How to Tell if Your Story is “Gay” Enough

So. You’ve decided to go into this diversity market of book writing. But you don’t feel like those young, hip, queer people are digging your book?

There are a few key reasons why that might be the case — and some sure-fire ways to fix them.

As someone who’s part of the LGBTQ community and who has worked with lots of LGBTQ authors and fans, I hear all of the reasons why queer people connect with specific representations of queerness in media — and why they don’t. And trust me, there’s a pattern.

One of my most consistent clients likes writing stories that feature LGBTQ characters as the protagonists, but most of her work has centered around the B in the acronym since she’s a bisexual woman. Her most recent book was about a bisexual woman as well, but she also included characters that were trans, asexual, and lesbian. Once she’d finished the manuscript, she realized she’d spent so much time on describing the bisexual experience she’d completely forgotten to think about how to portray these other characters. She got really worried about how people were going to receive them. She’d put so much work into them, she didn’t want her readers to hate them or misunderstand what she was trying to do with them in the narrative. We went through these steps together, and now she’s confidently querying agents and getting asked for pages!

If you’re someone who wants to include queer characters in your stories, but is also nervous about how to do it, this post is for you.

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1. Do Your Research

One of the biggest complaints I hear about representation is that it isn’t realistic.

“This trans character’s transition doesn’t make any sense! His testosterone shots need to be consistent! He’s not doing it the way my doctor told me I needed to at all!”

“Bisexual characters are always made out to be sluts that want multiple partners of different genders! It’s like writers don’t know the difference between bi and poly!”

Even if you don’t cover the details of your queer character’s experience in your manuscript, it’s important you know enough about that sexual identity to create realistic, accurate characters.

The internet is a great place to do your research if you’re not part of the queer community or want to know more about a specific identity — both in reference material and online social circles. Most people in the queer community are willing to educate others so long as questions are phrased kindly and respectfully, so don’t be afraid to reach out.

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2. Stay Away From Stereotypes

This one’s pretty easy: don’t have the only queer people in your story be evil; don’t use queer people as red shirts; and don’t impregnate your lesbians unless it’s with sci-fi tech that allows them to do it without having to rely on a man.

These sorts of stereotypes have been done again and again — the pregnant lesbian trope coming in at having been done 2,405,305 times — and doing them again frustrates readers, and can even make you look like a lazy writer.

If you’re worried that something you’re doing with a queer character might fall into one of these tropes, Google it. There are so many angry rants about these tropes on the internet that you’ll know in an instant.

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3. Understand How to Write a Queer Character

AKA: exactly like a straight one.

Your character’s queerness doesn’t affect things like their undying passion to be a paleontologist one day. It just affects their gender identity and sexual preference.

Construct your character as you would any other character. Then ADD how your character doesn’t like to walk around alone at night because of the high crime rate against trans women on top.

This way your character’s queerness is part of your character rather than what defines her.

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4. Realize that Queer Characters Don’t Need Queer Storylines

People don’t need a plot relevant reason to be queer, and characters don’t either.

I often hear queer readers complaining that the queer characters they love only ever show up when their queerness is relevant to the plot.

This is why the queer coming out story is losing its foothold in the market: it’s been done so many times that queer readers are getting bored with it. They want to see queer characters hold jobs, go on adventures, fly airplanes — everything that heterosexual cis characters have been doing in books for years.

By opening up your character to all of the potential they have a human being — rather than the potential they have a queer plot device — you’ll get plenty of queer readers to flock to your story. If you need proof of that, just look at how well The Legend of Korra: Turf Wars Part 1 is selling.

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And there you have it.

It’s a little long, but I hope these tips will be helpful to all of you in figuring out if your manuscript is “gay” enough or not.

Feel free to PM me or tag me in the comments if you have questions or want to talk more about this.

Happy writing, everyone!