Recently, publishing team Sisters in Crime wrote a report on diversity, equality and inclusion in the mystery community which you can read here. This report dove into the experiences of ‘diverse’ crime writers in writing their fiction and getting published: Writers of colour, the LGBT community and writers living with disabilities.
I want to write about diverse characters in fiction but am scared that in doing so I will inadvertently cause offence: I might refer to someone the wrong way or misinterpret the struggles that a person within one of these groups could encounter.
Having read through the report (and you should too) it is clear that the publishing and writing worlds are predominantly white: white writers, writing about white characters. In fact, diverse writers are increasingly having to resort to self-publishing as a means to bypass the prejudices they have encountered by publishers complaining that their stories are ‘too Indian’ or ‘too lesbian’ to sell.
Often forgotten under the umbrella of diversity are those with neuro-diverse issues. There can be problems for writers with visual problems or dyslexia for example, in the resource gathering stage of writing. Some websites are not easily readable for the disability community. Perhaps the text is too small, the colours clash or the typography is not clear enough.
There may also be problems relating to meeting strict publishing deadlines. Some will have trouble editing their work due issues correcting spelling and grammatical errors. Many people also struggle to physcially attend crime writing festivals or networking events. Budding writers make oh so important publishing contacts at such events.
Diverse characters aren’t an extra element to add in to your story in order to tick a box. They’re a reflection of the makeup of our society. I can relate to having mental health issues, and so can 1 in 4 of you in the UK.
So how can we address these issues and start to make a change?
- Champion more e-conferences
- Ensure festivals and networking events consider the disability community
- Make your websites and blogs accessible to all. Read this fantastic article here.
- Discuss diversity openly, loudly and positively
- If you can’t identify with diverse groups, be an ally to them
- Learn more about diverse groups
- Read this article to make sure your written references aren’t offending these groups
- Join diverse writers groups, forums and partnerships
Over to you
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the report. I’m also keen to hear more about your thoughts on the portrayal of diverse characters in crime fiction.
Please write your comments below!