1. dracodomitor
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    dracodomitor Member

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    I've been told I have *too many* gay characters!

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by dracodomitor, Mar 11, 2016.

    Okay, people. Advice, please!

    In a novel I'm working on there's a large cast of about twenty characters from different backgrounds and religions, and I sent the first raft off to as many people as possible to get their opinions a few weeks ago. One group in particular are a book club based in my local library. Their impressions have come back positive, except for one thing - they said that I have too many LGBTQ+ characters!

    I was actually quite shocked, since I've been so proud of the diversity and representation in this story, as it's something I've been told I need to work on in the past. To be honest, I feel a little down about it. I didn't even know there was such a thing as 'too many' straight-cis people.

    The story's not romance-based by any means, but now I'm freaking out that I've become the person who over-represents to the point of political-correctness.

    So, I've come here to ask a question I'd never have thought I would be asking: what ratio is 'too many'? 40%? 20%? 5%?

    Help, please.
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    There's no such thing as too many, in the abstract. What works for your story? There are stories where all of the characters are gay. If you're writing a story that takes place within a gay community, dealing with those issues, even with a large cast a high percentage might well be gay. Even outside of that, there are reasons why you might have a large number of gay characters (such as people self-selecting friends and acquaintances). What exactly bothers your readers about it? It might be more that they feel you're handling things in a way that isn't entirely effective, and they're reacting to that but can't quite put their finger on the issue so it gets reduced to "too many gay characters."
     
  3. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Where's the harm? Why is there a "too many"? Population percentages are only relevant in large populations.

    I agree that perhaps it's not about the percentage, but about how you're handling it. Is it coming out naturally in the story, or does it perhaps feel as if you're cataloguing and labelling the characters?
     
  4. dracodomitor
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    dracodomitor Member

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    Pretty much everyone was really positive, it was just that small group that wasn't. They said I was 'trying too hard to be inclusive and that my ratio of straight to not-straight was off, as well as white to not-white, seeing as most people are straight and white'.
     
  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I'd ignore it and continue about my writing, just making sure that the characters are being handled well.
     
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  6. dracodomitor
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    dracodomitor Member

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    I'm really not sure; I thought I was handling it well. As a non-straight person myself I know I'm handling that aspect okay, but the question has been brought up that I'm 'projecting' my sexuality unrealistically onto the story. To be honest only one character was purposely chosen to be gay and the others just seemed to slip into their roles.
     
  7. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Ignore them. Your "ratio" is fine.
     
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  8. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Eh. Just roll with it. You'll be fine. If you're not trying to build a demographically accurate representation of society, then it really doesn't matter whether you have certain ratios of any group to any other group. Especially if it's organic. I have seen writing that I think "tries to hard" to check all of the "diversity boxes" in a way that honestly feels insulting to the groups being used fro diversity points - but that doesn't sound at all like what you're doing.

    We all write what interests us, and we'll all have overpopulations of characters regarding certain themes. I have two such character clusters and I know they are there. First off, a very high number of my characters are upper-middle class people who are highly intelligent "strivers", who nonetheless feel like they aren't good enough for whoever they are trying to please in their past. That's like my entire cast (granted they're all TV news reporters so it kind of attracts those people).

    I also have clusters of people from very small ethnic or religious groups who don't check the boxes. For instance I have an underpopulation of black or Hispanic characters - but I have a Indian-American Jain, an Indigenous Australian in the near-future plans (who will be roommates with the Jain), and I've got some basic plans to later include a Yazidi Iraqi and a Wiccan at later points in that storyline. The demographics don't break down well, but I don't care, because I'm interested by people who are minorities within minorities.
     
  9. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Ignore them, just write the story and let your characters be who they wish. If it makes you feel any better, I've got a whole hell of a lot of blind/visually-impaired characters spanning across my story ideas. By my last count: Five characters with albinism* and five completely blind characters. :D Do I care if it sounds like I have way too many blind/legally blind characters? No. Their stories are what I wanted to write, and they just so happen to be blind/legally blind. In short, don't worry. Write what you want to write. If you want a story to have a 100% cast of colored LBGT+ people, then do it.

    * It's a genetic condition that -- for this purpose -- causes the person to have 20/200 vision, rendering them legally blind.
     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2016
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  10. X Equestris
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    X Equestris Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd say that unless you're dealing with a huge population, ratios are irrelevant. After all, if you had two gay characters, and they're the only characters in the story, that makes it a 100% ratio, but it wouldn't stretch my suspension of disbelief past the breaking point. Similarly, my 10th grade English class only had three girls, but fifteen boys. In fact, I'd say having tiny groups rigidly adhere to national or international demographics would be far more unrealistic.
     
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  11. Feo Takahari
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    Feo Takahari Active Member

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    Folks of minority backgrounds often gather together. If your main cast has folks who're on the dating scene, go to gay bars, or share an interest in movies about the gay subculture, you don't need to worry too much about the demographics of the larger setting. (Though I suppose you could always throw in more straight background characters.)
     
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  12. dracodomitor
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    dracodomitor Member

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    This made me feel a whole lot better! Thanks, everyone.

    To be honest, on reflection, I can tell that the nay-sayers are just a bunch of old white ladies and are therefore not used to seeing and/or hearing of anyone who's not exactly like them, so I guess I can understand why my cast would seem overdone to them.

    As Commandante Lemming said very aptly:
    :)
     
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  13. King Arthur
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    King Arthur Banned

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    You could be trying too hard to be inclusive, it's not something to rule out. A character should be black, or gay, or whatever since he is, not because you want to be "proud of the diversity and representation in this story".
     
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  14. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    You need to write what feels right to you. Simples. When I first started writing I was constantly interrogated as to why my MC's are always gay. If the MC was gay, it was like I had to give a reason good enough to pass a board of inquiry and if my reasoning didn't pass their muster, then the character should not be gay.

    Fuuuuuck that.

    I write gay characters because that's what I want to write. Full stop. End of.

    On the other side of the equation, I recently read an article at GoodReads* where the writer was proposing that any book with a cast large enough to at least allow for the probability of an LGBTQ character must have one, else be labeled offensive.

    That is equally fucking ridiculous to me having to prove why my MC should be gay and for pretty much the same reason.

    Write what makes you happy. Write what feels right to you. From either side of the house you're going to have people who shake their heads. Too inclusive. Not inclusive enough. Never mind them.

    *You'll find my comment to that article under RayRay down in the comments. ;)
     
  15. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    This. This right here. This must be incised into our hearts with fire. I'll see if I can't squeeze it into my sig, Wrey. :D

    EDIT: It is done.
     
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  16. Fawky
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    Pretty much the same as everyone else, fuck 'em. The world is evolving, deal with it.
     
  17. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Pfft. You're not required to write your stories about the statistically most-likely individuals. If for some reason you had a LARGE population of characters--dozens and dozens, somebody new every page--and they were wildly skewed statistically, that might require some explanation. But, otherwise, no.
     
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  18. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    As everyone said. Your fine. Personally, I love this kind of critic because it labels them as worthless pretty immediately.

    Though, there is one fear here I think is valid. Which is the idea of random patterns. Basically, that you try to be so diverse that you never repeat. But true randomness does repeat and has clusters. I still think you are fine, but don't think you have to always be different.

    Though, I also have a mathmatically based counter argument! :D Well sort of. I just said it basically. Clusters!

    In my world, there is magic. And there is a power called Psychic. And there is a power called Warrior's Sense. Psychics are way more common. Like 1,000 times more common. Yet in my story currently. We only see like 3 psychics and like 10 warrior''s sense people. Just because they are more psychics in the world, doesn't mean there are more psychics in the book. Clusters are your friend. ;)
     
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  19. NiallRoach
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    NiallRoach Contributing Member

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    Bolding mine. I'd be hesitant to dismiss any comments out of hand like that. It's one thing to decide not to act on their criticism, but it's another thing to toss it out because of who they are, rather than what they've said.
     
  20. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Here's the thing. I write my characters with a tendency towards realistic statistics. Partly because I like to make my stories with a sense of believability, but also because it just pops into my mind. But you don't have to do that. If there's a reason for them to be grouped together, culturally or circumstantially, that's enough reason. You don't even need that honestly.

    Eh. You sound like you're saying you don't like incidental traits there in the article comment. Which I find fundamentally interferes with my sense of a vision, and with the degree of complexity and believability I like. Under that rule, I can't really do height, or hair colour, or nationality, or taste or sometimes politics. I can't give them a job unless it's directly relevant.Or their sense of humour. Or how organised/disorganised they are. If you can't have these you can't fill out the character's moments, particularly dialogue. Surely someone with your experience and wisdom knows the necessity to add little details? Why are sexuality and race different? Or are they not and you include that with everything?
     
  21. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I think Wrey was saying that writers shouldn't have to feel pressured to be as inclusive or non-inclusive as possible; they should be free to do what they want. Dracodomitor gets to write as many gay people as he/she wants, and I get to write as many blind/visually impaired people as I want. All that matters is the story and what feels natural for us. We don't have to justify it to anyone, we don't have to prove to anyone why our characters are the way they are. All that matters is that the characters are well-rounded and interesting, and the plot is entertaining.
     
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  22. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    I agree. But the article comment mentions avoiding including them incidentally. The post here I like, but the article comment reminds me of the argument I had with Justin on "Gay or Not Gay?" that frustrated me a bit.
     
  23. Feo Takahari
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    @Wreybies:

    There's a distinction to be made here between individual works of fiction and fiction in the aggregate. To draw an analogy, the Bechdel test is most useful when you consider the percentage of movies that don't pass it and what that says about overall filmmaking trends. It can't meaningfully determine whether any individual movie is "good" or "bad," because some stories may tend to focus more on male characters. In the same way, you have a lot of leeway for what percentage of your characters are gay or straight, so long as you're not trying to represent an entire city or something. Your story and themes may simply fit well with characters of a certain orientation.

    (I do think there are circumstances where racial demographics matter, but that's a bit beyond the scope of this thread.)
     
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  24. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    The Bechdel test is widely regarded by experts as being merely the most adequate of numerous other shittier tests. It relies on one single trope test, that while often effective is not at all guaranteed.
     
  25. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe just take out a 'gay' or two 'gays,' insert a white, male citizen, and re-submit to the library girls?
     
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