13.15: What Writers Get Wrong, with Mike Stop Continues

Recorded live at WXR 2017.

Your Hosts: Dan, Mary, Aliette, and Howard, with special guest Mike Stop Continues

Mike has multiple areas of expertise, but for this episode he’s talking to us specifically about the things that writers get wrong about being a gay man.

Credits: This episode was recorded live by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Andrew Jackson.

Play

Change the sexual identity of a character in a scene of yours.

Underworld, by Mike Stop Continues

18 thoughts on “13.15: What Writers Get Wrong, with Mike Stop Continues”

  1. Oh no… I am all caught up! Took me about a month to listen to every episode from the beginning, except the projects in depth (no spoilers).

    I loved this episode and how many times you said “Gay Man” in the first minute. Just in case people didn’t pay attention to the title.

    “We are going to discuss being gay, in a positive way, you were warned…” Lol

    Now I have to wait a whole week for my WE fix. Sigh.

    Thanks for a great topic and articulate guest.

    1. Not in the title, but the description.

      I couldn’t stop listening until you all safely arrived in the present day.

      It has been a hoot listening to you all evolve yourselves and this podcast as a production of how many years in under 30 days?. I think Mary has been a good influence. But all of your guests along the way definitely rubbed off as well.

  2. I have just recently started following this podcast, and I appreciate a lot of what you have to say.

    That said, this last episode offended me a little bit.

    To clarify, I am a pansexual man, and I think it is very good to address the importance of LGBT characters and the techniques that can make them more realistic. You brought up the idea of heteronormativity, which is something very important in acknowledging the default of writing heterosexual characters.

    That being said, I feel like it countered this by assuming that the listener was heterosexual as well. It really turned me off of this channel to be myself marginalized in an episode that carried the intention of promoting representation.

    I still intend to follow this podcast, as you all offer great advice, but this last episode dampened my enthusiasm.

    Scripturiently,
    DAS

    1. DAS,

      I for one am glad you took the time to listen. I know from personal experience it isn’t easy to be different from the majority, but I think if we focus on our shared humanity, we’ll ultimately reach a far better future than if we focus on our differences.

      MSC

      1. @DAS: Thank you for calling us out on this. Obviously we didn’t intend to alienate the people we’re trying to help writers NOT alienate with their writing. It’s difficult to address the common mistakes without directing the discussion toward people who are likely to make those mistakes. I’m at a bit of a loss, because I’m sure there were things we could have said differently, or perhaps led with, that would have better acknowledged the fact that our audience is not some artificially homogeneous “default,” and welcomed writers of all stripes and types to the table, but I don’t know what those specific words are.

        Still learning. Still.

        1. But queer writers do get queer characters wrong, especially when the characters’ have different identies which impact their experience of queerness. For example, Malinda Lo’s Adaptation is about being young and queer in the bay area now but the level of prejudice/clueness seems like it was more based on her childhood in oregon.
          Also even if you are writing something autobiographic, having an experience doesn’t mean you can write about it well. Lots of lovers write terrible love poetry. Many (most? all?) writers struggle with describing our own experiences in ways that resonate with readers without being over the top or boring or sugar coated or over simplified or confusing. If you’re queer there’s also other questions like how much to explain to straight readers or worrying that if you show a queer character based on yourself or someone you know in a negative light, that your readers will take it as a general statement on queer people. I always have a sense of fear when I write about myself but it’s worse when I’m writing about sexuality because it’s stigmatized and i worry writing about it will out me.
          Writing from experience could be a cool topic for a podcast.

  3. Hi, I loved this episode. I have a gay couple in one of my short stories and this made me glad I just have them doing normal people stuff and nothing overtly gay behavior. I wanted them their like my friends but didn’t want to make a big deal about it.
    What is the name of the book recommended, there was more than one. One was of a great gay romance. I’d like to read that. For my gay characters, it’s important that I portray them well. I want to see gay romance done well.

  4. Thank you for doing this series of What Writers get Wrong. I’ve already learned a lot.

    Another resource to check out when researching anyone outside of my sphere (my bubble) would be podcasts. I can subscribe to different podcasts that represent different subcultures and learn different attributes, beliefs, and even what we all share alike. I heard the “podcast idea” originally from Joanna Penn on thecreativepenn.com. She’s done a few episodes on writing marginalized characters as well.

    We need more people talking about this, and I love any time I hear it done well. Thanks guys!

  5. I really liked this episode.
    however I would like to caution you from a completely different perspective. from the keep your (identity-)politics out of my media perspective to be precise. the problem isn’t the fact that there are marginalized characters but that they are done poorly.
    I hate it when I get the feeling marginalized are there for political reasons, and it certainly doesn’t help that reviewers herald the inclusion as a great thing we should all be happy about. I start experiencing those types of characters as token inclusions meant to fill some kind of quota. they often feel very ham-fisted. however the worst part is they stop being characters and become tropes, at that point I can no longer relate to them. it riuns what would otherwis be a great experiance.

    I feel I should at least give a few examples I did like:
    Dorian from Dragon Age: Inquisition, Dorian was a Tevinter mage, capable and smart I often went to him to pick his brain and often loved his insight on the situation I was in. we fought side by side often that made his personal story arc in which he came out to his father only a tiny part of Dorians story full to me.

    the other one is Lt. Stammets from Star Trek Discovery, the chief scientist on board again smart and capable, I noticed something was off about the way he and the dokter were fighting halfway though the episode. at the end of that episode it all made sense they were a couple. by the way the dokter was a fine character too.

    a poorly done character was Krem also from Dragon Age: Inquisition, I didn’t really get to know Krem almost no time was spend on him but I was told he was trans, it very much felt like Bioware was trying to fill some kind of Quota here.

    the advise remains the same: write good characters first.

    can I suggest a few topics in this series too?
    1 autism, this is currently the new hip character quirk and as someone who has this condition I can tell you it’s not always done right.
    2 atheism, I never see this part of myself represented in media but I realize it’s hard. a lot of misconceptions exist. it’s often equated to immorality and were among the least trusted demographic right down there with pedophiles and rapists. there are serious risks involved in coming out as atheist in many places around the world. it’s not all doom and gloom but since people often don’t know what it really is it’s worth an episode I think.

  6. Hey, guys.

    Just wanted to say, I’m loving this “what writers get wrong” subseries of the podcast. I’ve found it very helpful so far.

    As an atheist who just “came out” to some very religious family members and friends relatively recently, I’ve witnessed how much works of fiction inaccurately portray and flat-out misrepresent atheists and their beliefs (or lack thereof). Indeed, some of these inaccuracies and misrepresentations are so prevalent and so pervasive in American society that I myself labored under some very seriously false notions about what it means to be an atheist even when I’d first come out.

    I also thought this might be a good topic for the podcast because Brandon actually does a pretty darn good job of portraying atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and otherwise questioning individuals in a fair and accurate manner in the Stormlight Archive series. In particular, he hit the nail on the head (in my humble opinion) when it came to portraying the treatment many atheists receive all-too-often at the hands of religious zealots.

    Anyway, keep up the great work! You guys are awesome.

    1. Would love to see that.

      Inversely, also a “what writers get wrong” about religious faith, religion, etc.

      (And I say this as an agnostic myself.)

  7. Dan, Mary, Aliette, and Howard got together with Mike Stop Continues to talk about what writers get wrong, or maybe what do writers get wrong, about being a gay man. Real-life experience versus representations in media, and what you as a writer can do to get it right. Stereotypes, flamboyant, subdued, passers… Happily married and loves sushi! The gay community has it all. So, go read the transcript available now in the archives or over here

    https://wetranscripts.dreamwidth.org/141997.html

    And remember, everyone has a secret…

  8. All speculative fiction should be queer. The patterns of how relationships work and what’s considered normative change over time. Sci fi does a good job of reflecting that (le guin, delaney, mchugh) but fantasy has some catching up to do. If you’re writing about another world and the way people think about sexuality is exactly the same, that’s a failure of imagination. The best way to understand this is to study queer history (Sharon Marcus, Margaret Canaday and Emma Donoghue are good places to start) and look at primary sources (Marlowe’s edward ii, gilgamesh, the autobiography of mughal emperor babur, shakespeare’s sonnets such as Shall I Compare Thee to A Summer’s Day) and Lord of My Love).

    1. I definitely wouldn’t say “all.” Speculative fiction does not need to extrapolate/project EVERYTHING forward in time, or sideways in universes. In point of fact, it simply cannot. We need connection points. For starters, we write the stories in our native languages whose logical constructs are among the first things to change in full extrapolations.

      But I also agree with much of what you’ve said. I think that the things we don’t bother extrapolating/projecting say a great deal about our own biases, fixations, hangups, etc, and we can make our work ring more true if we reach past those blocks and write the not-us.

    2. There have always been “queer” people.

      There have also always been “straight” people.

      I wouldn’t expect either one to change, and would find a speculative / extrapolative story in which either one was utterly gone to either be either highly allegorical, or just unbelievable.

      Also, there’s only so much room in any one story for speculation / extrapolation. First, because the author only has so much time and energy, and any work only has so many pages or words or hours to work with. Second, because a story in which everything is fully speculated / extrapolated is unrecognizable to the reader/viewer.

  9. Annoying cliches:
    Killing off queer characters
    Cheating bisexuals
    All bisexuals want threeways (please, please, never ask someone this in real life)
    People figuring out they’re gay via first kiss (first kisses in fiction are always less slimy than first kisses in real life) or requited crush
    Gay nerds/effeminate gay boys want jocks
    Coming out as a one time thing (in real life you have to come out over and over again)
    Queer people with no platonic queer friends
    Lesbian sex isnt really sex

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