Monday, March 21, 2011

Gay Story v Gay Character

Clarification: by gay I mean homosexual and in the good way. I also mean more than gay but it's just easier to say that instead of list and explain the portion of the alphabet we have taken over. People get confused when I post glbtqai.... which can include but are not limited to: gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transexual, intersex, asexual, etc. There are some books out there, though I hope more will be published in the future, many many more.

The question I'm presenting: what is the difference between a gay story (queer lit, glbt novel, etc) and a story that has gay main characters (or secondary and minor though main is better)?

The simple answer is: plot.

I say this because both stories have gay characters but it's the story that makes them not always the same thing. A "gay story" is one where the characters sexual orientation, gender, etc is a part of the plot. This includes stories about coming out and for transgender characters going through the transition. The main point is that the story focuses on the glbtqa aspect of the character; that is where the conflict lies. And we need these stories. Sure, sometimes coming out can seem overdone but there is always going to be a reader who really needs to see a new story that has a character going through what they are trying to face. Also, there are the different stages of coming out (to self, family(others), living out), which all can be used in different varieties within a novel.

Aside from the coming out stories, there are also transition stories. The ones that show, for example, how a person can go from one gender to another and the trials they face. This can include a slight mix of the two (character and story) because there is more to the story than the transgender identity but it plays a large role. This is just another example but I'm sure you lovely readers get the point.

On the other hand, a story with gay characters can be found in any genre and almost any plot line. Their orientation is a part of who they are and not so much the source of conflict. For example, in a hero plot instead of boy saves girl, it would be boy saves boy, or girl saves girl. The urban fantasy demon fighter (or demons) can be any sexual orientation or gender and still follow the main plot lines found in the genre. And some of these stories may have smaller plot lines like coming out to parents, but that is not the focus of the novel. It's easier to do with a character who is already in the "living out of the closet" stage but it's probably possible to have them at any stage.

I wish I had more reading done in order to give proper examples of each category. At this point, I've only read one but I am reading two that are in the character side at the moment and have several others in my to-read section now that I've discovered some of the books that are already available.

These books are actually more common than some might imagine. When I first started writing I really didn't know of many. I'd heard about the one mage series in the fantasy section and then a friend sent me Boy Meets Boy. But whenever I would go into a bookstore to browse, I wouldn't really find any. That is the hard part of both, though gay character can be a little more difficult if it's not shown in cover or mentioned in description. Lately I've discovered many other books. It's easier to do research first before going into the stores and sometimes buying online is better but they are out there. And more are getting published each year. But it can still be a pain. I love picking books by perusing the shelves of book stores and I rarely can do that  if I want a gay book, at least not in wyoming or colorado, where I currently shop. I can settle for the research part but I hope to see more on the shelves, visible for all to see, in the future.

Why post about this topic? Well, because it's one that is important to me. I write "gay" stories and "gay" characters in all of my novels. Most of the novels are character ones right now, because I've been focusing on the mutant series, but I have story ones waiting to be written and I am looking forward to those too. Sure, I've had a couple of people ask why I didn't write straight characters because they think it will be easier to sell a straight novel but *shrugs* that's just not who my characters are and I am happy with what I write.

And whether I ever sell a novel or not, I couldn't imagine writing anything else.

Anyone else write GLBTQ characters? (see what I mean about the letters)
Have a favorite book in either type that is already published?


Elizabeth Mueller said...

Hi, Dawn! I've often thought about writing a particular book about this topic, a YA romance to be exact, but I think the controversy that would befall me? I'm not sure what to do.

I suppose I could pray and see if it's something I should consider?

Thanks for teaching me about this!

♥.•*¨ Elizabeth ¨*•.♥

Dawn Embers said...

Thank you for the comment Elizabeth.

Controversy is a topic I should probably cover in the near future because there are a number of things that can may make a novel seem controversial. The author has to decide if they want to write that story or not. I mean, even magic can make a book "controversial".

Books like glbtq YA are getting more acceptable with books like Boy Meets Boy, The God Box, Ash and Huntress to name a few. So it is possible, but like many categories, some groups could ban the books just by the nature of the topic. It happens.

Loralie Hall said...

I'm so glad you wrote this. Your distinction between the two makes sense and is clear and fantastic.

Great post.