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And here I go.......


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Hello All :)

I was reading some of the comments posted regarding young Ryan's "One Life." So to our distinguished collection of authors and editors who are in "residence" I put forth the following;

Since the majority of the "web" writing tends to gravitate towards the issues flowing around coming out, initial relationships, growing pains etc... Why is it that many writers seem unwilling to tackle the "day to day" grinds of life within a Gay setting? Specifically, it is not often I see true form in writing about a group of entirely Gay teens or more so young adults and the conflict that arises between themselves as they struggle with life? (Removing the straight elements entirely.) For example, I believe it was "aj" who questioned the "jock" versus "flamer" stereotyping. So I ask, but yet within the greater Gay community do we not all do that to some degree?

I think you all see where I am headed with this so...The boards open.

Paul :mrgreen:

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Conflict within the gay community? Shirley, you must be joking! We're just one big happy family out here... well, ok--there's an occasional spat between the drag queens and the leather men, and between the twinks and the older guys...and the youth and everyone else because they feel disenfranchised, and sometimes the gay men and the lesbians have a few words...and let's not even get into the smoldering feud between gay people and bi people...and some people resent transgendered folks for insisting on being included, though I think the more, the merrier.

I think the reason we all write so much about the coming out experience and first love affairs and so on, is that they are pretty universal experiences. And relatively noncontroversial. In my experience, when two gay people get together, after talking for a little while and deciding that they want to talk to each other, but that they aren't going to go straight to bed, one of the things they always talk about is "So, how did you come out?" It usually comes up after "What kind of work do you do?" and just before "Are you looking for a relationship?"

BTW, i've noticed that no-one has taken on the challenge of writing a story about a transgendered character yet...it's just out there, waiting to happen. Having worked at Lambert House a little, i know that there are teens out there who are pre-op, but who live as members of the opposite gender...

anyway, gpaul...I guess what i'm about is saying "Good question." should be an interesting discussion.

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My view on this is that what makes the stories interesting to both the writer and the reader is the conflict that arises between the "straight" and "gay" elements. If you eliminate the "straight" elements, then you end up with a situation that is effectively the same as if you had eliminated the "gay" elements - ie. a fairly standard story, presumably on relationships.

Of course, it's quite possible to do so. However, if anything "defines" gay fiction, it has to be the conflict between gay and straight. Otherwise, take any typical "straight" story and simply change the sex of one of the members of the "love interest" to make it a "gay" story.

As you mentioned, Paul, there are stereotypes within the "gay sub-culture", and exploring these could be used to provide the conflict required to hold the readers attention. This is, however, more difficult to do successfully (at least for the less experienced writers). It is also, probably, interesting to a smaller community of readers.

My opinion only, of course, so feel free to disagree (as if anyone on this board would hesitate :roll: ) :D

Graeme

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There are several threads with comments on Ryan's stories in various sections, so check 'em all out. Some great points in them. -- I've been amazed at a few authors, to find out they're teens. That much talent and activism is rare, teen or adult. It's good to see teens who use it.

Many of the authors around the web do handle some really tough issues really well. A few of them are on Dude's site. Others are around on other sites and forums. They deserve a lot of respect for it, and I hope they'll keep on.

When you talk about those everyday issues, there are all kinds of things to that. I'm assuming you mean the whole range. There's everything from how do you handle being gay at work or school to how do you handle it at home, with relatives and friends, to the daily relationship with your significant other. And yes, there's lots of story material there. You seem to be saying, OK, once Johnny has come out, now what? How does his character go on in life, what are the challenges, and how does he deal with them? I think that's been handled to an extent in some stories, but it's a big topic, which, incidentally, we each have to go through in real life. So there's a long time to cover story-wise. I get to answer that very question, somehow, pretty soon. "OK, once I'm out, now what the **** do I do?" (But first I get to deal with coming out.)

I think the reason the coming out story or the first relationship story is so common is because it's so obviously powerful and important in our minds, that realization of being different, that this isn't a little thing or something there's a turning back from.

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I wouldn't know how to write about a transgendered character, because I don't know nearly enough about them. I've seen and read a little, but that doesn't give me a lot to go on. I'd want to know more to do such people justice as a character, even as a supporting cast member in a story.

AwesomeDude (the site) has primarily been about male characters, from the name of the site. But the slogan says, gay and bi young people, i.e., gender-neutral. So, IMHO, that should include lesbian or transgendered characters or any of the other (very real) cases out there.

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Other issues:

I have not seen many stories that really discussed some of the issues I see and read and hear about in real life.

In just the past two months, on message boards, I have become very acquainted with what was before only a statistic: teen depression and suicide. I certainly understand it, from my own feelings, growing up. But it's different, seeing it play out on a message board, where teens are hurting in realtime, and where, dammit, I can't reach through the modem and offer a real-life shoulder to lean on. What do I say to some teen, when nothing unlocked me as a teen, to deal with it? -- Well, anyway, I've gotten sidetracked from the main topic.

My point with that is, what about all those teens out there, afraid or unable, for whatever reasons, to do more than surf the web or post on forums? They have all kinds of stories, some just lonely, some abused, some confused...everything. There are people here, including teens like the Mail Crew and adult health workers and teachers and mentors, and just plain other teens and adults, who support them.

What about teens who have to go to shelters or support groups or just a GSA meeting at school, for some peace. Worse, what about the teens who have nowhere else but a shelter or the streets? Those kids (excuse me, y'all) those youth, forced to grow up too fast, have real lives out there. I don't see many stories that really, truthfully deal with that. Too many stories are either some fantasy or some sick nightmarish thing, if they were real. (Worse, some of those nightmarish things do happen.) -- But I know that right now, there are youth in my city living on the streets, or, if they're lucky in some bed in a shelter. Many of those youth are doing things to survive. -- And they deserve to have stories told about them. What about the volunteers that help out teens like that? What about the success stories and the failures? Some of those teens make it out of the streets and out of all that goes with that, to a new life back in society. Some of them stay on the streets. Where are their stories?

What about people like me, who've spent years and years in the closet and come out? I keep reading, and I only see glimpses of characters somewhat like me, as a pre-teen or teen or adult. Yet there are people out there much like me writing these stories, so where are they and where am I, in fiction-land, as our past or present selves?

By the way, some of us are gay and have a handicap or physical condition. That carries with it its own set of issues. There are a few stories out there that deal with that with a lot of sensitivity.

What about, hang on to your hats, HIV/AIDS patients? Yes, those stories may seem like automatic downers. But there must be something to learn in there. And they are us, our friends and loved ones, whether we want to face it or not.

Oh, one or two more: What about those volunteers and friendly, supportive people, straight or not? What about those health care workers and counselors and religious leaders who are willing to help out? (Or for that matter, the ones that don't?) Those people who help support the GLBT community have seen a lot. They're to be commended. What are their stories? What have they seen?

And, and, and ... That's only the tip of the iceberg.

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So I know there are talented writers out there who've tackled tough issues with lots of insight. Let's widen our subject matter some more with some new stories.

And yes, at some point, I'll actually have something completed to submit as a story too.

Also, in real life, I'll be volunteering when I can. Right now, I have things on my own plate to resolve. But I still make time for some things, like forums and reading and writing and editing, because, well, this helps me and hopefully it helps others.

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Whew, marathon post here. I'd better stop, this op/ed thing is turning into a major thesis on its own! :)

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As part of an email discussion with Ryan about One Life, I made the comment people read stories for different reasons -- and the same person can have different reasons at different times.

The traditional "feel-good" story definitely has a place. For people like Dude, it's a break -- a retreat to a "better" place than the reality they encounter in their daily lives. It can also help bring someone back from the edge (see The MailCrew - how it started for an example).

A tragedy, such as One Life, also has a place. It can help show that life can go on, and while pain persists, joy can return. This can be an important lesson sometimes. It may also simply help someone by showing that they are not alone in what they are going through.

Sometimes a story can just educate. By showing circumstances that a person can relate to, or can understand, they can learn more about what could be going on, and may take some action. I will admit that reading several stories about fostering of gay teens has made me interested in the idea of becoming a foster parent.

I'm sure others can think of many examples, or other "purposes" of a story. The above are just a few that I've come up with.

Graeme[/url]

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  • 2 weeks later...
Why is it that many writers seem unwilling to tackle the "day to day" grinds of life within a Gay setting? Specifically, it is not often I see true form in writing about a group of entirely Gay teens or more so young adults and the conflict that arises between themselves as they struggle with life?

The reason for me is, number one, because the day-to-day grinds of life are boring. It's only the out-of-the-ordinary events -- accidents, fights, arguments, romance, passionate affairs, travel -- that are interesting. Nobody gives a crap about how a character studies, how long it took them to dress themselves, what bills they paid, what music they listened to on the way to work (or school), etc.

Number two, to center on a group of entirely gay teens is unrealistic, at least in the world I know. Gay people are still an enormous minority. (I for one don't buy the typical 10% estimate, which I think is much too high.) Sure, it's easier now to come out, even at the high school level, where kids can have clubs and social events and so on. But the only story I can think of where all the major teenage characters are gay, and yet the threat of being outed isn't a plot element, is David Buffet's CONTROL & CHAOS. But even Buffet admits in his intro that this was kind of an "alternate universe" scenario: a world where nobody cares at all who's gay, who's straight, and who's inbetween.

In the stuff I've written, I did deal with the day-to-day events, but only as a jumping off point for the action and conflict that follows. For example, I have a school dance in GROOVY -- typically a fairly predictable event -- but I threw in an unexpected sexual rendezvous as a twist. (A second dance has a much more violent, shocking twist.) I had a scene where the characters have to take a test in class, but one of them cheats, resulting in conflict and drama (with an eventual emotional payoff). I threw in numerous scenes that started out with one or more characters studying, but those were generally interrupted (for good reasons). But to me, to just dwell on mundane events isn't interesting, no matter how well it's written.

I also did something I don't see in a lot of gay teen stories: I made a strong effort to get the characters away from their houses and schools, and into different environments: everything from the beach to boats to movies, sports events, car trips, restaurants, and so on. I think too many writers forget all the possiblities of getting their characters out into the world. And I also covered the difficulties of finding the right places for -- shall we say -- romantic encounters. Speaking as a former kid myself, I keenly remember the problems of trying to avoid getting caught while fooling around. To me, it's details like this that help make the story real.

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