Yesterday’s piece was about how politics can creep into your writing unintentionally. Today, I’m giving you an example of how a basic reality of your story will make an offensive statement to others. These people will see it as an attack on their religious, moral, and political ideals.
I know some of you shall be packing off after this, and that’s OK. I’ll miss you, but it’s better now than a few months down the line.
First, let me stress this. I do not write specifically to promote an agenda. But I have opinions, and when I write, they will come out. I don’t think of many of these topics as political. Unfortunately, almost every topic has a political side these days. I can’t imagine writing anything except very dry non fiction without getting politically charged responses from one or both sides these days. Even when you think you’re safe and you removed politics from a piece, trust me: someone out there can find something political in it. And they will point it out.
Does he HAVE to be gay?
My main character is gay. His mere existence as a character makes an offensive political statement to many people. There are many people who will refuse to read my story because of my main character. I’ve had a few friends ask me if Reddy just had to be gay. Yes, he did. Why? Because that’s who he is. Why can’t I make his love interest female? Because Barrie is a man. I can’t imagine him female.
Sometimes characters create themselves
Reddy didn’t start out gay. His original love interest was his fiancée. She’s still a major character, but their relationship is different. Reddy had an intense friendship with a man and at some point it seemed obvious to me that it was romantic. I thought the relationship would be a one off exception. The more I wrote, the less interest he had in women. Once old boyfriends worked their way in as walk-ons, I gave up. This guy is gay.
He just won’t let me change him. I wanted him to be a straight dumb jock who washed out of military school in a generic fantasy land. He was supposed to be killed off early on. Now he’s my main character, and a gay rock star with a world custom made just for him? The guy who killed him and the main character from that original story no longer exist in his world. The entire original story in no longer exists — because the plot would make no sense with a rock star. Sometimes I hate this guy. I want to get the story done before he demands something else if me!
If you’re, a writer, this probably makes sense. If you’re not a writer, trust me, it’s not uncommon that characters evolve as you write their story.
You will lose most of your potential readers!
I hate that a character’s mere existence can be so offensive that people will refuse to read it. In my story, sex is implied and almost entirely “off-stage”. I think some people would be less offended if I told them I was writing hardcore graphic fetish porn — so long as it was guy on girl action. I’m exaggerating, but not much.
First of all, I’m queer myself. I’m asexual and agender. I don’t talk about it much at all, because many people don’t believe the orientation and identity exists. I am old and don’t care enough to argue about it. I’ll write in detail some other time, if anyone cares to know.
Most of my closest friends are different flavors of queer. I can’t imagine whitewashing my fantasy world and making everyone straight to get a few more readers. I don’t want to make those readers happy. If they don’t like my queer characters, they don’t like me. They don’t like my friends.
My Answer: Why would I want to make a world the way someone else wants it to be — especially if their world doesn’t have people like me in it?
Chris Crutcher made an excellent case against censorship in school libraries a few years back. If you find certain topics about certain kinds of people offensive enough to shield students from it, you need to think: what message are you sending to the students who are those people?
Some parents got offended and wanted to ban books with teen mothers. There are teen mothers in schools across the country. Can you imagine what it would feel like to have books about people like you removed because it was too offensive? People say that your existence is so offensive, decent people shouldn’t read about it. Does this mean that you are not welcome in the school? Students shouldn’t be exposed to you?
Anyway, I write queer characters. I won’t stop because I might gain readers if I make everyone straight. Nuff said.