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Gay Story Cliches

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I have a friend who is trying to get into writing stories, specifically LGBT stories, and I know there are some cliche elements that have been grumbled about in the past that I want to tell him to avoid.

I know the one about the alarm clock opening, the describing one's self in the mirror, and the talking about penis sizes, but what others do I need to include on this list?

Please and thank you.

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Interesting question. Hard to think of many; they generally fit in the 'I know it when I see it' category. But, just a few:

The entire sequence of getting out of bed, peeing, taking a shower, brushing of teeth with or without looking in the mirror at a pimply face, getting dressed, and then going down to breakfast isn't worth the words on the page. It doesn't advance the story at all.

The same with sex scenes where they start at a kiss, move down the body with the lips hitting every vital spot along the way before coming to the money spot—I tend to skip over the entire sequence. Read it too often for it to be interesting.

And of course the locker room scene and gym class scene and shower room scene where all goes amiss has been done to distraction. Doesn't mean that they can't still be titillating or involving if the writing is superb. But less than superb, it might be well to find fresher ground.


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Guest Dabeagle

I don't know that the cliches are limited to gay fiction - I think that's just our perception since we read so much of it.

I know that tired plot devices include the 'I've loved my best friend since forever but don't want tot ell him to save the friendship' trope. Meeting people - literal running into each other, that one kind of stinks. Descriptive and overly large genitalia for young teens. Somewhere there is a 14 year old with an 8 inch penis - he doesn't need to be in your story. That goes along with I don't need to know who has and who hasn't been circumcised unless that's going to become critical later.

One thing that was gloriously poked fun at by someone here is names, as well. For a long time it seemed that every cute boy was Tyler or Taylor, Tobi or some other cutesy thing. If you're relying on a name to make the character attractive, your character probably needs more work.

Excessive crying. I've been guilty of it, but it gets boring. Oh, look, something stressful is coming - here's our hero n a puddle of his own tears. Again. The hospital scene is another, and again I've been guilty of it.

Gay stories aren't any different from straight ones, and I think a lot of the cliches are universal.

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The Gay Writing Tips pinned at the top of this forum mentions a number of cliches to avoid, including the already mentioned alarm clock, etc.

I personally don't have a problem with including cliches...if the author can come up with a novel approach. For example, the slab of text describing in fine detail the love interest of the narrator should generally be avoided, but I read one author who did it...and then the reader found out he was describing a car :smile:

Another one to avoid is what I call the 'everyone is gay' syndrome. Estimates vary between 2-10% of the population is gay. That means that unless circumstances dictate otherwise (eg. a GSA meeting) most people in the story will not be gay. Since we want a story, a number of characters will be gay, but try to make it realistic as to how they happen to meet. Don't make everyone of interest gay....

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Alarm clock going off, first day of school, first day at a new school, new kid transferring into school, first day of summer vacation . . .

There's no reason any of these things can't be employed if the author brings a new twist to them. it's trudging down the same well-worn paths that becomes tiresome. Similarly tiresome is the second-by-second description of activity that has nothing really to do with the story. "I went to the refrigerator, got out the carton of milk, closed the refrigerator door, then grabbed a box of cereal and carried them to the table. Then I got out a bowl and a spoon, took them to the table. I put some cereal in the bowl, added milk, and started eating."

In some ways it's tougher to stay away from the school-related cliches if you're writing about teens, because school is an important factor in their lives. It's probably easier to plow fresh ground in college or adult settings, just because there's a somewhat wider world to work in. Which is by no means to take away from those who write about junior or senior high school teens.

I think Cole is on the right track. I remember reading writing advice that counseled each time a story choice is made, to ask oneself whether that choice was just the "easy" or "path of least resistance" choice. The warning was that the first thing to pop into one's head might be the cliche. The solution was to step back and think about different twists on that choice to see if something more interesting (and original) could be used. In other words, take the road less traveled.


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If any of you have read Singer without a Song then you know I used that alarm clock kind of opening (mine had the father pound on the bedroom door)...but only after a rather absurd and humorous prologue which continued on into the first chapter.

Mirror images work only if they are not followed with a page of mindless description. Characters need to be described, but only eventually and in context with other revelations in a story. I guess there are no hard and fast rules except: don't bore the readers.

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Yes, and 'don't bore the reader' is the rule that overcomes all the others here. You can use cliches and trite scenes and overdone dramatic scenes if you can keep it all interesting and fresh and alive. Of course, it's easier to do that if you don't use those things, but you can get away with most everything if you can keep the reader riveted to the page with your writing.

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I'm more interested in not boring myself (as a writer).

But then again, it is necessary to note that some exposition is necessary to transition from one scene to another. The trick is to keeping the plot developing.

I'd also try to avoid having some favourite piece of music playing on whatever device the character has on hand, unless the music is pivotal to the plot or its development.

Try to keep distance between plot structures' causes and effects. It's very boring, banal and mundane to fulfil a setup immediately. Keeping distance between a circumstance and its resolution not only aids suspense, but also encourages profundity in its eventual revelation. It's the essence of good joke telling as well as promoting unexpected surprises.

Sometimes, alternating different setups and resolutions can be of immeasurable help to sustaining both reader's and author's interest in a story as it acts as a kind of step ladder of development for the plot. Very useful to inhibit writer's block, too.

Finally it must be stated to not worry too much about the clichés, sometimes these can be very useful, especially when used out of their normal context, but then, we should probably ask if they are then still clichés?

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  • 6 months later...

Avoid all cliches like the plague!

Exception: Used in dialog to to show how out of touch the character is.

There is another kind of cliche.

"He had the body of a Greek god, the bluest eyes perfect six pack and the blondest hair."

To make your character human and believable they need a few flaws. One of may favorites is a chipped front tooth. Things that may present them with conflict or hardship.

In physical descriptions, leave some things out for the reader to plug in for their own preferences.

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