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Help with a character sexuality ---

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Showing 1-22 of 22 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 25, 2012, 12:48:34 AM PDT
I am writing my second book, my first was already publish and it is for sale, butI am noy here to promote.

Wrote the prologue for my first book and one of the main character, do not work if he is not gay. He got a twin brother, and his family is accepting of the fact, it is set in a fantasy land, and both twins where born under a honorable time. I try to re-write the character, but he only works being gay, is like my own character refuse to write if he is not what he was meant to be. I am the writer, but the character is taking control. Shoul I force him to be straight, I have nothing against gay people , but I dont want to deal with the controversy, buy I feel that I own it to the character to make him the way he was created.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 25, 2012, 1:03:37 AM PDT
blakey says:
your story comes from within you, so somewhere deep down you know that this character has to be gay so that you can tell this tale. trust in your creativity, even if you can't see all the reasons yet.

plus, i'd like to add that gay characters really don't turn up often in mainstream fantasy. i am always excited to find a novel that features gay characters. don't try to make your character straight- being gay won't make him any different, he will still have all the same qualities and strengths. he will just love men instead. accept who he is and enjoy writing your latest novel. there are many gay and straight readers who will love to meet your characters and explore your world, including me.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 25, 2012, 1:54:26 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 25, 2012, 1:55:37 AM PDT
...why does he have to be gay?

I don't mean this in the sense that you ought to change him, nor that you ought not to change him. You should be able to determine the why for any decision you make. If it's important to the character, the story, or the world, you should know why before you move to a phase involving an audience, even if you're not planning to tell that audience why. If you can't understand your own world, how can you expect your audience to?

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 25, 2012, 7:49:20 AM PDT
Not to disparage you Christmas but you obviously haven't written much or if you have it's been technical stuff or writing that otherwise just uses real world facts. For many writers, in fact I would say for most of them the book writes itself. You might think of it as a process where you plot out a storyline from A to B and then write the in between parts. In fact it's more like you plot out a storyline from A to B and the characters deviate from the path and wind up at C. This can apply to the characters actual physical journey, interactions or character development.

If you ever are reading a book and the actions taken by a character seem forced. If it seems like they are being put into a situation that they would never have wound up in. If it seems they are acting totally out of character. That is probably a book where an author forced themselves to stick to their initial outline rather than let the characters do what they needed to do.

It's a strange sensation having your characters decide their own fate, but a fun one. Note: I haven't written anything that has been published yet. Just many plays that have been performed for the public.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 25, 2012, 7:57:26 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 25, 2012, 7:58:34 AM PDT
For you Mark I have a suggestion. Stop trying to edit your work as you are working on it. An author Mike Stackpole put it best. If you are digging a hole of a certain depth and shape you don't try to keep the edges straight and the shape perfectly as you are getting deeper. If you do you are just wasting time and the perfect edges will probably just be ruined as you keep digging. Instead you just dig out the majority of the dirt and once you have the basic hole then you go back through and refine the edges.

Edit your books the same way. Write the whole story. If during the writing you think something should be changed then make a note about it in a journal but don't actually take the time to change it yet. After you have finished your complete first draft then go back through and start changing and cleaning up. Many times you will find out that those changes you thought were necessary actually aren't. If you change everything as you go along you will wind up writing the book four times over. By the time you finish your book you may finally know the reason your character needs to be gay. Or you may have decided that he doesn't need to be gay so changing him wont feel so forced.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 25, 2012, 8:20:40 AM PDT
"For many writers, in fact I would say for most of them the book writes itself."

And this is precisely why so much of human creative endeavor is worthless. I'm not saying you have to make everything in order, nor that you have to have to know everything about what you intend to do before you start creating, but you should understand everything important there is to know about your creations before you're finished. Statements like "I let the book write itself," or "the characters have taken on a life of their own" are the defense and excuses of poor thinkers. Can these poor thinkers make good things? Sometimes. Like they themselves say, though, it's through no effort of their own.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 25, 2012, 8:34:08 AM PDT
Jim Webster says:
I also tend to assume that whilst I might well have some control of various points in the story, once I get to know the characters, the characters will by their very nature start taking control and altering things.
When you first map out a book, if only in your head, you might expect the story to take a certain path, but as you spend the weeks writing it, you will find that the nature of the characters as they develop may drive things to happen differently.
I would suggest that Mark should allow the character to develop as the story develops, and watch how the character acts within the constraints of the society in which you have placed him.
For example, being 'Gay' in 4th Century BC Sparta was very different to being Gay in 21st century London. Indeed in Sparta they may not have seen the need for the term because whatever a mans sexuality he was expected to marry and produce heirs, but that was a process that could be regarded as unrelated to love or sexuality.
Perhaps you should look at your fantasy world as ask whether you are forcing that into a 21st century mindset?
As for editing, yes you can overedit too soon. I tend to go through what I've just written to pick up sloppy writing or errors of fact but then I'll go through it a couple of times when it's finished. But don't try and make chapter 1 perfect before you start chapter 2.

Posted on Apr 25, 2012, 8:43:38 AM PDT
Cap'n Crunch says:
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In reply to an earlier post on Apr 25, 2012, 8:45:54 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 25, 2012, 8:46:51 AM PDT
Jim Webster says:
I suspect phrases such as "the characters have taken on a life of their own" mean different things to different people.
I would suggest that what it really means is that you reach a point in your writing where you realise that the character you have created could not do the things you intended him to do. Inadvertently, because of the way you have had them act and/or speak you have portrayed the character in a certain way.
Therefore to write the characters properly you have to make them coherent and consistent (within the human norms of coherency and consistency) which means you end up changing details of the story to allow for this.
In reality it is no more than taking care over detail, so one doesn't mention that a character was armed only with a shotgun and then have him shooting the bad guy off the roof at a thousand yards.

This isn't to say that the reader doesn't get to know the character better as the story goes on, and the reader may well be forced to revise their opinion of the character as new evidence comes to light, pretty much as we do with real people.
If you take Cugel in Tales of the Dying Earth you gradually realise he isn't as clever as he thinks he is, and whilst he is never likeable, at the end of the second book he has reformed somewhat and is a somewhat `nicer' person.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 25, 2012, 8:48:12 AM PDT
This is a quote from Stephen King on how to write.

"I won't try to convince you that I've never plotted any more than I'd try to convince you that I've never told a lie, but I do both as infrequently as possible. I distrust plot for two reasons: first, because our lives are largely plotless, even when you add in all our reasonable precautions and careful planning; and second, because I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren't compatible. "

I'm guessing you wouldn't consider his writing worthless.

the problem is that you are approaching writing fiction as if it were construction. When putting up a building you have to plan out ahead of time where each wall is going to go, What kind of joists you are going to use. What sort of flooring material and so on. And if you just start deviating randomly from this then you have a structure that is worthless and flimsy.

Writing isn't like construction. It's artwork. If a painter decides to paint a lake with a mountain reflected in it then that artist doesn't plan out ahead of time where each tree on the shore will go, which parts of the shoreline protrude into the lake, where the rocks on the shore will go, where in the sky birds will be. Instead they just work out the basic outline of the mountain and lake and then start filling in the details. What is initially a rocky section of shore may wind up being a clump of trees instead because it feels more balanced. A bird may be placed in the sky then covered up because it feels out of place. Art changes as it is created because it is a process of emotion, not rationality.

The only situations where good writers plot out everything and stick to that plot is in books like mysteries where you absolutely need to have certain things happen at certain times or the story makes no sense. Or of course biographies and other works which are telling real life events.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 25, 2012, 5:38:58 PM PDT
R. Wilde says:
If a main character "does not work if he is not gay", then making him straight presumably makes the story less than it otherwise would be.

Only you (and maybe your editor?) can determine how much less.

Posted on Apr 27, 2012, 8:29:55 AM PDT
I don't claim to know much about gay characters, but what about writing a straight character, whose only difference is that he is sexually attracted to men, not women? Don't go for the stereotype, go for the human.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 27, 2012, 3:55:23 PM PDT
Captain says:
That won't work if the book is about gay sex, and if there's one thing that fantasy needs it's more gay sex.

Posted on Apr 27, 2012, 4:27:46 PM PDT
C. Sheehan says:
If he's gay, he's gay. Don't force him into anything. I'd never change someone's orientation. Or hair color.

Posted on Apr 27, 2012, 5:05:46 PM PDT
Lots of people I know change their hair color.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 27, 2012, 6:09:52 PM PDT
A few questions. You don't so much need to answer them to/for me, but for yourself.

1. Does this book, with the character in question, connect to your other book?

2. 'born under a honorable time.' What does this mean? Do the people of this fantasy land believe that the time/date of someone's birth determines/reveals their fate/aptitudes/virtues? Or do you mean that the people (of a certain social level) are expected to live under a code of honorable behavior?

3. Is there a cultural significance to them being twins? A way/reason that this is important to your characters? What would change if one were a year older than the other?

4. You say that it doesn't work if he isn't gay. WHAT doesn't work and why not? Are the problems social, individual character interaction, family expectations? Does his sexuality impede/further the plot or action sequences? Is a romance/failed romance a major component of your story? What exactly changes based on what shape of person makes him smile and think naughty thoughts other than the stars of his fantasies?

If you're questioning the characters sexuality or the way to write it, start by writing the parts that don't involve his sexuality, but focus on other concerns - is he healthy enough to go on the journey, good enough at fighting to not be killed by bandits, smart enough to find the traps...

In the end, you will decide how to write your character. Just remember to write the characters and story in a way that you won't feel ashamed in your writing or your stances when you look back after a year, five years, ten years. Write it so that you feel that it is the best story that you can do (at this point in your career).

And not every story needs a lot of sex and/or romance. Just... if you decide that goes there, give some indications before he jumps into bed with someone, 'kay? otherwise your readers will go '...whaaaa? where did that come from?!?' And if you decide to make him gay, do a little research - not all gay men are the same, and they won't act the same in all cultures/times. However he expresses his sexuality, it should fit the feel of your setting.

Posted on Apr 28, 2012, 9:45:36 AM PDT
C. Sheehan says:
"but I dont want to deal with the controversy, buy I feel that I own it to the character to make him the way he was created."

Disregarding 'how he was created,' since it seems 'the character is taking control,' I've never once seen a bad review for any character's orientation. As long as you're not forcing readers into gross, pornographic detail, I wouldn't worry about it. Besides, gayness isn't as much of a controversy as it was five years ago. I wouldn't try to force the story a certain direction just to avoid nasty comments you'll probably never see.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 28, 2012, 10:22:53 AM PDT
Jim Webster says:
I'd have thought that one 'danger' of having a homosexual character is that people might just assume you're doing it to be fashionable

Posted on Apr 28, 2012, 10:35:16 AM PDT
IrishLeFay says:
I'm completely against straight-washing fiction. He's gay. Deal with it like you would if he was your kid, because in a way he is. But, I've got kind of a soap box about fiction in general needing more gay/lesbian/trans characters, so take that for what its worth.

There will be controversy though, at least with your agent or editor or someone up the chain. There has been a lot of drama in the last year or two in Young Adult fiction about a very deliberate attempt to straight-wash characters. Someone is going to want you to make your character straight, so if you're going to make him gay, be ready to defend your position. However, unless you're the next JK Rowlings, I don't think you have to worry too much about public controversy. Mercedes Lackey has been writing not only same-sex couples, but three way relationships for something like twenty years and I've never heard anyone have a fit about it.

Another thing to consider, both the original poster, and any other writers/agents/editors who may be reading this: There is a huge frickin market for gay male characters, especially if there's a bit of romance. Not with gay men as the market, but with straight women. I did my master's thesis on this, and believe me some gay romance in any genre will be eaten up with a spoon if its marketed right.

Posted on Apr 28, 2012, 11:05:46 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 28, 2012, 11:28:18 AM PDT
"Statements like "I let the book write itself," or "the characters have taken on a life of their own" are the defense and excuses of poor thinkers"

Storytelling can be compared to shooting a perfect game of pool or sculpting a magnificent vase. In some cases, a master sportsman or artisan will know how to describe their technique, how to teach others to replicate it, and how to create diagrams and notes explaining what makes their talent superior.

However there are others that have a much more intuitive understanding of their artform and may be unable to even describe what causes them to be successful. They just "eyeball it" or "feel it out." They are not "poor thinkers" but they may lack the analytical frame of mind that teachers and theorists find comes so naturally. After all, baking a cake is one skill, but DESCRIBING how to bake one is quite a different one.

I actually find it more unusual to find creative people that can think with an analytical bent. It's a double blessing.

Edit: To weigh in on the "gay character" topic...

I'm a heterosexual man. As much as I love heterosexual sex it is not the only thing I think about all day. It's not my only motivation and my only creed. Make sure your character doesn't just become an avatar of his sexuality. One of the reasons people fear and demonize gay people is that they see them as always being "on the prowl" for homosexual sex. Obviously, this is no more true them classifying all heterosexual men as sexual predators. Just write your character as you would write any character. I'll bet you'll know when sexuality will enter your story.

Posted on Apr 28, 2012, 1:11:18 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 28, 2012, 1:17:59 PM PDT
Everyone has their own style and method of writing. If it doesn't feel comfortable then don't do it. The reader will be able to tell. Most people that write have a multitude of voices in them.

Sometimes we create characters that disturb us, because they feel against our own nature but are intrinsic to the plot. When you do that, just hunker down and give it a shot. You will be able tell if you made it flow.

I have one book that has a character that has some sexual content in it and it developed a gay cult following. Which was great for sales but hard to brag about in polite company.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 28, 2012, 2:23:40 PM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Apr 28, 2012, 2:59:14 PM PDT]
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Initial post:  Apr 25, 2012
Latest post:  Apr 28, 2012

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