Beyond The Only One


Shonda Rhimes

At the very end, I read [Shonda Rimes] an audience question that said something like, “How do you think your shows have changed the position of African-Americans on television?”

After a little pause, she said one of the things she’d learned was that on shows with Only One (only one woman, only one black character, only one Asian person, only one gay character), that’s when the Only One is required to be about nothing except that characteristic. She said her hope was in part that just by having more than Only One on her shows, she gave those characters room to develop and to have other things about them be important. She hopes that — and here’s the rub — by consciously increasing diversity overall she makes the race of each character less limiting, less defining.

Linda Holmes on interviewing Shonda Rhimes, excerpted from The Only One: A Talk With Shonda Rhimes

Want to write characters that are more than just stereotypes? Adopt Shonda Rhimes’ strategy and don’t make your marginalized character the Only One. (I love this!)

Note: Writing more than the Only One can also be a great way to lift the Burden of Representation from your main character.

If yourwriting is looking artificially homogenous, how could you apply this strategy?

Tip: You might need to change the setting of your story or rethink some of the assumptions behind your story world. Go for it.

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