I have joke with my kids about “That One Guy”.
That One Guy (TOG) is the person who the stories that get published seem to be written by and for. This guy is a male, white, of high-average intelligence, able-bodied, straight, neurotypical, middle to upper-middle-class, natural born US citizen. His mom and dad are still together. He started college at 18. He was able to find a job after college. He does not struggle under crippling student debt. He is average in looks (in a good way; meaning he’s actually quite attractive). His BMI is no more than 25 and no less than 18. He is something of a jock, but that doesn’t distract him from his work/school/home life. Probably Christian, but it usually doesn’t come up. Comfortable with his sexuality. Extraverted. Holds a white collar job. Any quirks he has are endearing rather than annoying.
TOG sounds like a great person, but I have never met him. And yet, somehow he has been cast as the norm.
I wanted to write a fantasy series where people like myself and my friends are the protagonists. By that I mean disabled people, people of color, women, poor people, fat people, non neurotypical people, scary smart people, cognitively challenged people, LGBTIAQ people, people with minority religions, rednecks, nerds, etc, etc.
It’s difficult to find stories where the character’s deviation from TOG doesn’t become the story. Even in stories with good female characters (for instance), the story is often “Woman overcomes gender bias to become great hero”. That’s not a bad story, I just wanted MORE story. I wanted an ensemble story where “The Girl” isn’t just a character description. Where the queer person doesn’t come to a bad end. Where the fat person isn’t comedy relief
As with my fanfic, my original stuff comes because I couldn’t find the stories I wanted, so I had to start writing them.
My protagonists all have varying degrees of disability, both visible and invisible. One is a sixteen year old trans-man with precognition, clairvoyance and clinical depression, one is a fourteen year old Changeling (she was stolen by the Fae as a baby) who suffers from (apparently) acquired brain injury, the other is a sixteen year old mage who has ectodermal dysplasia with syndactyly.
I didn’t notice that all my characters were “diverse” until I was talking it over with a friends and some of my beta readers. I never think of my stories as “inclusive” because they merely reflect my experience of the world.