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How to write a believable homosexual relationship?


Hi, I started planning my fantasy world a few weeks ago now but I had to leave it for a while to revise for my GCSE's. If you want to see any of the things I've come up for my world please take a look at my other threads. Anyway, on to the topic.

In the few moments of free time I have these days I think and go through ideas and concepts to implement into my story and my world. One idea I've recently had is to have one of the main characters in my novel, maybe not the protagonist but the deuterogamist or the tritagonist be involved in some sort of gay or lesbian relationship. I wouldn't want it to be something that is in your face, simply because I don't have a clue how relationships work because I've had pretty much no experience of them but I have experienced love and instead of having two characters in a heterosexual relationship I'd like to give a bit more reason why said character struggles so much to talk and communicate with the other character.

One concept I have been throwing around is to have a female character fall in love and try to win over the male protagonist and create a relationship where the male protagonist treats her like dirt despite how much she cares for him. I would then have a female character that sticks around a lot in the plot but plays little role in the action and conflicts but is intelligent, shy and hides a lot of herself away to help them when the most need it. This character would have essentially no history of relationships perhaps maybe an arranged marriage to a man who cared little for her but over the duration of the adventure she would slowly develop feelings for her, nothing in your face, just the odd smile or glance over. I believe this would play best as unrequited love as its one of the few things I can relate to in relationships. The story takes them to a lot of different places across the continent of Ehvas so I think as the story goes on she would learn more and more not only about other peoples experiences of love but how homosexuality is treated in different cultures across the continent. Towards the end the character that is in love with the protagonist would realise that the protagonist does not share it back and realise how the other character has always been there for her. I could either end this with them running towards each other after months of separation only for one of them to be shot along the way or I could have the character in love with her sacrifice herself to save her.

I know that's a lot to take in and if you have any trouble with the logic of any of it please ask. Honestly I've always found homosexual relationships to be really inspiring and interesting, it seems to me like there are plenty of books about people coming out about it in modern settings, but I was wondering if a lesbian relationship in a Renaissance-esque world would be an acceptable premise and whether it would be something different. I'd also love to hear your input and elaboration on the concept. I imagine gay and lesbian relationships play out pretty much the same as heterosexual relationships but obviously with more stigma etc. attached especially in this period but if there are any differentiations between gay and straight relationships or love I'd love to hear.

Also don't worry, I may be heterosexual and male but I wouldn't ever involve a sex scene in said relationship, I want to write this purely because I have a lot of respect for homosexuals and I think it is a unique concept for the setting I have in mind.


Article Team
As I recall, the main character of Magic's Pawn by Mercedes Lackey is homosexual. Magic's Pawn - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
It's years since I read it and I don't much remember the details, but I don't believe that the homosexuality or the relationships of the main character were highlighted in any particular way; they were just part of what made up the character, like many other things.

The Paksennarion series by Elizabeth Moon feature some side characters that are in homosexual relationships. The Deed of Paksenarrion - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Again, there's no major focus on the homosexuality or the relationships. They're there, but for the most part the author doesn't make a big deal about it. Once or twice some other character in the story may have issues with it, but as I recall, that's part of the story.

If I were to include a homosexual relationship in a story I'm writing I'd try to make a point of not portraying it differently to any other relationship in the story. I'd try and focus on that it's a relationship between two individuals, not that it's a homosexual relationship between two individuals of the same gender.

You could also try and take on how a homosexual relationships are viewed in your world and how homosexuals are treated. If I were to do that, I'd make sure to spend some time talking to gay people I know about how coming out has been for them. I got the feeling this could be a minefield of political incorrectness that would be tricky to navigate.

As I recall, there are people here on MS that are, or have been, writing homosexual characters and they may be able to give you better advice.


Writing a believable homosexual relationship is a very simple two-step process:

1. Write a believable relationship
2. Make both people in this relationship the same sex

You are correct that they play out the same. The only difference between homosexual and heterosexual relationships is how the world at large treats them. If the bigotry surrounding them were to be wiped out and all that history forgotten, then the relationships would be indistinguishable.

Following the two steps above, the only real thing you'd need to change is whether or not these two people have concerns that other couples do not due to how others treat them.


Yeah, this wouldn't be the focus of the story at all. It would just be hinted at throughout, more and more towards the end. Unfortunaty I've never much been one for happy endings so I doubt I'd ever allow the two in my story to be together but to be broken apart the minute they realise what the other means to them.


The same way you write a believable heterosexual one, I'd presume. Since there's no sex, and to be honest even if there were, why make a big deal out of it? Love is love is love. It doesn't matter if there are two people involved, fourteen people involved, a demon mating with an angel, or an Elf-human relationship.

I'm all for more queer characters in literature. I'm for more gender diverse characters as well. I'm for more asexual characters. I'm for more diverse relationship styles in literature. As I'm queer, I want to see them done well. I'm tired of the fetishist writing of lesbians. And correct me if I'm wrong, but outside of fan fiction I'm guessing gay men don't exactly receive the same kind of "OMG drool" that lesbians do? I'm tired of the stereotypes. I want to see whole well-rounded people, not someone who embarks on a relationship with someone of the same gender because of childhood abuse, because they were sexually assaulted as an adult and no longer trust men (and the whole man-hater thing goes along with this).

I have two big concerns here. The first is the whole "the man I like doesn't like me, oooh here's a woman I'm going to throw myself at her" is the kind of thing that's been done in many a "film" about "lesbian" characters.

The second concern is: why does one of them have to die? If it makes sense to the story line, by all means go for it. But, please be aware that until fairly recently the only way an author got away with writing a gay or lesbian character was to have something horrible happen to them, and quite frequently that was the gay/lesbian character dying. It was definitely done in a moralistic way, as in "oh look this deviant got what was coming to them". If you can avoid that kind of tone when writing the death of the gay/lesbian character, go for it.

As for a Renaissance-esque setting...it's not Earth, so you don't have to be bound to the same historical moralistic codes that we had. Your world/culture wouldn't have had the religions we had, and if they have similar ones they would still develop differently. Just look at how many different ideas of a god that we've had over the milennia.

One last thing to think about: since you're self-admittedly a heterosexual man, you really have to do your research. You will not only be writing from the perspective of women for these two characters, but gay women, and that's two things you don't/can't really experience for yourself. I'd recommend reading some LGBT literature, asking any lesbian friends who'd be willing to talk about how their relationships started, and generally just really think about how you portray things.

I'm not trying to discourage you from writing this bit of love story, I just want to see more realistic LGBT characters.

I hope that was helpful, and not too ranty!


As for the possibility of a death, it would definitely not be anything to do with shunning homosexuality. I really want the reader to feel the pain as well. As I said before I am in extremely early stages in crafting all this but this character is like I say very quiet and a death would really bring out her determination and anger against the enemy, anger I hope that would also be brought out in the reader. As for the Renaissance-esque setting; I absolutely love the Renaissance as a period and I want the heartlands to resemble the Italian city states a lot but this is a whole continent with diverse cultures and peoples.

There is the Archanthium Dominion to the north, a pseudo nationalist, xenophobic empire fuelled by propaganda and jingoism which will almost certainly have objections to homosexuality but there is also the Shattered States that consist of a plethora of different ideals and norms and values. To the northwest are the ashlander tribes that follow the Order of the mountain, a religion that embraces freedom and liberty who would most likely be very open to the idea. Then there is the East, swarming with Halfmen who breed and do as they please, its a land so intermingled and multicultural that while homosexuality may not be embraced it is no doubt certainly prevalent.

Also keep in mind, I don't actually plan on this relationship going very far, it will either end at end of the novel or be carried on in a future one but right now, writing from experience I can't quite relate with any of that just yet.


One last thing to think about: since you're self-admittedly a heterosexual man, you really have to do your research. You will not only be writing from the perspective of women for these two characters, but gay women, and that's two things you don't/can't really experience for yourself. I'd recommend reading some LGBT literature, asking any lesbian friends who'd be willing to talk about how their relationships started, and generally just really think about how you portray things.

I'm not trying to discourage you from writing this bit of love story, I just want to see more realistic LGBT characters.

As a gay man, I can only ask you to do thorough research on the subject before even starting to write about it. So many times the relationships between same-sex partners has been a parody of what it really is. Normal love, just 2 people who love eachother and happen to be of the same sex. While I will not deny sex is important, many same-sex couples go beyond the sexual and just love their partners because they love their significant other's personality.

The physical aspect of love is temporary at best, because looks never remain the same. If you take on a partner just for their body, you'll grow tired of the relationship as soon as the firmness starts fading. If you really love someone, imo you love their personality, because that is what will keep the two partners together, regardless of appearance.

In short: gay people love in just the same way as heterosexual people. The only difference is the taboo on the subject in many areas, countries and communities. As has been said before: Love is Love is Love.
Something I had a great deal of fun with in my novel THEM...

The main character (Lasseter) falls in love with Ari, despite being uncertain as to Ari's gender. Ari is beautifully androgynous and seems female one minute, male the next. Normally hetero Lasseter is swooning with desire despite the possibility that Ari is a man and doesn't find out the truth until they are actually doing the deed.

You can imagine how much fun I had writing that...screwing with Lasseter's (and the reader's) brain.

Of course, the issue of gender is a profoundly important subtheme to the story.

A. E. Lowan

Forum Mom
Smoke, just to give you more of a head's up and to feed into what buyjupiter pointed out, what you're describing is a common enough plot device to have become a trope (See Main/Bury Your Gays - Television Tropes & Idioms) and can actually make a lot of readers fairly irritated - mostly because it happens so very often. I know I, for one, tend to view writers who use this ploy as saying, "Look how diverse I'm being! I have a gay character!" right up until they bump them off to give focus to their straight mains. I understand the desire to avoid happily-ever-afters, as I'm notorious for doing the same thing, but there are many other directions you can take to keep these two apart, especially considering the fact that you are talking about women in a mirror-culture of the Renaissance. Spend some time looking at the plight of women during the period and you'll find a wealth of tragic fates for them.

Also, I remember from previous posts you made that you are fairly new to the study of the Renaissance. You may not know it, yet, but same-sex relationships were just as common then as they are now (and always have been), and persecution by the Church and secular authorities tended to be cyclical. Meaning sometimes if you were caught in a same-sex relationship you risked your life, and sometimes you just risked your reputation. This mostly applied to men, and mostly to men who preferred to be in a submissive position to another man - women's relationships with other women were easier to hide within women's spaces. There is a very large body of work on the subject, which you will find when you go digging.

Good luck, do your research. and tread lightly.


Thanks for that link AELowan. I read about the trope in a gender studies book years ago, and I can't for the life of me remember which one.

ETA: in the stories I've read where there were gay characters in strong supporting roles if they weren't the main characters, it wasn't until the very late 90s/early 2000s before I noticed a significant change in how gay relationships were portrayed. Even now it's now particularly awesome in "mainstream" lit, but the pulp fiction is way better than it used to be.
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Dark Ones idea made me think of something that I think would be very apt for a Renaissance-esque fantasy setting. Carrying on with the idea of androgyny and gender confusion I could have one of the mentioned characters take on the guise of a male so that they can pursue a type of work (artist, engineer, etc) and the other falls for them under the impression that they are male?