Accurate Representation in Fiction: Why It Matters

We want to believe that the creative industry operates within a meritocratic framework because it paints a nice picture of reality. But it also happens to be a lie — a harmful one, because it implies that marginalised members of a given industry are the ones to blame for the lack of opportunities, the double-standards, the misrepresentations, the prejudices they face. That BAME authors aren’t getting the recognition and the same opportunities as white authors because they haven’t earned it is a dangerous misconception.

Moreover, there is a tendency in fiction to confuse diversity with identity. People who aren’t part of a given minority community can, of course, write about marginalised characters all they want, but what we, as an audience, really want is accurate representation.

So it is important not only for diverse stories to exist, but also that there are stories told by diverse people. To enable more diverse voices to be present in the creative process, the audience, and the gatekeepers, have to stop holding marginalised members to a different standard — for instance, stop expecting a writer with autism to write only about what it’s like to be autistic, or a queer or BAME author to write only serious, depressing pieces about being queer or not-white. We can’t expect them to keep doing that for the same reason we don’t expect neurotypical, straight, white authors to write only serious, depressing, sociological pieces about what it’s like to just be.

As authentic as you want our fiction to be, the more you must understand that life isn’t just one genre — we can’t keep writing a eulogy. Understand that by expecting diverse authors to tell only stories about the experience of being treated less than, you aren’t actually assuring us that our views are valid. Instead, you are putting us in an excruciating position where we have to keep re-hatching painful experiences because that’s the only conversation you are willing to have.

No one should be asked to keep validating their existence. Hear us anyway regardless of the stories we tell. Let us show you a funny story, a mystery, a fantasy, an action scene through our lenses. You will be surprised by what you find. In the words of Terry Pratchett: old ideas might just ride in on the back of a joke, new ideas might well be given an added edge.

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