If you’ve ever tried your hand at writing about The Gays in long-form, maybe you know what it’s like to find yourself penning The Next Great Gay Stereotypical Tome. Or, if you’ve ever read any of these works (and here is an excellent starting point), you know all too well about a book’s sexually active gays always having fantastic torsos, and how the confused straight guy will be a power bottom by the denouement. But whether you turn to the mysteries of Christopher Rice or the coming-of-age tales from Peter Cameron, we’re loving Megan Rose Gedris’s oh-so-obvious tips on how to write gay characters.
Not only does Gedris provide a whole section on “avoiding cliches,” but her “avoid at all costs” bullet points are a must-read for any gay fiction scribe, amateur or pro. On the over-used list?
Pregnant Lesbians. For some reason, people who write lesbians think they’re being incredibly original by having a story about a lesbian couple trying to get pregnant. This has been done exactly 2,405,305 times before. It creates a scenario where, despite not having relationships with men, the lesbians still need men desperately.
Evil gays. Somehow, people find it very easy to write gay villains (or more often, bisexual villains). “But… but… villains are more fun to write, and I wanted my gay character to be fun.” Well, if they aren’t balanced by some good gay characters, then all you have are a bunch of evil gays.
Slutty gay men / slutty bisexuals. Gay men, and bisexuals of both genders, are often portrayed as unable to commit, promiscuous, and cold-hearted. Particularly with bisexual people, there is a mistaken idea that they cannot make up their minds, and constantly switch back and forth between men and women, and will try to sleep with anything that moves.
The U-Haul. Lesbians have the opposite problem. We’re shown as so commitment hungry, that we’re lifelong partners after one date. This is crazy behavior.
Group ’em together. I have one character who is a lesbian. I have another character who is a lesbian. They’re, like, made for each other, right? Wrong. You can have gay people who know each other and have zero romantic interest in each other.
Closeted homophobe. “I’m mean because deep down, I’m just like you.” Yes, this happens, and it is sad and dramatic. But this story has been told too many times. Find another way to create drama in your characters’ lives.
“I wasn’t really gay!” Also known as “oh, is it sweeps again already?” this mostly applies to things like television and serial stories. A character who showed no same-sex inclinations previously will experiment with someone of the same sex, but either has no intentions of actually pursuing a gay relationship, or ultimately decides to stick with the opposite sex. That isn’t to say you can’t have characters who are questioning their sexuality, but try not to make it glaringly obvious that Lisa only slept with Mary because you were afraid of losing readers’ interest.
Appealing to the opposite sex. Using lesbians to get straight male readers, or gay men to get straight female readers, is really annoying, and perhaps the most overused gay cliche of them all. Many straight women love stories about lesbians, and straight men are perfectly fine reading about gay men.
Dead gays. I spoke too soon. This is the most annoying and overused gay cliche of them all. Gays end up being redshirts, created to die for the sake of the straight characters. Don’t create a gay character just to die.
Now walk into your local Barnes & Noble, head straight to the “Gay Interest” section, and count how many books employ exactly zero of these stereotypes. Thought so! And throw in the “knowledgeable elder gay,” the “designer-fashionista gay,” and “the PFLAG mom.”