Are your characters flat? Build authentic foundations

Is Thea Atkinson Gay?

I must admit that when I found that phrase in my blog dashboard recently as a “how did readers find your blog” search term, it made me smile. Then it made me panic. Eventually, I came around to feeling a sense of self-satisfaction.

I wondered at first why someone would ask such a thing. Why anyone would want to know it. What did it matter to anyone? Why should it matter?

Maybe it does.

Sure it does.

It means I’ve done my job as a writer.

I have a few other-oriented people populating my novels. Anomaly‘s main character is transgender, Olivia in The Secret Language of Crows has a lesbian lover even though she’s not really gay, One Insular Tahiti’s Astrid falls in love with a gay man.

No wonder a reader would be curious. But I don’t think that’s the only reason for the search term, at least I hope not. I want to believe that it’s the quality of the character types I populate my novels with, not the quantity that drives the question. I want to believe that I write authentic characters. After all, I label myself a character driven writer: I should be able to write believable characters no matter what the foundation is.

Especially since there are times when I write from a male perspective. At times, I even write from a female POV, sometimes a child, once from a cat’s perspective — a few times I even wrote from a murderer’s point of view.

I should mention that I’ve never taken a life except once in a while that of a beetle bug or earwig. Yes. I’ve killed a lot of those. Shudder. Hate those.

And yet I haven’t seen, “is Thea a convict” or “is Thea really a man” yet. And I actually hope I do at some point. It would prove to me that a reader believes me — believes that I’ve lived it — that the characters I write are borne from some experience so strong that it has to be real.

Is Thea gay?

No. But she has hopes, she has fears, she has hates and dreams and pet peeves, and she has idiosyncrasies — and yes, she even has a few friends.

So do gays. So do murderers. So do lonely housewives and rock stars and liars and thieves and detectives and abusive husbands. They all do or they wouldn’t be human–just like us.

You want to write realistic characters? Find their humanity strongly enough that you question your own foundations for yourself, and I think you just might be on to something.


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Thea is the author of several novels that she considers left of mainstream. You can find her on BN, Kobo, Sony, Apple

Anomaly by Thea Atkinson

Thea Atkinson is a writer of character driven fiction.

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8 comments on “Are your characters flat? Build authentic foundations
  1. Sheila says:

    This is really funny. I love to create the kinds of characters that I’m not (like a man, for example). One of the greatest things about reading and writing is being able to imagine what it would be like to be that person.

  2. Hmmm… is the author of a book with gay characters also gay? I personally say, it doesn’t matter a bit. There are lots of gay characters in Raventide Press books. There are even more straight characters. But are we, the autho(s) gay, too? Or are we straight, since we have more straight characters?

    (Answer: we at Raventide Press are actually too ambiguous in the area of gender for the REAL answer to be known. )

    But, I digress on that. I think the fact is that it doesn’t matter if the author is gay or not even when gay characters are written. The fact is that, like you said, the important thing is that we are writing REAL people with real lives, emotions, goals, and personalities. Being gay to write a gay character, of course, is then completely irrelevent. I do wonder why people assume gay character = gay author so easily.

  3. cyteen02 says:

    They probably just meant “gay” as in “happy and jolly sort of chap” (that’s chap in the traditional non-gender polarizing restrictive sort of way, indicating a generic person as distinct from a tree or piece of paper or other mostly inanimate object)

  4. Lena Corazon says:

    Thea, that last line sums things up perfectly. This is a wonderful post!

  5. Veronica says:

    I really enjoy this post and I will take note. Thank you for sharing!

  6. […] search term, it made me smile. Then it made me panic. Eventua… (Are your characters flat?Via Share this:EmailPrintFacebookStumbleUponRedditDiggRelated […]

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All Thea's novels are available on Kindle, Nook, Sony, and Kobo

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