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Writing Tips

100+ Unique Conflicts for Gay Characters

June 10, 2017

Conflicts for Gay Characters

Having trouble coming up with conflicts for gay characters in your story?

There is a depressing shortage of fiction about gay characters that is:

  • Well written
  • Well edited
  • Not homophobic
  • Not about coming out
  • To quote Tori Curtis, not “about getting hate crimed”

Many of these stories are actively harmful—not just to gay people, but to everyone who reads them.

The rest just aren’t very original. Yes, it’s fine to read about a gay kid coming out of the closet. But after the 100th coming-out story, it’d be cool to read about a gay kid fighting dragons or falling in love or doing literally anything else.

If you’re writing a story that includes a gay character, consider one of the conflicts below instead of having them struggle with self-hatred, hide their identity, commit suicide, or get murdered or disowned by their family.

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Writing Tips

9 Famous Authors Explain Why You Need to Read Shitty Books

January 18, 2017

Last week, I told you to write your shitty novel. This week, I’m asking you to read shitty novels – as many as you can get your hands on.

Anyone who thinks writers should only read “the greats” to avoid contamination is either:

A. Boring
B. Racist
C. Bitter
D. Fifteen years old
E. All the above

You don’t have to read books just because they’re popular. But I promise you will become a better writer the day you stop avoiding them.
Books become popular for a reason. Steal their tricks.

Usually, at least part of that reason is a massive marketing budget. Yet even the most well-publicized book won’t succeed if the author can’t connect with readers. Find out how she does it.

"There's truth even in tainted knowledge if one reads carefully." - N K Jemisin

Twilight is a garbage book, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun to read.

Bella is a successful protagonist because she lacks personality. She’s a blank space for the reader to occupy. Readers get catharsis without the need to pause for backstory or character development.

Does that mean you shouldn’t give your protagonist depth? Of course not. It does mean you should trust your readers’ desire to empathize with your protagonist. Don’t try to twist their arms. Let it happen naturally.

"There are more valuable things in life than safety and comfort. Learn. You owe it to yourself." - Nnedi Okorafor

Or do the opposite.

Part of what made 50 Shades of Grey resonate with so many middle-aged women is a cultural fear of women’s sexual agency. That doesn’t make me want to write rape fantasies.

It makes me want to write women characters who terrify the people who loved 50 Shades of Grey, and it tells me how to do it.

(This is where I’d cite some examples from popular male authors, but mostly what they’ve taught me is that I don’t care about explosions and deeply-interesting man pain.)

9 Famous Authors on Reading Broadly

“Read. Read. Read. Just don’t read one type of book. Read different books by various authors so that you develop different styles.” — R.L. Stine

“The only important thing in a book is the meaning that it has for you.” — W Somerset Maugham

“There’s truth even in tainted knowledge if one reads carefully.” — N K Jemisin (The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms)

“Books shouldn’t be daunting, they should be funny, exciting and wonderful; and learning to be a reader gives a terrific advantage.” — Roald Dahl

“We want to get closer to the heart of things, and sometimes even a few good sentences contained in an otherwise unexceptional book can crystallize vague feelings, fleeting physical sensations, or, sometimes, profound epiphanies.” — Maureen Corrigan

“There are more valuable things in life than safety and comfort. Learn. You owe it to yourself.” — Nnedi Okorafor (Akata Witch)

“Read a thousand books, and your words will flow like a river.” — Lisa See (Snow Flower and the Secret Fan)

“We don’t need a list of rights and wrongs, tables of dos and don’ts: we need books, time, and silence. Thou shalt not is soon forgotten, but Once upon a time lasts forever.” — Philip Pullman (via FlavorWire)

"Read. Read. Read. Read everything - trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it." - William Faulkner

“Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it.” — William Faulkner (via ShortList)

Have Harlequin Romances, Star Trek serials, or Dan Brown influenced your writing? Tell me in the comments.
Writing Tips

Actually, You Should Write Your Shitty Book

January 11, 2017

Please don’t think I’m being defeatist when I say the world at large is never going to take self-published authors as seriously as authors who went through the traditional gatekeepers – at least, not in my lifetime.

To be fair, the world at large doesn’t take any artist very seriously. If it did, we wouldn’t have to work two full-time jobs (one outside the arts, of course) just to keep our heads above the poverty line.

In that sense, it doesn’t really matter what we write. Turn the Kindle store into the eBook equivalent of The Asylum. Who gives a fuck?

Hey! That's a quality fi--oh, never mind.

Poster for Atlantic Rim © The Asylum 2013

Many, many artists struggle with poverty, mental illness, and isolation (due in part to a cultural refusal to treat our work as work), but that is not a requirement.

Many good books are painful, provocative, and unsettling to read, but that is not a requirement.

For most of the US’s history, the only people who had a chance of getting their books published (let alone read by people who weren’t related to them) were rich white dudes. The democratization of publishing is a goddamn technological miracle. Take advantage of it. Write a shitty book.

Write Friends fan fiction, file off the serial numbers, and publish it. Who’s gonna stop you? (Except possibly NBC? File well.)

Write a book about your cat’s adventures in your one bedroom apartment.

Write a book about writing a book about writing a book. (It works for Chuck Tingle.)

Write a book that is fun to read, appeals to young women, becomes a commercial success, and ultimately raises questions about ethics in literary journalism. Then write the godawful sequels to all those shitty books.

Even if you never write a book a stranger deems worthy of a two-star review (which is unlikely; the world is full of people with bad taste), you will have done something many billions of people will only ever dream of doing.

Stop reading this blog. Get offline. Open the terrible manuscript you’ve been ignoring all week because you’ll never be Proust. (Fuck Proust.)

Writing Inspiration

Write your shitty book.


If you like this type of writing inspiration …

Please tell me! It’ll make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. You can leave a comment below or find me on Facebook or Twitter.