Episode 5 – How does representation work for writers?

In this episode, we talk about how representation actually works.

What we talked about

  • that representation is about who we make visible and who are rendered invisible because of those decisions
  • why minority voices are automatically amplified when they are represented
  • that representation is not just about who is present within works of fiction but also about HOW they are present
  • why shoehorning diverse characters into your work isn’t the answer
  • Netflix’s Bridgerton showing us how we can reinvent the world without erasing painful histories
  • why it’s so hard to go against existing stereotypes and tropes in our writing (which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep trying!)

Quotes from this week’s episode

“When there’s very little or no representation, or all the representations are the same, that one character, that one characterisation, can be all a reader knows for a long time.”

“It’s not just the case that certain groups of people are culturally absent or not as present, there’s also the fact that those few representations of them out there tend to be stereotypical and potentially harmful.”

“If we want to make a real effort, is it enough to sneak in a single homosexual character or someone belonging to an ethnic minority? Are we doing our bit to change the world by adding one black woman to our very white cast? Or one Muslim family to our otherwise Christian or secular world?”

“Inclusion matters, but representation just for the sake of inclusion isn’t really the answer.” 

“There’s more to diversity than race and gender. Don’t think you can’t write diverse characters just because it doesn’t make sense to include a cast of black or Asian or Hispanic characters in your world.” 

“Each society comes with its own set of stereotypes for those who are considered ‘other’, and it’s really difficult to counter or break down these different ‘types’ and provide better alternatives.”

“Representation is not only about who we make present, it’s also about how we make them present. Doing representation right means we should think through both steps.”

(Re)sources mentioned on the show

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As always, we’d love for you to join the conversation by filling out our questionnaires:

Our Doing Diversity in Writing – Writer Questionnaire can be filled in here.

Our Doing Diversity in Writing – Reader Questionnaire can be filled in here.

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