1. Donal
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    Donal Contributing Member

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    Writing a lesbian character

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Donal, Jul 14, 2010.

    Hi everyone, first post so be gentle please :)

    I am currently working on my first novel and was just wondering about lesbian characters. One of my secondary characters is a middle aged woman who has repressed lesbian feelings for many years and following the death of her husband cannot help but explore these feelings. I am a 21 year old man so this isnt exactly something I have encountered. But it fits so nicely in with the rest of the story and her character that I am reluctant to leave it out.

    Are there any other characters in fiction you would recommend I research or even ideas you could put forward to how I can achieve this in a believable manner.

    Le meas
     
  2. Dante Dases
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    Dante Dases Contributing Member Contributor

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    Put it forward as you would other sexual feelings. If it's repressed, make it subtle. Is it towards one particular woman? Have her make the same advances she would if it was a man.

    I'm not exactly an expert in same-sex relationships, so take my advice with a pinch of salt, but I have written one in the past (two men, not women), and I found it to be no more difficult to write than a heterosexual relationship.

    In terms of research, talk to any lesbian friends you may have. I'm also certain there may be one or two members of this forum who would be happy to talk to you about their own experiences when it came to discovering feelings for other women. Characters in fiction: Willow in Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the one which springs straight to mind.
     
  3. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    You could always read "Written on the Body," by Jeanette Winterson. Good book. And although the narrator's gender is never revealed, I think it has some insight to offer.
     
  4. Donal
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    Donal Contributing Member

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    Thanks both very helpful suggestions. Dante its not towards one particular woman. This character is the mother of the protagonist and is someone who has fallen pregnant at a young age, married out of convenience and repressed her true feelings due to her having a husband. This exploration of her feelings is a subplot.
     
  5. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Should probably read some Mansfield, and maybe Virginia Woolf (especially Mrs Dalloway, maybe). And for something a little more contemporary, Miranda July's No One Belongs Here More Than You and Sarah Waters' Tipping the Velvet.

    But don't write it so that she approaches this woman the same way she would a man. Homosexuality, male or female, is more complicated than heterosexuality gone awry.
     
  6. Donal
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    Donal Contributing Member

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    Understood. Hence why I posted a thread on it. I can write something on a love story. However becoming a homosexual is something that I cant relate to, I have no friends that way inclined and I understand that its more complicated than you boy meets girl, boy likes girl, boy and girl have problems.

    This is the main female character and I want to do the character justice. It will also (if done as I see it) fuel on the main storyline. It is also the only love interest/romance angle in the novel.

    I really appreciate all your suggestions guys and gals!!
     
  7. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    One thing here is to be aware that sexuality is a sliding scale that change over the course of life.

    The Kingsley scale is one that since the beginning of sexual research have been used to help define sexual history and orientation. It might be helpful to glance at it.

    The weakness of the Kingsley scale is that it don't recognise that sexuality change, and other aspects then sex. When defining a character I would take a close look at
    Klein sexual orientation grind

    Then I got some suggestions to take into consideration.

    How much sexual attraction did she feel towards her husband as an individual in the beginning of the marriage? To men in general? It's very possible to feel attractive to individual because you connect with them or whatever even if you don't like that sex in general.

    Has her sexual feeling towards her husband or men faded, if there was some to begin with? Has her desire for women always been this strong or has it gotten stronger? Etc,

    If it comes to sex I can as a someone that do both side of the deal say that the thing I reflect over (apart from the things you can learn from any porno) is that hot lesbian sex got a very different pace. Heterosexual sex tend to be straight build-up to a finish, trying to score as many points on the way as possible if its good. Lesbian sex tend to be a maddening spiral going on and on forever until it comes to rest, or way after way of stuff like the indian ocean. And the reflection thinly. Someone with the same buttons as yourself is awesome. Even if you don't write the sex this is things a les-virgin might reflect over.
     
  8. Ashleigh
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    Ashleigh Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think you should get in contact with some gay/lesbian people, and ask their opinion on relationships. You really do need to get this information first-hand, because books romantisize (sp?) alot, and sometimes stereotype to an unrealistic degree.

    Read Tipping The Velvet by Sarah Waters, and The Night Watch by the same author. Both deal with different eras which prevented women being open about their sexuality, and in some cases, even understanding what that is.

    Be warned, though, Sarah Waters is kind of poetic. I adore her books, but take them with a pinch of salt if you're planning a modern day piece; your characters will still vary greatly.

    I wouldn't find it too difficult to write about lesbian/gay people, because I've got alot of gay friends who 'came out' whilst we were in high school. They're now openly gay and have had several gay relationships. I was close to two of them whilst they were battling with their sexuality, and trying to accept it; long discussions with them really opened my eyes.

    However, writing anything unfamiliar to you personally is going to be tough, as it would be for me too. Research, research, research. They say 'write about what you know', but just make sure you actually know it first.

    Going back to what I originally said, don't be afraid to ask gay/lesbian people about their views; most people are more than happy to help, as long as your interest is respectful.
     
  9. Donal
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    Donal Contributing Member

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    Thanks Ashleigh, Thats very helpful.
     
  10. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    May be one more perspective on the topic is Meera Nair's movie Fire, set in India, two bored and neglected by their husbands(brothers) housewives had a sexual affair.

    Sense of guilt is usually something that torments someone who has a lesbian/gay affair depending on various factors like the society she lives in, religion, spouse, children, parents etc. Since your lesbian char is a middle aged (most probably financially independent) widow, her guilt factor will be limited to society and religion which of course will not be factor if she is in a gay friendly society and she is not religious. Her behaviour will also depend a lot on whether if she has children and how old are they if she has any. Very young or college going, she will have less problem, however teenagers (8 to 14) she will have lot of explaining to do.

    and yes, I DON"T believe sexuality can be measured on a scale.
     
  11. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    May be one more perspective on the topic is Meera Nair's movie Fire, set in India, two bored and neglected by their husbands(brothers) housewives had a sexual affair.

    Sense of guilt is usually something that torments someone who has a lesbian/gay affair depending on various factors like the society she lives in, religion, spouse, children, parents etc. Since your lesbian char is a middle aged (most probably financially independent) widow, her guilt factor will be limited to society and religion which of course will not be factor if she is in a gay friendly society and she is not religious. Her behaviour will also depend a lot on whether if she has children and how old are they if she has any. Very young or college going, she will have less problem, however teenagers (8 to 14) she will have lot of explaining to do.

    and yes, I DON"T believe sexuality can be measured on a scale.
     
  12. Chudz
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    Chudz Contributing Member

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    Now this goes back a ways, to a Human Sexuality course I took in college. We watched a movie that involved lesbians, not in a a sexual way, but in a relationship sense. One scene that stood out was where they were arguing, one of them in a convertible and the other just outside the driver's door. Finally they hit a point where the frustrated driver floored it and took off, kicking up some gravel. Then she stopped down the road a bit and reversed it back to her partner. Now this is a scene you can see happening between a male and female just as easily. So what I took out of it was that relationship issues can be common to the participants of said relationship no matter what their sex.

    I guess the difference comes not in how they handle their relationship, but how others perceive it. Going further, it would also depend on how they let others' opinions affect that relationship as well.

    Anyway, just my two cents and if anyone knows the movie I'm talking about please let me know, it's bugging the heck out of me right now, heh. :)
     
  13. Donal
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    Donal Contributing Member

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    Manav, thank you that is very helpful. I think actually describing a lesbian relationship or indeed lesbian sex scenes is something that will be very limited in the novel. My major concern is with her only coming to terms with this, developing a willingness to explore her lesbian feelings. I do plan for her to have a lesbian encounter but my description of it would be tame more focused on her emotions and reactions to the situation. Would it be helpful if I posted a character description.

    She isn't all that religious but she is the sort of woman who would be very conscious of the neighbours. She is a 41 year old woman with a 24 year old son. She got married aged 18 to a man who wasn't the child's father as she thought it was the best thing for the boy. She would have also been very conscious of the idea of being a single mother and the community thinking she is a woman of loose morals. Now she has spent 24 years living a loveless but not unhappy marriage in a very residential community. She becomes a widower early in the book and slowly but surely realises that if she is true to her feelings she will be happy. This may or may not end well for her. I have two possible endings depending on how this story ties in with the main plot and parallel plot.
     
  14. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    I'm with Ashleigh on this. If you want it be believable and something people can relate to then you need firsthand information. Best of luck. :)
     
  15. Donal
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    Donal Contributing Member

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    That seems to be the best advice yes. I don't think I'm going to bother too much with reading other works of fiction. I would rather find firsthand accounts of women who this has happened to - especially those who it has been difficult for such as religious women.

    Although the main character and primary storyline in this novel are based on a person that I know and a more exaggerated version of a situation he found himself in this is new to me. I know you should write about what you know but to be honest I think I would be very shackled if I always did that. Spending a few weeks research would be better.
     
  16. tashaa-jayy
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    tashaa-jayy Member

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    well, if you ever need to talk about to a lesbian im here to talk just send me a pm about it and ill help out as much as i can
     
  17. Donal
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    Donal Contributing Member

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    Thanks Tashaa I appreciate that. Dont be surprised if I take you up on that offer!!
     
  18. tashaa-jayy
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    i wont be at all :) ill be waiting for it if you ever need to talk
     
  19. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    So, she does have reservations about being in a lesbian relationship, as it normally is in real life.

    As for her coming to terms with it, despite knowing that she is sexually attracted to women she will definitely ask herself "what am I doing? Is this for real?" and such questions when she actually have the encounter. So, you are on the right track when you say you'll focus on her emotions and reactions to the situation. Sexual scenes, if there is any, should be used to explore her emotions. She will feel more and more comfortable as she encounters more people like herself as she venture out in the lesbian world. You might say she is not going to go to a lesbian bar to meet people. Even so, a lesbian she comes to know knows at least two more lesbians, the two have at least two each in their contact list and so on... So, she will eventually meet somebody who went through the same thing as hers and who has become much more comfortable with her sexuality.

    PM me if you want further discussion.
     

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