So, I'm sitting at home the other day, happily scribbling on my yellow legal pad, minding my own business, getting a lot done on the manuscript, feeling all happy with the way everything is going, and then, completely unprompted, one of my main female characters just comes out and says "I love a woman," and means it.
"But… I had no idea," I said to her, laying my pen down and wrapping my fingers against the legal pad. "When did this happen?"
"Oh, I'm not really sure. I’m quite as surprised as you are by this recent development."
"I see… Does she make you happy?"
"Well, yes, but as you can see from everything else that has happened…"
"Yes, that does make it all a little harder, doesn't it?"(*)
We were quiet for a moment, afraid to say anything stupid. What do you say to the character who has just come out of the closet to you? I hadn't really planned on what I would say. I didn't think this would come about especially in my first novel. Maybe my fourth or fifth, you know? I wasn't quite sure how I would go about it. I asked her.
"Just write me like anyone else, I think," she said, dolefully. "I mean, I'm still human, I just have this monster crush on that other chick you paired me with. Does that somehow make me intrinsically different from anyone else and their love-affairs?"
"No," I said. "It makes you just like them." I paused, taking a look out my window and sipping on my tea before I continued, "I think, more or less, I'm scared about writing you like this because of the ramifications of it."
"What are you talking about?"
"Well, you know, being a guy, how would it look if I went around touting a lesbian character? Wouldn't it come off like I was just perv, getting off to some girl-on-girl action?"
"I don't think so," she said thoughtfully, "I mean, you haven't written anything like that this far into the novel. It would seem odd that all of a sudden, just because I was gay, that someone would rail on you just for putting down the truth about me. In fact, I would go so far as to say if you didn't portray me correctly, that it would eat at you for a long, long time. See?"
"Okay," I concluded. "You are totally now going to be a lesbian, and you are going to be awesome."
"Good," she said, smiling. "Now would you mind getting back to the story? I've been driving in this goddamned car for like, three paragraphs now. It's getting kind of boring."
"Sure," I said. I picked up my pen, and continued her story, one word at a time.
By the end of the conversation, I was very excited about the development. It is a part of her – the same way that other characters love members of the opposite sex. As it stands, it hardly takes up any place at all, but I think that in these times, one must be able to approach matters of sexual orientation with steadfast confidence that sexual orientation only makes up a small part of a character in the same way that it does with a hetero-normative character. She has already taught me a lot, and I think there is still much to tell. This is one of the perennial joys of story-telling: Letting characters that you thought you controlled doing something completely different, and ending up teaching you something. It makes me wonder if these aren't real people on some other plane, letting me borrow their own lives for some small moment, documenting their trials and tribulations, and asking only that I do it with the utmost conviction towards art and sincerity.
*What does this mean? Oh, wouldn't you like to know…