Thoughts From a Broad

Adult content warning ~ gender issues discussed.

There has been a lot of media coverage of middle aged women writing gay male fiction lately, even authors are discussing the phenomenon between themselves.  All the gay authors who have contributed so far to these questions aimed at them say they couldn’t care less if women write this stuff as long as it is well-written. It seems that some are put off by female authors and some are not. I was interested to see that in reviews of my work, most of my woman readers gave me three or four stars and my only bad review was from a man, and even then, it wasn’t such an awful review.

So-named ‘Zipper Rippers’ (I do love that term) are not a new genre though, despite what folks may think.  It seems that only when something makes it to a big movie that people recognise it and say “Oh, it began with…” and cite the movie. Well, Brokeback Mountain may have brought m/m relationships to the fore but it did not start the ‘Slash’ fiction phenomenon.  This has been around for decades and plenty of articles have covered it.  The term has altered since its inception, now seemingly covering any m/m pairing in fictional media, whether canon or not, and it seems a lot of the romance publishers have jumped on the bandwagon for this popular genre.  This has undoubtedly opened the way for authors like me to find an audience.

There are some stunningly good authors out there in fanfiction land too, some of whom, like me, have made it into print with our own stuff.  I sometimes wonder why not more of them have tried to write their own. I have my own favourites and I’m not going to cite them because I’m bound to forget someone and upset them, but try Live Journal or Fanfiction for some of the best. There’s a lot of rubbish out there too, there always is when it’s open to anybody, but fanfiction is one way to get people writing and sharing and learning and reading and I will never ever say that’s a bad thing.  We help each other improve and encourage each other with praise. The good ones stick to it and keep going, the bad ones who don’t usually fall by the wayside.

Well, I am proud to say I am one of those ‘middle-aged’ writers (although I’m not straight, I’m bi so I break the mould a little); I’m female, 48, mother of two, married (to a man) and happily writing m/m romances. So why shouldn’t I?

Reason no1: You’re not a gay man. I therefore cannot understand what it is to be a gay man.  As my good friend Katisha pointed out, “That’s like saying Tolkien couldn’t write Lord of the Rings because he wasn’t an elf!” This assumes I cannot talk to people, because I have a lot of LGBT mates and I talk to them all the time about what it means to them, what the difficulties are, how they cope and yes, even ‘that’ (I have some really close friends…).  Okay, I know you’re going to say Tolkien couldn’t talk to any elves (how do you know?). Let me give you another example then. Its like saying best-selling author Dick Francis knew the racing world backwards but couldn’t write about his hero being a painter or a gem dealer or a politician because he wasn’t any of those things. So he researched.  Thats what writers do, they talk to people, they learn new skills, they read.

Reason no2: Women get it wrong, they make their characters too soft. Hopefully I don’t fall into this trap although the argument my previously-mentioned male reviewer had with me was that my characters spent too much time crying and confessing their feelings.  Oh, my apologies, men don’t do that, do they? Well, sorry and all that but the men in my life do.  Maybe its something general to men, this thing about keeping feelings bottled up, but I don’t believe all men are the same. Actually, I think my characters cried twice, and then at extremes of stress, expressing deep grief or emotional upheaval, although they did talk about their feelings to each other.

This throws up another problem, the “show, don’t tell” writing style. If you don’t have your characters talk and express their feelings, how do you make sure your audience knows what is going on without resorting to telling?

The “show vs tell” argument is a controversial one but when explained it makes sense. There is a “show, don’t tell” school of thought but I subscribe to a balance. When done properly—and I am still learning—show and tell allow you to dramatize your work effectively.  In my humble opinion, Ray Rhamey has expressed it perfectly in his blog, effectively illustrating the balanced use to show and tell, more than worth a look. See the link below.

http://www.floggingthequill.com/flogging_the_quill/2006/week6/index.html

Alternatively, Wiki has the “show, don’t tell” background.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Show,_don’t_tell

See what you think.  Comments welcome, I do like to know what people feel.

As to the subject of m/m relationships and we women liking them so much, I can not think of this as odd because it seems to me this is our version of men having fantasies involving two women, we accept this as normal, right?  So where’s the problem?  We women love our romance, we love our guys, the gentleness amid the strength, the ability two strong men have to be tender towards each other.  And we do like our heroes strong.

I have to say I don’t usually like Yaoi.  The tradition in Yaoi, a Japanese form of m/m parings, tends in my opinion to be a loosely veiled male/female pairing. One of the characters is usually weaker and less dominant than the other, usually shorter and slighter too. Most of it just doesn’t appeal.  Even the less dominant of my character pairings is always strong in his own way.  He can have weak moments, they both can, but on the whole I like them to emerge stronger from whatever ails them.

Personally speaking, I’m not going to stop writing m/m romance because a few people don’t agree with me.  The day I stop will be the day I get bored with it and that day, hopefully, is a long way away.

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