Why we need to write fewer white male protagonists

If you are looking for an audience for your stories you could do a lot better than targeting white able-bodied blokes. That market is already saturated.

There are a lot of people hoping to read about people like themselves. You are missing out on willing readers if you ignore them.

There is nothing wrong with white protagonists

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with white dudes (at least I hope not because I one) but if you are really interested in telling interesting and varied stories with interesting characters, then it is time to expand your character palate.

We writers have an amazing opportunity to create characters that can be role models that inspire people. That inspiration can be as simple as seeing someone like you achieving. So why do most of us choose to have straight white male dudes as our protagonists?

As a white dude, I have a huge array of super-heroes, action heroes, and all sorts of other heroes to aspire to. In marketing terms, I have too much choice. That choice means that I am pretty unlikely to get all that excited about your story. Of course, if it has cool spaceships in it you might be okay because I have a bit of an addiction to those but you are still going to have to compete with a lot of classics I still have on my reading list.

Choose a different market segment

While I have all the white male protagonists I could want to read about, I have none that are exactly like me. If your story were about a dyspraxic geek with ankylosing spondylitis and a problem with weight loss, well, you might just find me pre-ordering your book on principle. Even if there are not many cool spaceships to be seen.The reason for that is that I do not have a wide range of choices when it comes to fat semi-crippled geek role-models.

The same is pretty much true of the vast majority of the whole spectrum of humanity. The only reason we write male characters more than female and able bodies more than less able is that this is what we grew up reading.

Dylan Alcott told a TED conference in Sydney that what disabled kids need to see is disabled people achieving so they knew they can achieve too. As writers, we can make that happen.

The world is full of interesting people achieving

The real world is full of interesting people achieving so why not reflect that in our writing? Take this young record breaker, for example.

Isn’t it time to stop telling the one story

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gave a TED conference talk on “The danger of the single story”. Her stories show us that the limited view of others reduces them from complex and interesting people to some single story.

We call these single stories “stereotypes”. They are unhelpful through being woefully incomplete.


Diversity must be natural, and sensitive

It is one thing to decide to broaden your appeal beyond young white males but quite another to deal with other cultures without sufficient understanding. Cliches and stereotypes are not enough. A badly written dyslexic hero is going to do more to put me off than inspire me. If you were thinking of doing that please stick tot he standard white protagonists.

Justine Larbalestier suggests, in an article called “how to write protagonists of colour when you’re white” that you should be calling on the services of a very sepcial branch of beta-readers – sensitivity readers. A sensitvity reader can help you make sure that you’re not being offensive unwittingly but they cannot do your research for you.

How to Write Protagonists of Colour When You’re White

The case against writing outside of your race

The blog, Read Diverse Books, makes a strong case for not just forcing people of colour into the protagonist role just because of some guilt about being white. That is not helpful at all. That much I can agree with.

The article suggests that white people should stick to white protagonists.  I’m not sure if I fully agree with their whole point but forced diversity n your story is cheap and should be avoided, that much should be clear.

White Authors – Fill Your Stories With People Of Color, But Don’t Make Them Your Protagonists

The case for writing outside of your race

Writers Unboxed have a guest article that I suggest you read. It makes a strong case for writing characters that do not just include your own race. By extension, this case would apply for writing outside of your own abledness (or lack thereof). The case for crossing cultures, ability, and gender. To tell stories about people. Stories that are rich and diverse.

White Writers Writing Non-White Characters: Why I Vote Yes, for Commercial Fiction

A rich diversity of characters is the path to success

Crafting a rich diversity of different characters with different skills, problems, races, genders, preferences, and the whole spectrum of humanity is key. It is, quite possibly, the key to commercial and cultural success as a writer. It might be a strange thing to talk about commercial success. The truth is that it is rare for a writer to be culturally influential and not also be commercially successful too.

Adventure stories do not have to be just about white dudes on motorbikes. Love stories do not have to be only about middle-class girls and handsome princes. Quite frankly these are both boring to me because (as a semi-able geek with average looks and a tendency to write blog posts) I cannot relate to them at all.

There is nothing wrong with writing strong white protagonists. There is nothing wrong with making them male and able-bodied. Just don’t write only that one character.

If you want to find success as a writer do this one thing. Find a group of people, learn all you can about them, and then write stories that contain characters that those people can relate to. Not only will literature be richer for such a contribution but your life will be too.

5 ways to blog from Thanet now

keyboard and newspaper

Thanet Creative exists to create opportunities for Thanet’s many writers. Some of us writers like to blog – here are five ways you can.

Blogging for sites related to your field of writing is a fantastic way to get new links. Those posts will increase exposure for a website you already have up and running. In other words, it can help build your author platform.

Blogging can also be a good way to just blow off some verbal steam on an issue that has you feeling all worked up.

If the thought of setting up and running you own blog is off-putting, you have options for when you want to blog from Thanet but don’t want a blog. (If you did, Author Buzz UK, has you covered).

Here are just a few places that you can submit your thoughts for publication. None of them are likely to get you paid (directly) but if you just want to get your stuff out there then this might be the list for you.

5 ways to blog from Thanet (today)

This is a follow up to our original post on our old website – “5 ways to blog from Thanet” updated to reflect the way things are now.

Thanet Star

Thanet Star is a blog that has been going a very long time and has built a solid reputation both with readers and with search engines. It covers all topics relating to Thanet. Mostly, it tends to have a news or political slant.

Thanet Star is a great choice if you want to write about local events, politics, or life in general here in Thanet. I often post on the Thanet Star Facebook page looking for guest writers.

Facebook, Google+, etc.

facebookIf your main objective in posting a blog is just to blow off steam social media might be the answer. For example, if you don’t care about links and the only people that you want to see the rant are friends and family, then Facebook, Google Plus, and similar social media sites are ideal.

On the down side, they can be quite limited in terms of formatting and the ability to add illustrative pictures.

Additionally, you are quite unlikely to reach a wider or different audience. It is possible to “go viral” with the right content but if you want to express a depth or breadth of opinion this might not be what you need.

The Isle of Thanet News

A relative newcomer, The Isle of Thanet News is a local news site that has won awards for local journalism. Like Thanet Star, The Isle of Thanet News tends towards news related content. However, they have a dedicated opinion section for which they take outside contributions.

The site is run by Kathy Bailes. Kathy’s background includes 13 years in Journalism. She is the winner of the Kent Press and Broadcast Awards Kent Digital Journalist 2017.

If you are interested in writing for The Isle of Thanet News you can email the editor at isleofthanetnews@gmail.com but I recommend ready a few items first to get a feel for the kind of items that are accepted.

Huffington Post

If you feel your idea has legs and could be of interest to a much wider audience than just Thanet, you can always pitch it to the Huffington Post.

The Huffington Post is a huge blog with localised editions for many countries including the UK. They don’t pay although they could probably afford to.

The lack of pay despite ability is something that Wil Wheaton has made mention of:

…it’s the principle of the thing. Huffington Post is valued at well over fifty million dollars, and the company can absolutely afford to pay contributors. The fact that it doesn’t, and can get away with it, is distressing to me.

So, pitch it to the Huffington Post, or don’t. That’s up to you.

Thanet Creative: Blog (yes, us)

The Thanet Creative blog, like its predecessor, is run on WordPress. Which means that we are already set up to allow multiple contributors.

We will be happy to take anything that relates to writing, poetry, or creativity in general. If we get a lot of submissions, we will favour those from people with a connection to Thanet or the charity.

We are also happy to take fiction or poetry of a sufficiently high standard as well as book reviews.

We can accept a one off contribution which you can send to us via email. Someone (probably me) can then see to the nuts and bolts of publishing it. Ideally, we ‘d like an image to go with the post – a nice photograph of you works well.

The process for being a regular contributor has gotten a lot simpler since our transition to the Author Buzz network. All you need is a free Author Buzz UK account.

While we are getting set up here, you will need to leave a message for us, either in the general forum or in the group. Someone will manually add you as a contributor and away you go. Once we are settled in here, we hope to add a contributor’s form so you can add yourself as a contributor.

Over to you

Do you agree with our list of places to get a blog post published? Do you feel we’ve missed one off – what would you add to the list of ways to blog from Thanet? Let us know in the comments below.