Discovering Characters

I am waiting for the day when someone asks me, “Why don’t you have a _____ character?” or maybe “Why aren’t you more inclusive with your characters?” Well, my first answer is it is fiction with fake characters and fake races and fake religions. The key word there is fake. My second response is that my characters are who they are because that is who they reveal themselves to be. Simply put, my characters are who they are and cannot be changed any more than I can because that is who they are. In our overly sensitive culture that looks for reasons to be offended, it is imperative that we think of a few things about fiction. 

I strongly disagree with the notion that every people group needs to be represented in every work of fiction. I know that many people passionately disagree with me on this, but hear me out. I can relate to a completely fake character of a fake species, let’s say a Wookie, just fine as long as the character is developed properly. Character development is the most important thing in fiction, not that they appear the same, believe the same, or live the exact same lifestyle as me. Let me be clear that I don’t have objections to people who are different from me in fiction. My objection lies in the complaint that we need to pander to all people groups just so they can “relate” to the characters. It’s fiction. It is fake anyway. What if the story is comprised entirely of anthropomorphic rats?

There is a simple truth that people tend to miss. A writer may play a role in creating the characters, but well-developed characters are more discovered than anything. If a writer is true to her work, she will write the characters exactly as they are, not make them something else just to appeal to cultural demands. The same holds true on the other side. A character shouldn’t be limited out of fear of cultural backlash. Ultimately, the writer should follow where the character leads him, not pander, not worry about offending because guess what? It’s fiction, and we shouldn’t expect fictional characters to be exactly like us in order for us to relate to them.

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