Friday, July 29, 2011

Stats are Whack (and Wicked Helpful)

Once upon a time, I was discussing Miss Snitch with my dad, and I mentioned that two of the secondary male characters were dating each other. Now, I tend not to bring up my characters' personal business unless it's actually related to what they're doing, and in this case it was. But my dad's reaction was something along the lines of "Isn't that a bit much for YA?"

Me, I didn't think so. Because, near as I can tell, most teens have met LGBT people. There are LGBT people in the schools YA readers go to. Most teens are fans of LGBT celebrities. Some readers will be LGBT people. To boil this down: No, because LGBT people are a fact of life and thus are fit for books.

Once upon a time, in the fantastic play The Importance of Being Ernest by the utterly wonderful Oscar Wilde, "I don't know whether there is anything particularly exciting about the air in this particular part of Hertfordshire, but the number of engagements that go on seem to me to be considerably above the proper average that statistics have laid down for our guidance." This is very useful advice, even when one isn't trying to get engaged.

In life, the shadow (stats) move in response to the sun (people), but in fiction, if you want it to look like life, the the shadows of actual life need to tell us, as writers, where our suns should be pointing.

Hannah from Invincible Summer once posed the question: Why aren't there more characters like me?

This is a good question. Readers want to be able to recognize themselves in the books they read. But, if that's really going to happen, books have to reflect actual life with characters like actual people. That includes the statistical minorities. They exist in life, so why aren't they in the books?

I, for one, think sometimes I try so hard not to make every character in my book just like me that maybe I forget to make them like people. To include a little something for everyone. But it's definitely something I'm trying to work on. Because everyone reads books, so everyone should have someone to relate to in them. No one should be out there thinking, "Why aren't there characters like me?"

How do you feel about this? Do you let stats or your life experiences tell you how to make up your world? Do you have trouble finding characters like you?

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