5 Tips for Multicultural Character Development

Very few of us in 2016 live in a vacuum. We live in a diverse world, professionally and personally, so it’s rare for Americans to have little to no contact with people who are different. The same holds true for the characters in our works of fiction.

  1. Don’t add a character for the sake of diversity. Add the character for the sake of story flow and plot.
  2. Don’t eliminate a character of an ethnicity or race you’re vaguely familiar with because you’re afraid of getting it wrong. Instead, pick up the phone find a consulate in your area, a friend, or your local university to get some background assistance.
  3. Don’t rely on Google translations for dialogue in another language. Find someone proficient in both the formal use of a language and the colloquial uses so that your characters sound authentic.
  4. Don’t forget to do the research on the culture of your character. Ask yourself the hard questions. If the setting is the U.S.A., then probe into how that culture has assimilated and which regions of the country they reside. You don’t have to become an expert, but you should be informed.
  5. Don’t stick your character into a safe box. Give them personality, backgrounds, and flaws. Avoid stereotyping them.

Sometimes the only way the rest of the world and our readers meet people of other cultures is in our writing. Do unto your multicultural characters’ development as you would have someone do unto you. How would you like to be betrayed in fiction? Most likely the answer is shared by the characters in your fiction.

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