Writing Diverse Fiction
Greetings again folks. This is mostly an author post, but readers please feel free to chime in. Authors, have you written a character who is different than yourself? No, I’m not talking hair color, different height, etc. I’m talking about a nationality other than yours, religion, or even gender.
For me, I do this quite frequently. I write mostly gay male romance, so I try my best to write the man as I see him. I’ve used men I knew in my life as the base. My husband, my father, male friends I’ve had in the past, even ex-boyfriends. Using those examples I try my best to draft a character and I think most times I succeeded. However, this time I tried something very different. For See No Evil, I wrote my first transgender character. A MtF named Naomi Beneviere.
In truth, I worried a lot about writing this character. I read what I could and was even fortunate enough to find someone who has a kid who identifies as transgender. She gave me a lot of websites and articles to look up and I tried my best to read and apply that knowledge to my character. In the end, I figured the best way to write Naomi was as a woman. Period. Because everyone’s experience being transgender, gay, straight, or whatever is different.
The same can be said for people of different races and nationalities. Not every person of color fits a certain stereotype nor does ever Caucasian person. I know all of these are very touchy subjects, but I happen to believe fiction is what can bring us together as long as we are willing to put in the work to “getting it right.”
In this case, I wrote Naomi trying to keep in mind what struggles she may face, but I also wanted to show her having everyday problems any woman, or really, any person would have. We all have anxieties about how we look, if the person we’re interested in likes us or not. We all have quirks about how clean our houses are. Some of us are anal about cleanliness, while others would rather see some disarray just because. These are things everyone goes through and when crafting Naomi, I tried to show her as just another woman.
However, I did want to make sure the reader knew she was trans. There is a conversation between her and another trans woman, a talk with her mom, and her best friend. All of this I felt important to show how much support she had. Of course, I can’t tell you the ending, but I can say I feel good about Naomi as a character. Now, I’m not expecting any pats on the back. In fact, I’m quite sure if someone reads this, they might find fault with something in the book. It’s just par for the course. You write something, it won’t always resonate with everyone. However, I do hope people understand what I tried to do. I wanted to normalize Naomi, while still letting the audience know about her being trans. She’s attempting to build a relationship with a man while all the chaos is happening in the book and hopefully readers who identify as trans will appreciate it.
So in closing, I have to say this. If you truly desire to write outside of yourself, do the homework. Read all the articles and websites you can. Get a beta reader or two to tell you if you’re way off base or if you hit the mark. Then lastly, don’t get discouraged if someone tells you they’re bothered or offended but what you wrote. Say I’m sorry and promise to learn more and do better next time. I believe that’s how we can close the gaps when it comes to making fiction, especially romance fiction more diverse. We have to put in the time to get it as close to “right” as we can and not fetishize the characters, but make them real to readers.
Thanks for listening. Please leave your thoughts.
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See No Evil is on the editor’s desk. This is book 6 in the N’awlins Exotica series. It must be read in order for you to follow it. I’m looking to release it before the end of February! In the meantime, if you haven’t read the rest, pleasefollow this link to catch up!
Short Excerpt (Unedited)
“Naomi, I think you’re worrying too much. You know Waylon cares about you.” Kajika patted her hand.
Naomi nodded and leaned back on the couch cushions. She was so glad Kajika was back in town because she needed her best friend by her side to talk over things. “I know. I’m ready for us to be closer, ya’ know. Kind of like how you felt when you and Frankie got together.”
“Yeah. We waited and now we’re getting married in a couple of months. Don’t you think Waylon might have bigger plans on the horizon?”
Naomi dabbed her eyelids and sniffed. She hadn’t been out the house all day because she was so damn upset. Good thing she was off work today because she didn’t think she could’ve made it in.
“He might. Then I started thinking about what Sage said.”
“About what?” Kajika asked.
“About me being trans. What if he’s having second thoughts about being with me? I mean, yeah, we’ve kissed, groped …”
“He knows you got a dick, don’t he?”
“So why all of a sudden would it bother him? And besides, Waylon is a pretty standup guy from what I know. I’m sure if he had an issue with it, he woulda told ya.”
Naomi looked up at Kajika. “Ya think so?”
Kajika bowed his head. “Yep. Naomi, you shouldn’t use sex as a reason why he wouldn’t have sex with you, okay? I made the mistake and almost gave up on the perfect man ‘cause of some stupid misunderstanding. Sure I love it. Frankie and I have the best times when we do it, but it ain’t what defines our relationship. Sometimes kissin’ and cuddlin’ in front of the television is all I need. Waking up next to him, knowing he’s my man and no one elses. I mean, it’s the little things, babe. Waylon is the goods. Give the man a chance.”
Naomi knew Kajika was right. She just couldn’t help her insecurities.
* * * * BIO: Romance and erotica author Sharita Lira believes that love conquers all. Writing sexy stories of people who might be complete opposites, but somehow make a lasting connection that often leads to a happily ever after.
Happily married and a mother of two, Sharita never allows complex plots to deter her from writing the story. Inspired by heavy music, attractive people she’s seen in person and on the internet, Sharita always has a tale on her brain.
In addition to being a computer geek and a metalhead, Sharita loves live music, reading, and spending time with family and friends. She’s also a founding member and contributor to the heavy metal ezine FourteenG.