?

Have you ever written about a protagonist who wasn't cis-gender and/or heterosexual?

  1. Yes, I do all of the time.

  2. Some of the time.

  3. Once or twice.

  4. Never, but I'd like to

  5. Never, and I don't feel comfortable doing it

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  1. CEMO

    CEMO Member

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    Writing Queer Characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by CEMO, Dec 4, 2016.

    I'm pretty new to the forums, but from what I've seen there is a lot of talk about writing black characters and female characters, and how it isn't done nearly as often as it should, or it's done pretty poorly.

    So, here I am throwing in my two cents. What do you think about writing queer characters (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, asexual, and everything other than heterosexual and cis-gender)? I find that there are very few books out there that feature queer characters without the book being a coming out story or erotica. Those are great and all, but I really want books where the conflict doesn't revolve around their sexuality. I've only read a handful of books that do this and do this well. Unfortunately they're hard to come by.

    So do you write queer characters in your books? Do you think it's important? Do you feel uncomfortable doing it? Do you want to, but don't know how?

    As a bisexual person, I write queer characters all the time. I just find it comes naturally to me, and I really want there to be more queer MCs in popular literature in the years to come.
     
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  2. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I asked the question in one of the other threads, so I may as well ask it here, too - as a queer writer, do you have an opinion on the #ownvoices idea? (basically that, yes, we should have more queer characters, but they should be written by queer writers.)
     
  3. CEMO

    CEMO Member

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    My opinion is that it's entirely fine for straight people to do it as well, as long as they aren't perpetuating stereotypes and that they've done research. I've read a lot of books by straight authors which feature queer protagonists, and they're pretty good.
     
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  4. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    As an aside are you okay with the term queer ? - my understanding was that calling someone who's homosexual queer was like calling a black guy nigger . Personally I also dislike the term straight as it seems to imply that hetero is 'better'

    On point I don't have a problem writing homosexual/ bisexual characters despite being hetero myself , in the same vien that I mention about writing women despite being male or writing blacks despite being white ... ie everyone is different and a character is a character, just stay away from stereotypes.

    I also have several homosexual friends who I can test stuff with should the need arise
     
  5. CEMO

    CEMO Member

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    I'm okay with it. Maybe this is just because I'm quite young and it was different in the past, but it's beginning to become a blanket term for any non-heterosexual, non-cis gendered identity, because people find that the terms "gay" or "LGBT" exclude a lot of people.
     
  6. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I think the term "queer" has been pretty thoroughly reclaimed, at least in North America. There are university programs on Queer Studies, etc.
     
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  7. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Cool - i'm not sure its made it across that Atlantic yet or at least not into common usage - over here it's still most commonly used by bigots as a term of abuse for homosexuals.
     
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  8. izzybot

    izzybot Transhuman Autophage Contributor

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    I'll reiterate my opinion from the other thread that coming out stories / stories specifically about being queer probably shouldn't be told by people who aren't themselves queer. Not that it can't be done well, I've just seen a lot of really uncomfortable examples of writers who obviously did not know what they were talking about. Same goes for any topic that's insufficiently researched but it's especially aggravating to be implicitly told "this is what your lives are like" by someone who plainly doesn't even know the surface level.

    As for the original topic: I write queer characters almost exclusively. Pretty much none of it is to do with coming out etc - I'd much rather write about space adventures - and very little involves romantic themes, let alone actually being erotica.

    Personally, I'm tired of queer lit being so heavily slanted towards romance and categorized as m/m or f/f - not only because this categorization leaves no room for nonbinary characters and tends to glaze over bi characters, but also just because romance doesn't appeal to me. I know it's important escapism for a lot of people, but sci-fi and fantasy and horror have always been my escape, so that's my thing.

    It was important to me the first time I read a bi character. I literally went back and reread twenty pages to make sure I hasn't misunderstood somehow. So, I do think it's important - I know it is.
     
  9. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I'd agree with that - where I've written homosexual characters their sexuality hasn't been the main focus of the story any more than it is for the heterosexual characters - generally I write either war stories or crime fiction, and a lot of the time the sexuality of the characters isn't mentioned at all as its not relevant , or if it is mentioned its only in passing.

    My personal view is that people are people and should be treated and judged as individuals not on what they do or don't do with their genitals with a consenting adult (ditto not on the colour of their skin , their religion or their gender) and I try to reflect that viewpoint in my writing.
     
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  10. Vanthu

    Vanthu Member

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    I'm nonbinary, panromantic, and asexual, and I write them all the time. So far, I have had about 18 of them. In my main story I'm writing now, there are 4 queer main characters, and 2 straight characters, who both have queer relatives. Only 1 story was a coming out story, and that wasn't even the focus, that was just part of the plot.
     
  11. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    Cemo,

    Yes, my current MC is a Bisexual Woman, whose main romantic partner in the story is a woman.

    I think this is a really great question, but the answer depends on how you define your story. For me, it was very important. My story is very thematic and philosophically heavy. The themes and concepts I use demand that my MC be Bisexual. Other writers will have their MC match their own sexuality (nothing wrong with that), and other writers will do it just to be different or cool.

    No, even if I did not feel comfortable I would still do it. You don't get better by writing what is 'comfortable' you get better by pushing your limits.

    I am blessed that the current person I am seeing is a Bisexual woman. She has discussed with me her thoughts and experiences on certain things, and I've incorporated some aspects of our conversations into my work. Interviewing people, or having real experiences of your own, can provide you with a lot of ideas and details other people, who don't know better, wouldn't even think of.

    That's all I got for you buddy on this subject.
     
  12. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Picking that up - how difficult do you find it as a queer writer to write a straight character ? (that's a genuine question not a dig)
     
  13. Phil Mitchell

    Phil Mitchell Banned Contributor

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    I'm not uncomfortable writing a queer character if that's how I made them from the outset. I am uncomfortable changing them midstream or late in the story after having known them as straight for so long (even if they have no romance at all). When I wrote a kiss between two "doomed" females at the end I made it as simple and non romantic as possible and they never mention it again after. Just down to the stress of the moment. I have a lesbian friend who wouldn't want me to change them either. I'm sure of it.
     
  14. Denegroth

    Denegroth Banned

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    It doesn't make sense to me to even mention what people are calling someone's "sexuality"
    unless it has something to do with the story.
     
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  15. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I think I've asked you this before - how are you defining "story"? Just plot, or does it include characterization, etc.?
     
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  16. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    Just for clarity - I'm not sure if you're asking me or just building off my post, but... I'm straight. Cis. White. Very mainstream!
     
  17. Denegroth

    Denegroth Banned

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    Characterization isn't a story. Characterization is characterization. Telling a story is telling a story.
    Of course, you know that and you're not really asking that, are you?
     
  18. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Sorry i misunderstood/misread your question to CEMO , when you said i'll ask it here... as a queer writer , i thought you were asking it as a queer writer... doh , on rereading its obvious you were asking him/her as a queer writer

    now that we've cleared that up question for @CEMO as a queer writer how easy do you find it to create straight characters (genuine question etc)
     
  19. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    No, I really am asking. I don't really understand how to apply your advice about only including things that are relevant to the story if story means just plot. Because it would seem to exclude characterization and setting, and it's pretty rare for anyone to suggest that authors shouldn't include those elements.

    So I was searching for a way for your advice to make sense, but if you mean that story is just plot, then... well, then I guess I'd have to seize on the "something to do with" aspect in order to agree with what you're saying. Like, if characterization "has something to do with the story", then I guess I could accept your advice...?
     
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  20. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Quite often in fiction authors will write about someones home life when its tangential to the plot because it creates a more rounded character - so you might mention a gay characters boyfreind just as you might mention a straight characters girlfriend.
     
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  21. Denegroth

    Denegroth Banned

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    It's really quite simple, and I'm surprised it isn't a prevailing view, however I do know I'm in this era where the myth of "character-driven stories" is rampant, however, so is writer's block and mountains of manuscripts which go into the dumpster unopened. The story in its most simple form is a person (or kitty cat, or an Illuminati dragon-vampire-zombie) doing an action. "Don went to the store." Why would you need to say what Don wore, or what color his hair is? Would it add to an understanding of the action? Would the reader not fully understand what actually happened without further information? If so, then that has something to do with the story.

    "Don had red hair. While he was finding what he wanted to buy, a man with a homicidal revenge fixation on all red-headed men (because his abusive step father was a redhead) came in with a machine gun, saw Don and mowed him down, along with the potato chip rack and a stack of warm beer that was on sale." Now, his hair color "has something to do" with the story.

    There are a lot of truisms about because of the avalanche of writers that arrived with the personal computer and accompanying word processor. Unfortunately for well over 90% of these writers, publication is rather elusive. So, a cottage industry has spawned telling people "how to get published". This of course runs from "how to write for publication", to "how to get an agent". One of the advised things is to "round out the character". This, of course, is new to literature and not a practice of successful authors over history. Since that well over 90% of writers not being published number hasn't dropped any, it may safely be said this sort of advice doesn't really help.

    If it moves the work toward its intended goal, put it in. If it doesn't, leave it out. I think Hemingway first said that out loud. Pretty much every notable author does it, so we might extrapolate from that they also knew to do it.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2016
  22. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Because a story is more than a string of actions - its not about writing character driven drivel, its about having a strong plot which takes place in a strong setting peopled by believable and rounded characters who are described in adequate detail for the reader to envision the action

    otherwise you wind up with a 'story' that looks like one of those kids first readers "Don went to the store , don bought some food, don came home, the next day don robbed a bank...... zzzzzzzz thud"
     
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  23. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    Oh. Okay. I guess I understand what you're saying. (Although I'm not sure I understand why it's important that the killer shot the potato chips and beer, or certainly not why it's important that the beer was warm... so I guess maybe you do sometimes include details that aren't completely relevant to the action?)

    I write mostly myths, I guess - and don't suffer writers' block or dumpstered manuscripts.

    So your advice isn't going to work for me.

    For others - if your character's sexuality is important to the plot, characterization, setting, or any other aspect of your work, I think you should mention it.
     
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  24. Denegroth

    Denegroth Banned

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    The potato chips and beer is Moose's "strong setting". You need a good visual to see how to film it.
    By the way, I'm not offering you advice. I'm making observations.

    For others - be sure you aren't hoisted on your own petards.
     
  25. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    Are we talking about screenplays? I think that's a bit different, maybe... well, no, atmosphere and characterization are still important to screenplays. I think your observations are a bit idiosyncratic.
     
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