The word diverse can mean a lot of things to a lot people. That’s what’s fantastic about the word. Diverse literally means variety.
As a budding writer, I have always been attracted to diverse characters. This goes beyond just the color of their skin or the culture they come from. Although I already have characters in my head that represent different races and cultural backgrounds, I’m waiting for the right opportunity to start writing their stories.
A couple of years ago, I was in search of a critique partner, as many of us writerly types do. I had just written Disclaimer: I Like Boys, which has since been renamed No Holding Back. This is the story of Nathan and Preston. My boys. Finding love.
I found an author who also writes diverse books and is very vocal about writing diverse books, so I thought: Why not? We exchanged chapters. A day later I got an email from this author telling me that she couldn’t critique my story anymore. Why? Because my book was about two boys falling in love. I found that quite ironic. Apparently to this author, the word “diversity” has limits.
That is the funny thing about writing. You meet many different types of people. Diverse people. With diverse ideas. And these are just the characters in my head.
Before No Holding Back, there is No Love Allowed. Didi’s story. Oh, Caleb is in there too. But for the sake of this post, let’s focus on Didi.
When Didi first came to me, she was a character who was clearly different from any heroine I had ever encountered. She spoke her mind. Demanded that she be written in the fashion she dictated. What is a humble writer—i.e. typist—like me to do?
So I sat down and listened.
As she told me her story, one aspect of her character came up. Didi has bipolar disorder. Like many in this world we call home, all I knew about this disease of the mind were the extreme mood swings. Right away I knew I had to do my research. I couldn’t go into writing Didi’s story blind to what she goes through on a daily basis.
I needed to learn more. So I turned to an abundance of articles, documentaries, and interviews (some personally conducted by yours truly). But the weird thing is the more I learned about Didi’s disorder, the more I realized I knew nothing. I reached the point where writing her story became daunting.
This is why Didi said she didn’t want her story to be about her disorder. She had bipolar disorder, but she wasn’t the disease. She was more.
That was when writing her story became fun. Each and every scene she was in came alive in my head. From her makeover scene with Nathan to the moment she feels her hand shaking and couldn’t paint because the side effects from her meds were particularly bad that day. Each and every piece of dialogue is wholly Didi.
With No Love Allowed finally hitting shelves, I must say farewell to Didi and her beloved Caleb and move on to the other characters in my head. Those who have been following my work since my very first publication may notice that my characters have become more diverse with each book. I want that to continue until I can write no more.
Because for me: Diversity has no limits.
*Originally Written for the CBC Diversity blog.