When it comes to creating a character, we writers have to be very careful to avoid many things. One of those things is the archetype. Archetypes are great for miscellaneous persons with very small roles. They are also great for satirical pieces. (The re-make of Hairspray comes to mind here haha) Other than that, I find them to be pretty flat as characters. Sticking to their stereotype is what makes them what the are, after all.
A common archetype that we see in modern media (I can’t say literature because I only really read historical romances, on the rare occasion I have a moment to read) is The Gay Guy. You know him. He’s got fabulous blonde hair, his fashion sense is trendy and drool worthy, and if you’re wearing last year’s LV, beware. He’s out for you. He wastes no time in making raunchy penis jokes and is secretly envious of your boyfriend. He’s your best girl friend. He picks our your clothes for you, waxes your brows, and will cuddle on the couch with you feeling completely safe because he’s gay.
As someone who comes from an incredibly gay family with a cornucopia of homosexual friends and acquaintances, I really don’t understand where this came from. But this isn’t a post about LGBT equality (I make a horrible activist), it’s about characters and my own insecurity as a writer.
I never put a character into a story just for the sake of having one. Never for the sake of being politically correct, or to embrace all walks of life. Hell, I don’t even make up my characters. They come to me.
And you know what? Like everyone else in this decade, I have a homosexual male in my cast. Two, actually. But Philip Avery is such a big part of the story (The Book of Cale in particular) that I actually get nervous talking about him and working with him for that reason. I fear the reaction of people assuming I’ve jumped onto some bandwagon. He isn’t ‘The Gay Guy’. His sexual orientation has no impact on who he is as a person, it’s just a matter of preference.
But how will he be received? I’ve already had people ask me why I ‘made’ him gay. It wasn’t a choice, he just is. He always was, and will continue to be. I can’t change him and I don’t want to.
So I wonder, will people look at me and say, “of course she has a gay guy. Everyone has a gay guy.” because like the token black guy (which I don’t have. For no reason other than none have made their way into my head), he needs to make an appearance in order for me to be culturally acceptable.
Maybe I’m over thinking it. Realistically, so long as I do my job right, present a compelling story with characters that feel real and can be connected with, I shouldn’t worry about how someone is going to be analyzed or received. If readers can accept the homicidal psychopath that is our hero, I imagine the jaded, bearded tavern owner wiping down dirty mugs isn’t exactly a difficult man to accept.
I’m sorry he’s not fabulous. He’s just a sort-of single dad trying to make ends meet in 1784.