‘And most importantly: if an attribute contributes nothing, you should reconsider making the attribute part of them.’
Actually, I disagree with you. If you take away particular attributes that you’ve listed from a character, the default character seems to become a straight white male. I’m sure you didn’t mean it quite in this way, but it’s probably better at this point to just show characters as people with varying attributes. I write steampunk fantasy, and one of the changes from the real world is that I wanted to give women a bit more agency in society and not just have them either passively feminine or the opposite extreme, a woman aggressively trying to prove herself equal to a man and demeaning other characters’ femininity.
By giving characters ‘attributes’, you do more for diversity in literature than having every female character’s plot revolve around sexism, every gay character’s plot revolve around homophobia, and every non-white character’s plot revolve around racism. By all means put those in there (one of my women is desperate to prove herself a good lawyer to her conservative father) but also put in the ‘just happens to be…’ characters (there are female priests and respected hierarchs in my religious system who don’t face particular discrimination on grounds of gender). Trudi Canavan’s “Black Magician” series (particularly in “The Novice” – I haven’t read the third book, so I don’t know how their plotline ends) has a gay couple who have a few throwaway lines about how Kyralian society disapproves of their relationship, but about how friendly another country is towards same-sex relationships and so for most of the book their story is about their love for each other – like a heterosexual couple would encounter – rather than being up against official persecution and contempt. That to me was a really well-written book, because it gave gay characters a chance just to be in a loving relationship.
Diversity in literature needs to be about making a range of characters with a range of attributes that *don’t* contribute to the plot. Otherwise, the visibility of women, LGBT identities and non-white characters in media remains treading the same old plotlines every time. From a woman’s perspective, always reading about a woman who has to prove herself in a man’s world is boring. Reading about a character who just happens to be a woman (again, Trudi Canavan got this right) is much more interesting and refreshing even when her gender adds nothing to the plot.
Apologies for the rant, but you touched a bit of a nerve here.