On Universal Characters

In writing, there is a freedom to explore various themes and genres before the rest of the world manages to catch on. This creates the perfect climate for atypical stories with atypical characters that don’t yet fit any marketing mold. For this reason, I found writing as a great venue for spinning tales about gay/queer men – more so than other widely consumed mediums such as TV and cinema. But this doesn’t come without its own weird little tropes and idiosyncrasies, even on its small scale. For instance, I appreciate that three is a big focus on coming out stories, but it frustrates me that it seems to be the only transformative journey a queer character is allowed to go on within the world of fiction. Similarly, the only agony he is permitted to feel has to be directly related to his queerness, not his overall human condition. And while it’s fine for people to continue exploring these stories, that is not my aim when it comes to writing queer stories. Yes, he struggles with his homosexuality, but his problems are more rooted in unsatisfied dreams, depression as a condition (and not a result of direct action, such as homophobia). Therefore, in looking at OLLIE, the main idea is less about his attraction to Liam as another man, but more specifically in how this personality challenges his own worldview. Ollie’s rebelliousness is a failing in his own character, not his sexuality. His focus on wooing women is only partially related to his truth, and more a result of his ingrained egoism. Ollie is his own worst enemy because he struggles with the trauma of being a human.

Though it’s a bit preemptive to say this, as my second manuscript is still on submission, I think the leading man in that story is another prime example of this theory. Clyde Harlow has escaped his abusive father, but his depression is not caused by the experience. His depression aggravates him when things go wrong, but he is still prone to ennui even when he’s simply breathing. A reader struggling with these feelings in the real world should relate to Clyde (and Ollie and others) not because of his orientation, but because the feelings are the same. Too often, especially with young people, we are concerned about labels and whether or not something pertains to this or that group. But I argue that our world is becoming more universal, and so, I think, should our fiction.