Diversity and World Building
Now this month we are talking about world building. Last week we talked about some basics of world building, but today I thought we’d talk about diversity and world building. You don’t want to just rewrite the same old stories. You want to create new, diverse worlds that reflect our own expansive world. There are so many differing cultures and religions and identities. Why limit yourself to one (traditionally Western) view of ours? Diversity is about inclusion. It helps add depth and realism to our stories.
Let’s look at the traditional genres where world building occurs, sci-fi and fantasy. You’re creating a fantasy or futuristic world with fantastical elements. If magic or long distance space travel can exist, then why not a transgender character or an Asian? They exist in real life after all, so would feel natural in your world. Just as you would research archery, medieval weapons, and feudal systems (for example), research your diverse identities as well. Talk to people from that culture for insights into their stories and life. Read interviews and articles. Research is your friend to get those stories right.
World building is about more than just setting. And it isn’t limited to fantasy and sci-fi stories. Even if you’re writing in the known world, you still need some world building. What are your people like? Are there other creatures or races? What are their cities like? Let’s move beyond that to what are their daily lives like? How are their days structured? What holidays do they observe and why? What are their relationships like? What does your MC believe in? What does she do (occupation or hobby)? Go into the details of your world. Get down to the nitty-gritty. The more you know, the more informed your writing will be. Not all of this will make it into your final story, but you will need to know. Your reader will be able to tell if you have all the answers or not.
You can always borrow for real life. Real life cultures, real life religions, real life history. Many famous authors use real life elements to inspire their own worlds. Just do your research and accurately represent that culture or religion.
You can also create a hidden world within the real world. Like J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter universe where the wizarding world hides within our own. Or create an alternate reality. How does your world differ from our Earth? How does the history differ?
Another thing to watch out for when writing diverse characters is not to reduce them to that one element. They are more than just a skin color, or sexual orientation, or identity, or disability. And they do not represent that element as a whole. Make them fully fleshed-out characters, a realistic human being with a personality and goals and flaws. In other words, make them a good character. Don’t limit them to a stereotype version of themselves and don’t tokenize them. Make sure they serve a purpose in the narrative and don’t just exist to meet some imagined quota. Make them real.[bctt tweet=”Diversity and world building. Don’t reduce that character to one element. Make them real. #amwriting #writingtips” username=”hijinkswriter”]
I wrote more on diversity here. What do you think about diversity and world building? What are your tips? Share below and happy writing.