Diversity and Interesting Characters

So, I’m trying to decide who to have as a central character for a book I’m currently planning. I need two central characters who will play off against each other, and I’m wondering what’s going to work best. And in all of this, I want diversity.
I’m not doing it because I’ve got some sort of agenda, or need to be part of some in-crowd that’s shaking up the status quo. (Well, I do want to do that, but not because I want to be hip). Let’s face it: straight white males are boring. Garion’s journey in the Belgariad is interesting because of the external challenges he faces, and the growing he does – but it’s what he finds out and what he faces that makes the journey. He doesn’t have a lot of internal struggles, or angst because of who he is.
The fantasy world has been embracing its own kind of diversity recently, despite the screams of a lot of readers – think Mark Lawrence’s Jorg or GRRM’s Joffrey. They’re both HORRIBLE, and that internal character is what makes them interesting. And THAT, to me, is what diversity is about. It’s writing someone who is different, and who reacts differently. Who faces different struggles. I seem to be hearing the same screams of “if it’s not a straight white male I’m not reading it” – so there’s a problem with imagining loving someone who happens to have male bits when you also have male bits, but you’re quite happy living in the head of an angsty, murderous, paranoid ruler for a book? If you can imagine dragons and wizards, humans should be the easy bit!
Anyway, I’m now trying to work out what I want to do with my next characters. While I do feel like I have got a checklist, again, it’s not an agenda thing. It’s because it’s interesting, and it stretches me as a writer. I want a challenge. I want a world that isn’t the same one I’ve read a hundred times. I’ve been polling ideas with myself: what else do people not see in fantasy worlds that we have a lot of in ours? What needs showing? What would be interesting to read?
Gay couple who you don’t expect to be? Anxiety/extrovert?  Loquacious liar and true believer? Asexual and extravagent lover? Old – either 40+ or 60+. Obese? Anorexic or body-conscious? Social anxiety or agrophobia? (is that fear of going outside)? Severely disabled? A carer? Emotional or physical abuse – either as the abused, or the abuser! PTSD?  Even when I occasionally divert back to one-man-one-woman, it’s always with a twist. There might be a romance, sure…but I’m pondering a matriarchal society, just to mix up the power balance. I’m pondering underdogs and hidden secrets. I’m pondering personalities and clashes, and how the they’re-falling-in-love could be subverted.
The point of fantasy is to look at what people do when faced with a situation; that may involve a Dark Lord, or dragons, or a Quest…or may involve politics in a gritty kingdom, thieves and murderers, or magic gone wrong. It might be a twist on our world, or somewhere completely different. But it’s always people. It’s always about what the characters do when those situations hit them.
And that’s why I want to write diversity – because I can’t write the same character again and again. I want to be challenged. I want to read (and write) a different story to the one I read (and wrote) last time. I want a new world to explore, a new face to stand next to – and I want to find new and different ways of turning everything upside-down.
I want to make you love someone so different from yourself, and then break your heart.
That’s fantasy.

Author: kate

Kate Coe is an editor, book reviewer and writer of fiction & fantasy. She writes the sparkpunk GreenSky series and blogs at writingandcoe.co.uk. When she's not working, she fills her spare time in between writing with web design, gaming, geeky cross-stitch and DIY (which may or may not involve destroying things). She also reads far fewer books that she would like to, but possibly more than she really has time for.