Sunday, February 22, 2009

Writing Homosexuals in a Straight Way

Recently, I've started writing a character that is completely unlike who I am. It worries me if I write a "gay" character in a convincing way or not. In general I write males in a fairly similar fashion. They're either family oriented (which a majority are) or very singularly focused. Part of this problem is that I don't like loose ends like "open relationships". But this isn't about relationships...I'll write that later, this is about sexual orientation.

I have had one character that I've written for online role play who is a gay character. At the time, I was just experimenting and ended up going on some very cliche routes. Most of it was for reaction purposes because I was role playing with many young, straight males. The character, Demonycus, was openly and flamboyantly gay. He'd be flirty with other males, cross-dress, wear "alternative" clothing and had an obsession with snakes. As the role play progressed other players were just annoyed by my "gay antics" so I stopped the act all together and just played along with no suggestions.

As I've matured and further developed Demonycus for other purposes, his sexuality became less of a spectacle and more a part of who he was. Demy is now not always trying to show off his homosexuality, but rather adopts the alternative life-style. He feels both pride and oppression for his sexuality and deals with it more rationally. In role plays, I usually do not bring up his sexuality unless it can be played into the story.

So there is my first example of a slightly failed attempt to write something I was totally unfamiliar with outside of what media portrayed. Now that I've gone through more material including scientific research and social experiences, I feel a bit more confident about what I am writing.

My first step for this character, because he was to be an antagonist was to design him in a way that made him unique and believable. I did my archetype exercise where I imagined an archetype or cliche role and added something unexpected.
So my conquering overlord was a powerful and well-respected general. He was ruthless, disciplined and strong. To add something that didn't fit I decided to play "what if" and asked myself, "What if he was also gay?" And it worked beautifully. Now one of the antagonists has other motives to betray his people and join the enemy, which I did not have before.

What I worry about however is that my story will come off as a bit preachy for either Pride supporters or anti-gays. While personally I am against the whole movement and I know that will show through my writing, I do not want to be unfair to my character because of it.

I have to keep reminding myself that bad things will happen to my gay character NOT BECAUSE OF HIS SEXUALITY...it's because he's a complete douche-bag. (Well...he IS). The character is immoral (according to the beliefs of the world) in other ways too. I keep checking myself to make sure I'm not villainizing him because of his sexuality, that's only a small part of it.

Recently I happened upon a live journal blog full of fantasy writing rants and was happy to find one specifically on my fears. Writing Homosexual characters. (See it here). So far I think I'm in the clear. Taking the bullet points from the rant here:

1) No hinting - It will be blatantly open that the general is homosexual and has a bi-sexual partner. There are also other lesser characters that fall into the homosexual category but the thing is that I don't plan to make sex too much of a deal in my stories. Except possibly in the third one but that one is more about unwanted pregnancy.

2) Angst - The homosexual characters are older men. Two of them have been married (on and off) for the equivalent of 20 years. (Although they're married mostly for political reasons now rather than any affection. They're tired of each other.) Point is that they've past the "angsty" age of teens and 20s.

3) Rape Lesbians - Hmmm...don't really have open lesbians in my story. Bit unfair really, but I'm not about to make a "point" with my story and add them. The story works with the homosexual general, the female character who is sort of raped (not really) certainly doesn't become a lesbian because of it.

4)Fashion Templates - Yeah not gonna touch that one. Definitely not about fashion...generals wear armor and uniforms. That's that.

5)Idealize the gay love - Definitely not. The homosexual couple have it tough and disagree plenty. Their relationship has grown cold and both know that the other is cheating. One with both men and women (has a bastard child) and the other who buys male slaves. Aren't they the CUTEST COUPLE?

6) Keep the characters consistent even "in love" - Well, the general is no longer "in love" with his married partner. And although he is attracted to another character there is a distinct difference between "love" and "lust" or "attraction". Although I'm sure occasionally the couple get it on. They were in love in the past.

7)No "Gay Message Fantasy" - Definitely NOT. The focus of the story is on other characters anyway. So yeah...the message is clearly different.

I think I'll rant about relationships next.
What you should get from this is:
1) Read the Rant and follow the tips it gives about including homosexuals in your fantasy
2) Research Behavior studies and different homosexual philosophies throughout history.
(For example, see about homosexuality in ancient Greece and Rome, the Bible, and beyond. It's very different).

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