1. United
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    United Member

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    Gay main character. Your thoughts and experiences?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by United, Nov 8, 2014.

    Now, as cliche as it sounds, yes, my work, like the millions of other works out there, has my protagonist having a romantic relationship. However, I am set on keeping it on how it is right now ---- a homosexual romantic relationship. I know that homosexual relationships aren't very prevalent in young adult fiction as compared to heterosexual relationships. I'm just afraid that I'll "drive away" potential readers if I make it to be a gay relationship. I would be very saddened if someone reads my book and tells someone, "oh, the main character is gay. Don't read it if you don't like the gays", etc, and then those people spread it and then lots of people stop & refuse to read my work.

    I'm not making my main character gay for the sake of having a gay main character. My target audience aren't necessarily the readers who want to read about a gay protagonist. My target audience are the people who are willing to read my story not for my character's sexuality, but for my character's character and development/story. My character is 'gay' because he just simply is (by societal standards) by virtue of how he feels towards another person, who just happens to be male.

    This will be my very first work/story, so I don't know much about the marketplace for gay characters and how well (or bad) it can/will affect the review of my work. I would be deeply saddened if my protagonist's sexuality really does affect readers' responses on a large scale (negatively).

    Note: Of course, I do understand that there will be critical responses to having a gay protagonist, somewhere in the world. I just don't want that aspect of my story to be the hindering detail of my work.
     
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  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wouldn't worry about it. There will be homophobes who don't like it, but other people either won't care or will be happy to see more diversity.

    Write the story you want to write. It's 2014. Gay MCs aren't that shocking any more (thank god).
     
  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    There is truth in @BayView 's words. I understand that Geography Club, the first in the The Russell Middlebrook Series was quite popular. They made a movie out of it. For every person who doesn't want your book for the gay protag or love story, there's someone out there dying to read it just because of the gay love story and then there's everyone in the middle who don't care that the love story is gay, just that it be well written.
     
  4. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    I've recently been thinking about this but from another angle.

    But firstly, I do have a couple of gay friends (two guys and a girl) who I love to bits but I don't actually know anything about their sex lives.

    As such, I don't think I would be able to portray a gay character in my book. I'm afraid they would come out looking like Mr Humphries from "Are You Being Served?". The closest I've come to a gay character is, my MC employs a male paralegal and marvels at how this young man can pull off wearing all black with a blood red tie. I've still not decided if the character is gay or not.

    The same goes for black people too. I am not racist at all, not by a mile but any characters I write as black, come across as "the obligatory black character" just to fill in the numbers.

    So what do I do? Do I carry on putting these characters in and hope for the best or do I cut them completely and hope no-one complains that my main characters' lives are full of heterosexual white people?

    Odds are, whatever I do, I will offend someone ...
     
  5. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's quite possible that you HAVE portrayed gay characters in your book - or at least, characters who could be gay.

    Any character for whom you don't mention sexual attraction might be gay. The taxi driver, the best friend, the aged wizard (!)... they could all be gay. It just doesn't come up, because it's not part of the story you're telling.

    I think you're building this up into something more difficult than it needs to be. You don't need to know the details of your friends' sex lives to have the male paralegal mention his boyfriend or have a picture of himself and another man on his desk.

    I can see it being challenging for a straight person to write about a gay person's sex life or romantic life, but that's only one aspect of who the character is, right? Similarly, a black character doesn't have to be ALL ABOUT being black. There are books that ARE all about that, if the character's struggling with racism or even living happily in a black sub-culture. But your book doesn't have to be about that!

    That said, I wouldn't include or not include characters based on worrying about people being offended. Just try to write three-dimensional, interesting characters. Depending on where your book is set, some of those characters should probably be black and/or gay, just to represent reality well. But the book doesn't have to be ABOUT their minority status.
     
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  6. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    A lot of my pieces have gay characters (If sexuality/romance is ever an actual part of the story)
    I never throw it for bling just cause I am.
    It will drive readers away, some people just won't be able to read it because they're homophobic or they'll have a hard time "relating" to the character once they find out he's a homo.
    Honestly, meh.
    You're work is your work, and we desperately need more gay characters in fiction who are featured in a positive light and where their sexuality does not take center stage or turn them in a cliche/coming of age story...
     
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  7. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Thanks for that, it's kinda helped put it in perspective.

    The gay and black characters that pop up (or that have possibly popped up so far (one of them being a Medical Consultant)) have been smaller background characters who have popped into my head ready made (by that, I mean it's how my mind pictured them as I wrote, I didn't purposefully say to myself 'I need a Dr character and he's going to be black').

    But I totally get what you mean, thanks!
     
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  8. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    You should always write the story that's in you. If that story is about a character who's gay, write it. Who cares if some people won't want to read it because the character is gay. I'd be *more* interested in reading about a character who was gay, if for no other reason than that there are not that many stories with gay characters.
     
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  9. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm confused by this. You seem to be assuming that a gay character would need to fulfill some subset of gay stereotypes. There's no reason why a gay character couldn't be exactly, entirely the same as a straight character, except for who they're dating or married to.

    Edited to add: OK, I seem to be covering ground already covered.
     
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  10. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Someone not wanting to read a gay romance is not necessarily a homophobe, just like someone who doesn't want to read about a female warrior is not necessarily a misogynist. Many people just like things they can relate to.

    This explains why I Love You Philip Morris, easily one of the best movies I've seen, featuring a very well known cast, never gained widespread appeal, despite an alleged 55% of Americans supporting gay marriage.

    Movies like Philadelpha, and Dallas Buyer's Club (also great films), where the main character is a hetero and savior to homosexuals, now THAT is something plenty of people can connect with, hence their popularity.
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2014
  11. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I realize this is a tangent, but I think I Love You Phillip Morris was never properly marketed. I'd never even heard of it until well after its release (after it was recommended to me by @erebh -- and whatever happened to him - I haven't seen him around in quite some time). It was a great film, but I think people might have expected Americans wouldn't accept it due to the gay theme, even though the homosexuality was, in a way, secondary to the incredible story -- all the more incredible given that it was true. (Had it not been true, I would have said it could never have happened.)
     
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  12. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yep, it's a great film. . There are plenty of big movies with gay themes. I already mentioned two. Dallas buyers Club and Philadelphia. The remarkable thing about I Love You Philip Morris was that this was not a "free the gays" type of movie, perhaps the only such movie I can think of starring such a huge cast. These were two shameless men, chasing yachts and skipping jail- it was an honest story (since its based on a real one) without any hint of social justice.

    Here's an interesting article about this: http://www.salon.com/2010/12/02/phillip_morris/
     
  13. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I have a gay character in my book. She struggles with being different which is parallel to my protagonist's struggle as a social outcast for her different beliefs and view of the world. My critique group suggested instead of a character that struggled against society with homosexuality she should struggle with being in love across economic barriers.

    I'm still pondering the issue. I appreciate the thread.
     
  14. AlannaHart
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    AlannaHart Contributing Member

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    I'm gay, and most of the time I can't suffer through a heterosexual romance novel, not because I'm offended by it, it's just not typically my bag. There are going to be people who aren't interested in your book no matter what you write about.
     
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  15. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    This wasn't presented as a romance, just as a book with a gay MC (who has a romantic plot). And I agree that there may be people who don't want to read the book for a variety of reasons, but if someone decides not to read a book just because the MC is gay - I think that suggests homophobia. Not a virulent strain, necessarily, but I don't accept the idea that a non-homophobic person would not be able to relate to a character just because the character is gay. (For what it's worth, if someone doesn't want to read a book about warriors that would otherwise appeal JUST because the MC is female, that does suggests misogyny to me. Again, possibly not an extreme version, but there must be SOME beliefs about women that would prevent this reader from being able to relate to the female warrior character, and those beliefs seem as if they might be problematic).

    I've never seen I Love you Philip Morris, so I can't really speak to the merits of that movie. But I don't really understand how it fits into your argument anyway. I would say that, if it's true that this great movie was shunned by movie-goers because it had gay MCs, that's a SIGN of homophobia.

    I guess maybe we're disagreeing about what the word homophobia means? Are you seeing it only as aggressive hatred of gays? I see it as any discomfort with or 'othering' of gay people, ranging from something as mild as avoiding a book that features a gay character, but going all the way to horrific violence.
     
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  16. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Do you like gay romance novels?
     
  17. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I'm in the camp that thinks you can write about whatever you like, and whatever it is, somebody won't like it. So don't let that stop you.

    If you are gay yourself and are writing a gay relationship from your point of view, this will give you a pretty good notion of how that feels. By this I mean you'll understand the prejudices gay people face, the worries they have when they first come out to their friends, their family and the world at large—if they choose to come out at all—as well as understand what it is like to be attracted to and fall in love with somebody who shares your gender. You will know what you're writing about, and it's just a matter of writing it well and making other people—gay and otherwise—understand what you are saying.

    OR....

    You are not gay yourself, and are writing a story from a POV you don't necessarily share. This is very brave. You can make lots of mistakes, for sure. It would be like me writing a story from the POV of a modern-day Native American living in Browning, Montana or an immigrant from Pakistan living in Birmingham. I have no idea what it is like to be in their shoes. I can only start with what they would feel like as people, with the shared emotions and thoughts that all humans have. What can be wildly different is what triggers these emotions and thoughts, and that's what I'd need to study, I reckon.

    This problem can transcend race and sexual orientation, and be felt by anybody who is writing ANYTHING different from their own lives. If you have never been in a boat, can you write about sailing the ocean? If you have never picked up a weapon, can you write a fight scene in a historical novel about the Hundred Years War? If you have never been to New York City, can you set your story there? It all boils down to research. TONS of research. AND imagination. The ability to put yourself very convincingly in somebody else's shoes.

    If you want to write a story that is radically different from your own life, by all means go for it, though. I think you'll find that the overwhelming majority of writers do this, to some extent. Very few writers stick to autobiography.

    The saying is: "Write about what you know." Ah, but the corollary is: "If you don't already know it, GET to know it!" :)
     
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  18. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with this in general, but with the corollary that minority experiences aren't monolithic. There is as much diversity within minority communities as there is between them and the majority communities. I think it's possible to build up the differences between, in this example, straight and gay people, which can lead to missing the many, many similarities between the two groups, and the many, many differences between different gay people.

    I'm straight, and very liberal. It would be easier for me to relate to/understand/convincingly write a gay liberal than a straight conservative.

    I'm straight, and Canadian. It would be easier to write a gay Canadian than a straight Australian.

    And, just as significantly, there is great diversity within the gay community. A gay person could be liberal or conservative, Canadian or Australian, black or white, introvert or extrovert... etc. There is one commonality, and then a lot of diversity.

    Now, because we live in a society that overemphasises (in positive and negative ways) the significance of that one area, that one innate commonality spreads out to influence a lot of different areas. ie. A gay person's experience of watching TV doesn't HAVE to be different than a straight person's, but because the gay person is less likely to see a good representation of people 'like' him and more likely to see hate directed toward his group, the experience certainly COULD be different.

    But these are challenges that would come from writing gay MCs. I don't think we have to get into every nuance if we're writing gay secondary characters.
     
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  19. AlannaHart
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    AlannaHart Contributing Member

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    If they're good books.
     
  20. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, but do you often find that they're 'good books'? Like, is your objection to het romance novels that they're het, or that they're romance? If you generally enjoy gay romance novels and don't generally enjoy het romance, then it seems like the 'het' part that's slowing you down. But if you don't generally like either flavour of romance, you probably just don't romance novels. Right?
     
  21. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    I don't feel that I have to fulfil a stereotype, I feel that I would automatically write it stereotypically, without thinking about it and that's like a trap that I don't want to fall into.
     
  22. Wynter
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    Wynter Active Member

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    Thoughts?

    Like everything homosexual I literally don't care, as in I have the belief to simply the let people do what they want with who they want. So for me if it had a good storyline then sure I'd keep reading it. The only part that would matter to me is the writing.

    I'm not going to go "Huzzah it's a gay person story must buy." nor "Oh god, gay person story stay away."

    Good luck if you write it. As for experiences, no I probably would never write with a gay MC, but who knows maybe one day.
     
  23. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Do you think our acceptance of gay people also has something to do with the fact that so much change has happened, almost within our generation as far as gay people are concerned.

    In less than 100 years we have gone from imprisoning and chemically castrating gay men and trying to rehabilitate gay women to openly celebrating peoples right to be gay by having pride marches and wearing rainbow badges.

    That's a big move to make in such a small amount of time, a move which not everyone has taken, or even took at the same time. There are still countries/States/places that consider being gay as an illegal act.

    So I think it's understandable that writers do worry about portraying gay characters correctly, even if they are not the main characters and especially if the writer has no experience or gay friends that they can ask for advice.
     
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  24. Wynter
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    Wynter Active Member

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    The Modernization of the world, the ability for people to form as a group from the world over and fight for their ideas and beliefs in conjunction with the reduced focus of religion and increasing focus on individualism has all led to said change in my opinion

    People don't ask "What does my church think?" They ask "What do I think?"

    Once people started asking that the majority of people began accepting homosexuals in my opinion.
     
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  25. AlannaHart
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    AlannaHart Contributing Member

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    That was my point. It IS the het part that puts me off. It's just not my bag. I'm saying that certain people WILL be put off by the gay thing, but that different people will be put off by any number of things. Some people don't like fantasy, doesn't mean you shouldn't write it. Don't doubt whether something is worth writing just because the whole world won't like it. There are homophobes out there, sure, loads of them. There are loads of people who hate Harry Potter for silly religious reasons. Who cares?
     
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