With all the talk of diversity from last month’s Pride month, I’ve got stuck thinking about the topic of all sorts of diversity.
Miriam Joy and I were discussing our Work-in-Progresses recently. Her YA contemporary about modern-day knights is packed with queer characters (to quote Miriam “I’m bad at writing straight people.”) whilst in my steampunk/alternate history, I’m finding it difficult to identify any sort of diversity.
Any pre-millennium author would argue this is because of the setting and a world where not only was homosexuality considered a mental illness, many queer people refused to admit the truth to themselves—but I refuse to take that as an excuse for my own writing. The idea of diversity has to, fundamentally, exist throughout the centuries, worlds and genres. One can’t swipe it away by the idea that some genres or places are ‘immune’ to diversity. That would be ludicrous.
This is, sadly, a trend in my writing. One of my characters was obviously gay to me; and Agnetha is bi, even if she is more heterosexual-homoromantic than anything else; if any of my characters are asexual, that would be Andrew Costello, but even his disinterest is classed as being a confirmed bachelor in the NeoVictorian world*.
As I write, I don’t see my characters as being diverse, and I’m hardly one to shoe-horn in the queerness and the colour; as I’ve briefly mentioned before, I’d be happy to have some of my characters whom I envision as white in my head played by actors of colour, but I am – one might sigh and say sadly – one of those little middle-class white girls with a tendency to write about white girls. And, of course, they’re middle-class, because the upper and lower classes are too often written about.
On the other hand, it’s more difficult simply to make assumptions about characters—
Though I can’t help but want to let my readers decide about the sexuality of my Supporting Characters. With MCs, I tend to be more specific, since I can’t escape writing in romance. For instance, in Horology, Cathy gets engaged to Alexander, though I do accept that the certain fact does not negate queerness of either partner. But they’re straight. Believe me. SCs, however, don’t have to be specific. Of course, I’ll know what I feel they are meant to be, but characters have their own decisions ex libris and I cannot stop them feeling what they might.
Be that as it may, my authorial side has her own opinions/interpretations/assumptions – and it’s here that I find, once I’ve created the cast of a WIP, that barely any characters strike me as queer.
And one has to be aware of stereotypes. I know certain images appear at the thought of, say, the word lesbian, because of the way popular culture has shaped our views, and I have no wish to further the stereotype—yet, characters automatically conform to certain patterns of stereotypical appearance. For instance, I can see how a couple of my SCs in Horology could be queer, but they’re already non-conformist in their jobs and opinions, so – to me, personally, by the way; I fully understand the subjectiveness of the matter – it seems a cop out to have them be queer. That’s almost what the reader expects.
So, what about subtle queerness? But with characters who don’t need to be romantically involved, or are chased by an unwitting ‘straight’ (used in the very general sense) character, how does one show their sexuality without making a point of it? Or without doing a JK. Is it bad if I’m not being explicit? *overthinking*
You know, I’d like to see more diversity in interests, too. Whilst a lot of writers include ‘fun’ interests, like sciencey-things and music and stuff (specific, I know), I’ve not met many, especially non-contemporary, characters who are furries or lovers of inanimate objects or animals (and, no, I’m not talking about bestiality. Bestioromance. You know, in a nice way). Lifestyles that are a little deviant of ‘the line’. I think I’m allowed to raise that point, even though I’m only 50% Live-Action Role Playing.
I guess it’s too early in the Steampunk fashion boom to expect contemporaries with characters who Steam dress and have Steam personae, but I find this sort of ‘cultural’ cross-dressing is absent everywhere, despite knowing two people who, rather than cosplay, do daily dress in their creations.
In summary, I suppose what I’m raising is that I myself should be writing more characters in non-contemporaries who put on the gear of cults/societies/non-conformist fashion without fear of exposure/mockery/plot-device.
And, you know, more obviously queer characters.
I feel I ought to mention the series of Pride posts Nevillegirl did, since those also in part inspired this post and got me thinking about more diversity in my own works.
*Perhaps I’ll further explore the use of ambiguity in prose – both the oh-that’s-a-remark-about-sh*gging-guys and the author-isn’t-meant-to-know kind – when regarding sexuality in another post, since it’s a little off-topic here. In particular, the lives of a lot of the characters in The Continent world (When the Clock Broke) are private even to my eyes. There are some things to which I don’t want to know the answer.