Also speaking as a lesbian, please please pleeeeease write queer characters <3 But do your research. Specifically:
- For SFF, consider your worldbuilding - are LGBTQ characters discriminated against in any way, can they marry, what are general public attitudes.
- For contemporary / historical, research attitudes/rights in the time and place you are writing.
You need to know both wider societal attitudes as well as the specific environment your character grew up in & lives in now. This is because it will directly impact your characters' behaviour. Do they hold hands / kiss in public? Do they notice people noticing them and get nervous / self-conscious? Do they avoid mentioning pronouns, or need to explicitly mention pronouns? Does this vary depending on who they are with?
Writing queer characters in a world that doesn't care, or is at least mostly accepting of the fact they're queer, you're a lot less likely to go wrong than writing a character dealing with homophobia/transphobia, or coming out. Hence the general advice of 'write stories with [minority] characters, but don't write stories about being [minority]'.
Including multiple queer characters makes stereotypes less of an issue, because you don't just have the one character being painted with the rainbow brush to represent them all.
The suggestion of reading TV Tropes is a great one. Specifically look up 'bury your gays' trope. If you've only got one queer couple, especially two women, and you give them a tragic ending, don't expect it to go over well - we have read/watched that story to death.
(I know this is an old thread, I misread the year and now I've already written my reply which I think contains useful info, and there's limited queer input here, so I'm posting it anyway xD)
YES, THIS. Thank you for posting, and for reviving a topic that, sadly, is increasingly important as parts of North America try their darnedest to slide back into the 19th Century or over-and-down into 1930s Germany or current Russia/Middle East.
In addition to research, appropriate Sensitivity Readers for an early draft would be helpful. But maybe even better: diversify one's circle of friends.
Thanks for sharing. As a straight writer, I welcome all the advice and feedback I can get on this topic, because I know my intentions are good, but it's still possible for me to end up doing something carelessly offensive. I defer to the opinions of the people who know what they're talking about.
And this exactly me.
As a cis straight white American (born and raised) dude myself, I want my characters to be diverse. Not to appeal to a wider paying audience, but because diversity is important to me, it's the way of the future (fiction written today that glorifies racism, homophobia, and general intolerance won't be read in fifty years, precisely because it has no merit even now), and, more to the point in a writing forum, diversity is interesting. It's usually the differences between characters that breed drama (and sometimes comedy) after all.
All humans have the same sets of feelings, flaws, and strengths that are part of character, and all are driven by the same human needs. But the experience of living in any marginalized community will shape folks in ways I can only try to guess at, and that's where my concern as a writer comes in. I don't want to stereotype, misrepresent, or minimize how that experience has shaped expectations, choices, behavior, etc. (Whether LGBTQ+, people of color, differently abled, etc.) Getting guidance and feedback from people who've lived it will be key to my understanding, making me both a better writer and a better person.
You can if you want, but you risk alienating much of your readership if you stuff social justice issues in your stories. This is compounded when the issues don't have anything at all to do with the plot line. Readers want to see well developed characters who they can identify with. They want to have a well developed story that sweeps them along, and takes them into your world. How, precisely, do 98% of your readers identify with an LGBWTF character? If you just mention it in passing, it's a distraction but easily advanced beyond. If you choose to stuff in scenes related to that, you have closed books, and plenty of people not willing to read anything more from you.
This stellar degree of ignorance is exactly why we need more diversity in fiction. "LGBWTF?" (So, insulting board reader identity now? Reported.) "98%?" A "distraction?" B____, please.
It's solid writing advice to say only include those elements relevant to your story/characters. If a story isn't about the struggle for equality and an end to bigotry, adding it for "spice" probably isn't a great idea, any more than an irrelevant sex scene in a murder mystery. On the other hand, if a story is set in a time or place where these issues were forefront, it may not seem realistic unless the issues are touched on in some way. This is true of any genre/subject. A love story set in the Old West that avoids every mention of indigenous peoples, the railroad, gold, hats, politics, immigration, and difficulties of frontier life isn't likely to ring true. Setting a story in the Jim Crow South and glossing over the institutionalized racism/segregation or the rampant poverty and illiteracy is seriously going to undermine a story's credibility (and the author's).
But assuming the book is well-written and well-structured... If the only thing a reader can identify with in a character depends on the right combination of skin color, gender, sexual preference, and faith, they aren't really reading for the story, nor to explore a world, to expand their mind or heart, or connect with other humans. The flaw is in the shallowness of the reader here, not the content of the story. Like, if a straight cis white dude isn't moved by the intense humanity of The Color Purple because they can't identify with the main characters, well, their opinion of what makes things relatable is hardly a thing to worry over. Fortunately, there's lots of tripe already out there for the casual conformist reader, and pandering to this limited subset of buyers isn't going to make one's story prize-worthy. It won't be "literature."
One can't please every reader or demographic with one's work, no matter what it is or how well written. Not everyone reads Hemingway, or Joyce, or Wolff, or Atwood, etc. If the story theme is improving social justice, or struggling against intolerance, there will be folks who won't like it. Tough. Most people don't read Westerns or Harlequin romances, but some do, and these books keep getting written. There's a market for everything. In fact, in today's North American sociopolitical climate, stories of social justice/injustice and equality are even MORE marketable than they were; if an author can pull of a great work about social justice, they're gonna go far.
Censorship related to social justice issues is rampant across the country, and nobody is allowed to say even a peep of anything against any of it without being ridiculed, insulted, attacked, or complaints sent to their place of work, etc. They may not be able to say what they feel, but I assure you the vast majority don't accept it the way you believe they do. It's your story, though, and nobody can dictate what you do or don't do. I'm just letting you know there IS a counterpoint that many won't put words to.
Censorship: ha! Look up that word. Read social media. And watch TV. Ignorant hate speech is everywhere, including big US TV Media and the administration.
Yeah - imagine what it must be like being ridiculed, insulted, attacked, etc. Must be super tough. Tougher even those black schoolkids being hit with rocks when busing started, and all the blacks lynched everywhere - by intolerant whites. Like Harvey Milk and MLKJ and Brandon Teena being assassinated by intolerant white dudes. Like black churches and synagogues and mosques being burned and shot up by - oh look, intolerant white dudes. Like what all the people of color, LGBTQ+, differently abled, of varied faiths, etc. have endured and continued to endure even in "The Land of the Free." Yeah, cry me a river for those poor suffering North American whites that don't feel free to express their hateful bullcrap without consequence. Must be real hard to have to be brave and "come out" as a bigot.
It's the Popper Paradox. The only way to ensure a tolerant society is to be intolerant of intolerance. Intolerant folks love to cite freedom of speech and rights and all, then try to take those things away from anyone who isn't like them, to mock and criticize and marginalize people not for what they believe but for whom they are, to incite violence and bring back segregation - then cry foul when they're on the receiving end. And even when they're on that receiving end, they lack the baseline human empathy to realize, "Oh, is THIS how my words and actions have been making those other people feel? Humiliated, outcast? Maybe I shouldn't be doing that." So no, the shadows is where such folks can stay; and with luck and effort, such insipid, inhumane views will erode to nothing.
Frankly, if some small-minded bigots (say, those who use "social justice" as a pejorative) are going to object to my work because it includes sympathetic characters who aren't like them, well, I don't need their money, and their critical reviews are without value. They're welcome to buy the latest whining pablum from a disgraced FOX News anchor instead. Which is really a shame, because I don't like to think that anyone is beyond reach, beyond redemption or hope of real humanity - but maybe they are.
This thread was more about describing race, on how or how not to define diverse characters when "white" seems to be the default, but some of the advice may still be generally applicable: http://agentquerycon...ibe-characters/