1. gothiclilmonkey
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    gothiclilmonkey New Member

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    Is stating the sexual orientation of the main characters necessary

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by gothiclilmonkey, Apr 20, 2012.

    I'm writing scifi novel with two protagonist one developing into the hero and the other taking on more of an antihero role but they start out as close friends and their closeness plays a large role in the novel. I have thought about the characters as being gay but I'm not sure it's necessary to put that into the book or if it's enough to show that the characters are close and let the reader think what they will about whether or not their gay.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You don't have to declare any character's sexual orientation, period. In fact, I think it's a bit cheesy to do so, moswt of the time.
     
  3. superpsycho
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    superpsycho Contributing Member

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    You can do it either way, It's a matter of how well you write it. You don't have to have someone say "I'm gay" and still make your point within the storyline. If being gay is part of the point of the story that's one thing. If it's just an attribute of a character and not central to the storyline, that's another. You're the only one that knows which.
     
  4. Pallas
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    Pallas Contributing Member Contributor

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    Beyond some basic features, I usually tend to fill in specific character traits or back story through another character's derision or affinity for that first character so as to mesh it better with the story. As Cogito says, it may seem stilted if written without context.
     
  5. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    (Bear with me with this philosophical musing):

    I mean, what is "gay" anyways? "Gay" is just a term we use to try to categorize people, and it comes with connotations and stereotypes that are very often not true. Think about this: In Samoan culture, they don't have any word at all like "Gay" or "Homosexual," and so being an androgenic male (male who is attracted to male) is a completely different existence. You don't fit a category, and no one makes stereotypes of you. And in this culture, no one is prejudiced against androgenic males. One of the stereotypes that come with "gay" (and even "androgenic male") is that it is a man who is attracted to men and not at all to women. According to Kinsey, there are very few pure "gays" or "straights" in the world, because most people fall somewhere in the middle of a spectrum.

    So when you tell the reader that your character is "gay," that comes loaded with an arsenal of stereotypes that you cannot control. I believe that you're going to be better able to control what readers think about your character if you avoid the word. If your story is about being "gay" in today's world or whatever, it might be appropriate for your character to state it. But if your story is about something else and that's more background, I'd recommend seeing how long you can go without directly stating it. It might not even be important. Dumbledore was gay, it never came up in the story, and it never had to. Don't give your readers more than what they need. That said, they might need to know your character identifies as "gay." There's no hard-fast rule for this.

    Anyway, kudos to writing a gay character in a sci-fi book. There needs to be a lot homosexuality in sci-fi. I mean, look at Star Trek. They were right on for using a racially diverse crew as far back as the 60's, but a future without at least 10% of the crew being LGBT(QQIA, etc.) is not realistic. Marketably practical, of course, just not realistic.
     
  6. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    Stereotypes can be used to your advantage too. Other characters might refer to them as 'gay' which suggest those characters have conservative views or just plain disrespect for the gay characters. That's lot of insight into a character (the other characters) without you having to show/explain a lot.
     
  7. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    Whuuuuut??? :eek:

    Actually this rings a bell with me, but I can't remember if I read it in a fanfic or whether JK herself hinted at it at some point. Is this actually canon? If so, makes sense. It also makes complete sense that she never put it in the book - far too many paedophilic connotations inherent in the elderly headmaster of a school being homosexual! You can imagine the outcry...

    I think it's usually best to avoid labels like 'gay' unless you're writing a book specifically about gay rights or issues. If the novel is just about two same sex characters who happen to love each other, why do they need to be labelled as anything other than that?

    In the first Boudicca novel (Dreaming the Eagle) by Manda Scott,
    Boudicca's brother (forget his name) falls in love with the captured Roman soldier, Corvus. I can't remember whether this is because he has always been sexually attracted to men, or just because he feels deeply about this man in particular. But he is never given any typically 'gay' traits, so its not like he has been mincing about like a nancy boy for the entire novel. But that's more because the gay stereotype didn't exist back then, so it would be anachronistic to try and present him that way. The real surprise though is when the ultra manly and heroic Corvus, now the commander of a legion, turns round and reciprocates! Never saw that coming... but even after that not once does he come across as 'gay'.
     
  8. Kaymindless
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    Kaymindless Contributing Member

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    I believe she actually announced it.

    I'm with everyone else though, unless it's intricate, it's not really needed. Allow the readers to make up their minds, they're good at that. We don't go out and state that characters are straight so...
     
  9. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    That's one of the unfortunate stereotypes of homosexuality. It happens, but not nearly as often as heterosexual pedophilia. It just gets more publicity coverage because of how taboo it is. That a general population is held responsible for the actions of a few is the definition of prejudice. And this is just one of the myriad of horrible stereotypes that come along with being gay. (There are, of course, plenty of good stereotypes. Being naturally stylish or artistic, etc., can't forget those. And Dumbledore was pretty stylish.)

    On a tangent, did you know that the snake that Harry accidentally sets free by making the glass disappear in Book 1 was actually Nagini, Voldemort's snake? My mind exploded when I found that out.

    ____________________________
    EDIT: Upon further inspection, the claim that Nagini is the same snake is indeed false. Thank you Cassiopeia for challenging. I heard it from this quote that has been circling the web:

    I could find no record of J.K. actually saying this in any interviews, etc. Also, the Philosopher's Stone snake was a male boa constrictor, whereas Nagini is a female venomous snake of unknown type. Not to mention they have very different personalities. Looks like it was a Harry Hoax; sorry for the inadvertent propagation of lies.
     
  10. Cassiopeia Phoenix
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    Cassiopeia Phoenix Contributing Member

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    It is? oO
    The snake he set free in the first book wasn't poisonous. Nagini was... But ok.

    This. Just because a writer doesn't say out loud that a character is gay, doesn't mean said character is straight. Now, some readers might think that way...
     
  11. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    The only problem you can run into is if your readers make assumptions about your characters, and then midway through the book something happens where they realize their assumptions were wrong and it kind of throws them off. For example, if you have a main character that is Asian with parents that immigrated over from the country. If it's important to the story that they know this, then it's probably a good idea to at least hint what is going on.

    I wouldn't directly state it. But you could probably find some indirect way to show this characteristic.
     
  12. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    This may be a top contendor for the least helpful comment in history, but it's necessary...if it's necessary. Does it, directly or indirectly, influence a prominent character trait? Is it intrinsic to the plot in some way? If not, it can be safely left out. If so, then mention it somewhere, or make it plainly obvious.
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I don't see this as a problem, as long as the readers become aware of it when it is necessary to the story.

    In fact, it may not be as necessary as you think even then. If some readers never get it, does that make it worth clubbing other readers over the head with it?

    It's never a good idea to assume your readers are stupid. Now if you find that everyone is missing the point, you may have been too subtle. But always respect your readers.
     
  14. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    Yeah... I agree with this. I think maybe I didn't get my point across right. I'll use the 2nd generation Asian example again. If that particular characteristic matters midway through the story, and throughout the whole story you gave no indication or hint that this was a characteristic of the MC, they are going to be confused when they get there and maybe think that they missed something earlier because they weren't reading with the context that this person had this characteristic. But yeah... like you said, don't just throw it in their face. Be subtle about it and trust the readers to draw the conclusions.
     
  15. thecoopertempleclause
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    thecoopertempleclause Contributing Member

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    I agree that you should avoid explicitly stating the character's sexuality. If you wouldn't do it for a heterosexual character, don't do it for a homosexual one. But it should become pretty obvious if you write your MC properly, but don't treat it as a plot twist and try to mislead your audience about it.
     
  16. naturemage
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    naturemage Active Member

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    If your character's sexual orientation makes a difference in the story (has something to do with the plot, or a relationship with another character, which you have stated) then it should be obvious enough to the reader. However, if you are just saying he is gay, and it really has nothing to do with the story as a whole, it won't matter. I agree with a few other posts: if it makes a difference, and you write it correctly, people will get it.
     
  17. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    If they are gay, state it, if any relationship or sexual theme exists in the book. If they aren't, state what they are, unless the plot never demands even a slight reflection on matters of the heart. To have romantic themes and two gay guys as characters and not state they are gay is just a cop out and it emphasises author issues more than the story itself.
     
  18. Mezza
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    Mezza Member

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    No. I can honestly say that I have never read a book where the sexual preferences/orientation of a character are just stated. They are shown by their actions and observations of the PoV character. If there is a moment where a character has to answer a specific question (bear in mind I can't imagine where it would be necessary to answer a question about your sexual orientation) then have the character answer.

    Ultimately I find it better as a reader to discover things through the reading process. My favorite authors give me enough to make the discover myself but never outright tell me something. For example, I've rarely read a novel where the author has gone out of their way to tell me the antagonist is a bad guy. They show me it is so.
     
  19. gothiclilmonkey
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    gothiclilmonkey New Member

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    I guess my phrasing of the question was a little off (that's what i get for posting while exhausted) but I definitely would never just outright state the characters sexuality. But aside from that everyone has been a whole lot of help I think I know exactly how I'm going to be writing the characters now
     
  20. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    Awesome! I'm glad the discussion helped you.
     
  21. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    Actually part of the confusion is that pedophiles are often less particular about the child's gender. With the subset who are also attracted to adults, most are heterosexual, but they may be attracted to either gender of child. It makes sense, since gender in children makes much less difference to their appearance. But as a result, if you looked at how many pedophiles go after same-gender children, you'd greatly overestimate the rate of gay/bisexual pedophiles.
     
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  22. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Well, if it's a pivotal plot point, it's like any other description. However, making the entry might be a challenge.

    For example, while true, I never described my character as a "flaming heterosexual." The fact remains, he is. It's a plot point, and the end of the story turns on that issue.

    However, not mentioning it until the end has been done, to success. One assistant prosecutor on the TV show "Law and Order" was a main character for several seasons. Her orientation was never mentioned, in fact, never implied.

    She has to make a controversial decision in her job based on her conscience. While the managment staff sympathizes with her decision, they have to fire her for cause.

    Her final line during that interview becomes, "Is this because I'm a lesbian?"
     

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