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#WritingWednesday: Write More African American Characters

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  • Tip Bones

In honor of African American Heritage week, I wanted to share a Writing Wednesday tip about writing African American characters well in stories.

It’s very common for white authors to shy away from writing Black main characters, or even Black side characters, for fear of coming off as offensive or misrepresenting of African American culture. And yet, it’s perceived equally offensively by not writing Black characters because then there’s a lack of representation.

Non-Black authors can write African American characters and should; they just need to be a little more mindful and tactful.

So, don’t fall into the tropes of describing the character’s skin color using foods like chocolate or coffee. Do your research to make sure you’re including believable elements of culture and dialect, which will also help you to avoid falling into stereotypes.

But also, don’t overthink it. The more you worry about being offensive, the better chance you will fall into tropes and end up being offensive and writing an inauthentic character. Writing Black characters shouldn’t be some big feat to overcome; it should be as natural as writing any other character, but the only way that will happen is if more people do it.

Go out and write Black characters. Write them strong. Write them funny. Write them clever. Write them real.