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Main Character's Thoughts on Religion and Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by TESFan, Aug 26, 2015.

  1. TESFan

    TESFan Acolyte

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    So. I am a straight male. One of my main characters (one could argue the main character) is gay and in the "closet". He's a very pious young man and a follower of a very sex negative religion. He's grown up practicing this religion and almost everyone around him has too. This religion views sex merely as a means of reproduction, and frowns upon sex in general. Although not one of the founding tenets, homosexuality is very frowned upon. This stems from the "sex = reproduction only" doctrine.
    This character is very repressed and often lies to himself about his sexuality. When he has thoughts about other men he feels dirty, guilty, and ashamed. He hasn't told anyone about his orientation because he fears what they may think. He's constantly terrified at his feelings because of his beliefs regarding the afterlife. Throughout the course of the story, he finds himself in a brothel (which are tolerated where he's from but are considered "havens of iniquity and degeneracy") where he hires a prostitute, thinking that it will 'cure' him.
    My dilemma is this then: My character thinks of himself as unnatural and an abomination. He considers this often in the text. However, I (of course) don't think he is unnatural or an abomination. What I fear is that when he thinks these thoughts about himself in the narrative some readers may misinterpret that as my views on homosexuality. Now, I know there's no way to please everyone and someone is bound to misinterpret it. I guess my question is: do you think the average fantasy reader is understanding enough to see that it is the character's opinion and not mine? I mean, deep third-person is common in the genre, but I'd like to run it by everyone to make sure.
    Thanks!
     
  2. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    Are there any characters who think otherwise about homosexuality that you could have your MC talk with? Providing an alternate viewpoint could help with your problem.
     
  3. TESFan

    TESFan Acolyte

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    As far as people in his country go, he's actually forward thinking and 'radical' (wants a republic while living under a monarchy; wants widespread education that isn't just for the elites). So there's not really a whole lot of... idk. Progressive? Maybe that's the word for it. There's not really that many progressive people in his country.
     
  4. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    Well, even one is better than none at all. I think you should bring those few to the front of the story however you can.
     
  5. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    Ireth has a good suggestion.

    Otherwise, you can't worry about things like this too much. There will always be readers who can't distinguish between a character's view points and an author's. The only thing you can do is give an fair and honest telling of a character's view point. And when a character is passing judgement on something, be sure to present both sides fairly and honestly in some way.

    If you don't, it can become preaching, instead of a honest discussion.
     
  6. TESFan

    TESFan Acolyte

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    Well, there are other characters in the story that have very different views on things like sex and homosexuality... I realized I should have mentioned that after Ireth's original response. They're just aligned against the main character in question. It's a complex political situation that I won't get into.
    The point is that there are PoV characters who are much more sex-positive and open-minded then the *main* character and other PoV characters. So other opinions will be given fair treatment.
     
  7. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

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    Just as long as they're not the "bad guys." It always bugs me when the only characters who're okay with homosexuality and/or crossdressing are the cackling villains.
     
  8. evolution_rex

    evolution_rex Inkling

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    I agree that adding another viewpoint into the whole story would help a lot. Another gay character who is shunned by the main character when he attempts to make a move because he can't accept himself, a progressive minor character who offers words of wisdom. Something to let the reader know that the author is putting different views into the story and not his own. Alternatively, you can right it in such a way that the reader knows the character is wrong about himself right off the bat. That is a bit more tricky and requires writing it with a sprinkle of satire.

    I remember reading the beginning of Stephen King's It and I felt that the cop character was a bit homophobic and while I didn't accuse King of being that way, it had me curious and so I looked up his opinion on it and learned that he had a gay daughter and was completely accepting. But I did stop reading because it was distracting. I was impressed that King was able to right in such a point of view, but if I wasn't a curious guy and was more judgmental then who knows I may have stopped reading right there. So I understand the predicament. You should go for writing it the way you want to right, you just have to give hints to the reader that the character is wrong about himself. It sounds like repressed sexuality will be a big theme in your story, and if that's the case then I think most readers will understand what you're doing.
     
  9. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

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    I think you guys are looking at this the wrong way.

    I think the story and character is fine as is. You just have to trust that the reader is smart enough to separate the opinions of the character and your opinions.
    You don't need to force an argument/debate into the story or worry about balancing perspectives on the subject of sexual orientation - this is a narrative, not an essay. Just put the character in a situation and let them act like how they act.

    That's my opinion, anyway. I'm also doing a story with a character of - for lack of a better term - questionable orientation. So, I thought long and hard about how one should go about this kind of story. My solution is to think of my character as a character and not a representation.
     
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  10. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    Repressed gays have featured as MCs in plenty of novels and stories, including works by gay authors, stretching back over a hundred years. It has become something of a common trope. Typically, that character's arc is either tragic (owing to the repression) or is one of discovery and eventual acceptance/happiness (often involving the beginning of what appears to be a deep, lasting, loving relationship.)

    This is not to say that such MCs should be avoided, but only that the potential for falling into an oft-used trope exists. In this last year, I've read one fantasy series which featured such a character: The Archer's Heart, by Astrid Amara. It's an excellent work, one of my favorites. The two primary characters, who are male, fall in love. One of them was slightly repressed early in the story; but that didn't last long. A third POV character was severely repressed and had a tragic story arc. And while I am accepting of that type of tragic character arc because it is historically accurate (as having occurred naturally in our own world), I always cringed to read the character's POV chapters. Because they were fundamentally ugly, not merely because he was repressed but also due to the many decisions and actions and results that flowed from that state of being repressed. It's hard to enjoy being forced to witness and experience vicariously such ugliness and tragedy.

    Of course, I don't advocate avoiding difficult and/or ugly realities, if they are handled well. I only mention the above because I think it's something you should consider. Different readers will come with different expectations of a fantasy novel. I greatly enjoyed The Archer's Heart despite the inclusion of that repressed POV character.
     
  11. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

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    Nothing wrong with them being villains. There's a difference between making them villains because they are gay and them being villains that happen to be gay.
     
  12. Gryphos

    Gryphos Auror

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    Absolutely, but when it's only villain characters who are gay and/or have progressive attitudes to sexuality, it can be somewhat questionable.

    As for the OP, I would echo what others have said and suggest making sure there's some kind of dialogue (internal or otherwise) in which the MC's self-loathing and shame is confronted.
     
  13. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

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    If you ever want to see exactly how bad this can get, read Chronicles of Blood and Stone, and then despair over the life choices that have led you to this point. There is a level of awful so deep and so dark that Eragon seems an impossible height the story could never be good enough to reach.
     
  14. Guy

    Guy Inkling

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    As to the initial post,I think we should stop being so preoccupied with offending people. We shouldn't go out of our way to be offensive, of course, but neither should we let the fear of it keep us from writing stories and characters honestly. Readers are put off by the damnedest things, and we have no control over it or any way of predicting it. Write the story honestly and to the best of your ability. How the readers interpret your motives is entirely up to them, but you will never write anything of any value without pissing someone off.
     
  15. TESFan

    TESFan Acolyte

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    Well, neither side are good or bad. Both/all sides have understandable reasons for what they're doing. Some readers may and will find one side to be "good" (or at least better) while other readers may and will find the other side "good" (or at least better).
     
  16. TESFan

    TESFan Acolyte

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    Most definitely. My main concern was readers picking it up, reading some of his negative thoughts, and putting it down before they get to the parts later on when he confronts it more. I guess that's their problem, though.
     
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