1. Grace Usala

    Grace Usala New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2020
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0

    how to write lgbt characters for straight people? help!

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Grace Usala, Nov 30, 2020.

    Hello,

    I am a bi person writing a bi main co-protag in a dystopian future, around 2150-2160. The character's sexuality is the least of her issues she needs to worry about. So, she doesn't explicitly wonder if she's bi or not because she doesn't really care. She's also not sexually mature for her age (14.5) so it doesn't occur to her to consider if what she feels is attraction or not, and she doesn't have any sexual fantasies because she isn't aware what she's feeling is sexual attraction. That being said, some may think I'm queerbaiting because her first romantic interest is a lesbian, but the bi girl ends up with a guy while the lesbian ends up with another lesbian. I also don't go out of my way to use the word bisexual. Do straight people need me to be upfront about a character's queerness to understand they are queer? Does it need to be explicitly stated to count as representation?
     
  2. marshipan

    marshipan Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2013
    Messages:
    1,629
    Likes Received:
    4,186
    Location:
    Texas
    That's tough. Perhaps you can eliminate the potential queer baiting accusation by mentioning past crushes on males and females? That way when the f/f encounter happens people understand it's not a "gay awakening" nor feel like you pulled a bait and switch.
     
    Oscar Leigh, DK3654 and deadrats like this.
  3. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2016
    Messages:
    20,474
    Likes Received:
    23,836
    Location:
    East devon/somerset border
    some may think more or less anything... just write a good character... regardless of whether they are gay, straight, bi, ace or enjoy sex with heads of lettuce, they aren't defined by their orientation and most readers will get that... if as you say the story is about the dystopia not about this characters sexuality they also probably won't care that much
     
  4. IasminDragon

    IasminDragon Member

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2020
    Messages:
    134
    Likes Received:
    147
    Location:
    Lincolnshire
    All I care about is how pivotal this 14 year old's romantic interests are to the fate of the universe.
     
    Storysmith, DifeTig and montecarlo like this.
  5. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Potatoes again? Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2015
    Messages:
    17,788
    Likes Received:
    34,163
    Location:
    Face down in the dirt
    Currently Reading::
    Telemachus Sneezed
    Are bisexual and same-sex attracted people accepted in her society? In Heinlein's I Will Fear No Evil the MC mentions six "sexes" (I think that's the word he used): Male-hetero, male-homo, male ambi(sexual), female-hetero, female-homo, and female-ambi, and IIRC there no stigma or privilege attached to any of those orientations.

    Also, you're describing a character who is on the cusp of sexuality, so there's going to be a certain amount of confusion (not orientation confusion) in general regarding sex and sexuality. "Why are people's chests suddenly so interesting?" "What does (s)he look like under that school uniform?" "How do I get kissed?" I'm pretty much a Kinsey 1 or 2 at most, so I don't know what puberty and its attendant attractions would be like for a bi person, but I imagine things could get pretty overwhelming. Show that building intensity towards people of both sexes and your readers will follow along.
     
    Oscar Leigh, jannert and DifeTig like this.
  6. Kalisto

    Kalisto Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2015
    Messages:
    888
    Likes Received:
    917
    Some Bisexual people probably won't get it either.

    If you don't trust your audience, don't write for them. Very simple. Because this is really what the question boils down to. "Can I trust my audience?" Well, apparently not. Which is really a shame and why I hate this "diversity trend." Because people start to treat other people like they're stupid and they won't get things because they're not "in the same tribe" as you are. To be real, your view of being bi is probably just as likely to be false and bias as someone on the "outside" so to speak. Something to really think about. That the "insider's view" is not necessarily a correct or complete view. And the "outsider's view" is not necessarily a bias or a false one. Sometimes you can see more being on the outside looking in than you can on the inside looking out.

    Give your audience a chance! We've come a long way in accepting others.

    When I was younger, I was told that people are generally stupid. They won't "get things" unless it's spelled out for them. So I would spend this amazing amount of time spelling all the characters' motives and traits out. I thought I was being really clever. Then I got this feedback from one person that I thought was completely unfair. It basically came down to him pretty much saying that reading my book was about like putting the brakes on every five seconds. Just as you were accelerating, I had to slam on the brakes and make sure my reader understood. "You get it! He's gay! You see that? Do you get that? Okay, just making sure you know he's gay. You got it?" They got it. They got it when the character kept writing letters to another male character and using words of endearment. Most people know how to add 2 +2 together. And if they don't get it, who cares if it's not a big part of the story like you claim?

    I'm sorry I came off harsh, but this "woke" representation stuff in literature just urks me to no end. It's the dumbest thing in literature since the Victorians decided to rewrite Romeo and Juliet with a happy ending. And that's mostly because everyone now has to second guess whether they're doing this "representation" stuff correctly. You know who made the rules for how to and not to do representation? It wasn't the audiences. It was other writers! It was other queer people who want to keep you second guessing and hopefully out of writing so they don't have to have competition! They can keep writing their drivle, while awesome writers like yourself with fresh ideas have to second guess everything.

    I'm honestly more likely to read a brainless book full of hunky white alpha males with machine guns that's only purpose is to be male as they rescue blond headed bimbos, than I am to read some rediculous drivel that's trying to look deep by checking off all the representation points. At least the former isn't trying to pretend its anything other than what it is.

    I'm sick and tired of it. I'm bi myself, and I refuse to believe that I'm going to die (or whatever) because pop culture isn't acknowledging my existance every two seconds.... yup... two seconds passed, still no gay Disney princess and yet I 'm still here. It's a miracle!

    So, I'm begging you, whatever you decide to do, be authentic. If people get it, they get it. If they don't, they don't. But they surely won't get it where it matters if you write insincearely because you think your audience won't get something. I promise, they will get it!

    (This is why I plan on self publishing and just getting myself a cult following.)
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2020
  7. montecarlo

    montecarlo Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2020
    Messages:
    530
    Likes Received:
    495
    Location:
    America's Heartland
    This is where Stephen King's advice comes in handy:

    1. Write the first draft with the door closed, do not worry what the world thinks
    2. Tell the truth, no matter how ugly
    Related to #2, you really need to consider the POV you are writing from, because the truth differs from each POV.

    No, your readers aren't idiots. They will understand.

    Write from the heart, not for quotas.
     
  8. Fervidor

    Fervidor Senior Member

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2020
    Messages:
    398
    Likes Received:
    407
    Location:
    Sweden
    I gotta say, as a heterosexual it feels sorta weird to give a bisexual advice on writing queer characters. But here goes.

    I think you sorta answered your own question here: The character is barely even aware of her attractions in the first place, has no real concept of her sexual orientation, and has other things to deal with. If she doesn't even realize what her feelings mean, then she can't actually self-identify as bisexual. And it's not like anyone else can define her orientation for her - she's the only one who gets to decide who she is.

    So, if she doesn't even know if she's bi or lesbian or whatever, and doesn't particularly care, then why should you have to clarify that to the reader? That seems to go completely against the point of writing a character who's clueless about their sexuality.

    It sure sounds to me like her sexual identity isn't the focus of the story, or even very relevant to her own character arc beyond her choice of love interest. And that's totally fine, you're not obligated to make a big deal out of it. You should focus on what matters: Plot, characterization, thematic subject. Unless you're actually telling a story about a young girl's sexual awakening wherein she comes to identify as queer, it's just flavor.

    I mean, I sure hope the average reader isn't that dense.

    Personally, I actually prefer it when stories don't over-emphasize this stuff. I like it whenever a story only addresses a character's sexual orientation whenever it happens to come up, and it's not necessarily a plot point or overt soap-box statement or - God forbid - that character's main defining trait. I think that's nice.

    Because isn't that how it's supposed to work? Thinking you need special reasons to include LGTB characters is inherently heteronormative, since it implies that stories are about straight cis people by default. That's what leads to tokenism, even if the writer doing it means well.

    I don't know what does or does not "count" as representation - I'm not aware of any strict definition. But I think the best way to represent queer people in fiction is to simply acknowledge that characters in your story can be queer and that's perfectly normal: They get the same treatment as any other character, the same roles and journeys, and whichever gender they happen to be attracted to is pretty incidental.
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2020
    deadrats, Lifeline and montecarlo like this.
  9. marshipan

    marshipan Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2013
    Messages:
    1,629
    Likes Received:
    4,186
    Location:
    Texas
    You guys would be surprised how dense people are and people are particularly sensitive about queer stuff.
     
    Oscar Leigh and DK3654 like this.
  10. Lifeline

    Lifeline South. Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2015
    Messages:
    4,290
    Likes Received:
    5,807
    Location:
    On the Road.
    Tell me when you do, please :)

    For me, writing from the outside in is just as valid as writing from the inside out. Show respect and treat anything you write about with care, and you should be alright. And if others won't like it... they don't need to read your stuff.
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2020
    Kalisto likes this.
  11. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2016
    Messages:
    20,474
    Likes Received:
    23,836
    Location:
    East devon/somerset border
    EOTD some people will be sensitive about anything... writers have to learn to ignore the naysayers and just write for their audience
     
    Storysmith and Kalisto like this.
  12. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody The Ole Frazzle-Dazzle Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2018
    Messages:
    3,022
    Likes Received:
    6,263
    I think maybe just write it.

    And maybe read the novella, Upright Women Wanted. I've read books with LBGTQ characters in it, but this one was the first book i've read written by a queer author with the whole cast being LGBTQ. the jist of it is a young woman running away from home because she's going to be married to a man who killed her "best friend" after catching her with a woman. She meets a group of other women who she finds rescues women in her situation and takes them to safety.
    Pretty straight forward.
    HOWEVER, because its a novella, there wasnt enough time to build up some things and explain things that me, a straight person, had questions about. these questions werent to the point where i couldnt enjoy the read.
    I had the opportunity to speak with the author and ask questions and she told me. a lot was based on LGBTQ history.

    anyway, my point is... she wrote the story she wanted to write, not the story she thought we want to read. Some people will get it (and some people may get the references she put in there), and some people wont.
    thats why there is google, lol.
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2020
    deadrats and Lifeline like this.
  13. marshipan

    marshipan Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2013
    Messages:
    1,629
    Likes Received:
    4,186
    Location:
    Texas
    Of course, but as someone who writes queer things and pays attention to media responses to queer stuff, this is a genuine concern for the author. It's not about sensitivity in particular but about lgbt readers looking for and wanting to read other lgbt characters they relate to. I've seen lesser things hounded for queer baiting. It can upset a reader if they think they've found a lesbian fiction for it then to change to a male/female. It's important that the reader doesn't feel like they were mislead and therefore it's important to make clear in the beginning what to expect.
     
  14. More

    More Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2019
    Messages:
    234
    Likes Received:
    163
    I would not worry too much about classifying your characters. Just write your story without labelling anybody. I write stories that involve things that the so called straights do not understand . You can't write for everybody.
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2020
  15. DifeTig

    DifeTig The skeleton, ghost, and living dream are one Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2020
    Messages:
    136
    Likes Received:
    154
    Location:
    Louisiana, USA
    I'd say don't worry about it. All that matters is that the character and story are interesting. I wouldn't worry too much about it, unless it is central to the plot.
     
    Gravy likes this.
  16. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin I don't feel tardy.... Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2017
    Messages:
    9,693
    Likes Received:
    16,992
    Location:
    Rhode Island
    How much have you written? Might not even be an issue yet. Like the others have said, it probably doesn't matter much if the characters and story are good. I wouldn't go out of your way to look for issues. Plenty of those in the nuts and bolts of any story.
     
  17. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2016
    Messages:
    4,779
    Likes Received:
    4,621
    I think subtext is often a writer's best friend. Try playing around with that, given your MC is young and could possibly be understanding her feelings less than readers do.
     
    Oscar Leigh likes this.
  18. TheOtherPromise

    TheOtherPromise Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2020
    Messages:
    307
    Likes Received:
    329
    I'd say it depends on how you handle her female romantic interest section of the book.

    First having the female romantic interest end up with a different girl at the end should go a long way to quiet complaints of queer-baiting in my mind, so you've got that in your favor.

    Second, given that this is a book and I'm assuming you are using a POV style that allows the reader to get into the protagonist's head, you can make sure to indicate that her feelings for the female romantic interest aren't completely platonic. She doesn't have to have an ' Aha, I'm totally bi.' moment, for the reader to realize that her wanting to date/be with another girl means she ain't straight.

    If however her romantic interest never goes past what can be seen as simple admiration, I can see where you might run into problems.

    Basically the long and short of it in my opinion, is that you don't have to explicitly state that your heroine is bi, but you should be clear in an in-character way that she has romantic feelings for the girl. When she then falls for the guy later on, it will be plain to see that she is bi (unless your reader buys into that whole bi-erasure deal but that ain't your problem).
     
    Oscar Leigh likes this.
  19. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2016
    Messages:
    20,474
    Likes Received:
    23,836
    Location:
    East devon/somerset border
    I think that also depends o whether this is a book aimed at a specifically queer audience, (ie LGBTQ romance) or whether it is a dystopian survival novel which just happens to have some queer characters... in the latter case there is less concern than the former since the audience are not going into it specifically expecting queer romance
     
    Iain Aschendale likes this.
  20. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    17,677
    Likes Received:
    19,864
    Location:
    Scotland
    This tendency to walk on eggshells when it comes to any controversial real-life topic, in case SOMEBODY might take offense ...by being included wrongly, or not included at all, etc ...is going to kill the craft of writing.

    If you are not a biased person, your non-bias will be evident in your story—if you write honestly. So just write the story. There are ALWAYS people who will be looking to pick fault. They're not your target audience.
     
    Gravy, Fervidor, Lifeline and 3 others like this.
  21. HulkingElf

    HulkingElf Member

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2020
    Messages:
    39
    Likes Received:
    32
    High im new to the site, and most of my writing experience is from dungeons and dragons but to reply to OP. As a straight person myself, when it comes to lbtq+ characters you have to remember that, if they are aware of what they are, then its natural to them and not a personality trait. A lot of things now or days put too much emphasis on the character being gay or bi instead of an actual character trait or flaw, and as a straight person it can be hard to forget that especially when your trying to make a super stereotype or a very non stereotypical character.

    From what you have described this character hasn't thought much of their sexuality i have a character in one of my dnd games that is the same way and honestly i have some interesting plans with her. but so far instead of making it aggressively stated to the readers, or in my case other players, i drop subtle hints like my character not being super interested in the guys flirting with her, or like my character getting overly chummy with a barmaid. i so far have not had her outright go i really dont think i like boys or i really like girls, as she herself hasnt figured that sort of thing out yet.

    Now a good idea is that you can have the mc and the love interests relationship starts to bloom then your character will have to come to terms with their feelings.
    now you ask, does the character accept what they are;
    -no well now you got a few pages of drama you can write as they struggle with their sexuality
    -yes well now you can get back on to the main story, (unless its a romance then well you have more time for feel goods)

    I may have strayed a bit from the original topic here but if your asking if straight ppl require a characters personality to be explicitly pointed out then no most ppl will not require that. There will always be a few that cant pick up on hints but its a writing practice of mine to never brutally beat my reader, or players, over the head with information. As long as your not writing for kids most young-adults and adults will pick up on the hints that the character is not straight, as long as you drop good natural hints that fit with your character and her personality most ppl will be able to understand whats going on. Of course there will always be ppl that suck at context clues but that should be a minority, which means you dont need to pay as much attention to it.

    I guess all in all im trying to say as long as its natural and doesent feel forced, either the relationship or the exposition dump, you characters sexuality should be something that your readers can pick up on. even if some readers wont realise your characters preferences until shes swapping spit with another character.
     
    Iain Aschendale and Oscar Leigh like this.
  22. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 10/190 Status: Confused Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2019
    Messages:
    4,054
    Likes Received:
    4,834
    Location:
    The White Rose county, UK
    Let me reverse this question. Do queer people need someone to be upfront about a character's straightness to understand they are straight?

    The answer is, of course not.

    Just write the story. Have the characters do what they do. Readers will get it, as much as they do in real life.
     
    Gravy, Kalisto, Cave Troll and 3 others like this.
  23. Kalisto

    Kalisto Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2015
    Messages:
    888
    Likes Received:
    917
    I think my writing drastically changed and became joyful and meaningful when I stopped worrying so much about whether my readers got the same thing reading my story as I got writing it.

    That's when writing stopped being an ego trip and started being enjoyable.
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2020
  24. DK3654

    DK3654 Almost a Productive Member of Society Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2018
    Messages:
    1,244
    Likes Received:
    1,384
    Location:
    In the vibe zone
    This would be great advice, if most biased people realised or were willing to admit they were biased. You don't have to be Adolf Hitler to be a little biased.
    If you don't ever be critical of your own instincts, you won't ever be able to stop yourself when you make a mistake, and you will. No one is 100% perfect. And that's not even accounting for genuinely accidental unfortunate implications. One doesn't handle writing dialogue by simply trusting in your good intentions— you listen, you practice, and you learn.
    And good representation is about both reflecting positively on marginalised people, and about writing different people's authentic experiences in a way that's interesting and accurate. Representation issues should be a natural part of your writing process. When you're thinking about characterisation, for instance, one angle of that is representation. You don't need to jam it in there forcefully. In fact, you shouldn't. You shouldn't have to. That doesn't mean it won't take effort though. Sometimes you might not like doing the work for it. Good. That doesn't have to a miserable experience, because you're getting somewhere and that should be rewarding.

    The fact people seem to have no difficulty with the idea of historical accuracy or scientific accuracy and the like as a relevant consideration in the writing process but not avoiding perpetuating bigotry astounds me. It's just another issue to consider people.
     
    jannert and Oscar Leigh like this.
  25. DK3654

    DK3654 Almost a Productive Member of Society Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2018
    Messages:
    1,244
    Likes Received:
    1,384
    Location:
    In the vibe zone
    Less concern. But not none.
    I think most people underestimate just how obvious and pervasive straight romance and sexuality is in fiction. Because people are used to it. But LGBT content stands out, because people aren't.
    It's been a common problem that LGBT content even when intentionally, explicilty included is made less visible than cis straight fare. The straight couple gets to kiss every second episode but the gay couple has to wait a whole season before we actually see it. It happens. And it's something to keep in mind. It may be worth erring on the side of more visibility for LGBT couples for this reason.
     
    Oscar Leigh likes this.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice