1. Nikita88
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    Nikita88 Member

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    Can the Main Character of a Children/YA Book be Gay?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Nikita88, Feb 14, 2009.

    Hey everyone, the book I was working on is starting to get pretty far and I realized that, completely unintentionally, I think I made the MC gay? It's more of a children's/young adult (this is the only genre I do) story, so I don't know where we stand as a society with that kind of thing.

    I just got a literary agent who requested a full, and I am afraid to seal the deal with this idea because I think it will make them reject me! I've posted a few chapters here of other stories, but not this one. Please PM me if you'd like to see an excerpt so I can get other opinions

    Even if I never get published (I probably wont :p), I'd still like to show it to my friends & family, but I don't know what will come of it! Sure, I can just put it off and avoid it for the first few books, but eventually love/relationships have to come into play at SOME point. I am not gay myself, so I don't really know how this even happened - all I know is he's so much fun to write.

    Again, I never went into this with the idea of making the MC gay, it just happened on its own. That's why I love writing him, I feel like he does most of the work for me, and I don't want to try to go force something on it just to make the story acceptable. His best friend is the one that I somehow am feeling that chemistry with; I can't get rid of the best friend, he's been there since page 5!


    Ah well, for the time being, I think I will sit back and think about this one for a while -- then I can use the downtime to work on my new project :D
     
  2. Shadow Dragon
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    Shadow Dragon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ha, sometimes your characters will suprise you. :p And well, honestly there may be some controversy over it in certain areas and certain agents may reject it due to your mc being gay, however the chance of actually getting publish will only go down marginally at best. So don't worry too much about and just go with whatever seems right in the story.
     
  3. Nikita88
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    Nikita88 Member

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    Ok great, thank you :) I am glad to hear this from another person's perspective, and I think you are correct that it will hurt my chances, but I should still just write what feels right.

    Thanks again
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    That will probably depend on your publisher's standards.

    You can write pretty much anything you can think of. The only question is whether you can publish it,
     
  5. Nikita88
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    Nikita88 Member

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    Publishing is such a drag :eek:
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    first of all, why on earth did you query agents before you had a completed book to offer?... and, if you're being asked for a full ms, how are you going to send one when you don't have one?... that's what will get your not-yet-a-deal dumped before it can become one, not any gayness of your mc!

    there are lots of books on the market even for the youngest kids, with gay characters, so you obviously haven't done your homework and researched the market for whatever it is you're writing... nor learned how and when to query agents... so i strongly suggest you learn the abc's of the business side of being a writer, before going any further...

    and don't ever again query an agent or a publisher with fiction that's not only not completed, but not polished to a farethewell, first...

    next, don't ever query with a book for which you haven't targeted a specific age market... in fact, don't ever even start to write one till you've got it clear in your mind what age range it's meant for!... to do so is to guarantee failure, since you won't be writing it with the correct vocabulary, sentence structure, and story content...

    finally, be sure to vet that agent carefully, as it sounds to me like it could be one of the many poseurs who will end up charging you a 'small fee' to 'fix up' your work so it will be attractive to publishers [to none of whom they will ever bother trying to sell it]... no legit agent is going to commit to take you on as a client [as in 'got a literary agent'] or ask to see a 'full' ms before you've completed the book...

    love and hugs, maia
     
  7. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm confused about the literary agent thing. Do you mean you've got an agent who is representing you now, or that you're trying to get one? I would've thought you'd have to have an entire book written to send to a potential agent before they'd sign you on.

    Also, I know there are lots of YA books at my library with gay MCs. The only one I've read, but it's really well done and has "cross appeal" so to speak, is Geography Club by Brent Hartinger. You may want to read that book to help you see how to develop your character.
     
  8. Nikita88
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    Nikita88 Member

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    Thank you both! I really appreciate the input

    mammamaia, yes I was definitely a newbie to this and submitted some of my writing to a literary agent in NY I had researched that had a good reputation and does not charge any fees until (if) the book is published. So far she has been very up front with me about the costs, and it seems to be very typical of any good agent. I honestly hadn't expected the agency to get back to me so quickly (they say 6 weeks), which is why I thought I'd have more time. Bad assumption, obviously...

    In my original query, I did say that it was a work in progress, but you're absolutely right - I should have told her "work in progress" meant still adding chapters, not revising it. I had responded to her full MS request on Thursday telling her that it wasn't ready to go, but that I have been working nonstop to get it ready. She asked me to just shoot her an email when I finished, which I hope will be within the month. And no, I am not represented yet - I doubt I will be, but it's still exciting to get that request!

    I am glad to hear that the sexual orientation of a character doesn't prevent it from being published; I have been researching now so I can be informed! Should have done that before I posted this thread :p I really appreciate all of the knowledge you bring to this field though, it's really good of you to share
     
  9. Lorena
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    Lorena Active Member

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    I agree with mammamia; agents ABHORE unfinished manuscripts. Yes, you can have a gay protagonist, so long as he/she isn't engaging in explicit sexual activity. That's for us older girls. :)

    Anyway, good look with your publishing, just make sure you have a MS you are 100% content with before you even dream of getting it on the shelves.
     
  10. Vayda
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    Vayda Senior Member

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    Look up LGTBQ literature, there's tons of it. I'm currently in a class where I have to read 8 YA novels over the course of the semester, and it seems like most of the ones I pick up have at least one gay MC.
     
  11. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are so many youth books about all levels of sexuality. As for books aimed at younger children, I can think of at least one, it's called Mom and Mum are Getting Married.
     
  12. Penny Dreadful
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    Penny Dreadful Senior Member

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    Granted, I read some odd books - but, it seems like every other YA novel I pick up has at least one homosexual character. That subject-matter isn't nearly as taboo as it used to be. In fact, it seems as if it would be more acceptable in YA fiction.
     
  13. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Having gay characters in books, even for younger children, is common in the UK. British readers are used to this, 'diversity' is welcomed in fact, but I believe the US is more conservative.

    Just looking through my daughter's collection of books, 'The Shell House' by Linda Newbery, a British writer, was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal in 2002. It's classified as 'Young Adult' but it has 'not suitable for younger readers' printed on the cover. It's about a 17-year-old discovering his spirituality and sexuality, but it doesn't have any graphic sex scenes.
     
  14. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    Just don't have him copulating with any other people of the same gender, (I'm sure him copulating with people of the opposite gender in a children's book would be fine) and you should be alright.

    Seriously, how on EARTH do you write a CHILDREN'S book, and somehow have homosexuality come into it? Is he having sex with people? Or is he just kissing or dating a person of the same gender?
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Not all publishers will accept gay subject matter, whether or not it is YA. Hopefully, most are pulling their heads out of the sand (and other warm dark places), but the truth is that you will face more resistance than with no gay themes.

    There are publishers who pride themselves on "upholding Christian principles", for example. And as others have pointed out, exactly how the gay elements are instantiated will also be a factor in whether a given publisher will accept it.

    Know your market, and know your publishers' guidelines and standards.
     
  16. apathykills
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    apathykills Contributing Member

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    You can always "pull a Dumbledore".

    Don’t mention the character is gay throughout the entire book (or throw only the smallest of hints) and then say he is months after the book has been published.
     
  17. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    I hate to be a voice of dissent (really, I am pro-GLBT), but I'm puzzled about something. The character may be gay, but does their gayness have anything to do with the plot? For example, in how many children's/YA books is the MC's sexual orientation, whether gay or straight or what, an issue at all? (Especially in children's books, where the matter of sex is something that's best left until they're old enough to understand it properly.) Unless the MC is going on a date, or is married or in love with somebody, I don't see how their orientation would even come into play in the story. Pick up a children's book and see if it makes mention of the MC being straight. Unless they're in love with a character of the opposite sex, there's no way to tell.

    If the character is just gay and there's really no relation to the plot, why bring it up at all? I'm not advocating "staying in the closet," but if it's not an issue, then it's not an issue. My current fantasy story has a gay character but nobody even knows it because it's just not part of the plot and it's never come up yet. I'm not "hiding" it or anything, it's simply not part of the story. It's a non-issue.

    I can't judge your story without knowing the plot, so if your MC really DOES have a crush on somebody or fall in love with somebody or something, then my post here is moot, but I thought I'd mention it. Sexuality (and anything, really--political stance, religion, cultural background, past experience, etc.) is an issue only if the plot demands that it be one. Don't make an issue if there isn't one to make.

    For a test, you can see if the plot or meaning of the story changes any if you mention that the character is gay, and if you don't mention that they're gay. If the plot/meaning doesn't change, then it's a non-issue, and doesn't have to be mentioned, straight or gay.

    This is what's always gotten to me about the whole "Teletubbies" thing--does it really MATTER if one of them is gay or not?--because it really has nothing to do with the show. Preschoolers are really not going to sit there and wonder about the sexual preferences of the characters.

    ETA: Atari said it succinctly--"Seriously, how on EARTH do you write a CHILDREN'S book, and somehow have homosexuality come into it? Is he having sex with people? Or is he just kissing or dating a person of the same gender?"
     
  18. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Wow! Like I thought, the US is more conservative on this issue. In England, (and the rest of N. Europe) even quite young children are encouraged to have a broad view on homosexuality, it's part of the sex education programme in schools, in fact. Since homosexuality is a normal part of human existence, it is perfectly normal in a children's book. But ANY overt sex scenes in books, whether hetero- or homo- sexual are clearly totally inappropriate for children.
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    nikita...
    pay attention to what tehuti just said... it's good advice!
     
  20. Penny Dreadful
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    Penny Dreadful Senior Member

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    I wouldn't call that a good representation of the US. I live in the south and as backward as things are here, homosexuality is certainly acceptable in literature. Denying it in libraries would cause quite a few lawsuits, I'm sure.

    With that said, I don't at all agree with the recent string of posts. Sexuality is more prevalent in YA (certainly not children's - assuming we're talking picture/short chapter books and their ilk) than any other targeted audience. Most YA books feature characters around their reader's ages - who are dealing with piecing together their own identities. I've never read a YA book where a character wasn't, at some point, sexually attracted and/or involved with another character.

    Pulling a Dumbledore is, in my opinion, one of the... well... lamest things a writer can do. Saying, "Oh, by the way - I realize you assumed they were, but she/he wasn't straight" after the fact... really just annoys readers.
     
  21. Emykei
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    Emykei New Member

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    Actually, it's the funniest thing, that just recently happened to a story a friend of mine and I are working on.

    I think, personally, that it puts a story into an entirely new realm of interest when it has some form of controversial substance to it.

    Yeah, some people will have their problems, but many more will be intrigued.

    Also, it can help people understand things, and open up close-minded people's eyes.

    I'm not homosexual either, but in some ways it's easier to write like that.

    I mean, take into consideration, that if you're a boy, and the character is a girl, having her fall in love with a guy would be difficult for you to relate to, because you don't have those feelings toward that particular gender

    but if you are a male/female writer, writing about a female/male character, it's much easier to have them fall in love with your preference.

    If that makes any sense at all, haha.
     
  22. Emykei
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    Emykei New Member

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    Oh! Also for some ideas, You could check out the Rainbow Boys series. I liked them. And another is Boy Meets Boy.
     
  23. BlackBear
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    BlackBear New Member

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    Dumbledore, from Harry potter, was gay. Rowling said so in a press conference.
     
  24. Mercurial
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    Mercurial Contributing Member Contributor

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    I dont see why not.
    Ever read A Separate Peace? The author was never clear about it, either, but the way Gene interacted with Phineas had me questioning.

    It's been acceptable for a long time now, but your book better be pretty good.
     
  25. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Mom and Mum Are Getting Married is a picture book told from the point of view of a girl, about five, and her mother's same-sex wedding.
    http://www.amazon.com/dp/1896764843/?tag=postedlinks04-20
     

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