Diverse Character Dilemma

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Diverse Character Dilemma

#1 Post by Kinjo » Thu Jun 30, 2016 2:06 am

So this is something I've been thinking about and I'm genuinely wondering how I should approach this dilemma.

Is it generally preferable to try writing "diverse" characters, even if the writer is unfamiliar with the subject and may potentially "get some things wrong", or is it better to leave "diverse" characters out of the story so that the writer could never possibly "get any things wrong"?
In other words, is it better to genuinely attempt writing these characters and risk "being offensive" or better to play it safe and potentially come off as "non-inclusive"? It seems to be a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation.

I'll just leave it at that for now -- I've had to be very careful with my wording already. I think I know what I'll do, but I'm interested in hearing how other writers approach this situation.

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Re: Diverse Character Dilemma

#2 Post by RotGtIE » Thu Jun 30, 2016 2:11 am

If your audience strikes you with such fear, consider finding a better one.

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Re: Diverse Character Dilemma

#3 Post by namastaii » Thu Jun 30, 2016 2:34 am

Honestly, it's your game. I believe it's perfectly acceptable to do as much research as you feel comfortable with but that's all you can rely on. I wouldn't worry too much about what people say or think about your game because no matter what, you will always have people who dislike it, no matter how amazing(or accurate) your game is. So just do what YOU think looks and sounds good. Build this game and these characters off of your taste or what you think is good to you.

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Re: Diverse Character Dilemma

#4 Post by SundownKid » Thu Jun 30, 2016 3:48 am

Kinjo wrote:So this is something I've been thinking about and I'm genuinely wondering how I should approach this dilemma.

Is it generally preferable to try writing "diverse" characters, even if the writer is unfamiliar with the subject and may potentially "get some things wrong", or is it better to leave "diverse" characters out of the story so that the writer could never possibly "get any things wrong"?
In other words, is it better to genuinely attempt writing these characters and risk "being offensive" or better to play it safe and potentially come off as "non-inclusive"? It seems to be a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation.

I'll just leave it at that for now -- I've had to be very careful with my wording already. I think I know what I'll do, but I'm interested in hearing how other writers approach this situation.
Personally, I think it's better to risk being offensive than to just homogenize everything. Life is too short to let people tell you what characters to write and what characters not to write.

There are people who will be offended at literally everything. Not to mention all writing is imperfect and even famous writers got stuff wrong. If someone tells you something you did wrong take it as a learning experience but dont pre empt it by not writing a certain ethnicity.

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Re: Diverse Character Dilemma

#5 Post by kitsubasa » Thu Jun 30, 2016 4:20 am

I think it's definitely better to try and diversify your characters -- even if we cut the emotional/audience side out of the decision, having characters show variety in gender, culture, physique, age, class, whatever else helps prevent your cast from being interchangeable. Personality/plot role are obviously the key points of differentiation in any good writing, but if all those emotions and actions are tacked to a scruffy 30-something game guy (or for VNs... a glossy teen anime girl?) then you're arguably doing about 70% of your job and leaving the remaining 30% unconsidered.

And, if we move past the cynical side of the argument... while there are some issues often better handled by the community they impact (for instance: we probably don't need any more tragic coming out stories written by straight people), people from all kinds of demographics exist, and ignoring their existence because you don't understand them is a bit lazy. You shouldn't feel obligated to write a story about racism if you don't care about it, but you do live in a world with black people and brown people and whoever else, and they have lives outside their identity-specific struggles. If your cast hits a certain size and you haven't added any (unless you've got good reason*) you probably should.

*obviously something set in a men's prison won't have many women, something set in Japan will feature predominantly Asian characters, etc. My argument's for stories where one recurring character type isn't justified by the setting.
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Re: Diverse Character Dilemma

#6 Post by Taranee » Thu Jun 30, 2016 8:18 am

I think you should write characters that you think best fit in the story and help tell the story in the best way. Use the characters' backgrounds in worldbuilding so that you can tell more about the place and time where the story happens and make it deeper and believable. Use their backgrounds as a part of their character development. I think it's cool when I see a character with a similar background or history as me, but it's even better if that piece of information is meaningful in some way, and not just a shout-out to some part of your audience.

It's also interesting to subvert cliches. People like unpredictable stories. A character whose behavior is first attributed to stereotypes actually has an unexpected quirky motive (it could be either good or bad). Another character goes completely against the expected cliches and stereotypes, shocking all the other characters.

It's important to make the diverse characters just as well-rounded and flawed as all the other characters. They shouldn't be Mary Sues. You might be worried about giving them flaws, because some readers might think you want to villify that character's demographic group. The safest option is to have flaws that have nothing to do with the character's diverse trait and aren't stereotypical. Also all their problems shouldn't stem from their diverse trait or society's prejudices against it. It's too predictable and boring.

Don't forcibly change your story to fit diverse characters. It might come off as contrived and cliched/stereotyped, if you're not truly inspired to write the characters. Don't add a tragic subplot about discrimination and prejudice just because you might feel like it's a good thing to do. If a discrimination subplot doesn't fit in the story properly, the morals taught by it might fall on the reader's head as subtly as an anvil. It's annoying, no matter how well-intentioned it is.

Remember that some people will always be offended. If you make a character's background meaningful, people will be offended because he or she isn't exactly like everyone else. If you make a character's background meaningless, people will be offended because you're ignoring that character's unique past. If you set your story in a real-life homogenous society, and have minorities, some people will be offended because it's unrealistic. If you don't have minorities, some people will be offended because it's fiction and you could have added them because of artistic freedom.

You should write anything you want. Also remember that you don't have to have real experiences about everything your characters are and do. You just have to research really well and make the story believable. If people could only write about themselves, many genres, such as murder mystery or sci-fi, wouldn't even exist.

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Re: Diverse Character Dilemma

#7 Post by Parataxis » Thu Jun 30, 2016 10:46 am

I have thought about this a lot and here are my basic conclusions.

The need for "diversity" in media is actually a twofold need. 1) There needs to be an increase in the diversity of stories that get told. This means uplifting and enabling diverse voices in all creative communities and drawing attention to non mainstream works made by diverse creators. People who are not usually represented deserve to see their own stories get told. and 2) People who are usually neglected as characters need to be able to see themselves in the stories we are already telling, but have excluded them from for so long. The musical Hamilton aspires to be both by being a popular work made by a creator of color, all while reclaiming the myth of the American Revolution for other people of color using their casting.

I am white and straight and cis, well-educated and upper-middle class, able bodied and mostly neurotypical. I am not checking the boxes of pretty mush any one's diverse voices list. But, the main character of my visual novel, Nina, is of Latin American descent. Why? No reason I just thought she looked cool that way. Several of my other characters are also beneficiaries of what I call "Aesthetic Race" meaning that I pick a character's demographics at the same time I am looking at their character design and only afterward consider what it might mean for their pre-established characterization. I don't worry about "getting it wrong" because all of my characters are characters first and People of Color second. Oh there's a sanity check where I make sure I'm not saying anything too awful, but ultimately I just decided that in my story a character's race should be no big deal, so I am going to treat it as no big deal. Race in real life IS a big deal, as is sexuality or gender identity or physical disability, but I am not telling a story about the experience of being a person of color in the real world. I am, in my writing, trying to serve the second need of diversity: Here is a character, she is an asexual woman of color, but mostly a complex and flawed human being, here is a story that is not about that where she is a hero. Let's watch her struggle with grief and rage and ultimately become a better person.

Am I going to get flack for something that I do? Oh probably, I'm certainly not perfect. Nina herself isn't a totally likable character to begin with and people who are looking for a story about being Latina in a fantasy setting will probably be disappointed by the lack of detail in Nina's home life. But I know it will be ok, because I am doing everything I do very intentionally. If they don't like my characters it's not because I am a false flag supporter of diversity and the scum of this earth, but because the people who say that were looking for a different sort of story to begin with. And the story they want... might not even exist yet. They are not angry at me, they are angry at the world, because of a lack.

The reason any individual diverse character is under such a huge amount of pressure and scrutiny is simply because there is such a scarcity of characters. And once you realize that, the answer to increasing diversity is obvious: the only way out is through. When every gay character serves as the "only" gay character than by their very nature they say things about what the narrative thinks about gay people, as opposed to what the narrative thinks about this specific person. It's a no-win situation for writers because of lack of alternatives in the scarce representation. (Is your character an asshole? WHY DO YOU HATE GAY PEOPLE? Is your character not an asshole? STOP PRETENDING GAY PEOPLE ARE FLAWLESS SUPERHUMANS) There is a solution: we have to write a ton of gay characters, not just in any specific work but as a whole. Once the number of gay characters increases, then no individual gay character has to carry the whole load of gay representation and they will have more room to be their own characters. Rinse and repeat with any diverse class.

If everyone rolled the dice and took a chance on a diverse character they might get flack for, then sure a bunch of people are probably going to get something "wrong" but maybe they will get different things wrong, and maybe over time it will turn out that the result is, more than anything, a pool of interesting and varied characters who give a new group of people a chance to see themselves in all sorts of new stories.

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Re: Diverse Character Dilemma

#8 Post by MoonByte » Thu Jun 30, 2016 4:20 pm

Well, if you work in a team, then ask for their experiences to get some diversion.
If you work alone, then I'd say, work on it anyway. Just be self-aware and check for humiliating stereotypes and such, since literally everyone gets raised in a way that we are prone to unconcious racism, even if we deny it and think we are the most open-minded person on the planet.
Also, you will never make everyone happy. Some ethnic groups are also more "sensitive" than others. When I had uploaded a picture of a black woman on tumblr, some praised me for being "progressive", some said "You're white, you can't just draw a black woman like that!"
In the end, I'd also say that it depends on your story. If your game is set in THIS world, then there is also the thing that some places are not diverse. It's one of the reasons why the "He's a foreigner"-thing is so popular in Japan, because foreigners are pretty rare. Certain places have loads of people from certain regions, but almost none from others. Ignoring such things can also result in quite some backlash (there had been a "anti-racism campaign" in german trams that got attacked because of that since it featured two white, a black and a asian kid. Thing is, Germany has almost no black people, but a biiiig amount of turkish citizens, so naturally, people found it pretty racist to have two white kids, but not one of arabian descent).

You will never make everyone happy. You need to live with that.
If you make a really great story with good characters and realistic settings and a great cast from all parts of life...then there will still always be those three people that take "offense" for your game having a "n***er" or a "f*g" or something. Important is to realize that these people might not be the target group you want anyway and thus their opinion shouldn't matter too much for you.

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Re: Diverse Character Dilemma

#9 Post by gekiganwing » Thu Jun 30, 2016 4:37 pm

Today, I found an interesting statement at the end of Movie Nation's review of The Legend of Tarzan: "You can’t make a bold statement or exciting action picture when every frame is filled with fear — of offending someone, of upsetting animal rights activists, of giving the audience a Tarzan they won’t recognize, of failure."

I think the quote is worth thinking about. That's because I believe it's impossible to write fiction without taking risks or offending someone. There will be people who will hate your story for reasons you could never have predicted. Your VN might upset someone with a vendetta, and it might attract negative comments from people who have no intentions of reading it. Even so, if you believe that your story is worth telling, then tell it. If you believe that your characters are believable individuals rather than stereotypes, then write them.
Parataxis wrote:I don't worry about "getting it wrong" because all of my characters are characters first and People of Color second. ... Here is a character, she is an asexual woman of color, but mostly a complex and flawed human being, here is a story that is not about that where she is a hero. Let's watch her struggle with grief and rage and ultimately become a better person.
Agreed. Let your characters be people first. Show that they have a variety of strengths and weaknesses. Portray them as individuals who are compelling on their own, with their own attitudes, conflicts, hobbies, goals, etc. Also, let them be just as interesting when they interact with other characters.

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Re: Diverse Character Dilemma

#10 Post by YossarianIII » Thu Jun 30, 2016 4:55 pm

Kinjo wrote:Is it generally preferable to try writing "diverse" characters, even if the writer is unfamiliar with the subject and may potentially "get some things wrong", or is it better to leave "diverse" characters out of the story so that the writer could never possibly "get any things wrong"?
I used to wonder this myself, but now I think that it’s actually the wrong question to ask.

The truth is that, especially post-Internet, the world is a pretty diverse place. For most stories, if you leave out “diverse” characters, it’s just as glaring of a mistake as writing poorly researched “diverse” characters. Not everyone will notice the absence of diversity (just as not everyone will know if you portray a culture wrong), but a lot of experienced readers definitely will, especially on the Internet, where your audience is basically global.

The way I’ve attempted to solve this dilemma in my own writing is just to learn more. I grew up in a small, fairly homogenous suburb, but I want to write stories for a global Internet audience, so I’ve done as much as possible to learn about the world outside of my relatively narrow firsthand experiences. I feel like the more I read, travel, listen to music, watch movies, etc., the more I naturally gravitate toward more diverse stories.

All things considered, I wouldn’t worry about too much “being offensive.” If people criticize you, either they’re right and you learn something as a writer, or they’re misguided and not worth listening to (although I know this is easier said than done). At the very least, writing characters with different perspectives than your own is a good writing exercise and a good way to practice empathy. Plus, some writers will actually discover that they feel more comfortable writing for a character of a different age, race, gender, sexuality, etc. That's something you can only find out if you give it a try! :)

RotGtIE wrote:If your audience strikes you with such fear, consider finding a better one.
That's a fair point, but I'd add the caveat that any writer who is serious about improving should be maybe a little fear of their audience. (Meaning there's no need to be afraid of being afraid as long as it doesn't paralyze you. :) )


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Re: Diverse Character Dilemma

#11 Post by Enigma » Fri Jul 01, 2016 12:53 am

YossarianIII wrote:
Kinjo wrote:Is it generally preferable to try writing "diverse" characters, even if the writer is unfamiliar with the subject and may potentially "get some things wrong", or is it better to leave "diverse" characters out of the story so that the writer could never possibly "get any things wrong"?
I used to wonder this myself, but now I think that it’s actually the wrong question to ask.

The truth is that, especially post-Internet, the world is a pretty diverse place. For most stories, if you leave out “diverse” characters, it’s just as glaring of a mistake as writing poorly researched “diverse” characters. Not everyone will notice the absence of diversity (just as not everyone will know if you portray a culture wrong), but a lot of experienced readers definitely will, especially on the Internet, where your audience is basically global.
I think calling not wiritng a diverse cast a mistake is a little much. It kinda strikes as the same as people saying that writing softer science fiction as opposed to hard science fiction is a mistake.

On topic though, I think that characters should usually be as different from one another as possible so that their easier to tell apart and therefore more memorable, so I generally tend to see diverse characters as a good thing. Sometimes you offend people unintentionally, but we shouldn't let the possiblity that someone will be offended prevent us from writing the story that we feel should be told.

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Re: Diverse Character Dilemma

#12 Post by Hijiri » Fri Jul 01, 2016 3:02 am

[rant]If your cast wasn't diverse from the inception, then there's no point in changing things just to score points for annoying internet bloggers who probably won't even bother to read your work in the first place. Diversity for the sake of diversity is never good because it feels to me that writers are just tacking it on so they can go out and say "Look how diverse my cast is. Aren't I so progressive?" and get pat in the back from stuck up people who think their ideas speak for everyone in a certain group. [/rant]
Rant aside, basically if you want to write more diverse characters, come up with a story where a naturally diverse cast is bound to appear in and interact with each other. As an example, I'd raise an eyebrow if you had a story with a multiracial and multifaith cast set in my hometown (which is almost exclusively Hispanic and Catholic) than I would in a story set in Downtown LA (which, being a busy city, wouldn't be unexpected).
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Re: Diverse Character Dilemma

#13 Post by ghostpel » Fri Jul 01, 2016 3:04 am

I born and live in an Asian country, what I can say in my honest opinion is yes, 'only one black' tend to stand out and I often ended up looking at them more than other 'same color' character.

Getting looked more could do both good and bad, good = they got recognized, bad= if there's something wrong, I would see.
For example, it took me like half of Mass Effect how Jacob always has 'an excuse' for everything he did 'I have father issue, I have to do my job', where somebody like Ashley or Miranda is like... 'It's because I'm being honest/jerk/arrogance. Also, having too many '..but' or 'he had to...because....' in their description is warning to me.
Maybe Jacob could use better 'I have a strong sense of justice and what that guy (my father) did is plain wrong'....well, that will conflict with his usual 'I just obey an order'

Also, having 20+ shallow character from all origins isn't going to win 5 characters with whatever origin that suit them and settings.
Take my word as some 'different perspective from someone living in sheltered environment learning about the world through research'. I felt like an alien every time reading what English communities speaks about anything social related. ^^'

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Re: Diverse Character Dilemma

#14 Post by Kinjo » Sun Jul 03, 2016 5:55 am

Thank you all for the quick replies; they've all been interesting and insightful. There are some that I would like to go into more detail on, and it's not that I'm trying to single anybody out but because they honestly give me more questions and provide a way for me to better articulate my original question.
kitsubasa wrote:while there are some issues often better handled by the community they impact (for instance: we probably don't need any more tragic coming out stories written by straight people), people from all kinds of demographics exist, and ignoring their existence because you don't understand them is a bit lazy.
This statement has had me confused for a while now; I'm getting mixed messages here. Suppose my cast wasn't very diverse yet and I wanted to "not be lazy," or maybe I just want to add a gay character just because it seems like it would help the story. As a writer, I prefer to place my characters into difficult situations full of conflict. So if I did write a gay character into my story, they might actually have had some sort of tragic backstory that I need to elaborate on at some point, or maybe a conflict in the future that they need to confront. Would I be crossing some line if I tried to write a tragic coming out story? If so, where does that line start and end? I should try to add gay characters into my stories, but not try to write about difficult things that may happen in the life of a gay person? Or I should only be able to try to write about them if I know a certain amount of information about it beforehand? If so, how do I know when I have what's necessary to write it?

That's basically my question perfectly illustrated: I'm sure some people would take offense to a straight person trying to write a gay character, but at the same time people also take offense to straight people not writing enough gay characters. So if I choose to write this character at all, it must be done in a certain way, some way that I may not possibly be able to know or even agree upon. It doesn't make much sense to ask someone to try and do something, and when they don't do it the way you like, complain they did it wrong or shouldn't be doing it in the first place if they can't do it the "right" way. Or in other words, it's like I have to recognize certain characters as "diverse" to guarantee them a spot in the story, but when it comes to writing the actual content, I have to stop recognizing their "diversity" because -- I can only guess -- it's not my place to say anything meaningful on the topic.
Taranee wrote:They shouldn't be Mary Sues. You might be worried about giving them flaws, because some readers might think you want to vilify that character's demographic group.
Parataxis wrote:2) People who are usually neglected as characters need to be able to see themselves in the stories we are already telling, but have excluded them from for so long.
Indeed, I'm worred about the portrayal of flaws as well. The "need" of diversity is to show people uplifting stories about diverse people, but -- perhaps the story is itself about the dark sides of people, and the diverse characters happen to be intentionally portrayed as villains -- because they are the villains, the antagonist(s) of the story. Think murder mystery, with a culprit and victim. You could argue two things: the author is vilifying the demographic group (as the culprit), or the author is glorifying deaths of the demographic (as the victim). And I am not sure anyone would necessarily want to "see themselves" negatively portrayed; that doesn't seem to be a need, in the same way one would argue for positive role models in fiction is a need.

One could argue that, in this kind of story, there is no objective need for diversity here, because adding diverse characters would not necessarily leave a positive influence on its consumers. Would it then be more ethical to not include these characters whatsoever, to instead prevent diverse people from coming into contact with negative role models?

In a story where bad people do bad things, how does one "meet the needs of diversity" without accidentally setting off some people? To me it seems like an impossible task; that some people will inevitably be taking offense to things that truly had no malicious intent, and ironically enough was trying to include diverse characters on the basis that people wanted them in more stories, not the basis that people only wanted them in some stories.
Hijiri wrote:I'd raise an eyebrow if you had a story with a multiracial and multifaith cast set in my hometown (which is almost exclusively Hispanic and Catholic) than I would in a story set in Downtown LA (which, being a busy city, wouldn't be unexpected).
YossarianIII wrote:The way I’ve attempted to solve this dilemma in my own writing is just to learn more. I grew up in a small, fairly homogenous suburb, but I want to write stories for a global Internet audience, so I’ve done as much as possible to learn about the world outside of my relatively narrow firsthand experiences.
Same here, I've pretty much lived my life in homogeneous environments -- I mean, I have a handful of "diverse" friends, but that's only a small few compared to the rest of the people I know. And the only real reason is because of proximity, or maybe just common interest, you know? I think it's natural for homogeneous groups to cluster together. Which actually brings up the unlikely probability that say, even in a "diverse" city or wherever one decides to set their story -- perhaps the main characters truly are just a group of the same type of people, because realistically that's what would happen? I don't see that as a reason to mark points off; if anything it's something to give points for realism.

And that's not to say that different types of people can't have anything in common (on the contrary, I know they can). But based on my own experiences -- which is where I draw most of my creative energy from -- forced diversity truly is a myth. There is not a perfect lineup of one person of each type portrayed in a positive way; it is a lot of the same people who have both positive and negative qualities. If I wrote down my own life experiences up until now and somebody had to read it, they'd say there weren't enough diverse characters in enough major roles, and that it should be rewritten.

As for those who are suggesting I write the story I want to write, believe me: I will do just that. My project is first and foremost personal to me, and the answer to this question doesn't have any immediately substantial impact on my project. But I think if I could pull off writing some great diverse characters, I could satisfy that part of my audience and add something new to the conversation.

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Re: Diverse Character Dilemma

#15 Post by kitsubasa » Sun Jul 03, 2016 11:29 am

Kinjo wrote:This statement has had me confused for a while now; I'm getting mixed messages here. Suppose my cast wasn't very diverse yet and I wanted to "not be lazy," or maybe I just want to add a gay character just because it seems like it would help the story. As a writer, I prefer to place my characters into difficult situations full of conflict. So if I did write a gay character into my story, they might actually have had some sort of tragic backstory that I need to elaborate on at some point, or maybe a conflict in the future that they need to confront. Would I be crossing some line if I tried to write a tragic coming out story? If so, where does that line start and end? I should try to add gay characters into my stories, but not try to write about difficult things that may happen in the life of a gay person? Or I should only be able to try to write about them if I know a certain amount of information about it beforehand? If so, how do I know when I have what's necessary to write it?

That's basically my question perfectly illustrated: I'm sure some people would take offense to a straight person trying to write a gay character, but at the same time people also take offense to straight people not writing enough gay characters. So if I choose to write this character at all, it must be done in a certain way, some way that I may not possibly be able to know or even agree upon. It doesn't make much sense to ask someone to try and do something, and when they don't do it the way you like, complain they did it wrong or shouldn't be doing it in the first place if they can't do it the "right" way. Or in other words, it's like I have to recognize certain characters as "diverse" to guarantee them a spot in the story, but when it comes to writing the actual content, I have to stop recognizing their "diversity" because -- I can only guess -- it's not my place to say anything meaningful on the topic.
I think a good way to think about it is this...

Think about the worst day of your life. For most people, that's going to be something pretty interesting from a narrative standpoint! A negative moment, and also a defining moment. Depending what it is, you might be open about it, or you might prefer to keep it secret. Whichever approach, you probably don't want it to be the sole thing people think of when they think about you. Whether someone died, or you got hurt, or your home was altered, or you saw something horrible: it's important, but if you let it be the only thing that comes up, people are only going to feel pity, or perhaps even get sick of your negativity.

Now imagine that usually, when people discuss you, it is about that day. If some of them were there for that experience, that's fine: it's their day too, they need to vent. For the others, it's just that when they look at you, the first topic they come up with is -- 'did you know that a horrible thing happened to [X]?'. Until to most who know you -- all you are is that day.

Portraying diverse characters mostly as a way to access their demographic-specific negative experiences can feel to the corresponding audience like you only know and want them for their worst days. Of course, bad things happen to minority groups because they're minority groups, but if the good never appears to balance it out, or even more generic forms of bad, that portrayal can feel exploitative and sad.

So you're writing a dark narrative -- perhaps a good approach would be to give them problems focused on the plot or other aspects of their lives. Things like... in a science-thriller, a Muslim computer scientist trying to access records about her husband's death. In a slasher-horror, a transwoman trying to warn her brother before he wanders into the killer's trap. In a fantasy-drama, a pig farmer trying to prevent the Queen's assassination based on information he overheard. In each of these scenarios, the character's identity will inform and alter their struggle (how do the scientist's beliefs inform her grieving? How does the woman's gender identity affect her relationship with her brother? How is the farmer's communication with the court altered by his status?) but their overall purpose in the narrative isn't defined by the potential suffering their identity could cause.

Basically... just think of identity as a facet in someone's person, and don't put too much emphasis on that facet unless you're sure your cut of it can hold up to scrutiny. Because the downside of being used solely for a particular identity-specific flavour of tragedy is that people from whichever demographic will normally be very used to seeing their stories misrepresented, and if you tell those stories without being well-informed, they'll spot the mistakes easily. They're practiced.

Another, maybe less inflammatory, analogy would be to science in fiction. The more specific you get with science, the more actual scientists will pay attention to it. Say 'it's time travel!' and they'll go 'okay, cool'. Say 'it's time travel! we ran the Cromulent equation and repeated it to the nth power, then stuck it in a black hole' and they'll go 'that's not how the Cromulent equation works?'.

Cor, this reply is long. Um, I guess to close -- and sorry for the text wall -- research outside this forum is going to be your best place to find individual boundaries, and it's better to go by what each demographic says than our vague holistic responses here. Almost every group you can think of has websites and panels and such dedicated to discussing specific ideas for what they hope for in media portrayal. Like, I've been writing a VN starring some gay men; I know queer stuff, but not the gay guy experience in particular, so I binged Needs More Gay (a Youtube series) to learn what gay men want when they're represented. I wrote a sidestory with a transwoman narrator -- I went through Autostraddle's articles on life as a transwoman to understand the issues better. In both of those cases, I also talked to people in those groups to know what they care about. Have I made mistakes? Almost certainly. But I know I've tried and I've used as much empathy as possible in my work. And empathy is, I think, always the important part. :)
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