1. Ziku
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    Ziku Member

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    This way because I WANT him to be....?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Ziku, Jan 11, 2009.

    Writer's forum, it's been a while. Ziku missed you ^^

    Well then, better get down to today's business....

    For a while, I've wanted to more strongly "deversify" the characters in my series, as they all were pretty much composed of reletivly young white guys. So I've added some girls, trying to inncorperate some blacks, but most recent and seemingly most drastic....

    I've decided that one of my major characters (the elder cousin of my major character) is gay.

    Before I made this decision, this character (he goes, by the way, under the alias "Blazer") was in a failed relationship with a woman he loved and struggled with his mental state of being. Inevitably, I concluded him being gay actually fell into place, his relationship with a woman he loved fell through for the reason he couldn't love her the way she did him, and throughout his mental state of being is questioned because he considers himself a freak for it.

    I pitched the new Blazer to my girlfriend (primarily because she is a bisexual), and she had mixed feelings. She's always a fan of non-steryotypical gays (He's meant to come across as a womanizer when he's first introduced) and all in all it seemed to fall into place. But she also felt like I was making I'm making gay just for the sake of having a gay in my series, and I should be giving this more consideration.

    So judge it as you can see it.... Am I making a mistake here?
    (Also, just to assure all involved, I am not gay or bisexual, I just have a lot of gay friends and like to think of myself as a very opened minded person)
     
  2. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    Well...I personally don't tend to make characters a certain way for the sake of making them a certain way. I have lots of gay characters, but that's just how they are, I didn't have the feeling that I SHOULD include them just to be diverse. I recall that whenever I tried to add a black character to the mix it came across terribly because I wasn't making the character black because that's what they are, I was just trying to mix things up a little, so the effort fell flat (and as a result I STILL don't have any developed black characters in my stories).

    So perhaps you should examine your motives a little and see if your character does come across as being gay for gay's sake.

    In your defense, you say that him being gay just seemed to "fall into place," so perhaps he was gay all along and you just never consciously knew it? I've had similar things happen with my characters. In such cases it might SEEM like we're suddenly making the characters a certain way for the sake of being different, but who can really say? We might have meant them to be that way all along without even knowing it. The mind works in strange ways.

    I think your best bet is to spend more time developing and working on the character as a PERSON rather than as a GAY PERSON (i. e., focus on him as a complete individual, an individual who happens to be gay in addition to lots of other things, rather than as a gay individual). My characters became a lot more realistic when I did that. Then perhaps you'll either figure out if this was meant to be, or at least you'll develop him so convincingly that it won't matter what your reason for making him gay is--he'll be believable as a character, and that's what matters.

    (Your girlfriend could also be biased because she might know that you've never had gay characters in your writing before, and she could know your motive for including him. Someone who doesn't know you won't be able to tell, if you make the character believable.)
     
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  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    My impression, from the phrasing, is that you are selecting traits and then creating characters to encompass them. I begin with a character, just a very general impression, and begin selecting traits as I go. I probably have certain traits preselected because they are important to the story, but the diversity mostly develops in the course of writing.

    Side note: The word is diversify.
     
  4. Ziku
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    Ziku Member

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    (Thank you for the spelling correction there Cogito, I forget this site has spell check a lot)

    Hmm…. Tehuti brings up an interesting suggestion. Blazer being gay all along? It’s funny, because of all my characters, I think Blazer has changed the most in my series since he was first introduced, he started out as a villain and ended up being one of my primary good guys. But interestingly enough, I never exactly defined his sexuality, he’s a very stuck up character with a lot of inner pain and always seems to care more about himself then having a girlfriend or anything. He became someone you would ASSUME was a womanizer (he has a strong live for the moment attitude) but never really shows interest. Even in one of the old endings when he has a child, no mother is introduced. There were times in the past when I tried to give him a woman in the earlier stages of his life, but it never really seemed to work….

    I find it rather interesting that I created him in sixth grade, and didn’t even know what homosexuality is until a year later. He’s always just been a very out of control and nutty character (which he uses to mask all his inner pain), and, for a while (and I don’t know why), I began concluding that part of this pain was because he thinks he is a freak. But why? Why do I think my character thinks he’s a freak? I wondered this and maybe that was what happened. Blazer came out of my mental closet or something, and that is why he considered himself a freak. In the universe of my book, he is pretty much the only gay out of the closet on earth, he considers himself this freak for this and for forcing himself to leave the woman he loved years ago (she admitted being in love with him to him to him and he ran from her).

    This has really made me think a lot…. And I think it may be a good assumption that he always was gay, I just didn’t realize it.
     
  5. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Don't create a diverse cast of characters for the sake of creating it, especially if you refer to black people as "blacks." To me that always reads as if the person is refering to them as things and not individuals. And that's the key here. We are all individuals, so you should treat your characters that way, regardless of their cultural or genetic background. I say genetic background because there are plenty of people who happened to be black or whatever who do not fit into any cultural or behavioural expectations of that background, while there are others who are perfect stereotypes,which is very important to remember.

    I've never liked stories who have a diverse cast for the sake of having a diverse cast. It almost always looks clumsy and obvious. I tend to have a fairly diverse cast of characters, but I live in a city where literally half of the people living here were born somewhere else. There are also literally over 100 languages spoken here. I once named two character Sok-Leng and Mahad simply because I set it where I went to high school and I had a classmates with those names. It's realistic in Toronto, and that's another point about creating a diverse cast. If you set it somewhere where you're not likely to have such a character, don't have one. Most of my stories are set in Toronto, so I have a diverse cast. On the other hand, a story I set in Cornwall would mostly have white characters with English and French background. Let me give you two hollywood examples of what I'm talking about.

    Saving Private Ryan: The military was segregated until 1948, yet this movie which was set in 1943, has one black soldier who was killed very early on. It amazed me that in a movie that paid so much attantion to historical accuracy would slip up on a fact that I was able to confirm in two minutes with a search engine. It is very unlikely that they would have any black people in this story unless they bumped into one f the Tuskegee airmen who happened to get lost.

    The Patriot: They have one black character who starts out as a slave. I have no idea if it's actual historical fact, but in the story they have him serving in the war to earn his freedom, and he sticks with the people he had worked for. Whether it was historical fact or not, it was done in a believable way.
     
  6. Ziku
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    Ziku Member

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    THAT is insightful. Not only am I perhaps making a mistake, but my post aparently made me look a bit racist <:eek:

    I suppose it isn't a good thing to be too diverse if I don't have to be, yes it is obious and looks dumb.... What I'm questioning now IS it just because I want it to be?

    I'm a strong believer in "Real just not tangable" and all, that's why I've never "forced" any changes to my characters to be a certain way.... If it seemed illogical for them to be such way, I do not make them that way, even if I want them to be. But in Blazer's case it seemed like it not only made sense, but it's fitting. I'm now considering he's been gay since his inital creation, just didn't realize it. It feels like it adds up at this point
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Back in the mid to late 1960s, it was "fashionable" for middle and upper class whites to have black friends and lovers. They would be on display at parties, and their sponsors were considered oh so open-minded and liberal. Thus arose the term "token black."

    Don't fill your writing with token minorities. Yes, diversity is more common today than ever before, but if you force it, it will be obvious.
     
  8. S-wo
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    S-wo Active Member

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    Yeah I really don't have any token characters in my books as being a minority myself I could pretty much give equal treatment to all of my characters. I'm not white, but the main two characters in my first book are white. Even though I am not it's probably easier for me to write about them because you have so many examples from TV, movies, and books, so it really shouldn't be that hard for anybody. Being an African American I can definitely can write a black character seeing as I've grown up with the history, culture and all and I can do Hispanics too since I was friends with some for about four years and became close to them and their culture. I could probably do Asians too as with the same reason in the white area that I stated. I don't think it could be too much of an issue if you're writing a fantasy novel as probably the different groups will have different backgrounds in a fictional world.

    I don't think I could write about a gay character since I am not gay and don't have any close relationship with any.
     
  9. Ziku
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    Ziku Member

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    Blazer is by no means the "steryotypical" gay guy (Meaning no fancy drinks, no wearing pink, and for the love of all things holy no "Hey ya'll'.... Not the they're bad things, I have some friends who identify as flammers and they're pretty cool). Blazer is just a flat out guy who happens to be attracted to men. I suppose I could ask a couple of my gay friends about their insight (not counting my girlfriend that is....)
     
  10. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    The important thing is that you treat the character like an individual and unless it plays a major roll in the story, don't make a big deal of the fact that he is gay.
     
  11. Hetroclite
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    Diversifying your characters, because you have differing perspective to show, is a good idea. But diversifying simply for the sake of diversifying creates the problems you have now. First thing to do is write down everything you want the story to say & do. Then write down how you want the story to end so you can see what is needed to accomplish that ending. Then you can see what kind of characters are needed fulfill that goal. Characters are tools for the story. You need to know what the job is before you select your tools.
     
  12. Burman
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    Burman New Member

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    I think including different demographics for the sake of diversity is a cop out. New age... cop out.
     
  13. Dcoin
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    Dcoin Contributing Member

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    I'd like to add a different spin on the conversation.

    It's been decades since a good part of printed and/or electronic media has become obsessed with the inclusion of every group within the targeted society. There is truth to points above that they should not be included for sake of inclusion. However, will publishers be cognizant of this fact when choosing books to be printed?

    If the answer is to this question is ‘yes’ then finding ways to force character diversity becomes a very real challenge.
     
  14. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Making sure you publish books that represent all the cultures of youe audience isn't quite the same thing. It's comendable to do that intentionally as long as your priority is quality work. That doesn't have the same effect as making sure that you insert a black guy in your story so that black people won't feel left out when they read your book, because the publishers (I should hope) are chosing books that were written about diverse backgrounds for the right reasons.
     
  15. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    Rei is a very intelligent person. Listen to her.

    Actually, I believe in self will and I would not discourage anyone from adding a black person or a homosexual into his book, even if he only does it 'just because'.

    If you are doing it, however; to NOT be racist, or sexist, then it is completely different.
    If you just want more diversity because you are interested in more diversity, that is your prerogative, but to do so in an attempt to be less prejudiced -- even though you were not prejudiced before -- is just silly and contrived.

    Also, what ever happened to the word 'homosexual'? I prefer the term.
    Personally, though; I don't think that there is a fundamental difference between a homosexual and a heterosexual. I don't believe homosexuals 'know things' about homosexuals that heterosexuals do not.
    There is no barrier there, save for a moral one, and that is irrelevant.
    You show your bisexual friend, but what does she SERIOUSLY know that you do not? What it feels like to be shunned because of her 'sexual preference'?
    Really? Meh.
     

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