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Blog

The blog of m/m author Jaime Samms. 

On Writing Someone Who's Not You

Jaime Samms

I've been thinking, as happens occasionally, and as I have a do to attend tomorrow, the thought on my mind is about what I write; specifically, gay men. Lots of people would question how I know enough about gay men to be able to write about them. What can I tell those people? I'm not a gay man. This much is obvious. I'm a woman in a hereto marriage sitting firmly in the middle of the rainbow.

I've often wondered what men think about the men I write. Do they seem like the men they know? The men they hang out with? The men they might date? Some have said yes, my men are sufficiently manly to pass as gay men, and I'm pretty proud of that. My experience with men deals mostly with my straight, and sadly uninformed and often unacceptably biased relatives. But I have a lot of them around. I can write men. I know men. I just don't know a lot of gay men other than my friends on line.

So I write with what experience I have in mind, and hope I don't screw up the relationships too badly.

I think there might be (I don't know, but it stands to reason there probably are) gay men out there who resent women writing about them. I can see why they would. Won't say I understand the feeling. How can I? I'm not them. But I can logically follow their reasoning and it makes sense to me they might be uncomfortable, upset, downright mad about the situation. For more reading, I highly recommend the following articles, both extremely thoughtful and interesting views on the subject that is very important to a lot of people in the genre: http://gwailowrite.livejournal.com/292699.html and http://logophilos.livejournal.com/347199.html

Now, think about this: Haven't women objected to being fetishized and objectified in writing, movies and other media for, well, for decades upon decades? I might get in trouble for drawing this comparison, but bear with me for a moment. I'm not just talking about the Sheik and his kidnapped sex slave here. I'm talking about the strong, independent woman virginalized so her man can show her all the wonders of the bedroom, and the princess, presumably being trained to run a country, who needs a prince to save her. These are not role models I want for either of my children, the girl or the boy. I want my daughter to grow up knowing she has a right to her own sexuality and not to feel ashamed of it, and being confident and competent enough not to need a man. I want my son to grow up respecting the women in his life, caring for them, and honouring them and their right to know more than him and be stronger than him, because sometimes, this is the case. (Sorry guys. Gay or straight. You know it's true.)

So why would men want these stereo types any more than we do? Simple. They wouldn't.

So next time you think about writing your men, get into their heads. It might seem odd at first, but it's necessary. If the guy you write doesn't ask for directions, it isn't enough to use that stereotype. Ask yourself why. That's what's going to make your man an individual, pull him away from the stereotypical into the unique. "Because men don't" isn't an answer. Why does this man not? If it's for fear of his peers mocking him, where does that fear come from? No one acts in a vacuum, and the important thing here is to realize this. You are writing about people. Treat them that way. It will not only help to avoid hard feelings, it will make your story a better story, your characters more enjoyable, and you a better writer.

There is far more to this debate than I've encompassed here, I know. The links I've provided are a good start. If you want to know more, want to ask questions, come out to the chat at AvoidWriter'sHellChatters yahoo  (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/AvoidWritersHellChatters/?yguid=339205342) tomorrow (Sat, Jan 16) and ask away. There will be plenty of writers there to answer questions and everyone is welcome, readers and writers alike.