address-class-issues-fiction

Most – although I can’t claim, all – writers acknowledge the importance of diversity, in general.

However, what do we think of specifically, when we hear and use the term “diversity”? Race? Sexuality? Age, even? Disability? These are all important, and we need to keep talking about all of them.

But how about working class and underclass characters?

Do you include “poor people” in your stories and, if so, how are these characters portrayed?

And yes, there can definitely be overlaps with some of the other issues. Race and poverty, and disability and poverty: It’s wrong to deny that there can be causal links. Social issues don’t go away by ignoring and denying them.

Poverty is a reality, and this is still very much the case in “wealthy” countries, including here in the UK.

Our NHS is a mess, before you even get into housing issues.

Families, such as my own, continue to treat particular members as “poor relations”, and shun and humiliate them, in numerous ways.

The benefits system is overwhelmingly difficult for many to navigate, and involves so much needless cruelty,

How often is any of this reflected in fiction? In my opinion and experience, not enough.

Rags to riches, and riches to rags?

Those have been done.

Yet, in reality, most people who are working class remain working class throughout their lives. Many go back and forth between working class and underclass, for various reasons. Let’s see more characters like these, and celebrate how strong many people have to be, simply to survive.

Some genres are particularly prone to the exclusive inclusion of privileged characters, especially as protagonists.

For example, romance and women’s fiction. Women who work as cashiers and toilet cleaners still have romantic relationships. Why, then, does almost every heroine, in such books, have to be either middle class or upper class?

Your cast is your own, but it’s worth considering these points, if diversity matters to you. And, in my opinion, it should. As for “not really knowing about people like that” – maybe you should learn, and not only for the sake of your writing.

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