Writing Gay Characters

Introduction

For those of you who don't know me, my name is Megan Rose Gedris. For the past 7 years, my primary activity has been writing and drawing comics with LGBT themes. I also do a lot of prose (short stories and novels) that feature LGBT people, and I've written a lot of nonfiction on the subject as well.

I hear a lot from other writers about how they would love to include gay characters in their stories, but they're too afraid of screwing them up, so they don't try. And that's no good. I don't like seeing people discouraged from including entire groups of people in their stories. So let's fix things, eh?

Before we get into things, I'd like to make a point about something. This lens is called "writing gay characters", but it would more accurately be called "writing non-straight characters". But since that take s a lot more typing, and frankly sounds clunky, I refer to it as "gay characters". I could say queer, but for me, that word has always meant "strange", and I have a hard time constantly referring to LGBT people as such.

Why write gay characters at all?

 

There are lots of reasons to write gay characters into your stories.

1: Challenge yourself. It's very easy to write about people who are a lot like you. But "easy" and "good" are not always one and the same when it comes to writing. Get yourself out of your comfort zone, stretch those writing muscles in new ways.

2: It means a lot to us. One thing that fiction can do for people is give them an escape, a place they can go to feel less alone. For a lot of gay people, being able to see themselves reflected in their media is a big boost to the self esteem, especially for those who are in the closet.

3: The world needs more gay characters. I am constantly trying to find fiction that is both interesting to me, and includes gay people. You'd be surprised how hard this is. I find books that include gay characters, but often they are boring to me. There isn't a lot of variety in the current selection of gay fiction. The more people who write it, the more different stories get told.

4: Profit. The result of #2 and #3, gay people are desperate for stories they can relate to, and they don't have a lot to chose from. Often, we are so desperate for depictions of ourselves that we pounce on anything remotely gay. Writing for the sake of money is rarely good. But I understand that people do write for money, and some of them still manage to be good at it. If this is your goal, consider writing some gay characters.

5: Art reflects life. The world is not a place without gay people, so why should your stories be? Add them in because it's realistic for them to be there.

Any time you put on the mouthpiece of somebody that you're not, theres a professional responsibility to get it right.

-Jodi Picoult

"Gay Characters" vs. "Characters Who Just Happen to Be Gay"

A distinction.

Consider the following paragraphs of fiction:

Scenario 1: Bert stood outside his commanding officer's door, hand hovering over it, unclear as to whether he should knock or not. He loved military life, up until his platoon mates had found the picture in his pack. The picture of Bert and Mike, and their daughter on vacation. Now he woke up every day to constant teasing, the words "fudgepacker" written on his forehead in permanent marker. Gays were allowed in Star Fleet, but very few wanted to be in it, and Bert was starting to see why...

Scenario 2: Bert stood on the cliff face, his breath stuck in his throat. Stepping out into a blitz of raygun fire he could do. Heights, not so much. He remembered going to the gym with his boyfriend and their daughter, and Mike had wanted to go on the rock climbing wall. Even fifty feet up, Bert had started to feel dizzy. Now, almost a mile up a cliff face with some prototype safety gear, there were no words to describe his fear...

So, can you see the difference? In scenario 1, Bert is a Gay Character. The conflict of the story revolves around him being gay. If Bert wasn't gay, there would be no story, or a much different one. In scenario 2, Bert is still gay, but he has a few other things on his mind. The plot doesn't revolve around Bert's gayness any more than a straight sci-fi militaryman's story would revolve around his straightness.

There's nothing wrong with either one. They both have their place, and different people enjoy different types of stories. But scenario 2 shows that you don't have to hollow out a gay little hole in your story to make room for gay characters. Characters can be gay without getting in the way of the story you want to write, and unless a character's straightness is pivotal to the plot, you can actually make any character gay.

You don't have to make a big deal out of it, either. In scenario 2, Bert didn't have a big coming out to get us to know he was gay. In fact, the word "gay" wasn't even used. It was just an offhand detail about Bert's life back at home, that gave relevance to his current situation. And that little offhand detail is going to mean a lot to any gay readers.

TV Tropes - an excellent resource
TV Tropes - an excellent resource

Avoiding cliches.

So, now you know that you can have gay characters in your story. But how to actually write them? What makes a gay character gay?

At it's most basic level, the only difference is that gay characters are interested in the same sex. There is no universal gay experience. For some, it's a nonissue, and for others, it's a major part of their identities.

In this day and age, Gay is a culture. Not every gay person is part of it, the same way not every black person likes R&B, and not every woman likes makeup. But some black people do like R&B, and some women do like makeup, and yes, some gays really do love techno music and interior design.

It's always good to be aware of stereotypes, cliches, and overused tropes, no matter what you're writing, and that goes double for writing minorities. Straight people have a huge pool of stories about straight people to choose from. If they find a story they don't like, they toss it and find a new one. But when you're in a minority, with not a lot of people writing about you, you don't have a lot to choose from if you want to read about people like you. And seeing the same old tired storylines is frustrating.

While thousands of years of human storytelling has made it pretty hard not to fall into at least a couple cliches in any story, you can avoid the big ones. Killer bisexuals, pregnant lesbians, predatory gay men. These, among other tropes, have been done to death. Doing them again frustrates readers, and makes you look like a lazy writer.

How do you avoid falling into these tired storylines? Some basic research. You don't have to put in gel in your hair and go incognito to the local gay club, living amongst the gays for weeks, taking notes all Jane-Goodall-style. Talk to gay people!

Don't know any? The internet is full of them.

Be respectful when you ask your questions, even if the person you ask gets snippy. For a lot of gay people, they get asked the same questions over and over and over again. Even though this is the first time you are asking these questions, it's most likely not the first time this gay person has heard them. If they don't want to talk about it, find someone else.

Can't find any gays, even on the internet?

There is a place to ask me questions below. I will endeavor to help you write better gays.

Avoid at All Costs

A short list of overused plots

Pregnant Lesbians. For some reason, people who write lesbians think they're being incredibly original by having a story about a lesbian couple trying to get pregnant. This has been done exactly 2,405,305 times before. It creates a scenario where, despite not having relationships with men, the lesbians still need men desperately.

Evil gays. Somehow, people find it very easy to write gay villains (or more often, bisexual villains). "But... but... villains are more fun to write, and I wanted my gay character to be fun." Well, if they aren't balanced by some good gay characters, then all you have are a bunch of evil gays.

Slutty gay men / slutty bisexuals. Gay men, and bisexuals of both genders, are often portrayed as unable to commit, promiscuous, and cold-hearted. Particularly with bisexual people, there is a mistaken idea that they cannot make up their minds, and constantly switch back and forth between men and women, and will try to sleep with anything that moves.

The U-Haul. Lesbians have the opposite problem. We're shown as so commitment hungry, that we're lifelong partners after one date. This is crazy behavior.

Group 'em together. I have one character who is a lesbian. I have another character who is a lesbian. They're, like, made for each other, right? Wrong. You can have gay people who know each other and have zero romantic interest in each other.

Closeted homophobe. "I'm mean because deep down, I'm just like you." Yes, this happens, and it is sad and dramatic. But this story has been told too many times. Find another way to create drama in your characters' lives.

"I wasn't really gay!" Also known as "oh, is it sweeps again already?" this mostly applies to things like television and serial stories. A character who showed no same-sex inclinations previously will experiment with someone of the same sex, but either has no intentions of actually pursuing a gay relationship, or ultimately decides to stick with the opposite sex. That isn't to say you can't have characters who are questioning their sexuality, but try not to make it glaringly obvious that Lisa only slept with Mary because you were afraid of losing readers' interest.

Appealing to the opposite sex. Using lesbians to get straight male readers, or gay men to get straight female readers, is really annoying, and perhaps the most overused gay cliché of them all. Many straight women love stories about lesbians, and straight men are perfectly fine reading about gay men.

Dead gays. I spoke too soon. This is the most annoying and overused gay cliché of them all. Gays end up being redshirts, created to die for the sake of the straight characters. Don't create a gay character just to die.

Tokens

Good for the carnivale, bad for your stories.

Some writers are afraid that if they only have one gay character, that character will feel like a token character, made gay just to say "Hey! Look at me! I wrote a gay person!" So if you have one, do you have to go full-blown L-Word on your story?

No. Write as many gay characters as you like.

The trick to avoiding characters coming off like tokens is how you handle them. Do they get their own storylines? Do they seem like they belong in the story? Do they have characteristics outside of stereotypes? Hopefully you can answer "yes" to these questions.

Romance: How Much is Too Much / Not Enough?

Season to taste

I receive a lot of feedback on my own work, and I read reviews of other works with gay characters. There are two big and conflicting complaints:

"Too much sex. Gay people have lives outside the bedroom, you know."

"Not enough sex. Gay people have sex lives, too."

While it's easy to write this off as "Gay people have no idea what they really want," there is a bit of legitimacy to both arguments. There needs to be a balance between promiscuous player and celibate, and a lot of writers have a hard time finding this balance.

A good rule of thumb: Let the gay characters do it exactly the same amount as the straight characters. Split it along character significance. If a straight main character has X amount of romance, then so should a gay main character. If a secondary straight character has Y amount of romance, then a secondary gay character should have Y amount of sex.

So if your story has no one having any romance of any kind, then don't feel you have to give your gay characters love scenes. If your story is just one big orgy, then your gay characters should be getting just as much as their straight cohorts.

Do I have to give my gay characters a girlfriend/boyfriend?

Not if you don't want to, and again, refer to the "as often as straight characters" rule of thumb. Having a story with all the straight people in happy couples, and the gay person alone, is a bit unfair, and readers will get frustrated.

I want to include gay romance. So how do I write it anyway?

Honestly, depending on how erotic you make it, it's more or less the same as heterosexual romance. The gender dynamics are a bit different. Who holds the door open? Who buys who flowers? There are fewer rules when it comes to gay relationships. Consider this an opportunity for literary freedom.

I don't want to get into sex with this, because I'm hoping to keep this a G-rated lens, so as far as how gay people actually do it, well, you're on the internet. I'm sure you will figure it out. The internet is full of really kinky stuff. Some gay people are kinky, while others are very vanilla. Keep that in mind.

What about butch/femme dynamics? Someone is always "the man" and the other is "the woman", right?

Wrong. Very wrong. While many gay couples do enjoy a butch/femme setup in their relationship, and follow a lot of the same gender guidelines that straight couples do, many other couples are femme/femme, butch/butch, or I-hate-gender-roles/I-hate-gender-roles. Have a lesbian couple with two femmes? They both buy each other flowers. Have a lesbian couple with two butches? They hate flowers and buy each other a nice shirt.

The Rule of Thumb

Treat the gays like the straights. If a straight person gets something good, so does a gay person. If a gay person gets something bad, so does a straight person.

The Saint vs. The Devil

Stay away from extremes.

So, you can't make them evil, promiscuous, etc. Does that mean they have to have no flaws whatsoever?

 

Of course not. You don't want them to be completely evil, but completely good isn't good writing, either.

 

Good and evil lie on a spectrum. It's not black and white. Characters can have flaws without being evil.

 

The gay man could be really cheap and stingy. The lesbian could be quick to carry an irrational grudge. The bisexual could like Linkin Park. All of these are flaws, but not "You're going to the special Hell" flaws.

Gay characters in children's/ young adult fiction

"There's nothing wrong with gay people, but kids shouldn't know about it."

You can have gay characters in stories for younger children. There is nothing inherently "adult" about gay people. They are no more about sex than straight people are. A gay person simply existing in a story is no cause for alarm.

If you feel you must explain gay people to your younger readers, focus on the love aspect of it, rather than the sex aspect. Mike fell in love with John. Alice fell in love with Christy. Kids are obviously aware that love exists in the world. They see men and women together, and nobody has to go over the birds and the bees with them. So you don't have to go over the "bees and the bees".

Fixing It

"I've been unknowingly writing horrible gay characters for years! Halp!"

So, you've written a story about a slutty bisexual pregnant serial killer? Well, let's go over some ways to turn that around.

Bring back the balance. So you have a gay character with a bunch of negative characteristics. You can make things better by having a bunch of straight people with the same negative characteristics, showing that it's not just gay people who act that way. Or you can have a bunch of gay people who don't have those negative characteristics. The second choice is the better one.

Mend their ways. Who says characters can't change their minds? If characters don't change at all, then you're writing poorly, gay or straight. So who's to say one of those changes can't be towards a positive, less cliché direction?

Write them out. Try again later. So maybe you've come to realize that there's nothing you can do to make the character better. It might be time for that character to make their grand exit. (Please, don't kill them off, if you haven't already.) Then you can either introduce a new gay character in this story, or write a new story.

One Final Thing to Keep in Mind

The gay community is notoriously picky about how people write about them. And because the people within the gay community are so diverse, you will always have some people who think you're doing an awful job writing about them.

I cannot speak for the entire gay community when I say this, but as far as I am concerned, as long as you write with the best intentions, and truly seek to educate yourself and try writing gay characters well, then you're doing alright. Take constructive criticism into account, but ultimately know that you will never be able to please everyone (in any genre).

Yoda says "Do or do not. There is no try." That doesn't apply here. You should always try.

Books with Excellent Gay Characters - (Written mostly by straight people.)

If these straight people could write good gay characters, then so can you! Here's some inspiration to help you out.

FYI (because only a few people realized this) you, too, can add books to this list! Add books you think should go here!

FAQ

Answers to some frequently asked questions.

More will be added as time goes on/ you write questions that compell me.

 

Why don't you include trans people in this lens?

Because trans is not a sexuality. You can be trans and gay, trans and straight, trans and bi. Trans people have some similar issues, but enough differences to warrant Writing Trans Characters be its own lens.

There is also the fact that since I can't even speak for the whole community I am part of, it's even harder to speak for a community I am not part of.

When I do a similar lens for Writing Trans Characters, I will have some guest writers helping me along. But it's not something I can put together myself.

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How important is it to showcase someone's sexuality (make a big deal out of it)?

Remember the scenarios above, with the "gay character" vs the "character who just happened to be gay"? What it's there to show is, either way works. Some characters make constant mention of their alternate sexuality, while for others, it's a non-issue.

Some gay readers will like that you address the character's sexuality, and think that not talking about it would be an attempt to cover it up. Other gay readers will like that you don't address it, giving a sense of "this person is normal, and there's more to them than sexuality".

It's up to your taste to write it, and your readers' tastes to read it. There is no set quota for how often you need to mention your character is OMGgay.

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You have a whole bunch of things in the "Avoid at all costs" section. I should avoid all of those things? All of them?

If you want to write something original, yes. There are a hundred gay character cliches, but I listed the ones that I did because they are either the most over used, the most harmful, or both.

You might look at one of these and think, "Oh, but I bet I can use one of those in a different way that's never been done before!" Believe me, it's been done before.

I only listed nine cliches. There are more than nine things you can do with a gay person's character. If the only things you associate gay people with are pregnant, slutty, evil, dead, etc., then you might find your "Friend of the Gays" card getting revoked.

Well then, ask me. As long as you're not trolling, I will do my best to answer legitimate questions about gays in fiction.

For comments, see below. This section is mainly for asking questions.

Can't find ANY gays? 111 comments

anonymous 6 years ago

Thanks so much for this article. And thanks soooo much for mentioning how not to portray bisexuals. As a bi girl, I hate that stereotype so much. It's a very sensitive issue and I get hurt by the ignorance.


anonymous 6 years ago

Hello Megan.

I want to really thank you for this. I am have a webcomic that I write and draw for and some of my major characters are going to actually be revealed as lesbians or bisexual. I found your article to be helpful. I hope I don't sound stupid for asking, but would it be insulting if their sexuality was not an issue? I know that in the real world some people disagree with gays, but what I am trying to convey is that they are really normal people. And I might do a storyline showing that some people can be insensitive, but other than that they will be in a relationship as thought it wasn't a same sex couple. Hence why I am a little afraid of coming off as either naïve or ignorant to what people in the real world have to deal with. I hope I am not being too crazy about this, but I personally am not a gay person but am HUGELY in favour of two people regardless of gender falling in love.

I thank you for your time and in reading my ramblings.

Aaron Pearson


anonymous 6 years ago

THANK YOU. I-hate-gender-roles girl in a relationship with another I-hate-gender-roles girl. Rock so on.

Sad thing is, I have a gay friend who believes all these stereotypes. Depressed about never meeting any guys, but insistent that all the gay men out there are promiscuous and commitment-phobic. *siiiigh*


rosalarian profile image

rosalarian 6 years ago Author

@anonymous: It's always nice to read gay characters whose sexuality isn't an issue. And for the same reasons you're thinking of. Shows that we're normal, and have personality traits outside of our sexuality.

Never be afraid to write gay characters. Even if you do get negative feedback on them, just use it as a learning experience. If someone says you are naïve, well, you aren't born with the knowledge of what gay people go through. But the fact that you are willing to learn speaks volumes.


anonymous 6 years ago

You mentioned above not to fall into the stereotype of the "slutty bisexual" and I had to face-palm myself as I happen to have a character who sleeps around a lot and doesn't really care what gender she beds. However, her character wasn't written with the intent to make her the "bisexual slut" but rather a more complex character with alcoholism, drug use and reckless sex as her vices. In fact she was originally straight. The "bisexual" part didn't really enter into the equation until recently when I wrote a little side story where she flirts with a female bartender. My question is: What tips do you have for writing a character who sleeps around and happens to be bisexual so as to avoid her becoming "the slutty bisexual"? Being a bisexual myself I know that this stereotype is very hurtful.


anonymous 6 years ago

Brilliant. I myself get tired of tropes. I know better than to think that a man's bi girlfriend would be a guaranteed threesome. Most bisexuals I've met are more frequently serial monogamists than swingers, just like straight people. Out of all the lesbians I've met, there's only ever been one butch. Not to mention that I've met tons of gay men, only one having any sense of style whatsoever. Stereotypes and tropes bore me.


anonymous 6 years ago

@Kristen I'm gathering from the article that you should write your character as if she were just a plain old slut. Maybe include some bisexual friends who are not sluts. For instance, consider a scenario where the bartender, also bisexual, declines her due to a committed for life relationship with a boyfriend who is not looking for an orgy. Two stereotypes broken in one shot. The trick, which Rosalarian pulls off very well in her comics, is to avoid looking like you are making a conscious effort to break stereotypes, but at the same time not use the stereotype as an easy device to speed up the writing process. Just let the story develop and evolve naturally.


rosalarian profile image

rosalarian 6 years ago Author

@anonymous: This is something that often happens. It's less "she is bisexual, therefor a slut" and more "she's a slut, and she can be sluttier if she's bisexual."

Do you have any other bisexual characters who AREN'T sluts? Consider finding a way to create one as a way to balance things out.


anonymous 6 years ago

@rosalarian: I haven't really defined my main character's sexuality. I'm sure if I do end up identifying her as a lesbian or a bisexual, she wouldn't be a slut, because by nature she's reserved. I do plan on adding more characters of various sexualities. Thanks for your help.


anonymous 6 years ago

Thanks, this was well-written and definitely called for. Dunno if you've read Left Hand of Darkness, but it's a good example of a novel in which gender roles are twisted in interesting ways. Not actually a novel about gay characters, but I think it's worth mentioning.


anonymous 6 years ago

Hi Megan!

I was wondering if I could get some advice on a character of mine. She's a woman who's throughout the course of her life, detached herself from the emotional aspect of sex and merely does it only for the physical pleasure. She constantly has numerous men whom she calls upon and she's notorious for treating men like objects. Through work, she's assigned an assistant and after working together, they eventually end up sleeping together. Her assistant is a lesbian, while the main character doesn't per say identify herself as bi, but she's just so desperate for attention that sleeping with another women doesn't phase her. The assistant eventually breaks it off because she realizes the main character is using her like the men before her, and the assistant even calls the main character out on all of her flaws, something the previous men had failed to do because the main character walked all over them. So I was wondering, is this portraying bisexuals negatively? I don't want to portray the stereotype that bisexuals are sluts like you said as I dislike the stereotype as well since I have a few bisexual friends who certainly aren't sluts. I would ask them, but one is very sensitive about the issue and the other one just doesn't like to talk about it. Thank you for your help.


anonymous 6 years ago

Thank you SO MUCH for making that point in particular about bisexual characters. As a bisexual, I get extremely annoyed and frustrated by how many villains and all around horrible characters are portrayed as bisexual. Sometimes, it seems as though writers think that "bisexual" is shorthand for evil, and it really ticks me off! One example I can think of are the Mirror Universe characters from Deep Space 9. Ugh! On the other hand, they also had Garak, who at least was an interesting and complex person, not just some cookie cutter bisexual bad guy. We're not confused. We're not commitment phobic. We're just attracted to both sexes! Thanks again.


anonymous 6 years ago

have you ever written any trans characters? i used to read lesbian pirates from outer space a while back, but haven't checked it in probably a year. any aliens or anything? (lol)

i think you write/portray your characters extremely well, but i just figured id throw in a blatantly obvious statement - "trans characters are almost nonexistent" - which is rather unfortunate


anonymous 6 years ago

@anonymous: This is also good advice. Thank you.


anonymous 6 years ago

@anonymous: It seems one of the most annoying things about belonging to a minority is that every representative of your particular group that appears in any form of media HAS to be a role model. But the fact is, if you're writing a villain that happens to be extremely hedonistic and commitment-phobic (traits that one wouldn't be surprised to find in a villain), it's not illogical to expect that villain to rut with anything gorgeous enough, regardless of gender. The bisexual isn't necessarily being portrayed as evil, sometimes the evil person is being portrayed as bisexual. There is a distinction, if you turn your head and squint. My point is, just because a character happens to be bisexual, it doesn't mean that the character is intended as a representative of bisexuals everywhere. They can't ALL be paragons of decency.

And there's nothing wrong with using bisexuality as a mechanism for character development, to illustrate the antagonist's willingness to reject such things as traditions and the expectations of society in favor of his or her own happiness. In a well-written story, the villain will be just as much a sympathetic character as your heroes...as you said, a complex and interesting person. If that's the case, then there's no cause to complain of the villain's sexuality, and if it's not, then it's the lack of writing talent I'd complain about, not misrepresentation.


anonymous 6 years ago

Really, when it comes to gay characters, I just want them to be treated like characters, not like they're filling a quota. Unless the story is actually about the character's sexuality, there is no reason to focus on it, no reason to treat the character any different (though, in modern day fiction, completely avoiding it for an out character should not be done), and no reason to do anything different to your writing process. There are some promiscuous bisexuals just like there are gay men who have lasting relationships and lesbians who sleep around, but gays are just people, and there are a whole lot of people out there to write about.

And if you do have any good books with trans characters, I'd really appreciate the rec.


anonymous 6 years ago

Really, when it comes to gay characters, I just want them to be treated like characters, not like they're filling a quota. Unless the story is actually about the character's sexuality, there is no reason to focus on it, no reason to treat the character any different (though, in modern day fiction, completely avoiding it for an out character should not be done), and no reason to do anything different to your writing process. There are some promiscuous bisexuals just like there are gay men who have lasting relationships and lesbians who sleep around, but gays are just people, and there are a whole lot of people out there to write about.

And if you do have any good books with trans characters, I'd really appreciate the rec.


anonymous 6 years ago

@anonymous: If the bartender is bisexual, then I think it would be even more meaningful if she had a committed girlfriend. There's a stereotype that I myself have faced: in the end, bisexuals choose the heterosexual privilege. Also, that no self-respecting lesbian would date a bisexual.

Maybe these are just more prevalent in my own experience, but I know that I would be happy if I read something like that in a book...


anonymous 6 years ago

@anonymous: If the bartender is bisexual, then I think it would be even more meaningful if she had a committed girlfriend. There's a stereotype that I myself have faced: in the end, bisexuals choose the heterosexual privilege. Also, that no self-respecting lesbian would date a bisexual.

Maybe these are just more prevalent in my own experience, but I know that I would be happy if I read something like that in a book...


anonymous 6 years ago

@anonymous: "And there's nothing wrong with using bisexuality as a mechanism for character development, to illustrate the antagonist's willingness to reject such things as traditions and the expectations of society in favor of his or her own happiness."

To me at least, that implies a choice. I never chose to be "rebellious."


anonymous 6 years ago

@anonymous: "And there's nothing wrong with using bisexuality as a mechanism for character development, to illustrate the antagonist's willingness to reject such things as traditions and the expectations of society in favor of his or her own happiness."

To me at least, that implies a choice. I never chose to be "rebellious."


anonymous 6 years ago

@anonymous: Well, of course there's nothing wrong with using bisexuality as an important aspect of the character that connects to the rest of their identity, internally and in relationship to society, but I think you have to understand that seeing a major aspect of your identity represented mainly as a metaphor for or aspect of sociopathy can be extremely alienating.

For most people, the experience of being bi isn't the experience of living a metaphor. I know that writers use aspects of characters as "mechanisms" and metaphors quite frequently, but it's worth thinking about what that use does to the accuracy of the portrayal. Certainly, someone "hedonistic and commitment-phobic" could be bisexual, but being those things won't make them bisexual or visa versa. If someone is having sex with someone they're not actually attracted to, there's something going on besides love of pleasure. If they are attracted to them, then they would be, whatever their stance on commitment and self indulgence. Leaning on bisexuality as a mechanism to represent something it doesn't actually represent necessarily misrepresents bisexuality and I have to think that basing important aspects of a character on this misrepresentation diminishes the character. (Which is not to say that sexual behavior independent of gender can't accurately be used to represent anything negative--a character who uses sex as a weapon might well wield it against people they're not particularly attracted to, but that's not really about bisexuality, it's about power.)

Of course bisexuals "can't all be paragons of decency," but using them over and over to represent the same inaccurate vises is very different from just writing some of them as unlikable.


anonymous 6 years ago

@anonymous: Well, of course there's nothing wrong with using bisexuality as an important aspect of the character that connects to the rest of their identity, internally and in relationship to society, but I think you have to understand that seeing a major aspect of your identity represented mainly as a metaphor for or aspect of sociopathy can be extremely alienating.

For most people, the experience of being bi isn't the experience of living a metaphor. I know that writers use aspects of characters as "mechanisms" and metaphors quite frequently, but it's worth thinking about what that use does to the accuracy of the portrayal. Certainly, someone "hedonistic and commitment-phobic" could be bisexual, but being those things won't make them bisexual or vice versa. If someone is having sex with someone they're not actually attracted to, there's something going on besides love of pleasure. If they are attracted to them, then they would be, whatever their stance on commitment and self indulgence. Leaning on bisexuality as a mechanism to represent something it doesn't actually represent necessarily misrepresents bisexuality and I have to think that basing important aspects of a character on this misrepresentation diminishes the character. (Which is not to say that sexual behavior independent of gender can't accurately be used to represent anything negative--a character who uses sex as a weapon might well wield it against people they're not particularly attracted to, but that's not really about bisexuality, it's about power.)

Of course bisexuals "can't all be paragons of decency," but using them over and over to represent the same inaccurate vises is very different from just writing some of them as unlikable.


anonymous 6 years ago

@anonymous: I don't know about any good books with trans in them (not the biggest book reader) but a good on-line comic with some trans characters is http://www.khaoskomix.com/home.html.


anonymous 6 years ago

What of the criticism that I'm not treating someone's sexuality like enough of a deal. I've been writing this story all year for advanced creative writing, with a lesbian character. She's not even the main character, just a major character because the story is mainly about her dad. But have a lot of people in my class complaining that we never find out how her dad feels about her being gay, how she came out, etc. He doesn't care, so I never made it an issue, and they talk about it like she was straight. No big deal. She's been out for at least 5 years by the time the story rolls around, so do I have to include all these details? I don't think they really further the story. Thank you!


anonymous 6 years ago

Just letting people know, I'm open to answering any questions. :) email is dolphin64575@yahoo.com

btw, Megan, awesome idea! Kudos! :D


anonymous 6 years ago

This is a very comprehensive essay, but I honestly feel that it misses the most important point about writing ANY kind of character that is part of a minority:

THIS CHARACTER IS A PERSON, TOO!

Many writers get so nervous about writing a character with different experiences and preferences that they forget what character-building is all about. Tiptoeing around flaws in an effort to avoid offending groups just results in a flat, boring character who can do no wrong. The best strategy is to consider a character's situation simply and honestly and to think of how the character's personality would make him or her act in response. With that approach, there is really no excuse for avoiding characters that aren't just like you.


anonymous 6 years ago

@anonymous: >> They can't ALL be paragons of decency.

Okay, but what if NONE of them are? How common is it for a bisexual character to be any kind of a role model at all?


anonymous 6 years ago

@anonymous: >> They can't ALL be paragons of decency.

Okay, but what if NONE of them are? How common is it for a bisexual character to be any kind of a role model at all?


anonymous 6 years ago

Rosalarian, THANK YOU for opening up this topic! I came here via a link on Ravelry, and loved reading what you had to say (and the comments.) I've been enjoying Yu+Me, by the way.

I hate how limited the world of fiction often is with regards to orientation minorities. Hollywood "taught" me that a Hollywood ending for a man and a woman was happiness and for me was tragedy. It's absolutely bizarre that my real life is so much better than movies, because that's not supposed to happen! /giggle/


anonymous 6 years ago

I thought this was well written.

Ricky does have a point on the character being a person so you might wanna toss that in as a last minute reminder.

I have personally have a hard time reading stories that are so stereotypical and cliche. Nothing irks me more than an overused storyline or assumptions that all LGBT people are the same. It's a lousy representation of the LGBT community.


rosalarian profile image

rosalarian 6 years ago Author

@anonymous: This was a great question, and I addressed it in the FAQ. Basically, not making a big deal out of it is just fine, and preferred by a lot of gay readers. The same way we don't have to get into a straight person's straightness, so we don't have to always get into a gay person's gayness, especially when it has no relevance tot he story.


rosalarian profile image

rosalarian 6 years ago Author

@anonymous: There have been some cross dressers (the story I did before YU+ME had a cross-dressing man as the main character), no one transexual yet, or at least no one who I made a point to out as trans.

I have plans to include some in future projects, but YU+ME is almost done and has no real room for new characters, and Lesbian Pirates would end up being completely tacky.


rosalarian profile image

rosalarian 6 years ago Author

@anonymous: Ravelry? The knitting site?


rosalarian profile image

rosalarian 6 years ago Author

@anonymous: A lot of people have this conundrum. They want to write someone reeeeeeeally slutty, and being bisexual makes it easier for them to be so. It's less bisexual = slut, and more slut = bisexual.

So, like I've said elsewhere, you either have to show a bunch of other bisexuals who aren't sluts, or find a way to make your slutty bisexual not a bisexual.


anonymous 6 years ago

@anonymous: Just off the top of my head, I can recommend one book-book and one japanese comic-book I can link you to.

The book-book is Luna, which follows the story of a girl tryig to deal with the fact that her brother is a trans-female. I found it in my school library a while back, so it's probably not too obscure or hard to get a hold of. The author is Julie Anne Peters.

The link goes to a comic that actually has several trans characters (around four, I think), most of them in high-school. It's light-hearted and fun, while still being very respectful and realistic. It's called Hourou Musuko, which translates to 'Transient Son'. You can find it here: http://www.deviantart.com/users/outgoing?http://www.onemanga.com/Hourou_Musuko/

Happy hunting and reading!


anonymous 6 years ago

I have a question. In a story I've been collaborating on for years with a friend, we have multiple gay characters with varying personalities and levels of involvement in the story. One of our main characters is very promiscuous. I don't think we are stereotyping, because he has gone through quite a bit of emotional fuckery. This being a story about superheroes, he and his twin sister (who is straight) were raised by parents who shunned the possibility of them having powers. Completely ignoring it and leaving both of them desperate for some sort of emotional connection. After a rift between the siblings, Jesse (the gay male) turns to physical relationships as a source of affection. His sister Andrea turns to drugs. He continues his destructive sexual behavior for years, before meeting a man who actually interests him. They end up together, but only after a long courtship where he realizes that sex is not love and is not what he needs. It is a struggle for him, but his partner helps him through it.

I don't feel as if we are stereotyping, but reading this I was concerned that others may not agree. I don't believe our storyline would be any different if he was straight. I'd like to hear your opinion, though.


anonymous 6 years ago

@rosalarian: Thanks for your input Megan! I think I have some good ideas to include other characters to balance her out. :)


anonymous 6 years ago

Thank you very much for this, Megan. I run roleplaying games, which involves a lot of storytelling, characterization and plot. I've been wanting to include gay and bisexual characters in my games for a while now but was worried about doing a disservice. This helps me a lot. PS> I love YU+ME!


anonymous 6 years ago

@rosalarian: Indeed! There is a very active LGBT forum on Ravelry. It's actually one of my favorite places on the internet, and definitely my favorite place within Ravelry. Lots of good discussions, lots of general chatter, and lots of fun. (Also, knitting and crochet.)


anonymous 6 years ago

This is an absolutely wonderful guide and I am amazed at how you've managed to point out just about everything I think about when it comes to gay literature. Many people need to be aware of all this.

The only thing I'd add is one more plot device that, as a lesbian who scrounges through the available limited gay literature, I am tired of seeing. That is the coming out story. Yes it is important, and yes it very much helps gays who are going through that time in their life, but as a person who has been out for awhile I really want to read about characters who are at my stage of life. Those who have accepted that they are gay, aren't going to pretend not to be because that would be easier in society, and are basically like straight characters only they date the same sex.


anonymous 6 years ago

@anonymous: Hourou Musuko is AMAZING. I second that suggestion!


anonymous 6 years ago

@anonymous: So, I'm not the OP, but I just wanted to say that I don't think it's stereotyped at all. His promiscuity comes out of a sense of abandonment/loneliness, a story that would ring true no matter the character's orientation or even gender. I think you're fine.


anonymous 6 years ago

@anonymous: If it's not important to the central conflict of the story, leave it out. If it is, put it in.


rosalarian profile image

rosalarian 6 years ago Author

@anonymous: I much prefer reading stories that don't deal with the coming out, don't have drama around someone's gayness, and treat it, like you said, exactly like a straight character only they date the same sex.

But I do also see the need for coming out literature as a sort of comfort for people who ARE dealing with those situations. And since most of those books are written by people who have gone through it themselves, I can forgive them.

Unfortunately, a majority of the LGBT books on the market HAVE the coming out story. I don't want them to go away completely, but I do think they should have more balance with books that don't feature such a tale.

Some of us read as a way of comfort, finding like-minded people we can relate to who have had the same experiences.

Some of us read to escape, and don't need constant real-world reminders of the hatred we face when we're just trying to relax and enjoy ourselves.


anonymous 6 years ago

@anonymous: While I'm not the OP I'd was just scrolling and thought I'd add my own 2 cents. While from your summary it doesn't feel stereotypical and sound way interesting to read it has the vague feeling in the back of my head that it's been done. Not the super hero thing but rather the gay main character with mommy/daddy issues who turns to sex as a... balm. And I know writing that just now and reading it out loud makes it sound so bad because you probably have tons to interesting backstory and plot to make it not that...bad(?). That being said I think that thing that will determine if your story is being stereotypical or not comes down to what you do with your character. I hope that was helpful and/or useful input.

PS. Just a curious writer to another is your story one of the ones where everyone is gay...except for Pete (Or in this case the sister)


anonymous 6 years ago

Don't forget about the Mercy Thompson series...there is a great gay major character (along with his boyfriend, later on, who is a less major character)...of course, he just happens to be a werewolf, but that's forgivable :D


anonymous 6 years ago

@anonymous: So now we're up to six cents from people who are not the OP, but I was compelled to chime in on the promiscuity point. It's been done before in all literature, because it's a very real way that people fill that void. If you're writing about people with real human emotions, you're going to have repeating themes. How you approach those themes are what makes a story unique.


anonymous 6 years ago

*Long Time Fan of Yu+Me and Lesbian Space Pirates*

=D Wow. Thanks for the advice.

=3 The books you have pictures of, look really -old-. >.>

Like, 1942 old.

<.<

Are those supposed to be ones that you recommend, or ones that you're talking about- with the cliches and all?

=P Cause 'Twilight Girls' looks like it might be just up my alley.


rosalarian profile image

rosalarian 6 years ago Author

@anonymous: They're all from the 1950s and 1960s, and they are where the cliches were born.

Most of them are horrible homophobic bs, but a few were written by actual gay people, and we very good.


anonymous 6 years ago

now this is a movie not a book, but how did you feel about val kilmer's gay detective in kiss kiss bang bang? or the gay detective in the boondocks saints. i've always felt that they were decently portrayed but coming from a straight background, i may not notice any kind of slight that may be there.


anonymous 6 years ago

Comics with covers like the ones you have posted here could be bought for five cents at gas stations and usually always protrayed the gay person in a negative light. With homophobic (Usually) titles and even more morbid story lines.

I also agree that you, Megan, have covered all the bases. I belong to a small group consisting of me and my good friend dedicated to creating more gay fantasy scifi stories. If there are any good stories like these out there I sure as hell can't find 'em.

If you're writing a novel with a gay character, don't actively try to shove their gayness down our throats. (Nur) I mean we'll get it after one line mentioning their gay. Gentle reminders along the way also work fine. Keep in mind that gay romance is like any other romance, don't strain yourself by doing lots of research on how gay romance works. As far as sex goes, I could probably right a book about this. Sexual fluidity is all I can come up with, usually its sex that attracts us to people (Physical features) or can be a benefit in an already good emotional connection. It's hard to describe and I forget where I'm going with this...

As a lesbian I feel no strong like or dislike towards any protrayal of gay people, unless of course in a negative stereotypical way, but I think no one likes that. With that in mind I hope I see a flourish of gay novels for my entertainment. ChopChop!

And Megan, keep up the good work. :] I'm a long time fan.


anonymous 6 years ago

I haven't read very many books with gay characters in them, but one series, The Deed of Paksenarrion, had a lesbian couple in it and they acted just like any other couple. It was really refreshing to see such a treatment.


anonymous 6 years ago

@rosalarian: I write GLBT YA fiction, and since 90+% of books in my genre deal with coming out (definitely needed for kids as they come to terms with their identities), my angle is *genre* fiction, using young characters who happen to be gay.

I've always believed that, in addition to coming-out stories, writing gay teens as the heroes of historical/contemporary fantasies or just plain historical fiction would serve as important a purpose as those coming-out stories in showing gay kids that they can be as kickass as their straight peers.

Thanks for the great post! I must confess that, as a straight woman, I shy away from writing coming-out stories as I've never lived through the experience, though I've used allegory in one attempt at writing it. It's just too sensitive of a subject for me to try to risk offending people, know what I mean? I guess, for the most part, I'd rather show my support of the GLBT community by writing gay kids in different adventures and so on.


anonymous 6 years ago

@anonymous: Haven't seen Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, but Willem Dafoe's gay detective in Boondock Saints should go in the "don't" pile. He is a sadist, a semi-closteted self-hater and homophobe, and portrayed as a sexual deviant. He really shouldn't be anyone's example of a typical gay person. He's more along the lines of the effete villain stereotype. The protagonists of the movie are serial killers, but they do it for God. The detective who wants to stop them is a godless sinner. See what's going on?


anonymous 6 years ago

I have a story in my head and have for a long time involving mainly gay main characters. Having read this, it's occurred to me it could be construed as offensive as most of the characters are really awful people. But it's never even occurred to me that anyone would think they are bad people because they are gay...they are bad people because they are bad people. Is there a way to write such a story and not have it come across as "gay people are evil and must reform"? (the main character is a better person by the end of the story and is still gay. also, equally awful straight characters are present.)


rosalarian profile image

rosalarian 6 years ago Author

@anonymous: The rule of thumb is all about balance. I don't want gay characters as shiny pillars of upstanding morality any more than people want to write them.

If all of your characters are awful people, including the straight people, then the correlation of gay = bad isn't really there, because everyone is bad.

What can help is making sure these are "characters who just happen to be gay", and center the conflict and the source of their badness around something other than their sexuality (which it sounds like you're doing anyway). Avoid things like "I am bad because my parents didn't love me because I am gay" kind of stuff. Make sure they have a different reason to be bad.


anonymous 6 years ago

I'd like to suggest Vernor Vinge's _Marooned In Realtime_ as another "Book with Excellent Gay Characters".


anonymous 6 years ago

Bravo! I love this lens. I hope you plan to create more great lenses. I checked out your website as well, you are very creative and talented. (5 stars) thanks!


anonymous 6 years ago

Just a few more recommendations on good queer characters:

- most of Melissa Scott's books have characters who happen to be lesbians/gay in them. _Dreamships_ and _Dreaming Metal_ are two that come to mind. IIRC, the main character in "The Jazz" is bi.

- Laurie Marks' Elemental Logic books have lesbian, gay, and straight couples as major characters.

- Joanna Russ. Joanna Russ. Joanna Russ. _The Female Man_, _On Strike Against God_, _The Adventures of Alyx_...


anonymous 6 years ago

@anonymous: I really enjoyed the detective in kiss kiss bang bang. He was an example of a character who's personality did not revolve around his sexuality, although it did come up a couple of times. I found it interesting how the main character was slightly homophobic and Perry kind of brushed it off and laughed at him for it, which is my ussual reaction when I come across people like that.


anonymous 6 years ago

@anonymous: I really enjoyed the detective in kiss kiss bang bang. He was an example of a character who's personality did not revolve around his sexuality, although it did come up a couple of times. I found it interesting how the main character was slightly homophobic and Perry kind of brushed it off and laughed at him for it, which is my ussual reaction when I come across people like that.


anonymous 6 years ago

Although I resent suggesting that being a Linkin Park fan is a flaw, this was an awesome article and I'm totally going to share it with my writer friends. Thanks for posting it!


anonymous 6 years ago

@rosalarian: Thanks, I'll keep that in mind. (:


Ramkitten2000 profile image

Ramkitten2000 6 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

Another lensmaster suggested I visit this. How well done! I'm a writer--both fiction and non-fiction--but I've never written about a gay character. Not yet, anyway, beyond just alluding to the fact that one of my characters was homosexual. But if I ever do find that one of my more central characters is gay, this article will be most helpful to re-read.


anonymous 6 years ago

Hello,

Your article was very useful when I was planning a story about a teenage Haitian dancer and her sexual identity. I wanted to ask if I could get your opinion on the piece, as my gay friends are not literary or haven't commented on the possibilities of cliché/falsehood in the story. I also wanted to ask your opinion of E.M. Forster's Maurice, a novel about a homosexual male and his life that was censored during the writer's lifetime.


anonymous 6 years ago

I am writing a story about a musical christian gay teen qwho is hiding his sexuality from a very bigoted and paranoid family. He is very close to his female cousin and they confide in each other. THe story is mostly focused on the male character but the female has her own storyline as well. How do I have the male come out to his dad without making it cliché? Should the dad find out on his own or should the boy tell his dad? Should I include romance for both leads or not?


anonymous 6 years ago

I just came across this page by accident (or maybe not), reading something entirely different and with no forethought of this kind of research ... but there was a link and it looked interesting ... and I think I've realized that one of my characters is gay. I hadn't overly thought about her orientation (I'm at early stages), so I guess she just hadn't told me this part about herself yet. It now seems obvious. Thanks for contributing to the serendipity.


SusannaDuffy profile image

SusannaDuffy 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia

What an excellent resource! No writer should be without this extremely useful (and incredibly readable) guide to writing gay characters. Brilliant! Blessed by an angel today


youngward 6 years ago

wow...an amazing topic, amazing info.

Gay Rings


anonymous 5 years ago

Hi

It's NaNo looming and I have story brewing... and discovered that two of my characters are gay. I'm proud to note that I managed to avoid ALL of your cliches (yay me), but still... I'm staring at those two with a "Damn you! I have no idea how to write you!" growl...my problem is this:

I observed that when men interact with each other they tend to be more gruff â no hugs, just a friendly slap on the shoulder. Theyâre not as outspoken or demonstrative about their feelings as women. But these are straight men who may fear to appear effeminate, so if they weren't in the grip of a cultural stereotype, they'd perhaps interact differently. (Which means that I have no idea how men would behave "naturally"... they probably don't know themselves)

Now, the gay men in my story are not women in menâs bodies (something that ticks me off in slash) and they are warriors aka âmanly menâ *g*. So would they behave as stereotypically male as straight men? Iâm wondering how emotional (and physicl) theyâd be with each other in private. They sure wonât start to recite poetry or gush about their feelings but I canât see them play-wrestle or do drinking (or pissing) contests either (exaggerating here, but you get my point). I feel I canât just model them after how a man in a straight rel would treat his woman (or vice versa), since I havenât cast either of them in the role of âwifeâ. Theyâre both guys. And I have no idea how different the dynamics really are. Any help on this?


rosalarian profile image

rosalarian 5 years ago Author

@anonymous: There's no set standard for how any two people in a relationship treat each other in private. Figure out who your characters are, what their personalities and upbringings are. Maybe they're tough in public but soften up in private, or maybe they're still tough in private. Even straight manly men have different ways they interact with their women in private.


anonymous 5 years ago

I really enjoyed your article. Very informative. Thanks for sharing this. Funny, I think every minority goes through this. As an Ojibway, in movies they have us on vision quests or talking to nature, when we are in fact just people like everyone else.


selishXIII 5 years ago

Hi Rosalarian I really liked your article and such it was helpful and interesting, but i was hoping that you could help me with a few charcters in a book and that I'm writing because i feel your opinion and any advice would be good for my book, and if your willing could you please email me at selish_native13@yahoo.com and then i'll give you details and so about it.

good job on the article by the way:)


Shark_Magus 5 years ago

This is useful info for anyone wanting to try their hand at writing a story with LGBT characters. I myself am an amateur writer and like many others, afraid to even attempt to write a lgbt character, even as a transgender pansexual. Even in the LGBT community, everyone disagrees with how to represent the acronym as a whole


anonymous 5 years ago

im an amateur writer, i mostly do it for fun, and have never really finished anything i started. well im working on a story, and i was thinking about the kind of people i want my character surrounded by, and i thought, hey, why don't i make one of her best friends gay? I want him to be a witty character who puts some light in her hell of a life etc. anyway i haven't started writing him, and i was afraid to even try, but this article is so helpful. I've also considered asking a couple of my gay friends to proofread anything i do write and give me feedback. Thanks for this article it helps a lot!! :)


anonymous 5 years ago

I like this very much. I have a question. I'm writing this romantic fiction between two women, but I don't know how to write their first kiss. Should they they tell for they feel about each other at first? Should it just sorta happen? They've been in love for a while, but are both too nervous of losing their friendship, to make any move. I hope you can help me :)


anonymous 5 years ago

Another place to look for gay or lesbian stories is on fictionpress.com. On there, gay and lesbian stories are called slash (this can either be guy/guy or girl/girl) or femmeslash (always girl/girl).


anonymous 5 years ago

Thank you, Rosalarian! I've been trying to write two gay characters in my fiction for awhile, but something always felt off to me--having the OMGay Scenario right next to Character Who Just Happens to Be Gay Scenario really cleared it up for me where I was doing wrong. The rest of the post helped to put it in ways I could understand! I'm going to be referring back to this a lot!


TIRMassageStone1 profile image

TIRMassageStone1 5 years ago

Interesting topic


anonymous 5 years ago

Hi name is Jason and I wrote a story of finding his true sexulaity. I was woundering on how to get it out there for everyone to see it and read it. First time writer. Can you help me by pointing me in the right direction. Than ks Jason. I like what I read here.


anonymous 4 years ago

This is a fantastic lens. I'm so glad I found it. As a book reviewer of LGBT related books, I've run across some great stuff and some really bad stuff. Here, you've put into words a lot of things that I think when I read works of fiction about gay characters and works that include characters that happen to be gay.

I too find that it's often the straight writers who strain to write gay characters well. You're right, they seem to want to create a little hole to slot the gay character into. I've done some preliminary reviews for a few not yet published writers, some of whom really struggled for an authentic feel. From now on, I'm going to point them in your direction and to this lens.


Hellus 4 years ago

Being a straight writer, myself, and in the midst of creating some gay characters for both my fantasy series and a screenplay, I want to strive for characters who are people, first, and gay second. They happen to be gay, but I have to treat them as people with feelings, attitudes, etc. first. I want to be able to give them free reign to tell their stories and avoid putting them into boxes. For myself, one thing I try to do is put myself in a character's sight and see where that character goes. I think the less I emphasize the gay part and the more I deal with the humanity or (otherworldliness of my fantasy characters), the more they'll be appealing and less closed-off from the rest of the story. It's like emphasizing a straight person for being straight, rather than emphasizing that character's humanity. I think the same goes for any trans character, only one can step inside a trans character and perhaps deal with the emotional issues of conflict that really are at the heart of that individual's self. This is a WONDERFUL and MUCH-NEEDED lens! It's much like writing characters of racial difference. We're all human. We have to take each character as a human, first, and use sexual, racial, etc. differences as a means of addition to the character's identity and NOT as the primary focus of that character. My first rule of thumb for myself is to treat my characters as individuals. Whatever issues, quirks, gender or racial assignments, etc. are all mixed up in the character's self. If I get the character right from inside, from that individual's perspective, then everything else should fall into place without having to force anything. Thank you so much for such a great lens!


anonymous 4 years ago

you should put in Will Grayson Will Grayson on your list of good novels about homosexuality. it's co-written by John Green and David Leviathan. ;)


anonymous 4 years ago

@Hellus: A person's sexuality/gender/race/etc is just as important a part of their individuality and humanity as, say, their career goals. Making "characters who are people, first, and gay second," implies that sexuality is not a part of what makes a person an individual. Using the "you don't emphasize a straight character's straightness" argument is a denial of the fact that the straight lens is the dominant and "default" viewpoint from which a work is read. Treating your characters as individuals involves DEALING WITH the issues and perspectives that come with being the person that they are racially, sexually and otherwise. If someone were to tell me that my gender, race, and sexuality is merely an afterthought to my identity rather than some of the equally important composites that make up my whole I would take that as a willful dismissal of my experiences and viewpoints. I am straight, fairly young and able-bodied, and these things are not things that are frequently brought to my attention, as I am in those privileged groups. But I am a woman, and willfully or not, I am frequently made conscious of the fact that _I am a woman_ in places and situations where a man would not think twice. Please don't make the mistake of thinking that a POC would think about their race the same way that a white person would, or that a gay person would think about their sexuality in the same way a straight person would. A symptom of privilege is not being aware that others do not come from the same place that you do. I am generalizing, of course, but when you are in that "other" category it is a lot less easy to just ignore those pesky traits like race, gender, and sexuality in favor of whatever else it is that supposedly makes up an "individual".


rosalarian profile image

rosalarian 4 years ago Author

@anonymous: I think Hellus is on the right track. Minorities are so often reduced to how they are *different* from the majorities, focusing on one facet, rather than on them as a whole person. Yes, my sexuality and my gender are part of who I am, but they are not all of who I am. Most of the conflict in my life doesn't arise from being gay. Yes, sometimes being gay might influence it, but it isn't the sole driving factor of my life.

It is often frustrating because many writers see straight, white, male, cis, etc. as the default, and the only reason to stray from that type of character is when you have a role that specifically requires a minority. Hence why female characters are so often reduced to being wives, mothers, pregnant, raped, prostitutes, etc. When women's lives are so much more than those things.

To not focus solely on sexuality isn't to dismiss it, or portray all the varieties as exactly the same. I find stories that emphasize a character's basic humanity first to be better equipped to create fully fleshed out, three dimensional minority characters that rise further above stereotypes than those that see a gay person as a gay person first and human second.


JimDickens 4 years ago

Thank you for trying to help us understand the way to approach non-straight characters. I have trouble understanding their viewpoints as much as I had trouble understanding the viewpoints of the heroine in the Twilight books. I need to try to understand people/characters better than I currently do.


JimDickens 4 years ago

Thank you for trying to help us understand the way to approach non-straight characters. I have trouble understanding their viewpoints as much as I had trouble understanding the viewpoints of the heroine in the Twilight books. I need to try to understand people/characters better than I currently do.


anonymous 4 years ago

Would it be okay to have both gay male and lesbian characters in the same story?


anonymous 4 years ago

If my main character was gay and was portrayed in a good way, would it be ok if I had one of the antagonists being an evil gay guy. Who would cause conflict to the main character throughout the book? My book has a mixture of gay and straight, good and bad characters, so i thought having one of the main antagonists who was gay would add more to my plot. The antagonist being gay wouldn't be his whole character, it would just come up here and there among all the other bad things he does. Also there are more conflicts beyond the gay antagonist, he is just one conflict to overcome among many. This article really opened my eyes to what I should and shouldn't write about, so thanks for writing it :)


anonymous 4 years ago

I am really interested to know if there are any books for screenwriting gay characters? I know of âThe heroineâs journayâ by M. Murdock any many more books on writing woman characters, but I know of no book helping to write a gay characters. Are there any?


anonymous 4 years ago

I am really interested to know if there are any books for screenwriting gay characters? I know of âThe heroineâs journayâ by M. Murdock any many more books on writing woman characters, but I know of no book helping to write a gay characters. Are there any?


eadoin-grim 4 years ago

I am a straight writer and I am thinking of making the main character in my novelle lesbian. My novelle is leading up to the siad characters suicide so I was thinking her being lesbian and getting tormented about it at her, very conservative, school could be another good reason for her to think that death is a better option. Is this a good idea? Or is it unlikely? :(


rosalarian profile image

rosalarian 4 years ago Author

@eadoin-grim: It's not unlikely; it's a common thing among real-life LGBT people. Is it a good idea? Well, it's an idea that's been done many, many, many times before. That's not to say it can't ever be done well again, but it has become one of the main narratives of LGBT characters. My advice would be that if you're going to do it, to find some way to make it Not Another Suicidal Gay Teen Story. Find an angle that makes the story unique. What else is the character besides a lesbian? One of the things that makes the repetition of these tropes extra frustrating is that the characters are usually white, middle class, Judeo-Christian background etc. people, and there are a lot of non-white, poor, minority religious etc. LGBT people whose perspectives are lost. Which means even more research into various cultures, but we writers do love our research, eh?


anonymous 4 years ago

I read a book called TOMBOY from butch 2 bitch sorry I forgot the authors name. What did you think about the way those gay characters were written?


anonymous 4 years ago

@anonymous: Daphne I saw your post last week and I was curious so I looked for this book, I found it on www.amazon.com I just finish reading it, GREAT BOOK!! The Author name is Joei Chancellor. I don't usually read the urban books either I must add. I'm curious as well what did you think about the way the characters were written?


anonymous 4 years ago

I have a main character who happens to be gay. This character dies, not in any way connected to his sexuality or in order to protect a straight character. In fact, I knew he was going to die before I knew he was gay. I'm bisexual myself, and I certainly don't want to offend, but the character's death is absolutely vital to the plot. Not sure if that fits the cliché or if I'm handling it well.


anonymous 3 years ago

My antagonist is gay and I'm pretty worried that that'll upset some, especially since he ends up being less than alive towards the end (the whole thing's rather ambiguous and I'm not sure if he'll be in later books, so he could go either way). The fact that he's gay has very little bearing on the plot and is really just part of his character, he's not evilâ just on the opposing side of a warâ and he is only killed because of the way he inadvertently pushed another character into a depression. His relationship with his boyfriend is the healthiest in the story, and is given more 'screen-time' then any other, since there is very little romance in the book, especially regarding the protagonists. So, is it possible for this character to be a 'good' gay character? At all?

I'd really love some advice on this :)


anonymous 3 years ago

I'm writing a story with three gay characters and a pans, rest of cast straight. Two of my gays and my pans are protagonists, but my other gay is evil. He's a rich landlord and very controlling over the people of his land, He treats them badly and couldn't care less about most people. Everyone has to take everything up with him before doing anything, unless they want to get in trouble. It's never stated he's gay. He is going out with another of my gays and that's never stated, but implied. His boyfriend ends up having to kill him so that he doesn't kill his older brother. I'm scared of stereotyping because this particular villain is very fashionable. Is having a very fashionable gay okay?


anonymous 3 years ago

Hey, I'm writing a story just for expression...I'm a straight girl, but am curious about lesbians...thinking about two characters and I want them to get together to show love and getting each other through the good and bad times of their friendship and relationship and not for pornographic purposes. Can I write about their love even though I'm straight and have never had true love before? Is it a good idea to make them lesbians or keep them straight? Should I make them lead characters if they are lesbians, even though I'm straight?


anonymous 3 years ago

What bothers me is the binarism in this -- "both" genders. Gender is not a binary, there are people who identify as a blend or third gender or no gender who also ID as queer. "gay" adds to monosexism (erasure of polysexual orientations -- bisexual is not the only one).

other than that, it's a good guide.


anonymous 3 years ago

I am having trouble with trying to intergrade a bisexual person into my story. How would you make the readers aware that a character is bi without makng that character look like they had trouble with one gender and just switch to the other? Also would it be smart to start out a series with the main character that's bisexual to have some bi encounters before putting that character with a certain gender in a relationship and then at somepoint later on move to the next gender?But with a gradual transition in between.


anonymous 3 years ago

@eadoin-grim: Sounds like it would be a sad but unfortunately realistic story. A lot of non-straight people find themselves as the targets of bullies in real life. Usually, non-straight people stay in the closet for this, though that can often make them feel much more alone. So yeah, feel free to write as you please, as long as you draw it out instead of her committing suicide over someone calling her gross. Good luck, even though your plot sounds like something I would cry over... :)


anonymous 3 years ago

I am a person of confused romantic identity (all I really know is that I'm asexual) and personally, I have trouble writing straight characters. I've never actually shared any of my writings before, but literally every story so far focuses on a gay/lesbian couple. I've had straight side characters, of course (you can't just make everyone gay), but I find it a bit difficult to make interesting straight relationships. I understand that there are plenty of places to get advice for writing straight couples, but specifically want to know how another not so straight person can portray them without them being lame side characters???


anonymous 3 years ago

@anonymous: Well, to introduce a character's bisexuality the easy way, you could just have them say it, or have someone ask them about their interests. Maybe you can give a character exes of different genders to show this as well, or if your storyline focuses on romance, this bisexual individual could have a central ex that is the opposite gender of the person the character is currently interested in. At least, those are the quick ways to do it. Good luck!


anonymous 3 years ago

@anonymous: Well, it's not like there's any rules to what you write in this situation. If you feel like making these characters lesbians, then go for it. It's your story, so write it how you want it. And trust, you're not the only writer out there who hasn't had true love but likes writing romance. Heck, I think that's the situation with MOST writers. Making them the lead characters depends majorly on the kind of story you want to write and how you want it to be remembered by people. Remember, don't write to please everybody; it's okay to have a story thing that appeals to a specific audience. Just write for the fun of it and stop questioning your reasons and goals so much. Good luck! :)


anonymous 3 years ago

I have a gay character in my story and a bisexual character in my story. The former is in denial, and dies still in denial (in an unrelated incident), and it's never made explicit that he's gay. (So, even though I as the writer know he's gay, it's really up to the reader's interpretation whether they're gay.) The latter isn't in denial, but is closeted, having chosen to publicly identify as straight, with only another one of the main characters aware of their bisexuality. (Both of these characters are teens.) Are these inherently problematic, or cliched?


anonymous 3 years ago

@anonymous: Leaving sexuality up to the reader's interpretation is always extremely frustrating. Do you know how JK Rolwing said that Dumbledore is gay? Well, people who have been saying that years before she had him "come out" were ridiculed and put down for 'ruining' his character. So while I don't know about cliché, but it it is frustrating.


anonymous 3 years ago

Hey-

I am a bisexual female trying to write a gay male character trying to deal with his (non-reciprocated) feelings for another (bisexual) male character. See, I can write from the other guy's perspective, because I know how I feel about people I have no romantic interest in even if I am attracted to them. The issue I'm having is less of a "having trouble with the male perspective" thing, but more of a "having trouble writing a character who is attracted to one gender over another" thing. My gay, lesbian and straight friends have all basically answered the question with a "I'm just not attracted to the opposite/same gender," and my bi friend is attracted to only girls in BOTH a physical and romantic way. I honestly don't understand distinguishing between genders other than for purposes of identification, and have been called a bold-faced liar for admitting it. Can anyone tell me how they view people they are not attracted to in any sense without just saying "not" this or "not" that?


Tess 20 months ago

My new favorite gay character, not in literature, but in Cinema, is Gregory Valentine from FOX's new series Backstrom. There's only one episode so far and yet they had me fall in love with him. He's hilarious and fashionable and a punk rocker, which is something slightly new. The actor, Thomas Dekker, is gay as well and he is not the stereotypical type of gay man. He's also a thief, ex-drug dealer and ex-prostitute, and he is a fence as well as an "underground information getter." He's great. The writers weren't planning on putting him in every episode but then they filmed episode one and he did such a fantastic job and was such an exquisite and great character that they vowed to have him in every episode! Hooray! Now, I'm not for the gay movement, but I have no problem with the people. Not anti-gay, just pro-family (despite gay families becoming more common.) Some of the best and most unique people and characters identify as gay or bi (lesbians seem to come up less often.)

Can't wait for more Valentine! You should check it out.


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Grainne McEntee 2 months ago

Superb piece. Thanks for writing and sharing. I only joined the fanfiction bandwagon late last year and it's been a real learning curve writing gay characters! The only thing to do is keep writing with the mindset to improve. Articles like these really do help that process.

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    Comments 45 comments

    anonymous 6 years ago

    This is a great article; and fairly helpful. I was familiar with the stereotypes of course, but seeing them in print just enforces how annoying they are; especially being cast as one of them. I have a question; the first two book-covers (I assume that's what they were) -- two and twilight girls -- they're real books right? And have you read them?


    anonymous 6 years ago

    I recently read "Murder of Angels" by Caitlin Kiernan, and there were some very prominent and well realized bi and gay characters in there as well. :) Her work's urban fantasy/horror. Clive Barker-- his main characters are almost all gay, bi, or pansexual. And Hal Duncan: another gay author who writes strong gay main characters. Also, read Catherynne M. Valente's "Palimpsest" and some of her other work-- she is a very feminist, progressive author as well.

    Again, thank you for this.


    FlynntheCat1 profile image

    FlynntheCat1 6 years ago

    I feel like you're following me >.>

    Also, very amazing lens. Blessed by an Angel ^_^


    anonymous 6 years ago

    Nice article! I love the part about avoiding cliches especially and hope a lot of people avoid them.

    Also, yep, lots of us straight girls enjoy lesbian/gay lit.


    anonymous 6 years ago

    You know how much I love you for this? This is exactly what I needed for my new amature story. To put my story blunt, main character is in crappy relationship with boy, somehow meets girl, still undecided how, they start a crazy lesbian affair, then girl gets her eggo preggo then dramadramadrama. But reading this is making me think I should make a better plot. Haha


    anonymous 6 years ago

    Well, this actually makes me a bit more confident about the use of not-straight characters in something I'm writing as of this moment. The straight (sort of) guy and the lesbian are supposed to mirror each other in character development. They kind of trade off who gets what aspect of their life working out first, as a signal that the other is going to see some progress in this area as well, and the lesbian gets her love life working first (with much more severe issues than just sexuality, to the point I wouldn't be surprised if people thought I was sticking them together with lesbianism to "put all my perversion in one place"... there are logical reasons, honest, and I personally think the issues I'm going to hand the guy are much more severe on a psychological level).

    Others include an asexual woman who isn't frigid or damaged at all, just uninterested; and a villain guy who's kind of... "novelty-sexual," interested more in "uniqueness" or "strangeness" (as he sees it), regardless of sex. But he also has problems seeing other people as anything more than paper cut-outs there to satisfy his curiosity... And that's just the core cast.


    anonymous 6 years ago

    I'm really glad someone tweeted this link! I'm actually fleshing out a graphic novel idea focusing on the romance between a photographer and an actor. As I don't want the two to be shallow stereotypes, things like this make me happy! Thanks!


    anonymous 6 years ago

    I'll reiterate - thank you for that. It's actually the "slutty bisexual" stereotype that has me peeking out of the closet door and hoping that nobody will see me.

    I will confess to having written stories and such where sexuality was a big issue, and often a plot device, but I think it's been slowly evolving for a while now. Rock on!


    anonymous 6 years ago

    As a non-gender-role-bisexual-leaning-towards-lesbian, I would really like to see a story where sexuality isn't an issue, or at least not THE issue. There are a lot of gays and bis who had a lot of rejection from friends and family when they "came out", sure, but I was lucky enough not to be one of them, so all the drama is hard for me to relate to. That isn't to say I wasn't nervous about telling everyone I was bi, I was really nervous. But my friends and family were either supportive or couldn't care less either way, so I think it would be cool to see more casual gay and bi characters in stories.


    anonymous 6 years ago

    This is a great guide! But please reconsider your use of "gay" to mean gay/lesbian/bi/queer/other. A lot of non-gay queers are pretty tired of "gay" being used as a catch-all; it's like saying "I'm not comfortable with saying 'non-white' so I'll just use 'black' to mean black/Hispanic/Asian/Indian/First Nations/mixed-race/other". If you don't like "queer" there's always LGBT (and I notice you don't mention trans characters at all; I hope you'll cover them in a future guide).

    For those writers who are saying "Gosh, I'm writing a character who JUST HAPPENS to conform to these stereotypes, but I swear I don't mean it as a negative thing", please take a moment to think about the logic behind that. Stereotypes can take root in your subconscious and lurk there for years without you knowing it. If you're unintentionally writing stereotypical queer characters, remember that you're the writer and you can change what "just happens" in your work. I would encourage you to deliberately uproot those stereotypes, play around with them, and see what other choices you can make. Be a conscious, aware writer, and be thoughtful and sensitive to the needs of your readers. If your book requires a character to be a bisexual slut or a dyke with her very own U-Haul, write a different book. Claiming that the plot requires it is a cop-out. Trust your creative abilities to come up with interesting, refreshing characters and plots that don't rely on tired old caricatures. Your writing will be better for all the thought you've put into it, and your readers will be grateful.


    anonymous 6 years ago

    Hello Megan! I drew a gay comic once too!

    I applaud you for writing this article, and with such great attention to detail, too! I'm sure this will help a lot of people with their characterization, and of course, a lot of this stuff just needed to be said.

    The only issue I really take with it is labeling the cliches section "avoid at all costs". I mean of course a lot of that stuff IS annoying (no more dead gays!), but saying that it can't be used -because- it's been done a million times before seems a little misleading. Then again, we won't miss sweeps-week-faux-lesbian-makeouts if they disappear off the face of the Earth, right?

    On a final note, that "Gay Cruise" looks like mighty saucy readin'.


    anonymous 6 years ago

    Great article, Megan! A lot of this seemed like simple common sense to me, but in retrospect, I suppose it's not that obvious to someone who isn't LGBT and hasn't been disappointed by the lack of god literature about their minority. I have another major peeve about fictional lesbian characters, particularly in anime/manga.

    Some mangaka like to write "psycho lesbians" who are obsessed with the object of their affection to the point that they inevitably do something insane to win her love at the end of the story, usually something completely overdramatic involving suicide/abuse/molestation/rape/murder. And somehow, whatever this insane act of "love" is, (most often it's rape) their victim inexplicably falls in love with them for it. I don't know what's worse, the stories where they fall in love with their rapist, or when the whole event is shrugged off and forgiven immediately, because somehow lesbian rape isn't given the same weight as "regular" rape. Examples of this

    All the while, the psycho lesbian character basically carries on like a lecherous old man in the body of a schoolgirl, which, to the writer at least, seems to forgive all her creepyness and maliciousness. I can't help but imagine how much uproar these characters would cause if they were male. They'd be a lot less popular, I'm sure.

    There are times when the lesbian psycho can be written WELL, and that's when she has to face the full consequences of her actions (and when her victim acts appropriately to the situation, rather than the rape/molestation/abuse being treated as THERAPEUTIC and somehow beneficial to the relationship.) I'm not a huge fan of rape/molestation/abuse being used for drama, but there are times when it can be used effectively in a story. It's rarely handled appropriately, though, and I guess that's my main beef with writers who use it- it's often used in a cliché, unrealistic, and extremely uneducated and insensitive manner.

    Before I turn this into an essay of my own, I'll leave a link to the appropriate TV Tropes page, which has a more detailed explanation as well as a lot of examples: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/PsychoL...

    I found that these two sentances sum up my point pretty well: "The problem with the Psycho Lesbian is that it carries an ugly history, long enough that fans will complain no matter whether it's an author's rant against homosexuality, a badly used gimmick or merely a coincidence. It also carries an uncomfortable conformist subtext: go straight or go crazy."


    anonymous 6 years ago

    This is wonderful, thank you very much for posting this! I can't tell you how many times I've run into stories that do just exactly this and it is incredibly frustrating when it's obviously about the sexual orientation and not the character.

    Also, The Last Herald Mage series is one of my personal favorites as well. :3 I'll have to look into some of the other books.


    anonymous 6 years ago

    Great Article Megan.

    I've been a fan of your comics for a while now and really enjoy the way your characters step-out of the norms and often surprise me.

    I don't think i've ever read a published work with a bisexual character but i have read a few with lesbians and gays. I find Haruki Murakami's lesbian writing in sputnik sweetheart very interesting.

    I personally would love to see more LGBT literature out there, especially literature that spans the age ranges.


    Stazjia profile image

    Stazjia 6 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

    This lens held my interest right to the end. What you've written is so sensible and helpful. We can all be nervous about writing about people who are 'different' to us whatever that 'difference' might be so I think what you've written can be applied whenever we write about a character who is different in some way.

    Blessed by an Angel.


    anonymous 6 years ago

    I've noticed that you didn't go over trans characters all that much... the truth of it is, other than a handful of webcomics and some hard to find books transpeople are overlooked quite a bit. And sometimes they can be pretty difficult to write. Advice?


    anonymous 6 years ago

    This is very enlightening. Though for my writing style, there are gays every here and there, I think two of my characters are completely straight. The rest have no preference or are 100% gay. It isn't that hard to write...just take a heterosexual couple and change the gender of one. I even think It's more fun to write lesbian romance because of how subtle and sweet it can be.

    Writing a gay couple is the same as anything else, but sometimes it can be a whole lot sweeter...like me and my girlfriend, Kayla. Neither of us are really butch or femme, and we're great together.


    anonymous 6 years ago

    First off- Megan, you are awesome. Thanks so much for writing this. In depth research is a great idea for any writer, but it needs a starting point like this. Writing itself can be educational for members of a majority group. If the world gets one more ally because someone decided to write about members of a group that they didn't understand, it was worthwhile, no matter how good or bad the resulting piece of writing.

    That being said, I feel there is a reason, bad or good, behind certain tropes. I'll speak to personalities rather than sexual cliches, though I think in some rare cases the logic carries over. I work in theater. I've had grown men tell me that 'queer young women do better than straight ones in technical theater, because they're used to breaking boundaries.' By the same token, if I meet another judgmental, vain, self-obsessed gay actor or costume shop worker I may just start crying.

    Gay people are PEOPLE first, then gay. (Maybe "People: Gay" rather than "Gay people"?) Being gay doesn't override the other aspects of being a person- not even the bad ones. Those gay actors are also fulfilling a lot of stereotypes about ACTORS, by behaving in ways that are accepted and encouraged in this particular community. A couple of these folks are really wicked, while most are just a little thoughtless some of the time. My point is twofold: First, what I said about gay people being people, and second, that environment & history can have a huge effect on how likely a given character is to fulfill a stereotype.


    Kate Phizackerl1 profile image

    Kate Phizackerl1 6 years ago

    very well written, blessed


    anonymous 6 years ago

    Fantastic article!

    Now, for mah question, complete with lengthyexposition. I have several LGBT charas (even including the T! I worry about him the most, actually, but mostly because the only people I know who are trans are friends of a friend, so it seems pretentious to write him.) Anyway, I like to think none of them fall into any of the "annoying stereotypes" but there is one I worry about at times. (I'll note that this is an RPG character, of the forum RP variety, so I don't control all aspects of the story. I do control my own character and his personality and view-point, however.)

    So this particular character is one of the closeted type, though not of the uber-macho bully variety -- in fact, he's pretty much a geek. He's closeted because of the way he's interpreted his religion, and while I've tried since his inception to counter the stereotype of the "closeted homophobe" I still worry about it.

    Now, he's not the sort to pick on other people at all. in fact, he's unfailingly polite to everyone and is generally nice and charming, very much a "live and let live" sort of person when it comes to dealing with other people, and very popular with both other characters and players. But he's highly conservative and religious, and he firmly believes homosexuality is sinful. And I have no intentions of him changing his viewpoint on that at all, but you never know. (most of my other LGBT charas have little to no drama about it at all, so I figure I'm allowed to have ONE character with big issues in that regards)

    So I suppose what I'm asking is, would he fall into the "closeted homophobe" trope, even though he's never attempted to convert/change any of the other LGBT characters in the story? He's friends with several of them, even, and while his homophobia does end up hurting two of them, it isn't intentional and is due largely to tactlessness on his part instead of malice (namely, they asked him point blank what his opinions were and he didn't sugar-coat or lie or say anything vague and hand-wavey) He never attempts to "prove" his straightness by engaging in macho posturing or bullying, and he's "out" to some of his friends, though he's made it clear to them his desires are something he won't act on because of his religious devotion. Most of his story doesn't even involve his sexuality at all; it involves his passionate love of politics, his extreme geekiness, and his devotion to an alien he considers a "prophet". Nobody has complained about him yet, and in fact most people claim to like him, and several of the other players are non-straight, so I suppose that's a good sign, but a voice outside the circle of people I RP with would be nice (after all, lovely people they are, but I doubt they'd tell me my charas were lame and cliché)

    :3 Thank you again for the article and for offering to answer questions.


    rosalarian profile image

    rosalarian 6 years ago Author

    @anonymous: You have two excellent things going for you here that outweigh the use of the trope. The way you've set it up (less bullying, more outspoken conservativism) is very realistic. It doesn't seem like a "Ha ha, he was actually gay the whole time," which is really the main beef I have with that trope. It gets used as a surprise ending. But since you seem to be insinuating from the very beginning that he is gay, there's no bait-and-switch.

    The other thing you have going for you is that you have other LGBT people. If the gay-but-homophobic guy was the only gay person, it would be okay due to your subversion of the spirit of the trope, but having more gay people to balance him out helps even more.

    I think you're doing just fine.


    anonymous 6 years ago

    I came here from your link on dA. Thank you for writing about this, I think this was something that needed to be listed out as a general overview of integrating sexuality as part of the character, rather than it being the main focus. Also how simply because gay characters aren't done very often, doesn't mean there aren't many stereotypes that people follow when writing them.

    Many thanks for covering bisexuality in your article and how it's not always good to portray them as 'evil' and therefore make it seem as a negative personality trait.

    P.S.- One nitpick, did you have to link TV Tropes? I ALWAYS end up getting lost there for hours! :D


    FlynntheCat1 profile image

    FlynntheCat1 6 years ago

    You're on the front page! :D


    anonymous 6 years ago

    Great article Megan! I've been writing gay characters for about 4 years myself and I still found this very useful and informative.


    anonymous 6 years ago

    Forgive me if I'm late here, but I'd like to hear your thoughts on the "It's okay if it's you" trope; a character who is usually in straight relationships falls in love with someone of the same sex because that particular person is special, etc. My feeling is like, that kind of thing shouldn't be avoided to the point of enforcing static binary orientations (and don't people always fall in love because that particular person is special?), but that it could be really bad if an author used it to condone a specific gay relationship without condoning gayness more broadly (ie, if "it's okay if it's you" implies that that's the only reason it's okay). What do you think?

    I'd also like to just call out a pet peeve for writing GLBT people as mentally pathological---neurotic or damaged if not diagnosably insane. Obviously GLBT people can be mentally ill, but I mean a tendency to write gayness as part and parcel of pathology, as if they're like that because they're generally miswired or confused or can't handle "mature" het relationships or something. I've run into that worst in high-brow stuff, like Nabokov's "Pale Fire" or the otherwise-good play "Six Degrees of Separation," and I think it's connected to some psychoanalytic theory or something, but anyway it pisses me off.


    rosalarian profile image

    rosalarian 6 years ago Author

    @anonymous: I've never come across a piece of fiction that had the "it's okay if it's you" in a homophobic way. Any time I've read/seen "only if it's you" it's been a person who has no problems with gay people, but never PERSONALLY considered being in one until a certain person came along. Which happens a lot in real life, both directions. When the writer says "Okay, she likes a girl. She's gay now," that's a bit incorrect, and ignores everything in between, but saying "She's mostly straight, except for this certain woman she likes," is quite often an accurate description of someone.


    anonymous 6 years ago

    So, I did a search for webcomics with an LGBT theme earlier today, and come across YU+ME: dream, which is fantastic, and then I did a search for writing gay characters(I myself am gay, but have never been able to quite get it write on paper). I saw your name at the beginning of the article, and it took me forever to make the connection that you're the author of the webcomic as well... I had a little giggle, thought I'd share that with you. Great comic, btw.


    NanLT profile image

    NanLT 6 years ago from London, UK

    I think this lens could be of benefit to anyone wanting to understand gays better, whether they're writing or not.

    Liked, promoted, and nominated for LOTD. A very good job.

    I also like your use of book covers. Way back ages ago when I was looking for books with LGBT characters the only thing I could find was "The Well of Loneliness" ::shudder::


    NarrowPathPubli profile image

    NarrowPathPubli 6 years ago

    Awesome lens! I'm glad I came across it. I write LGBT fiction for a living so this is incredibly helpful. I'm glad to see I've avoided the cliches, and when Shades of Gay is published I will add it to the list if someone doesn't beat me to it.

    I'm lensrolling this to my LGBT lenses. Thanks for writing!


    NYThroughTheLens 5 years ago

    Really awesome lens. Bookmarking this.


    NYThroughTheLens 5 years ago

    Really awesome lens. Bookmarking this.


    anonymous 4 years ago

    Thank you sooooo much!!!! This really help a lot. Have it under my "writng" folder in my favorites!!

    No back to writing! Thanks!!!


    SAPearl profile image

    SAPearl 4 years ago

    Brilliant lens. Absolutely brilliant, I love it.


    anonymous 4 years ago

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    amogme 4 years ago

    Love this article, I appreciate it immensely. I do worry about writing gay characters poorly, but I worry about writing any character poorly, frankly. More than that, I think it's very important to write gay characters (at all) that break free from tropes...so tired of 'em.

    I added Kirith Kirin as a book with an excellent portrayal of gay characters...I have yet to find a fantasy book centering on gay characters that is better than this one (I'd actually rec ANY of Jim Grimsley's works, though I believe this is his only fantasy novel). While I read and enjoyed the Magic's Pawn series, I would call it a light snack, whereas Kirith Kirin is...a full course meal. I reread it regularly.

    When it comes to fantasy, I have a hard time finding these full-course novels (which center around gay characters), and when I do...I hold on for dear life! (Have I mentioned I'm open to recommendations?)


    anonymous 4 years ago

    I read your lament that it's hard to find interesting gay characters and that "the world needs more gay characters." Since you are "constantly trying to find fiction that is both interesting to me, and includes gay people," I thought I'd make you aware of my political thriller "By A Thread." I think you'll find it a welcome departure from most fiction with gay characters. It's not a pulp novel or harlequin romance; it's a fast-paced political conspiracy wherein certain principle characters happen to be gay, and for whom this presents a conflict in their allegiances. I'd be happy to provide you a free ebook or print edition for review. You can find more information at http://byathread-thebook.com. Thanks for your time.


    anonymous 4 years ago

    I am really interested to know if there are any books for screenwriting gay characters? I know of "The heroine's journay" by M. Murdock any many more books on writing woman characters, but I know of no book helping to write a gay characters. Are there any?


    anonymous 4 years ago

    I really appreciate this article. I'm writing a fantasy/fiction book with a strong lesbian romance element, but in a way that we would find romance in any typical heterosexual fantasy novel. I want to treat their relationship much like one I'd have with a woman - unique from any other relationship in its details and the same as any other relationships in its stages and love. Now I have a better idea of which stereotypes are the worst and to avoid them. Thanks!


    anonymous 3 years ago

    Is the idea of a teenage boy trying to figure out his sexuality a total cliché? I was writing for an English class and I got really attached to my characters. It was only a two-page paper but I was thinking of writing further into it. The boy, Dexter, was very lightly being flirted with by his student tour guide on his first day of school and he felt a slight spark of interest in him. The paper didn't end with love at first sight, but I did leave it in a cliff-hanger to let the reader imagination think about the topic furthermore.

    Does it seem too "been there, done that?"


    anonymous 3 years ago

    @anonymous: Teenagers DO question their sexuality, this is about the age at which people start to think about it more. They develop crushes, they start to date and so do their friends so having a teen character wondering about his own sexuality would be pretty reasonable in my book.


    Anonymous 21 months ago

    I'm currently writing a story and I have a character who, when friends read it, said, "Is she gay?" And I just responded with "Yep. So what?"

    I pretty much wrote her as a straight character at first, and tweaked her to be a lesbian.

    I was really surprised how easy it was. All I had to do was change literally 4 lines of dialogue. This is a 120 page novel, mind you. I think that's the best way to write a character who happens to be gay is to write them as a compelling character first and have their sexuality be a footnote at best.


    Tony DeJohnette 19 months ago

    I'm new to writing and I'm not gay, but I have started writing a story about a guy I knew who was a complete prick to everybody until he came out. I was trying to see if that is too much of a cliché and found that the 'closeted homophobe' is a close match. for now I had him making a lot of homophobic statements to his love interest, but maybe it's better to just have him be a dick to everybody, like what went down in real life?


    EmDio 11 months ago

    Thank you so much for this. You are such a powerful writer, and this was very helpful for me. I'm a straight playwright working on a piece about a neurodiverse artist and those who love her. The play is set in 1977. One of the key characters is gay, and I want to write her authentically. I feel much more on track after reading this piece, and I really can't thank you enough, especially for these words: "...as long as you write with the best intentions, and truly seek to educate yourself and try writing gay characters well, then you're doing alright." You're awesome.


    Lee 9 months ago

    I've been trying to figure out how to inform my readers of my character's sexuality. After reading this, this is what I wrote. I could use some feedback. :)

    "Oh, I meant to ask you, how did your date go with um..." I began snapping my fingers. "Don't tell me...uh. Meghan?"

    Chloe nodded and shrugged. "It could have been worse. It was a blind date so neither of us really wanted to be there. She's certainly not my type, but she's pretty cool we might hang out."

    "So no sparks?"

    Chloe scrunched up her face. "Nah. It was like hanging out with," she paused, "Well, you."

    "Oh thanks. You wouldn't date me?"

    "You're cute, but you're like a sister to me. I also like them a little more...athletic."

    I laughed. "You calling me fat?"

    Chloe replied simply with a look of sarcasm. I knew what she meant. Chloe needed to date somebody who liked sports as much as she did. Chloe and I went on a date shortly after we met. We admitted that we thought the other was attractive, but there were no sparks. Instead we became best friends. "I know what you mean. I couldn't date a non gamer." I said with a smile.


    AlexandriaCarroll profile image

    AlexandriaCarroll 9 months ago

    ^ this was written by me. Don't know if it was posted (because I didn't have an account) so I'll repost it here. Funny, I was wondering why the name Meghan was stuck in my head. Mayhaps this is why? At any rate, I'd appreciate your feedback. As I just created an account and will actually be notified. :)

    've been trying to figure out how to inform my readers of my character's sexuality. After reading this, this is what I wrote. I could use some feedback. :)

    "Oh, I meant to ask you, how did your date go with um..." I began snapping my fingers. "Don't tell me...uh. Meghan?"

    Chloe nodded and shrugged. "It could have been worse. It was a blind date so neither of us really wanted to be there. She's certainly not my type, but she's pretty cool we might hang out."

    "So no sparks?"

    Chloe scrunched up her face. "Nah. It was like hanging out with," she paused, "Well, you."

    "Oh thanks. You wouldn't date me?"

    "You're cute, but you're like a sister to me. I also like them a little more...athletic."

    I laughed. "You calling me fat?"

    Chloe replied simply with a look of sarcasm. I knew what she meant. Chloe needed to date somebody who liked sports as much as she did. Chloe and I went on a date shortly after we met. We admitted that we thought the other was attractive, but there were no sparks. Instead we became best friends. "I know what you mean. I couldn't date a non gamer." I said with a smile.

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