About LGBT as a genre...

Question: My novel has a male-male couple in it. While the main focus of the story is not their relationship (it's spy/thriller/crime), and it will take readers a while to figure out just what's going on between them, however they are two of my four main characters. I wondered if my novel would be classed as the primary genre (spy/crime) or LGBT, or maybe LGBT would be a secondary genre? Also, I'm kind of unsure about how to write them. I've heard advice of 'write them like a normal couple', but should I?

Answer: One way to distinguish genres is by by their readership. Examples include genres labelled middle-grade, women's fiction, Afro-American, Christian, or LBGT.

Another way to define genre is by the type of story, such as romance, fantasy, mystery, thriller, crime fiction, etc.

Other genres are defined by their setting, such as historical, Western, science fiction, or even jungle romance.

And, of course, you will see plenty of combinations, such as historical romance, middle-grade mystery, or YA science fiction. LGBT romance would be another such combo.

As to whether your book should have the designation LGBT, that depends on whether it is targeted to appeal to an LGBT readership specifically (or exclusively). A book can have gay characters but still be aimed at a general readership. There's also a difference between stories written for gay readers and stories intended to introduce a straight readership to the gay community (not that there's as
much need for these anymore).

To decide this issue, ask yourself questions like...

* Is the story specifically an exploration of gay relationships or gay issues? Or does it just happen to have gay characters?

* How big a role do the gay characters play? Is the main character gay, for instance?

* Does the book look at the world from a particularly gay perspective?

* Would a straight reader find the book less accessible?

To write about gay couples authentically, it helps to know some. You might also do some research on the issues common in gay relationships. But always remember that you are not writing about an average gay couple, but about two unique people with a unique relationship.

Generally, it is better to write a story about specific, unique people. Their sexual orientation is just one of their traits -- albeit one that affects important areas of their lives. Trying to make a character representative of all gay people can make them less authentic and more of a stereotype.

Since you're writing a spy thriller, your focus should probably be about how these specific people get caught up in a threatening situation and use their expertise to handle the threat. Sometimes spies use their sexuality in the course of their job, sometimes not. But the extent to which you write about their sexuality should be in line with how relevant it is to the story and how they deal with the threat.

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