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I've been asked to talk about diversity in writing! Now, I believe the requester had originally wanted me to vent about all the things wrong about how Wattpad attempts (or doesn't attempt) to be diverse. However, I thought that it would be more helpful for everyone to also write some tips about it.


Because diversity is huge to me. As someone who has been excluded because of my skin colour, I think it's so important to spread some information and understanding to the world. I think it's important to ensure that people who are trying to represent diversity in their stories are doing it in a way that spreads love, understanding and compassion across literature.

So, first of all... what even does diversity entail?

Diversity is a whole load of things. It includes different religious backgrounds and racial backgrounds, neurodiversity, physical and health disabilities, genders and gender fluidity, sexuality, and comes all the way to underrepresented people in literature. This includes body weights and shapes, different skin colours, and even different types of relationships in literature.

Now, the first question I often get asked is, "Can I write about people of colour when I am Caucasian? Can I write about a bisexual character when I identify as straight?"

It's tricky. Because, on one hand, you feel like you don't have a right to represent those voices. And I will absolutely emphasise the importance of #ownvoices -- there is something so incredibly special and important about people writing from direct experience.

However, I don't think people should restrict themselves because of their own upbringing.

Can you imagine if I, as a female, was only allowed to write about female identifying characters? Because I'm not a "man", I wouldn't be able to understand how men work?

Ridiculous. I know exactly how men work. They... um... eat popcorn. And sleep a lot. Yeah. Totally. I know what I'm talking about.

However, on more serious terms, there is no obligation to write only about what we have experienced. In fact, it's dangerous! Once upon a time, people of colour were not even allowed to vote -- can you imagine how hard it would be for them to publish books? Their books would be amazing, but all the publishing firms wouldn't accept their beautiful works because of their skin colour. Then, all their incredible books about being a person of colour are unread, and that prevents future readers from opening their minds.

Because, let's face it: literature is a powerful tool that does help us open our minds. Each one of you who is writing a story right now? You have so much power in your hands to change the way people think and feel.

However, when publishers were once casting books aside because it spread a message of diversity... well, that was a problem. That's why it was so important for people who weren't necessarily in a minority to stand up for the minority and include characters of colour, or neurodivergent characters, or characters identifying with the LGBTQ+ community.

The good thing is that publishing companies are a lot more open-minded right now. So, in response to the question, "Can I write characters that don't have the exact experiences as me?"

My answer? Yes. But be sensitive to how you do it.

For example, I am really lucky with my work as a psychologist. I hear about experiences from lots of people -- I work with neurodivergent kids and talk to them about how challenging the world can be for them. I have helped people overcome the difficulty of coming out to their parents, and have seen, first-hand in the therapy room, how their parents respond to it. So, for me, I feel like I've seen so much first-hand experience that I feel alright writing about it.

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