Character analysis

Diversity is a hot topic

but how do you do diversity right?

After years of academic experience in the field of Gender and Post-Colonial studies, I can tell you there is no way to do it ‘right’. There will always be someone who does not agree with how you represent particular characters. However, there are definitely ways to do it wrong.

The most common blind spots

in regard to diversity are:

  • One character is used to represent an entire group (tokenism).
  • Cultural traits are treated as biologically inherent (essentialism).
  • A positive and/or nuanced representation of one minority happens at the expense of another minority (excluding inclusivity).
Tokenism

is when you include one minority character for the sake of inclusion. You are trying to be inclusive, but what often happens is that these characters become representative of their entire group. Instead of having a personal character arc that allows them to grow as an individual, they end up a one-dimensional accumulation of that which their group supposedly stands for. Instead of being inclusive, such portrayals tend to perpetuate stereotypes and therefore do more harm than good.

Essentialism

is when cultural traits are treated as biological essences. Women cannot drive, black people are always late but really good dancers, Asian people all know their way around computers, and so on. Many of such traits are still believed to be biologically determined, while it has been proven time and again that most are in fact cultural. By treating these cultural traits as if they were biological essences, you sentence your characters to a set of traits they will never be able to overcome, or only by exercising extraordinary willpower.

Another danger of essentialism is that some traits will always be valued higher than others. When such cultural traits are treated as biological essences, you create a hierarchy between your characters that cannot be overcome lest they deny or surmount those supposedly biological essences.

Excluding inclusivity

When determined to represent a minority character in a respectful, nuanced, and more complex way, it often happens at the expense of other minorities: when we lift someone up, we tend to bring down others to achieve this. Needless to say, this pitfall repeats the exact practices we criticise when consciously including diverse characters in our work.

How does a character analysis help?

A character analysis provides a full ‘diagnosis’ of how you treat your different characters. It sheds light on your blind spots and provides more nuanced and complex alternatives.

Do you have to iron out all the issues that the character analysis bring up? Not at all. In the end, your story is your story to tell. However, being aware of how you portray the different characters in your work and how they function in relation to each other enables you to make conscious decisions about who you portray how. Being aware of the different tensions at play in your work also gives you the reigns to work with those tensions, which could strengthen your plot tremendously.

Editing options

Lite character analysis: This option includes the analysis of a detailed description of a work’s most important, diverse, and/or ‘problematic’ characters, their character arcs, and how they relate to other characters in the work.

Full character analysis: This option includes the reading of an entire work and an in-depth analysis of characters and tips and tricks to tweak certain representations, character arcs, and relations between characters to avoid the ‘tokenism’, ‘essentialism’, or ‘exclusive inclusivity’ trap.

A character analysis is not

a developmental edit since it provides an analysis of the various characters in your work and how they interrelate. I do offer a combination package that includes a character analysis and developmental edit. Next to a character analysis and a regular developmental edit, you will receive a breakdown of how your characters function within your plot as a whole and advice on where the diverse backgrounds of your characters could benefit the development of your plot.

Rates

All rates are based on the amount of work required and the time available to complete the project. If you would like to know more or receive a price quote, please email me at info@mswordsmith.nl.

If you would like to work with me

  1. Please send me an email at info@mswordsmith.nl with your name, the title and genre of your work, the word count, and when you prefer the work to be completed. It is preferable that you also include the work itself as an attachment (Word or PDF; I prefer Word) so that I can make sure I am able to help you.
  2. After I receive your email, I will reply with a price quote and an estimate of how long the project will take me.
  3. If you are happy with my offer, please send your work if you have not already done so and let me know how you would prefer to pay.
  4. I will send you a PayPal invoice or an invoice with details on how to make a direct deposit into my bank account. Once payment has cleared, I will begin working on the project.

Please note: by agreeing to the quote and paying the invoice, you are agreeing to the terms & conditions.