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What do I say?

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Graeme,

I?d like to thank your for posting What do I say?. I guess I could say the usual things: it was a nice story, it was well written, and (although it was short) the point of the story was well illustrated. I could also say there is a certain sweetness to it, a thoughtful insight and a presentation offering a different perspective to a common problem. Well there, you see, I have!

All of those things are quite true, but in writing and posting this story you have focused in on some of the issues that confront gay fiction today. The biggest one being, do I write a ?gay? story or a story where a character or characters are gay? Of course there is a difference, and this story in presenting an issue that all parents of children (gay or straight) go through from the perspective of Will?s father, has changed what you could have written ? one more thousands coming out stories ? into something much deeper, genuinely insightful, and definitely more entertaining and thought provoking.

You took a common every day thing ? bringing home a new BF or GF to meet mom and dad ? which is played and replayed hundreds of times a day all over the world and gave it a gay perspective that was warm and insightful without making it a ?gay? story.

I don?t know if writing New Brother influenced this story, but it appears that it has and if so I can definitely see a progression in your writing style. You seem to be branching out into different directions and trying new things. I like the evolution your writing has taken and I offer you a challenge (more on that later).

I have long been a proponent of fiction that has gay characters who operate within a story just as a straight character would thus making the fact that they were gay just one of those things about them ? like blue eyes, height, ethnicity or gender without presenting it as the central part of the story. This kind of thing has been going on for years in regards to other minorities or other groups in society and it?s about time that gay literature catch up with it. (Not to say that there isn?t some of this already out there, but we definitely need MORE!)

Detective novels often do this. They turn some of the most unusual characters into sleuths (an old lady [Miss Marple], a mystery writer [Mrs. Fletcher], a monk [brother Cadfile], and the suffer of a serious Obsessive Compulsive Disorder [Monk]? I?ve even read a series where the sleuth was a married middle aged women with kids who owned a catering company in New England). In each instance the characters particular age, sex, race, profession always took a second seat. Yes, it was a part of who they were, but it didn?t drive the story. Ultimately the murder mystery drove it and the telling of the story, the evolution of the plot and all the other things that make a good detective novel came into play and either made the work successful or unsuccessful. The ?extra? about the character was often the HOOK to interest the reader and it may have influenced their behavior, but the mystery didn?t stake its legs on so flimsy a premise.

There are a few ?minor? elements in the story I would brush up? but they are very very minor and even without changing one thing the story definitely has legs. The telling of this tale was well thought out. One of your writing strengths seems to be ?emotionalizing? characters without making them hysterically emotional ? a very good writing trait and one you should continue to tap into.

I would DEFINITELY resist any urge that may come from the little voice in the back of your mind and/or the pleading on anyone else to turn this short story into a longer one. Personally the idea of a story revolving around your premise comes to mind and you certainly could use this as a basis for a longer story or even book, but I wouldn?t touch this little gem. And I definitely wouldn?t lift it word for word and place it in a larger story, it would take away the punch it now delivers to the reader.

As I said your writing seems to continue to evolve (at least from my perspective of reading it) and I would ask you to make another step Graeme (if you dare or are so inclined). Write a story where the character gay, but don?t make it a ?gay? story. Does this make sense??? You have a talent that can certainly grow and produce some cool stuff. This little story is proof positive. (It?s not always the epics that make the big splash otherwise we wouldn?t have a successful category in literature known as ?short stories.?

Again thank your for sharing this story. I hope everyone who comes on this site reads it and I also hope it provokes other authors to follow your lead and continue to grow the genre of gay literature (what ever the hell that is anymore!!! :) ).

Regards,

Jamie

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Thank you, Jamie.

What you have said strikes a very strong chord with me. Fiction has many genres and the characteristics of the characters within the stories are there to support and enrich the tale, but are seldom strong enough to support a story in their own right.

At the moment, I have only been writing for a few months and I still often struggle for inspiration. I would like to write a story that does not centre on the topic of "gay", as you challenged, but so far I haven't had an idea strong enough to proceed along those lines.

Equally, I don't like writing stories that I feel have been written about before. That is why New Brother, Dear God and What do I say? are all written from a non-standard point of view (for what would be normally considered to be "gay" fiction). Falls Creek Lessons is a more typical story, but I'm using that one as an experiment in presentation.

So, as I improve as a writer, I will keep you advice and challenge in mind.

I don't know if this is unusual or not, but most of the fiction I read is completely different to the fiction I find myself writing. I mainly read SF and Fantasy, with a smattering of contemporary fiction (Tom Clancy) and mystery. The Brother Cadfael series was so enthralling that when I was in the UK I made a point of visiting the Shrewsbury and the sites of many of the stories. As an author, however, I haven't been able to come up with an idea in any of these genres that I'm satisfied with. I'll keep trying, but I'm still waiting to come up with an idea that will "fly".

Cheers,

Graeme

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Oh, and for the record, yes it was inspired by New Brother. In that story, the father made a joke about missing the parenting class on what do when a son brings home a boyfriend. When I originally wrote that, it was just an off-the-cuff observation. After a few weeks, though, I realised that there was something more to write about in that observation.

Graeme

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Kudos to Graeme for another story with a distinct, non-standard way of approaching a topic, and for good characterization too.

@ Jamie -- Welcome! Nice points, and :grin: at last, someone whose posts are as long as mine. :shock:

Jamie, that's a great challenge. Maybe it's two challenges.

There's the challenge of writing a story about gay issues, involving some gay people, without resorting to clich? characters and plots. In other words, reflecting real life and discussing the issue fully.

There's the challenge you said, of writing a story including some gay characters, where maybe the central character is or isn't gay, that isn't a "gay" story. In other words, a regular story of some genre, mainstream fiction, that just happens to include GLBT people being themselves. -- Did I restate that right? -- There are a few such stories in mainstream fiction, mostly in science fiction, as far as I know. -- But there need to be so many more.

Anyone want to take up the challenges? They sound exciting.

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First to Graeme,

Graeme,

Your method of story telling is unique. It?s definitely a talent and I think the more you write and the more you are overtly conscious of it, the more you and your works will evolve. Am I being gratitutiously patronizing here? Yeah you betcha!!! I think talent is like a plant that needs watered and fertilized so consider yourself duly sprinkled and manured for the day!!!

You didn?t have to even tell me you are a reader, I already guessed, because good readers always make the best writers? a singer that never listened to music wouldn?t be much of a singer ? now would they? I?m not asking you to analyze your process? that usually leads to fruitless speculation and the spinning of one?s mental wheels for nothing. Just be aware of it and then jump right in. You definitely tell a tale in a unique and different way ? one that isn?t gimmicky. Too often people want to produce something ?different? just to be different and what ensues is a disaster or a cheesy gimmick, since this hasn?t happened with you I must assume that your ability to do this little trick is a natural talent? so run with it boy? run like the wind? just don?t over analyze it.

BTW, last year I INSISTED to my BF that we visit Shrewsbury. You have to admit Brother Cadfael is a cool guy? exactly my point about taking a standard genre ?the detective novel? and turning it on it?s head by placing it in the middle ages and making a former solder of fortune turned monk and abbey apothecary into Sam Spade? I recommend the Cadfael novels to everyone ? even those who normally don?t read or like detective novels (and if you're too lazy, just rent the PBS Mystery adaptation, but realize the books are soooooo much better!!!).

Now to Blue,

Blue,

Merci, beau bleu gar?on?

First, an apology. I forgot to ?sign-in? ? bad (and lazy) boy that I was? so instead of the usual JamieofIcaria, you just got ?Jamie? as the poster of the message and probably thought it was a different Jamie? sorry it?s just plain little old me. But my name really is JAMIE? anyway?

When I offered Graeme the challenge of writing a story with a gay character(s) I guess I was throwing down the gauntlet to anyone out there who would like to give it a try. I just chose Graeme because the boy?s GOOD!!!

Then you came along and bifurcated my original point? which after reading it had me jumping out of my seat and yelling ?EXCELLENT! WAY TO GO BLUE,? (Causing my roommate to drop his bowl of ice cream and uttering a few unkind words at me).

But you are quite right, there are AT LEAST two ways of attacking this? 1 is write a gay story, with gay characters, but give the poor guys a break and scrub them clean of all the gay stereotypes and clich?s. In addition make the plot line something more exciting then them coming out for the umpteenth million time. 2 just write a story or novel or tale or whatever and have the main character(s) be gay? but that?s it? no gay angst? no screaming or crying because they are gay, and no overt gay bashing by the straights? just story in which a character or characters are gay, but NOT a ?gay? story.

When I started TSOI I swore to myself that while the characters may be gay it definitely wouldn?t be a gay story? In fact in TSOI the word gay will never appear since it takes place in an alternate universe the characters don?t even know that particular meaning of the word.

Graeme is right when he states that most of the works that fall into the above category (#2 that I mention) end up being science fiction/fantasy pieces? for some reason authors seem to be able to write this kinda of thing better in that genre. I think the challenge is to write it in a non Sci-Fi category.

I truly don?t wish to hurt anyone?s feelings, cause mayhem or get myself kicked out of Awesome Dude by appearing arrogant (cause I?m sincere here), but lets raise the bar on gay literature. This site is primarily for young authors and readers (and those young at heart) and I know that while ?coming out?, gay bashing and all the other ?problems? of being gay are real and can be told in honest, genuine, and poignant ways I would truly love to see us raise the standard and have some of these young guys write us some stories in the vein I suggest. Trust me, I?d read them? and applaud your efforts (even if they weren?t the great American gay novel!).

Graeme promised me he?s gonna think about it? but how about the rest of us who are writing? Blue gave 2 great examples of ways to attack the genre (better then I could have). Read what mon bleu gar?on says and give it a shot? the only things you have to lose are the stereotypical chains that bind you. (Remember straights aren?t the only ones who have stereotypical attitudes to gays). Sometimes GULP, we exhibit them ourselves!

Warmest Regards

Jamie

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I should've known that was you, Jamie of Icaria. :)

It doesn't seem arrogant to me that you want to see more stories that stretch the envelope. It's nice to see so many stories on the site are not stereotypical.

Oh, and sorry about the ice cream, roomie. :slurp:

Que dis-je? Dit lui bienvenu. -- What do I say? Tell him welcome. (For those of you who don't know French.)

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Graeme is right when he states that most of the works that fall into the above category (#2 that I mention) end up being science fiction/fantasy pieces? for some reason authors seem to be able to write this kinda of thing better in that genre. I think the challenge is to write it in a non Sci-Fi category.

DAMN!

While I was on holiday, I came up with a story idea that required a gay character as a central part of the plot, but the story didn't revolve around this -- it was just the trigger for the rest of the story. Unfortunately, it also required that it be in the fantasy genre.

Oh, well, back to plan B. I've had another story idea for a few months now, but it's currently not coming together into a strong plot. It's on the back-burner at the moment because of work on Falls Creek Lessons and planning for the next stage of New Brother but I'll keep working on the plot.

Graeme

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