Internet troll questions if I have the “balls” to write gay character. Well, I’ve done it before.

July 30, 2010

My first Altoids ad. They didn’t call it “curious” for nothing.

Saying I must have “some kind of weird balls,” an anonymous commenter took me to task for writing about a gay character in my new novel, sweet by Design. Calling me a “straight mook” (BTW, I love the word “mook”), someone calling himself “J-Low” seemed to think I hadn’t the chops for writing a gay character (in the first person no less.)

I replied that I’d better have the chops, because I’ve been selling to gay people for years. Most clients value gay consumers and rightly they should. These are men and women with ample disposable incomes, not to mention being epic trendsetters. In other words gay people buy stuff. Lots of stuff. And the stuff they buy –cars, booze, clothes, electronics- represent core categories. Categories that often depend on early adapters to thrive, let alone survive. Writing copy for them –really good copy- is mission critical for all of us in modern marketing.

Goes without saying, right? Then, why, I wonder, would someone question me, or any writer for that matter, with having the ability to assume a gay person’s persona? Yes, most writers tend to model their main characters after themselves (especially if using the first person) in terms of age, sex, race, and et-cetera. But expanding our horizons beyond the familiar is part and parcel to writing, be it copy or fiction.

It is also fun as hell. Writing a gay character like the hero of Sweet by Design, Jeffrey Sweet was liberating, stimulating and a great learning experience. Avoiding clichés and stereotypes was crucial, but then when is it not?

Anyway, people are people. Save for the vagaries of DNA, Jeffrey Sweet is not unlike many 38-year old males. He fears what his parents think of him. He regrets certain past behaviors. He desires companionship and beautiful things.

And you don’t?

So, yes, I wrote a gay character. And while I may be a “straight mook” I was, to the best of my abilities, thoughtful and fearless. I invite “J-Low” and anyone else to see how I fared. The story is free. Plus, it has various interactive elements to make it more fun, including a cover design contest open to anyone, regardless of age, sex or creed. 😉

Did I get it right or are, in fact, my balls too weird? You can let me and everyone else know in the comments section. The first three chapters are now online, right here: Sweet by Design (novel, synopsis and contest)

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6 Responses to “Internet troll questions if I have the “balls” to write gay character. Well, I’ve done it before.”

  1. Roswell Thomas said

    Good writers can speak convincingly for characters wildly different from themselves — Shakespeare put sensitive words in the mouths of black and Jewish characters, George Elliott wrote as a man for a while without anyone noticing. In this project, though, those gay early adapters are going to be crucial in avoiding further allegations of straight mookness. For what it’s worth, I’m really enjoying it so far.

  2. SRP said

    Now that I’m on the subject of homosexuality, here’s something that appeals to another active interest: Gay Zombie!

  3. I have just place a comment on the discussion board at my Storyteller page which addresses writing in the first person. As you have suggested, it is wonderfully profound to model or attempt to become a character. I think it is “the best” way to tell a tale which will seem true to life. The thing you may have overlooked is that J-Low believed you were the main character and that is frankly a compliment. In my opinion, J-Low could be a pseudonym for “Down Low” or “Low Down” as they seem to fit rather well. J-Low is a common nickname in the black community and I am sure you’ve heard of “brothers on the down low” and maybe that is the real issue with J-Low. It is weird how the people who take offense to fiction are often trying to hide their own truth.

    Disclaimer: I am an African-American. I am a wife, mother, and devout Roman Catholic. I expect to end up in purgatory with liberal thinking sinners like myself. I believe gay men and women are people who deserve the same rights and respect we’d all want for ourselves.

    • SRP said

      Thank you for this comment. A lot. It has me going on a second post, a part 2 to the above, dealing with similar issues as it pertains to African Americans.

  4. While I personally can’t speak for anyone’s “weird balls” I would say fu-bar on a straight mook author not being able to write a gay character. So I suppose a straight mook actor can’t play a gay character? And certainly then the reverse is true that a gay author actor or artist can’t create stories about anything straight? So male authors can’t write female characters? No Worky. Jeffrey Sweet is that and a bag of chips. Oh and no – you can’t write about dragons or werewolves. Unless of course they are straight.

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