Why We Need More Women and Minority Protagonists

Photo by Jonny Eberle

Modern fiction has a problem: The vast majority of protagonists in novels and short fiction are men and most of those fictional dudes are white. It’s a problem that’s been bothering me for a while. Fiction is meant to be a mirror held up to our world, but for too many people, that mirror doesn’t look at all like them.

On its face, the whiteness and maleness of much of the fiction published today is baffling. Just 30% of the world’s population is Caucasian and only 48% of the world is male. Yet non-white, non-male protagonists are poorly represented in bestsellers. So, where are all the women and minorities?

Of course, the problem may that most authors are still white men. And in a profession where we are taught to write what we know, many of our characters end up resembling us. To give in to that is laziness — I’ve been guilty of it on many occasions. It’s unfortunate that we have not been able to shake loose from our white/male-centric worlds to write more characters of different backgrounds and one that we should all be conscious of when crafting our fictional protagonists.

I will always be a white man. I can’t change that. But I can change my fiction. I can encourage and support my colleagues of all ethnicities and gender identities. In my own work, I can step beyond myself and my experiences to create characters that are more reflective of the world around me.

As writers, we have a duty to society to write about human experience from every angle — not just those that we are familiar with. Libraries and bookstores everywhere are brimming with stories of white guys. Now is the time for new heroes and heroines.

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Jonny Eberle is a writer and photographer in Tacoma, WA. You can follow him on Twitter, where the cool kids call him @jonnyeberle.

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