I’m still climbing, slowly but surely, getting higher and higher. I have 302 printed manuscript pages and at least three chapters I haven’t even started. I’ve broken 61,000 words.
“Once upon a time, there was a young girl who lived with her parents in a city made of grey. They didn’t always have enough to eat, and they were often cold, but they loved each other very much and laughed all the time. One day, the girl’s father went off to work but never came home.”
“What happened to him?” Estelle asked.
“There was an accident at the factory,” Kandace said in a whisper. She continued, “The girl’s mother was so sad, she cried and cried. The girl didn’t understand, not why her father wasn’t coming home, not why her mother wouldn’t laugh anymore. The girl began to get sad and look up to the sun.”
“A great, burning light in the sky,” Kandace explained. “It’s name is Yggdrasil, and in stories it is a giant tree made of fire. The girl liked to watch the sun, imagining it as the giant tree, imagining that she would climb its branches to another world.
“Then, her mother got sick. The girl thought it was because of the sadness inside her. She thought it turned to poison and made her mother sleepy, so sleepy, until she didn’t wake up anymore.
“Without her mother and father to care for her, the girl started to plan a journey. She would take only the most essential things, pack them in a bag, and climb the burning tree to the stars. She climbed and climbed, stopping at each world she found, but learning that she preferred to climb from world to world than ever stop.”
As a gay reader, I find that there are disappointingly few examples of surprise gay characters in the fiction I’ve read. What I mean is that I’d love to read about a secondary character who just so happens to fancy the same sex. The story doesn’t revolve around it, but it’s there.
Naturally, I feel like I can write differently. But I want it to be as subtle and as insignificant to the plot as that character’s eye color; a detail and not a defining feature. Not a woman who is introduced as a lover of women, but one we get to know for her other quirks and charms before learning, “Oh, by the way…” Because I want readers to see the person, not the sexuality.
I feel this way about all other aspects of a person that people find sorry excuses to discriminate against: gender, race, socioeconomic background, etc. If one of my characters is disliked, let it be because he’s an asshole, or she beats children. Not because he likes men or she’s a woman.
There are a few characters in my current story who do not identify as heterosexual. It hasn’t come up in the narrative, though I’ve left subtle hints here and there. I may not end up explicitly stating it, but they’re there. As long as it’s not relevant to the plot, there’s no real reason to come out and say it.
As in anything else, I reserve the right to change my mind. It would be fun to write a coming out scene where a character makes a heartfelt declaration and those closest to him respond with, “We know, dear.” I have one in mind who would fit perfectly into such a moment.
To summarize, I want more gay folk in fiction and I’m doing my part to make that happen. These characters will be realistic, well-rounded and flawed. They will be everything a good character should be, plus fabulous.