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Thread: On LGBT main character

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin Gabriela Jessica's Avatar
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    Question On LGBT main character

    Does having an LGBT main character downsize a number of readers or become less popular than fantasy book with a straight main character?
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  2. #2
    Left-Handed Writing Fairy folclor's Avatar
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    Okay... so... I don't know if I'm alone in this, but I don't actually care about the sexuality of a character. I feel like as long as you treat your character the same whether straight or LGBT it won't actually be a sticking point. If you don't have a whole bunch of things essentially going, "Ooooohhhhh no~! Look over here! My MC's LGBT!" I think it won't detract, but it may attract more readers. I don't think you should downplay it, though you may get a lower audience if it's about the struggle of an LGBT character in an anti-LGBT world.
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  3. #3
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    If you don't make it completely about him or her being an LGBT character, there shouldn't be an issue. Unless of course it's a specifically an LGBT story, like a romance or erotica or something. If the story doesn't hinge on the LGBT status of the character, then he's just your MC and your hero. Or at least that's the way I see it.

  4. #4
    Herder of Hamsters AW Admin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gambit924 View Post
    If you don't make it completely about him or her being an LGBT character, there shouldn't be an issue. Unless of course it's a specifically an LGBT story, like a romance or erotica or something. If the story doesn't hinge on the LGBT status of the character, then he's just your MC and your hero. Or at least that's the way I see it.
    That's . . . interesting.

    Why is it an issue to have a queer character in a novel? Why is it any different from having a straight or Swedish or Nigerian or Catholic or even a Walloon?

    It's not like it's a new thing.

  5. #5
    Three of a perfect pair. AW Moderator amergina's Avatar
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    Didn't seem to hurt Ellen Kushner that much... Or a ton of other authors through the years....
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  6. #6
    All the nopes. lizmonster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gabriela Jessica View Post
    Does having an LGBT main character downsize a number of readers or become less popular than fantasy book with a straight main character?
    I'd be really surprised if it caused you any problems. That's not to say that you might not have some readers snarking at you about it (because humanity is wide and varied and some people can't get out of their own way), but readers are going to snark at you about all kinds of things.

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  7. #7
    practical experience, FTW Shoeless's Avatar
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    From the other side of the coin, the acquisitions perspective of a literary agent, or an editor, you're in a pretty good spot. An LGBT character is no longer looked on as a dealbreaker, and some agents even actively look for stories featuring these characters. That's some real progress from, say, 30-40 years ago in the science fiction and fantasy genres.

  8. #8
    Herder of Hamsters AW Admin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lizmonster View Post
    Write your story, write it well, and don't worry about what people are going to react to. If you try to guess, you'll be wrong anyway.
    This. There are people who will object to having a left-handed Swede, never mind Waloons.

    Tell your story. Tell it with all your might, write hard, and write true.

  9. #9
    practical experience, FTW Stephen Palmer's Avatar
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    I don't think it should cause difficulties, and I don't think it will. As long as you are true to your material, that will show through.

  10. #10
    permaflounced
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    There are a lot of agents these days who are looking for books about "marginalized groups" which means LGBT, PoC, and so on. Which in some ways is very good, as it shows progress.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by AW Admin View Post
    That's . . . interesting.

    Why is it an issue to have a queer character in a novel? Why is it any different from having a straight or Swedish or Nigerian or Catholic or even a Walloon?

    It's not like it's a new thing.
    Definitely not a new thing. There shouldn't be an issue. There's an issue for some, but for others it fine, and for others still, it's what they're looking for. Just depends on how you look at it and what kind of story you're telling. I write some stuff that's specifically LGBT. It's garnered to that audience, however, in my fantasy there is an LGBT character (the bi-sexual elf Liukan) where he's bi-sexual, but no one bats an eye because it's not important. Just depends. But I have had some people freak out on me saying that because I write LGBT stories and characters I have the same "mental disease" as LGBT people. Those are the people who are definitely not going to find your LGBT characters interesting. It's all about taste...or being a homophobe on rare occasions like the people who think that being LGBT is a mental disease.

  12. #12
    figuring it all out
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    I think you might have people turned away if it's a book all about LGBT issues(you'll probably still have a large enough audience though), but I don't think we're still in a state where your book would get turned away just because of a character's sexuality.

  13. #13
    have faith, restart itsmary's Avatar
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    I know a lot of people who would want to read it *because* it has an LGBT main character. You'd probably actually increase your readership.

  14. #14
    practical experience, FTW Magnus's Avatar
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    While there are many (white heterosexual men) who somehow blow a fuse every time someone they are expected to relate to isn't a white heterosexual man, I think it's safe to say that they don't often open a book.
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  15. #15
    Beastly Fido Roxxsmom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gabriela Jessica View Post
    Does having an LGBT main character downsize a number of readers or become less popular than fantasy book with a straight main character?
    This isn't the first time someone has asked this question in the SFF forums.

    There are many successful SFF books (and popular television shows too) with LGBTQ protagonists or other significant characters, and this goes back for decades. Many people feel there need to be more, particularly books that don't play to stereotypes or limitations that the media often place on diverse characters. Many agents and editors say they're looking for books with diverse characters these days.

    However, every single choice one makes as a writer will attract some readers and turn others off. The SFF fandom is very diverse itself, and there are some passionate disagreements about which kinds of stories (and characters) best reflect the spirit of the genre.

    Since you are writing SFF, I assume you read the genre voraciously and have run across a fair number of authors who have LGBTQA/QILTBAG characters. If you haven't, get reading. Try googling :QUILTBAG (or LGBTQA) SF and F novels" if you need ideas for reading.

    As others have said in this thread, if you write a story well and with heart, then it can find a readership (there are no guarantees, of course, but that goes for all stories with all character types).
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  16. #16
    figuring it all out xanaphia's Avatar
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    Bisexuality is common in the world I am writing, with two of the three major characters ascribing to that orientation. It also lacks a strict sense of patriarchy, with more or less equality among the genders and sexaulities. The communities I frequent often clamor for book featuring LGBTQ characters. Especially books normalizing them.

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  17. #17
    practical experience, FTW yumpty-tum's Avatar
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    I think it depends what you're trying to do. If you don't make it A Statement, which can come across as preachy and/or virtue-signalling, then why should it hurt? As long as the character is compelling then nothing else should be an issue. J. K. Rowling did it really well with Dumbledore - from book 5 on it was fairly obvious that he was gay, but nobody gave two hoots coz it wasn't signposted as a "here, look how progressive I am! I've written a gay character!" thing. Dumbledore was just Dumbledore, and as a small aside he happened to be into Bad Boyz. If, of course, you're proselytising then you'll get backlash because nobody wants to be told how to be a Good Human via their fiction. So just write a good story with a good character and try not to push your views down people's throats and nobody will care whether MC likes guys, gals or slimy tentacled creatures.

  18. #18
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  19. #19
    figuring it all out Shirokitty's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Magnus View Post
    While there are many (white heterosexual men) who somehow blow a fuse every time someone they are expected to relate to isn't a white heterosexual man, I think it's safe to say that they don't often open a book.
    I will admit to laughing at this, because I suspect it's true.

    Anyway, I'm sure someone will be offended, but most that would probably aren't the same people that would read your book. So if being gay is just a part of your character's personality, then I say don't worry about.

    If it's a major part of your plot, then I'd say that's where you need to tread a bit more carefully. If it's a story about discrimination, for example, then you'll want to do your research and maybe even find a gay person to beta read for you. I would also suggest having at least a few heterosexual characters who aren't idiots, because as a straight person I'll admit I've gotten annoyed at lgbt people that hate heterosexuals.
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  20. #20
    practical experience, FTW yumpty-tum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shirokitty View Post
    Anyway, I'm sure someone will be offended, but most that would probably aren't the same people that would read your book. So if being gay is just a part of your character's personality, then I say don't worry about.

    If it's a major part of your plot, then I'd say that's where you need to tread a bit more carefully. If it's a story about discrimination, for example, then you'll want to do your research and maybe even find a gay person to beta read for you. I would also suggest having at least a few heterosexual characters who aren't idiots, because as a straight person I'll admit I've gotten annoyed at lgbt people that hate heterosexuals.
    This. Seriously, this.

  21. #21
    Not as sweet as you think Aggy B.'s Avatar
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    Fandom is complex. Every character will have fans and not-fans for a variety of reasons. Some will simply hate on a character for private reasons and try to use other (shifting) excuses as to why they hate. (See: Sansa Stark - who was first hated because she was "whiny and useless" and is now being hated on for standing up for herself.)

    Also, all stories have a message. A poorly written story is simply poorly written and is not ruined because of message, but rather because of craft. If folks are saying "message fiction" at you, it's usually because their own message is so dominant they are not aware of how wide-spread and in one's face it is. They won't notice it, because it's not in contradiction to their own lives/beliefs, etc.

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  22. #22
    Talking Fruit Melanii's Avatar
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    I'm already interested because you mentioned "bi-sexual elf Liukan". You'll gain more readers than lose them, I'm sure.
    Last edited by Melanii; 07-18-2017 at 05:49 AM.


  23. #23
    Derailed WriteMinded's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gabriela Jessica View Post
    Does having an LGBT main character downsize a number of readers or become less popular than fantasy book with a straight main character?
    I think now is the perfect time for a book like yours. Publishers are actively looking for LGBT books, and they have fewer to choose from than books with only straight characters. Good luck to you.

    One of the characters in two of my books is bi. I don't make a big deal of it, and neither does he.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shirokitty View Post
    I will admit to laughing at this, because I suspect it's true. . .
    I didn't laugh. I thought it was prejudicial.

    Quote Originally Posted by Melanii View Post
    I'm already interested because you mentioned "bi-sexual elf Liukan". You'll gain more readers than lose them, I'm sure. Yu
    I was also intrigued by that.

  24. #24
    All the nopes. lizmonster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Magnus View Post
    While there are many (white heterosexual men) who somehow blow a fuse every time someone they are expected to relate to isn't a white heterosexual man, I think it's safe to say that they don't often open a book.
    While this is a great line, too many recent events have proven this to be entirely false. There's a fairly vocal (but, I keep believing, small) contingent of SFF fandom that wants Adventurous Heterosexual White Boys In Space (and/or With Dragons And Submissive Women), full stop, and anything else is PC rubbish.

    I'm trying to articulate what's bothering me about bits of this thread. I don't think anybody's intending to say this, but there's an undertone here and there of "it's OK to write queer characters as long as you're not too loud about it" with varying (subjective) definitions of "too loud."

    And I don't think that's necessarily what people mean to be saying. But it strikes me a bit like someone saying "Watch it when you write about folks from Wisconsin, because it'll come across as message fiction." Because queer people are, and including them in a book, even as (gasp!) a main character, shouldn't be any different than any other character decision.

    Of course I realize it is, because of the world we currently live in. And I'm a big proponent of sensitivity readers if you're delving into a character who is enough Not You that you're concerned about missing the subtleties. But explicit inclusion of non-majority/non-culturally-dominant characters is no more a political statement than not including them.

    As an aside: I keep thinking of a review of Kameron Hurley's MIRROR EMPIRE in which the reviewer complained that there were no heterosexual characters in the book - even though two of the POV characters were explicitly heterosexual. This reviewer read Hurley's cast of individuals of widely varying sexes, genders, and sexualities, and totally missed the straight folks right in front of their nose. (And lest OP be worried about this - IIRC, the reviewer still gave the book 3 stars.)
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  25. #25
    practical experience, FTW themindstream's Avatar
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    Well as Aggy pointed out, it is a matter of craft. Unless the character's sexuality is part of the plot or otherwise the point of the story, harping on it in excess can come off as heavy handed and preachy, distracting from the actual plot. But some people could probably pull off "loud and proud" well.

    Besides that, I'm a bit of a fan of the idea that singling out characters who are "other" for special attention can still contribute to the trend of othering them and that there's power in having those characters placed in the story in places of prominence without making a big deal of their other-ness. It is in a way telling the world "yes, they belong here without question and the world accepts who they are."
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