One Gay Character, One African American: Are you Just Covering Your Bases?

Recently, I read a post over at the Nelson Agency about the dangers of informing a first-reader at an agency or publisher that your manuscript has LGBTQ+ character or that it is diverse.  This particular reader said that when he read things like this in a query letter, he felt like the writer was going down a check list.

One gay character.  Check!

A trans character.  Got it.

Someone who is questioning.  Present and accounted for.

The suggestion is that, instead of stating this, you should just tell about your story.  If these characters are an integral part of it, the diversity will be obvious.

I can understand this request.  Diverse characters are fantastic but they need to belong in the story, and not like sprinkles on a cup cake.  They need to be part of the cake itself.

Back when I was a paid reviewer, I ended up reading tons of teen chick lit.  I’m female but I generally did not connect with these books written “for a female audience.”  For one thing, shopping is not my thing.  I do it to feed myself and avoid exposure to the elements.  But these female characters LOVED to shop.  And, to help them out, they all had a gay best friend.

He offered dating advice and fashion tips, often picking out the perfect shoes to go with that darling prom dress.  Oh, heaven help me.  This character was never key to the plot.  Never.  He was just there.  And gay.  Providing all sorts of essential diversity.

When you are creating your story, your plot should spring from the characters.  The characters shouldn’t be there just so that you can strike them off the list whether we are talking diversity of the racial, ethnic, religious, or LGBTQ+ variety.  It all needs to fit and work together instead of reading like that table of mismatched items at a yard sale.