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Midweek Mingle: Capturing Community

community

Ugh. I want to start by apologizing for missing last week. I went camping the weekend before and ended up with food poisoning. Last time I agree to let anyone else cook chicken for me. Needless to say, I was out of commission for a bit. But now I’m back at full force and ready to get going again.

I’ve talked a few times in this column (all right, more than a few) about the QUILTBAG+ community, but never really in any way relating to writing. Well, I’m here to rectify that mistake.

We, as SF/F writers, are normally at least moderately well-versed in including an outside culture in our writings. I mean, how else are you going to make your Venusians believable if you don’t adapt their holidays for the retrograde spin or the incredibly long days?

Well, if you’re looking to be more inclusive of the QUILTBAG+ community in your fiction, and you’d like to do it in a manner relatively in line with the real world (If you’re writing a completely alternate world, then I can’t really help. Sorry.), one of the best ways to capture the experience is to capture the culture shared by the QUILTBAG+ community.

I’m not about to say that every QUILTBAG+ person fits into this, or fits into anything, because it’s not true. But there are a lot of common things shared within the community. Even the meanest, cattiest (I’m surprised my spellchecker didn’t blow up at that word. Wow.) people I’ve met in the community will stand up to defend someone being harassed. They don’t have to get along with each other. Not to say that some wouldn’t stand by, but most wouldn’t, because we’ve pretty much all been on the receiving end of some pretty nasty commentary. That’s one of the big ones to look at when/if you go about putting in a cultural component of the QUILTBAG+ community into your work.

I’d say the other one that really captures the community at large (again, not everyone) is the sort of casual nature that runs rampant there. Yeah, there’s a lot of high-strung people in the QUILTBAG+ community, just like anywhere else. Humans are stressful little monkeys, after all. I think we can all agree to that. But within the QUILTBAG+ community, I’ve always noticed that people are more likely to cross barriers that are hard and fast in the rest of our culture (My experience is with US culture, so the lines re obviously going to differ depending on where you/your character(s) is(are) from.).

I remember walking into a house inhabited solely by gay men once. It was set up that way, so they had a safe place to stay. There was no hello. There was only kissing and hugging. Not romantic, just a thing that happens. It was just normal. Putting an arm around your friend while you’re just chilling is normal. It’s not uncommon, when I’m hanging out with other members of the community, for them to lay on me while we talk.

Of course, the best way to find things out about any culture is to actually go immerse rather than to listen to me or any other blog post. I would say that these two things are something just to keep in mind while doing other forms of research, because they’ve always caught my attention. And of course, no individual character is going to be a perfect stereotype all the time (At least I hope not.). I’ve said this before about various different topics I’ve covered here, but it bears repeating: talk to people within the QUILTBAG+ community. Put yourself into figuring these things out, and you’ll find yourself much more likely to make your fiction mingle.

1 thought on “Midweek Mingle: Capturing Community”

  1. I’ve worked with gay men before and not a single one of them fit into a just single category of ‘this is a gay man’ because everyone is more than a stereotype. Now, as a stay at home mom who has little free time for socializing in person, I don’t get to immerse myself in any “real-life gay culture” to help fuel my writing, unfortunately. I’m part owner and admin of a large website featuring gay fiction, and there is a thriving community of gay members who I interact with on a daily basis (often to deal with a lot of drama, yes! LOL) But we also have a lot of forums filled with on many different aspects and events of life and writing–sometimes with a gay theme and sometimes not. If nothing else, it reminds me that all of us are just people, man, woman, gay, bi, straight, gender-fluid, whatever… and sexuality is something that should be a part of who we are, but not all we are. I like to make my characters the same way, letting them be gay but also be fathers, brothers and sons as well as business men, leaders, photographers, alien world explorers, etc… in a world filled with both gay and straight characters. I don’t want everyone to be gay or every event to focus on that aspect of the characters, so usually other than the fact that my romantic leads (if I have a romance) are into other men, I don’t focus on how to make them seem any particular way. So far, I’ve never had anyone come right out and say, “Your men are not believable as gay,” so I’d like to hope I get at least some of it right.

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