided using “black man” because I don’t say “white woman”. Instead I’ve talked about their complexion, their hair, where they’re from, or sometimes I’ve given a dialect to indicate a difference (only where it may sense). I have another story in mind, one that given the period, I wouldn’t hesitate to use the words of the age, as it tells me something about the character of the person who uses them.

    1. I think historical fiction is a great example of where you have to address the issue. Even though a lot of what’s said can be ugly, it’s a fact of the time period and you can’t just ignore it.

  6. I don’t know that being utterly clear is always necessary. Remember, it’s only recently come to light that J.K. Rowling *never once* said what color skin Hermione has in the Harry Potter books. Readers might *assume* she is caucasian; but she’s going to be black in the upcoming theatrical production, and as far as Rowling is concerned *that doesn’t violate cannon*.

    It’s not always essential to be perfectly clear with that sort of thing. Sometimes an artist might do something like the thing mentioned above. I have a book where one character has a name which might be seen as african american – but I never once comment on the color of his skin. In another book, the character has a latina name, and uses a word of spanish I think twice in the book. She is never explicitly announced as latina.

    I don’t think it’s necessary to do so.

    More, I think it could draw unnecessary fire to do so. I’m a white male. Writing a female hispanic character can draw a lot of heat, of the “how dare you” variety.

    Ultimately, of course, we DO want more explicit diversity in fiction. And frankly the best way to see that happen is to get more diverse people writing. Now that anyone can publish, anyone CAN publish. Let’s see some more diversity out there in writers!

    1. I agree with you that the getting more voices publishing is key. Writing what you know is fine so long as there’s a representative number of voices out there.

      Again, I can certainly see how someone can be concerned about a misstep in writing a character they’re not familiar with, drawing people’s ire. Minorities who’ve been discriminated against –very openly in the past–tend to be on alert for signs that people are misportraying them or showing just a stereotype. Minorities often want to take charge of their own stories, having had them be told wrong or pigeonholed to stereotypes, in the past. So, they’re very wary of others telling their story. That’s why I get the reluctance.

      But, again, I don’t think you have to hide the race of a person. I also think if an author is OK with some flux in the race, that’s OK. While Rowling was very happy with a black Hermione (yay for her), fans were quick to point out that Hermione was described as having a white face in the Prisoner of Azkhaban. Whether Hermione was black, white or nondescript in the book wasn’t that important to the overall story.

      And look at the Hunger Games’ Rue. She was described by the author as a girl with dark brown skin, and most readers glossed over it, assuming she was white and got mad when an actress who kinda fit the book description was cast in the role. So, Rue is a great example of a person describing race, and having the character take on a life of her own. Apparently many white fans ignored her color and identified the character as being like them. So, even when you include race, if you tell the story right, that can fade away into truly colorblind literature.

  7. Thank you for this. I remember recently reading a very well-written indie title in which a number of the characters spoke as if they were black (to my ear, anyway), and the Southern setting SHOULD have included people of color based on my personal knowledge of the area, but there was not a single mention of color, OR of any reaction to color. The thing is — if you’re being color-blind, you’re probably also being racism-blind. Which was not realistic at all, to me, given what was going on in this book (a lot of prejudice, just none of it in any way racially motivated as far as any reader could tell). It really kept taking me out of the story.

    1. Yes, and that’s the thing I think you get when you have this colorblind writing. It doesn’t ring true to people. Now, if you write fantasy or sci fi and you’ve got this other society that’s not like ours in terms of race, you’re going to have to flesh that out. But even in societies that are different (even Rowling’s Hogwarts/witchcraft world), they still have prejudices and biases. They’re just different than what we know here. I think people wanted to feel rooted in a world that feels real, one that has conflict.

  8. I think it’s great that this writer left those details out of his story; I for one would have used the opportunity to drop hints that the characters are not human beings.

    Also, it’s always good to learn how to say more with less. it’s a good writing technique, and what’s even better is you can use it to see whether readers and the publisher are paying attention. As I recall, Heinlein’s “The Cat Who Walks Through Wall” only hinted at the main character’s race in a single place near the end of the book. If you missed it, you wouldn’t know that the main character was black.

    Nate, editor of The Digital Reader

    1. Well, like I said in the post, the race of every single character doesn’t matter, and depending on the kind of story you’re telling, it might not be that important in the context of the story, particularly if you’re building a sci-fi or fantasy world that’s different from the one we live in.

      However, I think specifically trying to hide information from your reader that’s pertinent to your character is a mistake. If the race of the character is completely irrelevant, fine. But, I think that’s going to be a narrow sphere. Again, I don’t think you need to harp on the character’s race or racial identity unless it’s that kind of story. But to know it and simply not choose to share it, seems a real disservice to the reader. Again, I’d point to the Hunger Games’ Rue. A character clearly described — once– but whom millions of readers thought was of another race because they identified with her as their own. That’s a great example of providing description without interjecting a lot of unnecessary stuff into the story.

  9. Great article, RJ, although my first thought was, ‘wow, what an interesting idea,’. Then, as I continued reading, I realised I was looking at the issue as a science fiction writer, one who immediately imagined a society either set a long way into the future, or in an alien culture – e.g. like Ancillary Justice where the dominant culture calls everyone ‘she’.

    In our world, the world of the here and now, it does seem disingenuous. I’d rather read about diverse people whose actions say ‘race is irrelevant, only people count’ than for race to be ‘hidden’ for fear of giving offence.

    I hope we do reach that point one day. Clearly we’re not there yet.

    1. I think sci fi and fantasy have their own world building that allows them to do what they want. In fact, sci fi and fantasy writers tend to be some of the most descriptive because they want you to see the alien race with blue skin or the fairies with glittery wings, so they’re very descriptive. And they have to paint the world in which these people live in and who is the bad guy and who is the good guy.

      Certainly, I think one reason people try to avoid race is because they thing painting certain racial pictures will lead some people to assume who’s the good guy and who’s the bad guy based on the reader’s own racial thoughts. But, I still think offering the information, and painting the picture you want, despite whatever negativity the reader might bring to the table, is the key job of the author.

      Like you, I hope one day we get to the point where the race isn’t such a factor.

  10. Great post. I agree with your viewpoint. My world consists of diverse characters, and so do my novels. We do our readers no service when we fail to point out the characteristics that describe our characters. Note, I did not say “define” them, because racial/ethnic characteristics do not define who we are. Surely, no one would say that Donald Trump is the same as Sylvester Stallone, tho they are both Caucasian males born in 1946.
    Every person, of any ethnicity, brings something unique to the world.

    1. I like your thoughts on this. Skin color is a superficial trait and it says very little about a person. It paints a quick sketch that the reader may actually even soon forget. However, it gives them something to hang their hat on initially as they develop their image of a character. Donald Trump and Sylvester Stallone are definitely two very different white guys. Just like Clarence Thomas and Thurgood Marshalll are two very different black guys, despite both having been Supreme Court Justices.

  11. The TRULY colorblind society will be when we get to the point where we don’t have to labor to describe “race” and just see everyone as “other people”.

    I applaud though writing specific and described characters in your books to inspire specific persons that you can relate to–it jusst to be natural and guileless without preaching.

    Just my two cents.

    1. Guileless and without preaching is key. I think the descriptions can and should be seamless. For many readers, the description just like a book cover, the external dressing. It’s what happens beyond that that makes the biggest impression.

  12. Too often, in attempts to merely appease, we tear the heart out of the message while undermining our potential. I’ve always maintained that “teaching tolerance” was absolutely unacceptable. Tolerance is about merely putting up with something. Appreciating diversity is about learning from each other in a way that makes all of us stronger. The US has consistently led the world in patents for a variety of reasons, but our diversity is chief among them. To the surprise of many people, those high-tech products with Japanese names on them were typically conceived in the US. We’re good starters, but the Japanese are excellent adapters. When one of our hosts earnestly decried Japan’s lack of creativity, I pointed out they are arguably more creative—just at a different point in the process. The close partnership between the two culturally disparate nations has resulted in some highly successful joint ventures.

    I’m tremendously grateful my career in education allowed me many enlightening cultural opportunities. They have certainly impacted my writing. Nonetheless, savvy writers and other people understand each person is an individual. So it’s ironic many people in the US take individual liberty to dangerous extremes yet insist on categorizing others. After completing intensive cultural indoctrination and assimilation more than once (including living in another country), I understand people identify with their race, nationality, religion, heritage, and so forth in a broad range of degrees. We are not inherently guilty or innocent or anything else by association. That should be even clearer in literature than it is in life. People are unique, but characters should be even more unique. As Oscar Wilde said, “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.”

    Nevertheless, I benefited greatly from embracing the diverse perspectives my life in education offered me. I was fortunate to be surrounded by brilliant people gracious enough to suffer my ignorance. In some cases, my existing beliefs were fortified. In others, I discovered there was a more pragmatic or effective way to approach a familiar challenge. That’s a tremendous gift that accrues throughout life. My greatest joys, however, came from visiting various locations on the other side of the world to be struck most profoundly not by differences but by the common thread running through people even as we were separated by language, customs, religion, politics, and other human vagaries. That is a powerful message both in life and in art.

    1. Finding the common threads is really key. It’s one reason literature touches so many people. When books are massively popular, it’s because they find that common emotional thread that we all have.

      That’s why diversity can work well in books; it can easily show that it’s our commonalities that thread us together, and our differences that can enhance each other, rather than cause conflict, if the differences are viewed in the correct ways.

  13. Great, insightful post, RJ. It’s given me some things to think about. My world is diverse, my history is diverse, so my writing often reflects that. If a character shows up that I need to learn more about, I’ll get to know him or her as an individual (and seek feedback from people of that culture/ethnicity so I don’t write something insensitive), but I’m always looking to learn and do a better job. Thank you.

  14. One point that no one has touched on is that the woman in the book didn’t just “happen” to be black. It didn’t just “happen” to be an interracial marriage. The author chose these important character details, and must have had a reason for it.
    Unfortunately, if an author chooses something as obvious as different skin colour, and then chooses to ignore it, I have to assume that the author is making some kind of point, and I’m not a big fan of political fiction. It reminds me too much of people knocking on my door, thinking they have a right to intrude into my life with their religion.
    So this writer is not being colourblind at all. Quite the opposite. He or she is being very political, which I think most of the people who commented above would consider counterproductive. I hope we are past the point of raising our fists in the air.
    I think, as several parents above have mentioned, if we treat skin colour as just another trait, children really do become colourblind in the ways that really count. Likewise our readers.

    1. That’s a great point, Gordon. Leaving stuff out as a political statement really interjects unnecessary feelings into the piece. Treating the descriptions as part of the scenery and not leaving them out for political reasons is a good way to go.

      And you’re right about children. They’re good at cutting through the preconceived notions and just seeing the basics of the moment.

  15. As a 52-year-old man of Spanish / Mexican Indian / German extraction, I’ve dealt with this issue most of my life. I don’t see it dying out during our lifetime, but color lines have pretty much been blurred. It’s amazing, though, when I hear the terms “White” and “Black” in reference to those two racial groups; then hear many in those same groups wondering why we’re so hung up on skin color! Seriously? There’s nothing wrong with describing someone’s physical attributes to give readers an idea of what that person looks like to and to what racial or ethnic group they belong. Using those attributes as a tool for negativity is where political correctness descends into ugliness and stupidity.

    1. Yes, exactly. The descriptions are less important than the negativity or political associations brought with them. I think if people can separate their own concern over negativity from basic description from actual malice, then that will help. Facts are good. Vitriol is where things get problematic.

    2. Alejandro, were you taught to speak Spanish or German? My mother has done genealogical research all the way back to the 900s or so. I haven’t gotten any direct language benefits out of that, but it’s been fascinating and I guess it confirms my Mexican friends knew what they were talking about when they called me Vikingo.

      After living in Mexico for a year and being married to a Mexican for eight years, it pains me to see how dangerous even small towns have become. Of course, there are places in the US that are arguably worse, but the lawlessness isn’t as widespread. It’s really a sad situation.

      1. Jeff, I was raised speaking English, but learned Spanish and German in college. I was the first grandchild on my father’s side of the family to be raised speaking English. My father was born and raised in Dallas, and my mother was born just outside México City to a German-American father and a Mexican mother. My maternal grandmother died in 1940, and my grandfather moved his 4 children to Dallas nearly 3 years later, after he’d found a factory job. His mother-in-law came with them and died in Dallas in 1963. She already spoke English (as well as French and some Italian) because she’d worked as a nanny for the family of a U.S. Navy Admiral. She lived in Washington, D.C., for a short while in the 1920s.

        On my father’s paternal side, we’ve been in Texas since the 1580s. My father has traced both sides of his family to medieval Spain. On his mother’s side, Queen Isabella – who financed Christopher Columbus’ voyage – is one of our ancestors. I’m currently working with my father on a book about our family history. It’s more a labor of love than anything.

        My maternal grandfather was born and raised in Michigan where a large contingent of German immigrants had settled. Ironically, a large group of German immigrants also made their way to Texas. They established towns named Fredericksburg and New Braunfels. There’s a unique dialect called Deutsch-Tex still spoken by many of their descendants. It’s a mix of German and English verbiage. It’s much like so-called Tex-Mex (or “Spanglish”), which is a mix of Spanish and English words.

        Yes, it’s a shame México has become so riddled with violence – pretty much all of it drug-related. Mexican officials, though, rightfully point out that, for every Mexican citizen addicted to illegal narcotics, there are up to 10 Americans with the same problem. The U.S. appetite for illegal drugs is fueling the violence in México and Central America. That’s why I have little sympathy for people like Whitney Houston or Robert Downey, Jr., who are indirectly responsible for all that violence.
        It’s also disheartening to see México and the rest of Latin America in the grips of such chaos because those regions are the cradles of some of the world’s most extraordinary civilizations. Central México, for example, is only one of two known places in the world where a writing system arose completely and independently of any outside influence. Archaeologists have traced it to around 600 B.C.E. (The other place is Mesopotamia where cuneiform writing arose around 4,000 B.C.E.) Over the past 200 years Latin America has also produced some of the best writers and poets, so I have high regard for them.

        I don’t want to turn this into a political discussion, but the U.S. is so concerned about politics in the Middle East they’ve turned their backs on Latin America.

  16. Very interesting, RJ. I feel an opportunity would be missed for showing how people of different races, genders, cultures and experiences can and do interact in ‘the real world’ if all characters are written colour-free. I have to say it would not occur to me to remove colour or gender from characters I write. Although I almost never describe physical attributes in detail, I do always put in what I consider to be important traits – important for how the characters interact. It is, surely, the ways in which we are all different that makes stories interesting to tell?

    1. Yes, the ways in which we are different make for a good story. It’s the fact that even though we’re different we can still come together for a mission, for a journey, for adventure or life or love is the heart of all stories. Getting rid of the differences arbitrarily limits the story.

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