When “Diversity” Leads to Bad Writing

I’ve read some series that were sequels to series I used to enjoy, namely Heroes of Olympus, sequel to Percy Jackson, and Lorien Legacies Reborn, sequel series to the Lorien Legacies series.

I realized both series (is there a plural for series?) are less engaging than the originals, and both are also much more diverse. Sadly, I get the feeling there is a link between the two.

In the originals, the stories generally started with a white boy who tells his story in first person and finds out he’s got a heritage that gives him special powers. Percy Jackson was exclusively from one POV, but the Lorien Legacies bounced around with multiple POVs.

The sequel stories end up being in third person and have a diverse cast of characters that are introduced very quickly, oftentimes with a majority who are not white.

The authors seem to be trying really hard to represent multiple minorities, but in the process, they pack the books with too many characters. In Heroes, the writing was good enough the author could pull it off, though the story still wasn’t as fun as Percy Jackson had been, but in Reborn, I couldn’t keep track of the characters properly while listening to the audio, not when I was dealing with something like six POV characters, most of which were at the same location. I forgot names and got confused fast. (Plus that book had the “evil Christian country hicks” trope, which was dumb.)

I also suspect this issue happened in The Last Jedi, and to a lesser extent, in The Force Awakens, and even Rogue One. (Don’t get me wrong, I liked Rogue One, but a few of the characters fell flat, possibly due to including too many.) I’m just speculating, but I know I’m not alone in feeling like some of the characters in these new films were there as tokens, and I think if they’d been white, the writers would’ve treated them differently or cut them entirely.

The problem with many of these stories is the writers put diversity before good storytelling, which often leads to an overabundance of characters who don’t get enough screen (or page) time for the audience to care, or in other cases, get too much screen time when the story should be focusing on someone else.

I have no problem with the main character being a different race from me, but when a writer starts telling the story differently to accommodate the diversity, then it becomes an issue. In the end, the story needs to come before the diversity or the audience will begin to see stories with diversity as being poorly written, which would be really sad.

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About Jessi L. Roberts

I live and work on my family’s cattle ranch in eastern Montana. I have a flock of chickens, a hyper golden retriever, some cows, and a few horses. I enjoy fantasy and science fiction and my head is full of wild sci-fi story ideas, some involving apocalypses and others involving aliens. I have been published twice in Havok Magazine, an imprint of Splickity.
This entry was posted in Controversy, Musings and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to When “Diversity” Leads to Bad Writing

  1. Keturah Lamb says:

    So agree! I love diversity! But only when it’s done right. Nothing is fun when it’s blatant and takes over the story to preach. And yeah, the “evil Christian country hicks” trope is annoying.

    Great post!

    keturahskorner.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thought-provoking post! I don’t know if I’d say there was a connection between racial diversity and bad writing in Heroes, but I do see where you’re going and I agree: especially these days, authors and storytellers will use token characters in a clear attempt to “increase diversity” while decreasing the quality of their story. It’s unfortunate. The story should always come first. and if diversity makes sense, fantastic! But authors shouldn’t force diversity, solely for the sake of that.

    Alexa
    thessalexa.blogspot.com
    verbosityreviews.com

    Like

    • Thanks! I think the issue is that writers stretch themselves thin trying to make the story diverse, so instead of focusing on one character, they end up having this huge cast, and many writers aren’t skilled enough to handle six characters that have large roles in the story. (I think a good test for stories like this would be to ask, “if everyone in the story was a white male, how many of these guys could be cut out without hurting the story?”)

      Like

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