Hey, friends! Victoria, here, and happy Monday! Today, I’m going to talk about writing POCs in NA fiction. What does POC mean you might ask? It’s quite simple really.


POCs = People of Color



I seem to get messages about writing POCs quite a bit from both fellow authors and readers. My first NA contemporary, The Space Between, features diverse leads and many of the other novels that I write usually feature POCs as well among the cast.

So rather generally I just wanted to discuss writing POCs in NA fiction!

When writing a book it is very important to know your characters. If you don’t know them and try to make them do things or be things they aren’t readers can tell that something is off. That it doesn’t feel right. The same goes for writing POCs. In The Space Between, one of my leads is a Korean male who was adopted into a Caucasian family. That’s the way I saw him from the beginning. That’s who he was just as much as his heroine is biracial (black/white) with a Caucasian best friend. These characters organically formed in my head that way. I didn’t make them that way they just were.

Cassandra Clare of the Mortal Instruments series also discusses this in regards to her biracial (Asian/Caucasian) character Magnus as well as author Rainbow Rowell about her biracial (Asian/Caucasian) character Park from Eleanor and Park.



Characters are who they are and can’t be forced to be a certain race otherwise they will read foreign in the writing.

I tend to get asked a lot why there are not more POCs in NA fiction. In general, POCs are hard to come by in any category of fiction. NA, YA, MG, etc., and there are many reasons for this. Here are a couple I've seen pop up the most. Many authors are very afraid of playing upon stereotypes of a certain race when writing a POC, and others feel if they write a person of color that the issue of race has to be the main focus of the work.

Authors do not necessarily have to be the same race of their characters to share their experiences. Just like a female author can write a male POV without herself being male. Sharing the experiences of other races and genders can be done without having to share that same characteristic of a written character. Same goes for writing about people with different political affiliations and religious beliefs. That is what is so nice about writing. As authors, we can touch upon topics and issues that we may never have experienced before. It only helps us grow as individuals to research and explore the many different people around us.

Also, race definitely does not have to be the main focus of the writing when writing POCs at all. I’ve written manuscripts where it is and it isn’t, as well as read books featuring both.


So now, I bring you the quick version of this post for the skimmers :P


Writing a POC? Make sure that’s who they are not who you’re forcing them to be.


Why are there not many POCs in NA fiction? Some authors don’t feel comfortable sharing the experiences of a POC since they themselves may not be one, but don’t be afraid! Create the story that you feel is right.


Does race have to be the main issue in books featuring POCs? Absolutely not! So write what you want and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise :D


Have any questions about POCs in fiction? Ask away and I’ll answer in the comments below!

Post a Comment

  1. Great post, you honestly discussed a real and important issue. POC doesn't have to be writeen with race as the main focus but many writers worry about reaction and doing cultural differences just right.

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    1. Agreed! We should all write what we want to without limits!

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  2. I have a POC planned for an upcoming book. She's a secondary character in a book that comes out next year, but I want her to have a book of her own. I'm not sure people realize she is African American (my critique partner didn't). There are hints, but since the first book isn't about her and she's not new to the main character, it's very hard to bring it up without it being forced (especially since the story isn't about her ethnic background).

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    1. I would try adding in subtle reminders to the reader. Like cultural as well as description. A cultural description could be anything from home life to the things they like to do. Say your character is going to their mother's house. There might be things in the household that he/she grew up in that could be distinct to their cultural background. Those queues help the reader understand the unique characteristics and backgrounds of your character. There are many customs in Asian American, African American, and hispanic households that are unique to their culture depending on your characters backstory. Another way to remind the reader is the way the character talks, again based on their background. It's all about queues and hints just like you said :-)

      One thing I will mention though is with the first description of your character (when they come into the scene) is make sure the reader knows right away so they can form a clear mental visual on who they are seeing. That way there this no confusion. Cassandra Clare has a great example on how she alerted the reader her character was biracial through her character Clary's eyes.
      http://cassandraclare.tumblr.com/post/27700846778/magnus-and-whitewashing

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  3. Great points, and we do need much more POC in all books. NA seems like such a great place for a diverse cast because the readers are diverse. My lead in my first NA is Latina and I did a lot of research to make sure I got it right, but as I was writing her I realized one thing that made it so much easier -- we're all the same color on the inside! Her fears/goals/beliefs transcended race...she was just a woman, finding her place.

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    1. Exactly! I completely agree. And the research part is so much fun. You get to learn so much about so many different types of people. :D

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  4. I'm about to get abbreviation happy. Ahem...

    I have a POC with a POV in Courage. :)

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    1. Haha! You're awesome. And I know! I can't wait to read her :)

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  5. Such a great post! I'm biracial and most of my characters tend to be culturally diverse--not because I'm trying to take some kind of stand against white washing in fiction, but because that's just how they come to me. It can be intimidating writing from the POV of someone who is a different race than you but what I've come to realize, as you stated above, is that race doesn't have to take center stage just because the MC isn't white. Each character should be treated as a unique individual separate from their racial or cultural identity rather than being presented as some archetype of it. When I write, I'm not trying to capture an entire culture in one character, I'm trying to capture a human being. That's what should be important.

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    1. They say write what you know! The world is diverse so why can't we just show it, right? And I love what you said about capturing a human being. It's so true!

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  6. This has happened a couple of times -- publishers have lightened the skin of a main character on the cover, making the character look Caucasian. All I can say is look out for it. As a new author, you might not have much say in changing it.

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    1. I have seen this before. When working with a publisher sometimes our vision doesn't always match theres. You're right. Sometimes an author's choice is limited :)

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  7. Great posting, Victoria, and the timing couldn't be more perfect. A writer friend and I are working on a New Adult book where the characters are different races and we've hit a lot of the issues you've discussed already. Fortunately, we're up for the challenge and hopefully will do a good job with it! :)

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    1. Yeah!!!! You should always write what you want. Never let anyone tell you any different!

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  8. Excellent post, V! You can't--and shouldn't--shoehorn diversity into your books. It'll come off stilted and unrealistic every time, which is worse than having no POC at all. Just do what's natural for the characters.

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  9. Awesome points, V! I hope we see even more diversity among New Adult books as time goes by!

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  10. Great advice, Victoria! I love writing POC cuz I get to be someone else for awhile!

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    1. Thank you PK! It's so fun to experience new things, right? :-)

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  11. I completely agree with what you're saying about characters being are who they are and that they can’t be forced to be a certain race otherwise they will read foreign in the writing.

    I think that's why some people are afraid of writing POC, because they're scared of getting it wrong, but like you rightly said, you don't need to share the same race as a character, as long as the emotions are real.

    Great post, Victoria! :D

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    1. Yep, yep! It's just about knowing your character. Who they are and what they're about! The research part is the most fun I think :D

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  12. "Sharing the experiences of other races and genders can be done without having to share that same characteristic of a written character. Same goes for writing about people with different political affiliations and religious beliefs. That is what is so nice about writing."

    Thanks Victoria... I think you just expressed beautifully the reason why I am a writer. More articles like that one, please!

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    1. Thanks Marion! I hope I answered your question okay. We should all feel open to go outside of our comfort zones. It only helps us grow!

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  13. What a nice post, and you are right - I mean I am a woman and I am bi and I don't write every single piece of fiction as a representation of women or lgbt in today's culture as its main theme, even though I obviously have a ton of women and lgbt people in my writing. I think people just get scared - I've read some rather strongly-worded reviews about the treatment of race in Eleanor & Park, for example. It is still a topic that is deeply emotional for good reason - but being afraid shouldn't stop us :). It just should make us try our very best.

    Do you have an opinion on people of colour on the main cast versus supporting characters? Because I sometimes feel it's a bit of a cop-out to give the white/straight etc. protagonist a friend who is of colour or lgbt -- but I can never quite but my finger on when it feels like a cop out and when I am just happy to see diversity.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by!

      I agreed. One should never do an {insert race here] character just for the sake of diversity. That should be what the character is wholeheartedly. A person's race is reflective of who they are. They can't just be African American or Asian. That has to be who they are or readers can tell. That's probably the thing that feels off you're talking about. Readers can always tell if something doesn't feel genuine. It really is tricky, but to avoid cliches and stereotypes research is key. The author should know that character in and out regardless if they are a supporting character or a lead. If it's heavily researched the character will read what they are and not a stereotype. :)

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  14. I think your book stands apart from the pack because you're so good at getting inside the heads of your characters - no matter who they are or what they look like :-)

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