Greetings, writerly and readerly people! Apologies for the late post, but I forgot I volunteered to fill in for the inestimable SS, who couldn't make it this week.
Interesting and juicy bit of debate in the YA publishing world over what constitutes acceptable/marketable material (via io9): "it’s not okay to be gay after the apocalypse." A YA sci-fi manuscript was sent back with the request that one of the POV characters be radically altered:
The gay character, Yuki Nakamura, is just one of five viewpoint characters in their as-yet-unpublished novel Stranger, and like the straight relationships in the book, he never gets any further than kissing. But the agent asked for Yuki to become heterosexual — or else, to have his viewpoint, and all references to his sexuality, removed. Possibly, the agent said, if the series became successful, Yuki could come out in book three or so.
Yeesh. Anyone have stories like this? It's worth reading the whole post on Publishers Weekly, for context.
I'll throw in a bit of my own opinion here: groups that are less-commonly represented in fiction face two major challenges. The first is general non-representation, which is as much a function of well-meaning but clueless actuaries as it is of animus. Publishers, film and television producers are often aiming for the most 'generic' audience, so even though a "niche" audience can propel someone like Tyler Perry to be the highest paid man in Hollywood, we still persist in this idea that we have to reflect some imaginary audience that demands their fiction to be populated by more generic characters.
The second, and equally problematic, is token representation that's clearly there for no other purpose than to be exactly that. The background character, the stock friend who gets killed in the first reel, the funny but uncomplicated sidekick, the one who possesses great wisdom but no human dimensions of her own.
So anyway, you're tired of me blabbing. Want a writing assignment for today? Write a brief conversation between two characters, at least one of whom belongs to a less-commonly represented group.
Our friend the callow youth (the Chosen One, etc.) is still seeking the Jewel of Togwogmagog, and things are going poorly. The youth has to get a vital piece of information from another character, who isn't cooperating. This may or may not have to do with the differences between them, if you want to emphasize or deemphasize those differences.
Try to use the dialogue and the descriptions to create a fully-fleshed out human being instead of relying entirely on central casting (or if you do pull from central casting, give your character an extra twist or two to make her human instead of cardboard.)
Write On! will be a regular weekly diary (Thurs 8 pm ET) until it isn't.
Before signing a contract with any agent or publisher, please be sure to check them out on Preditors and Editors, Absolute Write and/or Writer Beware.