Doing Diversity in Writing

Season 1 Episode 9 - Deborah Tannen, linguistics, and Peter Parker

November 25, 2021

In this episode of Doing Diversity in Writing, we—Bethany and Mariëlle—talk about marking the unmarked. It’s the first episode of three on the topic.


In this first episode on marking the unmarked, we discuss:

  • what we mean by “marked” and “unmarked”
  • how conscious marking and unmarking in our stories make us better writers
  • the “Everyman” archetype in literature
  • how the “unmarked” in Western society is slowly losing that privilege and how uncomfortable that is for them


Some quotes from this week’s episode:

“As writers, we mark all the time, we mark characters, we mark landscapes, items, ideas, pretty much anything that is in our stories gets either marked or is left unmarked, and both are significant and influence the reader’s experience.”


“Marking and unmarking happens all the time for our characters, they do it, and we do it for them above and beyond that. For example, how we describe our character marks or unmarks them, and how they describe or ‘see’ the world is also an act of marking or unmarking. Such actions can even drive a story.”


“When I’m writing a character, I’ll consider things like, ‘Do they wish they weren’t lost in the crowd, do they want to be marked and recognized or do they just want to finally be left alone and invisible? How do their desires show up in their language and how they mark others?”


“This Everyman character can be set into a world or extraordinary and act as the connection to the reader, much like the main character clutching his towel through The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. He’s supposed to be the character readers identify with so they can access an alien landscape through him.”


And here are the (re)sources we mentioned on the show:

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