Escapists Uncensored: Race, Size, Orientation & Reading About the Elephant in the Room

Escapists Uncensored

Escapists UncensoredOk, let’s just throw it out there. Not all books are diverse and many are one-dimensional about the type of people they are written about. Sure this annoys me because it doesn’t reflect the society I live in. That being said, I can oftentimes overlook this because not every place is as multi-faceted as New York, the place I call home.

Let’s face it, very few people want to point out that the token gay or black character in a book is a complete and utter stereotype. Now, I’m not afraid of that. I’ll say it right here. There are way too many stereotypes in character development. I don’t expect every writer to be 100% original but shouldn’t we as readers start asking for more than characters which resemble someone’s bad joke?

I digress. This post actually isn’t about stereotypes. It’s about not talking about raze/size/orientation/etc/ or talking about it too much. That may seem like a contradiction but I have yet to find a book which actually had a decent balance. Actually, I take that back, there was one book I recently read which entwined the lead character’s heritage with the storyline without being in your face. The book wasn’t all that entertaining though so I don’t see it making the bestseller list. Before you think I’ve lost it, let me give you two examples.

Book A has an interracial couple at its core. A romance, we often read about the love the white female has for her lover’s dark skin. The character is not mentioned without some reference to his coloring and background. No mention is made on whether he’s tall or short, stocky or lean. In fact, all we know is that his skin is the color of dark chocolate.

Book B is a sci fi that never describes the character in question. Everyone else is given full physical description except for this one. We know that the character is female and in the last quarter of the book someone makes a remark akin to ‘Are you sure you can fit? You’re a bit…’ as another character hits the observer. This is the only cue to the fact that she is larger than the average of this book.

Who else thinks these are both ridiculous? It’s like you can either skirt around the issue or be so blatant about how someone is different rather than actually build a character. People as a whole are so different that I find it odd that so many author’s don’t know how to treat characters that they perceive as abnormal. Where is the concept of people just being?

Now, there are exceptions to this of course. Sometimes I understand it makes sense for the narrative to take a specific direction. For instance, if Book A was set in 16th century England, I might understand why the female character is captivated. It should by no means be the case in modern-day San Francisco.

I just want to shake some writers and scream to them the applicable:



I can’t be the only one….right?

About Natassia 143 Articles
I am a performer by trade and have been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. My bookshelves are full of many genres but I have a love of fantasy, SciFi and steampunk which have only spurred my performing dreams to help one of these fabulous worlds come to life. I tend to read books with a lot of edge and grit; if it's got zombies, space battles or fantastical steam inventions, I'm in. When I'm not reading or off making my own adventures, I can be caught watching movies of every era, gaming, and being scandalously political like any good steampunk heroine.


  1. The avoidance of a physical description of the MC could be interesting if done well, especially if the book is written from the first-person POV. That’s one of the things that bugs my abou first person, actually; when said characters stand in front of a mirror and describe themselves for no other reason than because the audience ‘needs’ to know what they look like. It nearly always comes across as unrealistic.

    And having no physical descriptors can make a good point. It may not matter if the character is small, large, male, female, white, not white, or any number of things. Done well, it can drive home the point that those things aren’t the point, if you follow.

    Of course, doing it well is the tricky part…

    • Agreed. I don’t think what the characters look like make that big of an impact on the story; but their personalities help drive the story depending on their role within it. The more I think about it, I tend to gloss over any real physical descriptions and focus more on what they’re doing and how/why.

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