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    Question #2 M/M Roundtable Discussion – The Challenges of Writing GLBT Ficiton?
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  • Published: Feb 22nd, 2009

We’re continuing our discussion but if you want to find out more about these authors by clicking on their names for links to their web sites. Also check out excerpts of their books on our book page.

This afternoon we’re giving away a copy of  Chris Owen’s SHADY RIDGE or PYKE’S PEAK to two random posters.

Marisa: My second question is,  are there any particular challenges to writing GLBT fiction?

JL Langley:  YES!  Pronouns.  The pronouns are killers.  It’s tough getting things to flow right using names too often, and readers don’t always understand which “he” you mean, so you have to balance your “he’s” with characters names just right.  It gets frustrating at times.

Ally Blue: OMG You said it! Geez.This is why I only have one lonely little threeway scene to my name. The pronouns, they hurt me! I tell you what, anyone who wants to practice clarity in their sex scenes should write an all-male orgy. LOL

This is going to sound weird, but for me the main challenge I’ve run into (other than pronouns; fie, a pox on pronouns!) is when I’m trying to find out information about unusual things like, er, how to put on a particular type of penis jewelry with a cock plug attached. Seriously! You’d be surprised how hard it is to find a step-by-step how-to on
something like that. This is the type of problem you run into when you are a Serious Writer you know. Heh *g*

LB Gregg: Pronouns, yes. Although I find writing in first person POV helps clear some of that he said he said stuff up.

KA Mitchell: The pronoun issue is so frustrating because as writers we’re in the character’s head and we know whose parts the “his” refers to. It’s tough to stay in a particular groove when you’re dithering over pronoun referents.

Hey, Ally, maybe we should have our own little wiki for those kinds of questions. It’s just not that easy to research some of the finer points of Serious Writing.

Jamie Craig: Yes, the pronouns are a killer. In edits, those are always the things we have to focus on the most. I also have to rely on porn to really understand how to position the bodies–and we all know how realistic porn is. On the other hand, seeing it on my computer proves that Position X or Position Y *are* possible. I never write anything involving two guys unless I have visible proof that it’s possible, since well, how to put this delicately–the back door isn’t quite as flexible as a vagina.

Jet Mykles: I’ll chime in with the pronouns. It’s a challenge to illustrate which “he” is who. Yet another reason why I rarely write characters with the same color hair (“the redhead moved…”) or body size  (“…said the smaller man”).And I’m with Jamie on relying on porn. It’s important to remember the differences of sex between two men. Also need to remember that the recovery time isn’t like a woman’s. There are also differences in the relationship. Have to remember that this is a guy I’m writing about and his thought process, especially when it comes to emotions, is often just different than mine.

Josh Lanyon: You guys are thinking about this too much! You’re starting to freak me out. <g> Seriously, though, I don’t particularly have a problem with the pronouns. Occasionally you need to throw in an extra mention of a name where you wouldn’t ordinarily. I think the challenge of writing GLBT is hopefully the challenge of writing any quality fiction: Are these characters real (By which I mean believable) and is the reader going to love them? (Because it’s romance, so the reader needs to love, love, love at least one of the
pair.) Do I have a strong, entertaining plot with a beginning, middle, and end? Is it fast-paced? Have I tied up all my loose ends? Is the dialog sharp and snappy? Do the sex scenes sizzle? Have I said what I set out to say thematically? Have I polished it to the best of my ability? Have I double-checked my research? Oh! And…who the heck am I selling this one to?

Chris Owen: Okay, Josh brought it back to substance, so I can’t just say “Pronouns!”  LOL.  Actually, pronouns aren’t so much an issue for me anymore — though they sure were in the beginning! Now I tend to overuse names. *eyeroll*  So, what challenges me in the genre? I think keeping it fresh, finding new ways to describe the same things. I’ve got more than sixty titles to my name and my co-writing pen name over seven years and that adds up to a lot of sex scenes.  I’m writing less and less sex as I go, having more and more fun developing plots and interesting conflicts, but I still put a lot of effort into making  each kiss count, every encounter real and suited to the particular character.  Sex scenes, keepin’ it real. That’s my challenge. (Although I suppose that would apply if I were writing het romance, too….  oops. It’s still true!  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. *grin* )hell_you_say_looseid.jpgtwilight_large.jpgjl_withoutreservations72.jpglb_gobsmacked_500×75022-200×3003.jpgka1.JPGmed_thosewhocherish.jpgjm_heavensent2_coversm.jpg14875336.JPG

shadyridge2003.jpgpykespeak1851.jpgTwo random posters will win  – Either Chris Owen’s SHADY RIDGE or PYKE’S PEAK

30 Responses to “Question #2 M/M Roundtable Discussion – The Challenges of Writing GLBT Ficiton?”

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  1. azteclady
    on Feb 22nd, 2009
    @ 12:09 pm


    Sorry, no questions here–the “are these real people?” question says it all. But on the shallow end of the pool: pronouns!!!!!


  2. Jody F.
    on Feb 22nd, 2009
    @ 12:42 pm

    I can totally see that pronouns are a problem. Most writers are used to the he/she pairing that getting rid of that extra “s” is a hard habit to break.

  3. Ally Blue
    on Feb 22nd, 2009
    @ 12:45 pm

    You could have a male/female/alien threeway! That would throw in an “it” and make things REALLY interesting *g*

  4. Natasha A.
    on Feb 22nd, 2009
    @ 12:50 pm

    I love that you use porn as research!
    How about a couple of ken dolls? Roll play with them 😀
    I didn’t even think of the pronouns….that would be insane!
    Thanks again!

  5. K.A. Mitchell
    on Feb 22nd, 2009
    @ 1:00 pm

    Natasha, I keep asking people to send me some poseable dolls withthe necessary interlocking bits (and the ability to vary height would be awesome, too. Because watching porn is such a trial for us. *g*

    I did an alien orgy in the first book I ever finished, the one That Shall Never See the Light of Day oh so many years ago. The pov character was mostly aware of body parts. I can’t remember the pronoun issues even if I did have one alien that had three genders.

  6. Ally Blue
    on Feb 22nd, 2009
    @ 1:00 pm

    OMG, Natasha, you have to check this out:
    Jade does all sorts of interesting things with Ken dolls *g*

  7. Jody F.
    on Feb 22nd, 2009
    @ 1:07 pm

    All of you bringing up the Ken doll brings up images of Canadian sex guru Sue Johannsen and the poseable dolls she uses to demonstrate sexual positions on her tv show. She gets so into those demonstrations.

  8. Jamie Craig
    on Feb 22nd, 2009
    @ 1:10 pm

    My husband actually bought me small wooden dolls–the sort that art students use (he got them at a gallery). It was an incredibly thoughtful gift, unfortunately the dolls he bought are not very bendable! So I can’t use them to test positions and get a good visual of what’s happening. Still, he tried, and I appreciated the effort. (Maybe he was tired of me saying “So, imagine that you were with another guy…how do you think you would do THIS position?”).


  9. Natasha A.
    on Feb 22nd, 2009
    @ 1:10 pm

    K.A. those dolls would rock! Right, a trial…although the horrible bad *acting* HA HA HA

    Ally, those rock! I am so saving that. Thank you!

  10. K.A. Mitchell
    on Feb 22nd, 2009
    @ 1:15 pm

    Oh, Pepper, the research questions our spouses suffer!

  11. Kati
    on Feb 22nd, 2009
    @ 1:17 pm

    Pepper that made me laugh out loud!

    Well, having just read about five m/m books in a row, I can tell you guys, y’all are doing great w/the pronouns, because I was never confused once.

  12. K.A. Mitchell
    on Feb 22nd, 2009
    @ 1:21 pm

    Kati, if any of them are mine or Ally’s, thank our editor Sasha Knight. She’s awesome.

  13. Ally Blue
    on Feb 22nd, 2009
    @ 1:47 pm

    Natasha, you’re welcome! I totally love Jade and her Joes! They crack me up 😀

    K.A., agreed! Sasha’s amazing. I’ve learned so much from her.

    As far as researching positions? X-Tube. Teh amateur pron, yowza!

  14. JL Langley
    on Feb 22nd, 2009
    @ 1:52 pm

    So sorry I’m so late. Hi everyone. Research? LOL It’s one of the perks, er I mean work, it’s part of the work of being a writer.

  15. Kris Jacen
    on Feb 22nd, 2009
    @ 2:15 pm

    Aloha all,

    Can I chime in? I’m not a writer but I deal with a lot of them (I’m the editor for a few of these wonderful authors). Try editing for a gay man and questioning a position during a sex scene. I normally will put something in the comment like “are you sure this will work? If you say it will I’ll believe you but…”

  16. JL Langley
    on Feb 22nd, 2009
    @ 2:33 pm

    Honestly? I’ve even had editors ask me if things work between men and women. *G* As a reader, one of my peeves is reading about a really tall character and a really short character together and somehow magically in bed everything aligns perfectly where penetration and kissing are both easy as pie. Ummmm, doesn’t work that way. I can’t tell you how many I’ve read like that though.

  17. azteclady
    on Feb 22nd, 2009
    @ 2:54 pm

    As a reader, one of my peeves is reading about a really tall character and a really short character together and somehow magically in bed everything aligns perfectly where penetration and kissing are both easy as pie.

    Oh yes yes yes yes!!!

    Okay, yeah, the taller one may be bendy as all get out, but still–I just imagine all the thrusting and how things get out of line and…

    ooooppppssssss am I allowed to say that?

  18. LB Gregg
    on Feb 22nd, 2009
    @ 2:55 pm


    My 13 year old has been having a two day marathon slumber/drive a certain SOMEONE crazy ::cough:: party and I … fell off the map. Trying to catch up now.

  19. jetmykles
    on Feb 22nd, 2009
    @ 3:19 pm

    Oh god, back to m/f for a sec, I hate scenes where you know the hero is at least a head taller than the heroine, then they start kissing, then he bends down to suck at her breast. Hello? I’m so very sorry, does he have no spine? ugh! Or when he’s that much bigger than her, then he just slumps over her after sex. I’m sorry, my man is taller than me and if he just slumped like that, I’d smother! Some kind of arrangement has to be made lol

    ‘course, what I said above applies to m/m too, doesn’t it? I had a blast arranging my short guy/tall guy in standing sex in one of my books. The shorter one is the top so he went and got a box to stand on

  20. LB Gregg
    on Feb 22nd, 2009
    @ 3:32 pm

    Jet…You wrote one HELL of a smexy book about a very small guy.

  21. jetmykles
    on Feb 22nd, 2009
    @ 3:37 pm

    lol, thank you, ma’am! I had too much fun with Hell. Brent… well, we’ve come to terms and we get along just fine now

    But Hell is just my best illustration of the kinds of characters I love writing. The off guys. The ones who don’t fit any mold or, better, make their own, even if it’s in a quiet way. Those are the types of guys I like to write and read about.

    And, actually, those are the types of girls I like to write about too, but it’s getting harder and harder to write about girls. Seriously. Readers will read the first paragraph or two (and I, by the way, count myself in this same category) and will decide that “oh, she’s that type of heroine”. There’s so much het out there that you can do that. Maybe that’s another reason m/m is so popular? Because there isn’t the glut and the ocean of history so it’s not so easy to pigeonhole? Or maybe I’m missing the picture.

  22. Elisa Jankowski
    on Feb 22nd, 2009
    @ 3:41 pm

    I can see how the pronouns would be confusing, since I spend so much time working with my little sister on her pronouns in high school papers – then there’s my use of pronouns in my writing which can be difficult and I’m currently writing m/f… I can only imagine. I think one of the hardest (yet most interesting) aspects of m/m writing is really getting into the heads of the characters. I know you can’t REALLY know what any character is thinking, but it would be that much harder to get into two men’s heads and it be believable. Maybe that’s because I’m still learning. Do you research by talking about romance with gay and straight men? Would you even have to?

    I can totally see how using pron for research would be beneficial as a visual, but my issue with that is how do you know if what you’re seeing actually feels good? I know I’ve seen some m/f pron that is totally questionable – but maybe that’s becuase it’s fake to begin with. I can see how adding in *real* emotions would lend to more enjoyable experiences. And speaking of writing realistic scenes, there have been a few m/m I’ve read that I swear didn’t use enough lube – the better ones I’ve read of course make a point to use good lube. It’s just important.

    Lastly to jetmykles, I love that you had the shorter guy get a box to stand on! That is what realistic writing is for me: stuff you have to do to make it work, even if it’s not as sexy to talk about applying the condoms or stacking the boxes/pillows, etc. It’s important and makes it even more real for the reader. Not everything about sex is perfect and romantic – it can be awkward and painful too. Wonderful!

  23. Elisa Jankowski
    on Feb 22nd, 2009
    @ 3:44 pm

    Jet, I think you’re right. If it’s done well, m/m allows authors to keep from pigeonholing their characters – I think it could go that way though if you stuck to too many stereotypes within the characters. I love the characters that don’t fit, they’re often my favorites.

  24. orannia
    on Feb 22nd, 2009
    @ 4:10 pm

    Research? LOL It’s one of the perks, er I mean work, it’s part of the work of being a writer.

    LOL! I’ve actually wondered how realistic certain scenes are…and…how you know? Obviously, research 🙂 And Josh, I’m so with you on believable characters. I love believable characters…ones with flaws 🙂

  25. josh lanyon
    on Feb 22nd, 2009
    @ 4:59 pm

    And Josh, I’m so with you on believable characters. I love believable characters…ones with flaws

    This may sound odd, but I think it’s in their flaws that we find the truth of the characters.

  26. jetmykles
    on Feb 22nd, 2009
    @ 6:33 pm

    Josh said: “This may sound odd, but I think it’s in their flaws that we find the truth of the characters.”
    Amen to that, sir!! so true. It’s usually when I figure out their quirks that I know I’ve really “got” a character

  27. Brooks
    on Feb 22nd, 2009
    @ 6:34 pm

    I agree with you, Josh, the more interesting characters have flaws that the reader can relate to. Of course in romance the reader is all about the happily ever after. But it the getting there that makes the reader nod their head and think, yeah, I’ve felt that way too.

  28. Renee
    on Feb 23rd, 2009
    @ 12:00 am

    Brooks: Yes! It’s that connection with the character(s) that keeps me reading. Plotting and pacing are important, but I’m not getting on the bus in the first place if I can’t connect with the characters.

  29. Stacy ~
    on Feb 23rd, 2009
    @ 3:09 am

    Yeah, I can imagine the pronouns being troublesome. But it never occurred to be, not being a man and all, the logistics of a believable love scene between two men. I guess as long as it’s hot, I’m believing it 😉 Watching porn must really be tedious research. Oh how you writers must suffer for your art!

    I love flawed characters, because yes they are more interesting. Everyone has insecurities and hang-ups and fears, and to make that part of the characters makes them all that much more interesting. Who wants perfect? Bor-ing! Where’s the emotional growth in that? I love the unexpected. The shy, reserved guy who loves to sky-dive or the alpha male who loves to garden. Keeps things interesting.

  30. Romance Novel TV « Joely Skye
    on Feb 23rd, 2009
    @ 6:49 pm

    […] been some great discussion about m/m romance over at the Romance Novel TV blog. It starts here, and continues for six more […]

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