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  1. Vance
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    Vance New Member

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    The fine line between bromance and homosexuality.

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Vance, Mar 18, 2011.

    Don't get me wrong, I've got nothing against homosexuality, but in a story I'm writing I'd like to focus on bromances as opposed to romances of any sort. I wrote a rough sketch and gave it to a few friends to read, and they all went "...what a bromance. This is how friendship between men should truly be. BEER PONG TIME TO CELEBRATE OUR BROMANCE GUYS!"

    I tested that with a few other friends as well, and the reaction was pretty much the same, down to the inevitable drinking match.

    Then I showed it to another friend(a girl) and she said "this is so cute, I didn't know you were okay writing gay stories." She wasn't mocking it or anything, she just took a few aspects of the story and interpreted differently than everyone else did.

    Anyway, my question is, how to drive the point home that two characters in question are having a bromance rather than a romance? Are there things that look bromantic to those who have had a bromance in the past but look strangely homosexual to those who hadn't?

    ...And I apologize in advance in case my post offends anyone, because I know it sounds a bit weird.

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  2. w176
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    w176 New Member Contributor

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    If sexuality is the the thin red line, you can use that line to drive home the point. Have the guys go out to a bar being each other wing men trying to pick up girls. Or something else making clear where their sexual interest lies.
  3. Vance
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    Vance New Member

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    The story in question takes place inside a classic "closed circle" in a ski lodge where everyone is a potential murderer and they can't get out, so it becomes hard to have them hit on girls randomly.

    The reason I need to drive home the bromance aspect is that you need to realize just how bromantic the two main characters are in order to solve the murder that happens during the story. If the reader mistakes it for a romance, then the murder becomes impossible to solve. And if the reader mistakes it for a romance...that would be my fault. So that's why I need to really really drive the point home.

    I have them comment on "offscreen" girlfriends(which can't be onscreen due to the limited cast) but that apparently doesn't seem to stop certain people from assuming that they are secretly in love with each other. It's a complicated situation...
  4. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot New Member Contributor

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    Show it to more people. Maybe your one friend's just a dunce.
  5. Arathald
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    Arathald New Member

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    Doesn't come across as offensive at all to me. Some ways to emphasize that the guys are just friends:
    • Have them talk about their respective romantic interests with each other, especially if these interests are girls
    • Have one openly gay member in the group -- this will create a contrast based on the group dynamics, and some friendly jokes can emphasize that there is a difference there (It sounds like you might be uncomfortable with this, since you thought your original question might be offensive; if this is the case, feel free to ask again here, and we can help you sort out what is and isn't offensive. As long as you don't intend to cause offense, don't worry about accidentally saying something wrong, we'll make sure to point it out and not judge you for it :D .)
    • Make sure they're doing things as a group, and not just one-on-one. One-on-one is fine, but too much of it can look like a gay relationship, even in real life -- nothing wrong with that, but you're specifically trying to avoid this.
    • Look at how groups like fraternities interact -- they often have exactly what you're describing and can be a good place to get research from.
    • If you have these kinds of relationships, just like in real life, someone is going to say "wait... are they gay?" and you're just going to have to deal with it. If you're uncomfortable with even the slightest question about their sexuality, this isn't the topic for you to be writing about.

    Edit:
    Additional Point:
    Making them act *too* masculine isn't a good way of making them look straight, but avoiding common gaydar tip-offs is. Again, if you have anything you think might fall into that category, ask us about it specifically.
  6. w176
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    w176 New Member Contributor

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    People always read into different things into any work of fiction. If the majority sees it as a bromance, then you write. You never reach a 100% of the readers understanding everything the way you want it.

    Some girls got the hots for male romances and will see them everywhere.
  7. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot New Member Contributor

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    Hahaha! Like when I'm watching a powerful, dramatic confrontation between two female friends on TV and find myself thinking "Come on, kiss already!"?
  8. Vance
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    Vance New Member

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    Thanks for the suggestions! I'm not so much uncomfortable writing it as I am afraid of accidentally offending someone. I'm fine with the subject of sexuality being approached, but I need to make sure to drive the bromance-not-actually-a-romance theme since it's vital for the story.

    I'm actually basing the bromance on my own experience, so I'm pretty used to the "mistaken for gay" scenarios, just...not in writing. It's one thing in real life. In real life you can answer "you two act like you are married!" with "One key difference dude. We are actually happy together." and just joke around, but it's a bit harder to make sure that most people "get" the tone you are using in writing. Reality is too unrealistic at times.

    For example, on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the most bromantic and 1 being the most romantic, how does the following scenario sound?

    ->Character is accused of being a murderer. Evidence points against him.
    ->His bro refuses to acknowledge that evidence and drinks the supposed "poison" people thought to be evidence to prove it wasn't poison.
    ->They were isolated in a sky lodge, so they couldn't prove it wasn't poison until the snowstorm passed, and it could last for days.
    ->The character's justification for doing that basically comes down to "I trust you with my life bro."

    By the by, I'll get a few more people I know to offer their opinions on the story, organize it as a graph and post it here after I'm done with the data collecting. I think that the results could be useful in the future.
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  9. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot New Member Contributor

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    Ten. Sam jumping in the boat with Frodo-level brotastically bromantic.
  10. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma New Member Contributor

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    Well if they don't kiss, cuddle, squeeze each other behinds and have girlfriends off camera you should be safe.
  11. Arathald
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    Arathald New Member

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    I'd say 9-10. The key would be to make sure you establish their relationship to be the kind that they trust each other implicitly like that. At that point it will make sense for them to do that. Doing something big and rash that doesnt make sense is a hint that someone has romantic feelings. :D
  12. w176
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    w176 New Member Contributor

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    I think have the friend get very defensive of his friend rather the endlessly trusting would fix it. If he became defensive it would also have an element of denial because if the "murder bro" has done it the murder-bro also sort of betrayed his friend and his friend have been to blind to see it.
  13. art
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    art Senior Member Contributor

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    I think you're over-complicating things somewhat on the back of that sort of risible view of things that was/is characterized by/ fostered by Tarantino's (I think) take on Top Gun. I've lived with young gay men..and I'm keenly aware of the sexual drives of young men - be they gay or straight - and the thin line your after is whether they have sex or not..
  14. Arathald
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    Arathald New Member

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    There's more subtlety to whether someone is gay or not than just whether they have sex with some of their same gender. Just like heteroxesual relationships, there is sexual tension, there are undertones, hints dropped in the way people speak, romantic feelings and gestures. I think *this* is the territory he's trying to avoid. Gay isn't all about sex -- them not having sex (or even them not having any kind of physical contact that could be interpreted as sexual) isn't enough to show a reader that the characters aren't gay. If he wants to make it clear that his characters aren't romantically involved, I think his concern is a completely valid one.
  15. HorusEye
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    HorusEye New Member Contributor

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    Funny, I was always convinced that Sam was homosexual and I think it's the number one scenario that people will point to for an example of suppressed homosexuality.
  16. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma New Member Contributor

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    It is enough to show that they are not having a homosexual relationship with each other. Which makes this particular relationship a bromance and not a gay relationship. (just like a woman can be just a friend with a man - a gay man can have male friends they are not having a relationship with).

    Whether you characters come across as gay or not is a different issue to how to depict a friendship.
  17. art
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    art Senior Member Contributor

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    His concern is certainly valid...insofar as a lot of people think in those terms and he's thinking of his readership ...and while I'm being deliberately black and white in my treatment here - of course I recognise some of the elements you raise here - I would still rather stand by it than an endlessly nuanced account that doesn't chime (much) with my personal experience.
  18. Arathald
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    Arathald New Member

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    If you have two close main characters who come across as gay, people are going to make assumptions. What I understood is that the OP wants to convey that there's absolutely no romantic feelings between them, which is a whole different game than showing that they're not in an active romantic relationship.

    Anyone, gay or straight, has to acknowledge that just because you don't have a relationship with someone doesn't mean that there can't be some feelings one way or the other (or both), and that the sexual tension can exist outside of that relationship, which, as I understand it, is what the OP wants to avoid.

    And my point was that my experience (which I think is much closer to the situation at hand) doesn't at all match yours.

    Edit:
    I don't mean to say that in real life that sexual tension is always going to be there, that's clearly not true, but readers are going to assume, and it's that external perspective that counts here. I'm reminded of a Seinfeld episode where people made such an assumption about Jerry and George.

    Another thought: If one of these characters is the POV character for any significant amount of time, there might be some thoughts you could interject that would be a little more clear (as long as you aren't so transparent as to say "Joe loved Bobby.... but not in that way").
  19. art
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    art Senior Member Contributor

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    Is your experience peculiar? Is mine? Are you too close to accurately observe? Am I at a distance such that my observations are unclouded by (excessive) emotions or in fact too distant to be of use?.. And so on. Personal experience takes us only so far but, naturally, we are all apt to cling to, to favour, our own. So it goes.

    A different point of view never hurts.
  20. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma New Member Contributor

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    If the characters are coming across as gay that is down to more than the relationship - presumably they have interaction with other people as well etc.

    And if you are in a bromance it may not be sexual tension but there will be a level of flirting.
  21. Arathald
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    Arathald New Member

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    Well, the point is that the nuanced view of things doesn't fit with your experience. I can tell you fairly objectively and with an extremely high degree of certainty that the nuanced view of this situation is, in fact, much closer to reality. I don't mean to offend you or be rude, but it just sounds like your experience in dealing with this issue is quite a bit less than mine and more incidental (and that's mainly because I, frankly, do have a lot of experience in this exact situation, and not just in one or two isolated instances, either).

    Once we start talking about how it's viewed from the outside, and not the facts of how a situation like this looks internally, then we have room for opinions and debate as to how readers will percieve it.

    I can tell you with very close to absolute certainty what factors will play into it from the characters' points of view (and I have). From there, we can examine different external points of view to see how it should be presented to the reader.

    Edit: Sorry, it's very late, I may be coming across more harshly than intended. I respect your experience and the viewpoint it gives you. I just want to make sure we're all clear on how this looks from an internal perspective -- that those nuances and the sexual tension and everything are significant, and then take it from there.

    Good point, that's definitely true. The question is, how do you differentiate one kind of flirting from the other for the reader? In my opinion, it's a difficult enough problem that it may be worth it to avoid the flirting altogether if there's a chance it will be misread, but perhaps there's a better way of doing it?
  22. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma New Member Contributor

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    That is why it is as simple as these two don't have sex. A good strong romantic relationship is a good friendship the distinguishing feature is you don't sleep with that person. My bestfriend is male - my husband calls him my other husband for a reason. (bestfriend is gay).

    If it's a good bromance then the reader should actually be wondering where the line is because the feel and tension should be similar. Just giving the two off camera girlfriends and a joke or some sort of comment about there being nothing between them should be enough.
  23. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma New Member Contributor

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    That is why it is as simple as these two don't have sex. A good strong romantic relationship is a good friendship with sex. My bestfriend is male - my husband calls him my other husband for a reason. (bestfriend is gay). I interact in a similar fashion with both - distingushing features are bestfriend gets no affection I would be uncomfortable my husband seeing. My husband on the other hand gets stuff I wouldn't want bestfriend witnessing ;) would scar him for life anyway.

    If it's a good bromance then the reader should actually be wondering where the line is because the feel and tension should be similar. Just giving the two off camera girlfriends and a joke or some sort of comment about there being nothing between them should be enough.
  24. Arathald
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    Arathald New Member

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    And that's the very point I disagree with. There's more difference between a romantic and a bromantic relationship than sex. They may have lots of commonalities, especially on the surface, but there's so much more than that to it, so many other telling factors.

    I think that may be where the OP is running into trouble. It's much harder to give the reader a feel of which kind of relationship it is in this context, so, it's all about the subtle clues given to the reader, who will likely make his or her decision more on the subconscious level than on the conscious level -- there are differences, but they're sometimes rather hard to find.
  25. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma New Member Contributor

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    I edited my post slightly sorry had thoughts about it - and no my romantic relationships have only ever been good friendships with snogging. Maybe a few more glances at their behind.

    I think it is an example where tell rather than show is needed.
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