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Writing GLBTQ characters?
Cassandra Farrin
Posted: Saturday, January 12, 2013 8:38 PM
My fantasy novel NO RIVAL AMONG THE GODS has a gay protagonist, and I have gone back and forth on how to handle this difference from me. I have relied on the advice of friends and family who are not straight, and I have also made the story more about the family conflict and not about sexuality itself. The "othering" and ostracizing of characters in my story is never done based on sexuality, but the sexuality of my character I feel should subtly enhance that theme for readers. In other words, he is gay not for no reason but because it helps to give more depth to the story.

Are you writing with GLBTQ themes and/or characters? How do you handle problems of stereotyping and phobia? I'm also curious if you have any opinion about the latest trends in M/S themes a la Shades of Grey. I feel like genderqueer themes are replacing virginity/infidelity themes as edgy and emotionally fierce. What do you think?

Timothy Maguire
Posted: Sunday, January 13, 2013 8:29 AM
Joined: 8/13/2011
Posts: 272

My novel Slide The Scales From My Eyes features a nominally straight main character and a very not-straight secondary character hitting on her. Sexuality isn't a huge amount of the central plot, but the (planned) overall plot arc will centre on their relationship. The characters began primarily as a protest about the terrible romance cliches in most urban fantasy novels, but I've gotten quite attached to their relationship as I've been developing it.

I think that writing LGBTQ characters is becoming more acceptable, even expected, especially in speculative fiction. What's really important is that writing about it is no longer becoming just the central, or even relatively main, theme of the story. We're seeing stories like Scott Pilgrim where one of the side characters is gay, but he's more renowned for his stealing of other people's boyfriends than he is for his sexuality.

As for 50 Shades of Grey, I'm more in the 'worried about what it says about relationship expectations' than anything else. Like Twilight, there's a lot to question about the central relationship and the expectations it gives readers for their own romances. I've read far more healthy takes on dominant/ submissive relationships (the Kushiel series springs to mind, as does a minor plot line in Crown of Slaves).
Elizabeth Moon
Posted: Monday, March 4, 2013 1:01 AM
Joined: 6/14/2012
Posts: 194

I have written some lesbian/gay characters, but probably not lesbian/gay "themes" (being as I don't know what those would be.)  In the imaginary worlds in which I write, sexual orientation is not that big a deal, and sexuality is not the main character determinant.  There's a lesbian character from my first (fantasy) novel who, after a bad relationship has now (some books later) ended up in a good one (finally) but she's not the main character.   What's noticeable about Natzlin is that she's serious, quiet, has a tendency to depression, was badly wounded in a battle a couple of years ago, but is an effective trainer of novice soldiers.   What's noticeable about her new partner is that she's a very talented cook who rules her kitchen and managed--when in the household of a bad duke--to protect her kitchen staff as much as she could.  Natz's former lover, Barra, was a dangerous person (charismatic in a bad way) from the first,  and it took Natzlin a long time to get over Barra's betrayal.

In another series, in a different story universe (SF, not fantasy), there are lesbian and gay characters as a matter of course--their orientation is not that important most of the time, in the main culture shown, though it is in some of the other cultures.  However, the stories are not about being gay, it's just that some characters are...though when some such characters end up in a culture unlike their own, they can get into trouble. 

C M Rosens
Posted: Thursday, May 9, 2013 5:20 PM
Joined: 5/8/2013
Posts: 25

I've got a gay male character who is a warrior, and accepts that he can't have an openly homosexual relationship within his culture. He is in love with his blood-brother, who is heterosexual, and has discreet relationships with his servants/male slaves. He was married off, unhappily, and the two children from that marriage are probably not his. In his culture, (Viking-esque) it is perfectly acceptable for a man to assert his dominance over male slaves in the same way as with female slaves, and is applauded for it. A man can give, but he can't be seen to take, so to speak.

While his sexuality and conflict is an important character-shaping aspect, it's not the only important thing about him. He's driven by more than repressed sexual urges (which aren't all that repressed), and is much more than his sexuality.

Posted: Thursday, May 9, 2013 11:29 PM
probably not lesbian/gay "themes" (being as I don't know what those would be.)

Heh. I wouldn't know, either.

Having said that, I do have a handful of bisexual characters and a handful of gay characters. Like Tim said, it's more about what happens within a given relationship than the character's sexuality. Having said that, I have a couple of characters who are in that awkward "i don't know what i am" stage.

Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2013 7:24 PM
Joined: 6/25/2013
Posts: 55

I'll start right out by saying that I'm gay. I am always annoyed by novels with a substantial number of characters but no gay ones. How realistic is that!? In these times, I think almost every novel SHOULD have gay as well as straight characters, in a "no biggie" sort of way. Straight folks, don't worry. You can't go wrong. I have far more in common with straight women than gay men because my hormones are the same, my brain is the same, my relationship needs are the same, my sexual desires are (pretty much) the same. So my advice is to assume that lesbians want what straight women want, only of a woman, and gay men want what straight men want (I would guess, a lot of diverse sexual experiences). Relax. Just do it.
Suzann Dodd
Posted: Sunday, June 14, 2015 11:20 AM
Joined: 7/17/2013
Posts: 2

The trick is to have a character of many dimensions; not Bruce the Gay.  I find the non-hetero forces one to focus on other factors, not the sexuality.

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