Writing about things we know is tough enough without adding the necessity of writing about things we don’t know and hoping we’re doing it right. It requires research, good sources, multiple attempts at writing it correctly, and then being able to accept constructive criticism when we don’t do it correctly and we all know how hard that can be! It’s a lot of work and it’s emotionally taxing, but if you’re here that means that you’re willing to do the work and go through the stressful steps of learning more about something you don’t know enough about, and that is writing LGBTQIA+ characters.
As a writer myself, doing the research to become a better writer and ally has been very important to me as I work on my first novel. I want to be inclusive but I don’t know enough about anything to say that I’m portraying my characters at the level I wish I could. Everyone is different and unique, and I can’t and won’t say that I know the struggle of the world’s individuals because I don’t. I’ve never walked a mile in their shoes so my portrayal is very superficial and I struggle a lot with that. So to work on that, I did my research and though I learned a lot, the information I’ve found is spread out through hundreds of different blogs and posts and comments, which is overwhelming for me to keep track of. So I wanted to compile the information I’ve learned so far about the different individuals of the queer community to make it easier to write and understand them as an outsider looking in.
Including queer individuals in your writing doesn’t have to be hard. Obviously, being inclusive doesn’t mean you slap in a stereotypical gay, lesbian, or trans side character just to tick off that box and then move along. Or even worse, after you’ve published your book, say that they are and hope your readers will take your comment at face value (we’re not trying to be JK Rowling with Dumbledore, here).
So let’s look at the basic umbrella ideas to keep in mind when queer character building:
1.They are people. Keeping in mind that these characters are first and foremost meant to be a person before anything else will help you create three-dimensional characters. As we know, people have feelings, hopes, dreams, goals, likes and dislikes, and loved ones. So make sure you give your queer characters just as much attention to detail as to all the other characters. All of this will make them well-rounded, complex characters.
2. What are their goals? Just like anybody else, LGBT individuals have a various range of interests, goals, and hobbies. Yes, your gay character CAN be into fashion, but that’s not all they can be into, they can be interested in automotive technology, or VR gaming, or ballet, or any other sort of thing a straight person might like as well. They ARE people, so it’s only logical that they will behave as such.
3. Queer is not a personality trait. Being LGBTQ+ is NOT a personality trait. I’ll never say it enough times, being gay is not all the character is, just like being straight isn’t all you are. So if you want to write a character that likes girls, make sure that it’s a character who is lesbian, not a lesbian character. They don’t wake up in the morning and brush their lesbian teeth after having lesbian breakfast and then go to lesbian work. They wake up, have breakfast, brush their teeth, and go to work just like any other person in this world.
4. Don’t be cliche. When you’re writing, there are a lot of topics you can write about that include queer individuals but that aren’t LGBT issues like the ‘coming out’ or ‘transition’ stories. Although those are important topics, they’re not the only important events that LGBTQIA+ individuals experience. In fact, just like us, they have unrequited crushes, graduate high school or college, get their dream job, experience trauma, find a partner that treats them right, get married, have kids, and all of that beautiful stuff that straight people do. They live regular lives like regular people, you should represent that as well.
In addition to all of these points, do your own research, ask people in the community, and most of all, be accepting of any and all constructive criticism of your characters, not as an attack on yourself, but as a way to become a better writer overall.
In the following weeks, through this series, we’ll break down the ins and outs of writing an LGBTQIA+ character, highlighting the stereotypes each individual sexuality experiences and how to avoid them when creating these characters.
- How to write better LGBT characters
- How to Write LGBTQ Characters Well
- How To Write Awesome LGBT Characters – 3 Top Tips
- How to Write LGBT+ Characters
Featured image by Divya Agrawal on Unsplash