Guest Post: Writing LGBT Characters

In the days leading up to Query Kombat, I’ll be featuring guest posts from the judges on a variety of writing topics, from ways to polish your writing to common openings. Check back and follow me on Twitter to stay updated. Today’s post is from Aden Polydoros.

Writing LGBT Characters

There are certain things to be mindful of when writing about LGBT characters, particularly if you are a heterosexual and/or cisgendered author. One of the most important things is to represent LGBT characters in an honest, non-stereotypical manner.

Watch out for common tropes. LGBT individuals are just like everyone else, in that they have their own unique personalities and interests. They are not accumulation of the stereotypes portrayed in media, such as the effeminate theater major, the gay best friend, the cold asexual, and the masculine lesbian athlete. While being part of the LGBT spectrum presents its own societal challenges, LGBT characters shouldn’t exist only as a way of highlighting the struggles that come with being LGBT. Any het/cis character in fiction can easily be rewritten as a LGBT one.
When writing LGBT antagonists, you are also treading on risky territory. If you choose to make your villain LGBT, you should ask yourself what purpose your villain’s sexuality or gender identity plays in the story. If it is to create shock value, or has absolutely no relevance in the plot, it may be best to reconsider your decision. LGBT individuals get poor representation in fiction as it is, and if you are writing for a vulnerable audience, negative representation can strongly affect them.
Research is key. Listen to podcasts by LGBT individuals and read fiction and nonfiction stories written by them. Sensitivity readers and LGBT critique partners can also be helpful in making sure that your representation is accurate. Another thing I would highly recommend doing is talking with your local LGBT support groups. Call up the local PFLAG chapter and speak with their representatives. Ask if they are willing to be interviewed or sit in during a meeting. One thing that is important to note is that people might feel uncomfortable being asked questions. Keep in mind, it is not their responsibility to answer your questions or make sure that you are writing a realistic portrayal of a LGBT character.
Don’t balk at writing LGBT characters even if you don’t identify as part of the spectrum. It is important for diverse characters to be represented in fiction, and a good thing that you want to include them in your stories. While it may seem daunting to write outside of your experience, as long as you approach it with respect and care, you should do just fine.
Aden Polydoros grew up in Long Grove, Illinois, and now lives in Arizona. He is a writer of young adult fiction. When he isn’t writing, he enjoys reading and going on hikes in the mountains. His debut novel, Project Pandora, will be released on August 1, 2017, from Entangled Publishing.
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