Representation is great! Serving your readers well-rounded characters in a variety of ages, races, genders, levels of ability, sexual orientations, etc etc etc is amazing. It’s the right thing to do, and that reflects in the readers who choose to read diversely.
However, it’s important to be diverse in your diversity. What does this mean? It means not “tokenizing” your nonwhite, noncis, nonstraight, nonmale characters. It means having various people of color, not just one Black dude. It means showing all kinds of women doing all kinds of things. It means having disabled characters beyond one who uses a wheelchair. And for our purposes here in June, it means writing characters on the queer spectrum.
It’s cool to write gay characters. We love a little mlm / wlw energy. Write gay people! Hell yeah! We support you! However, if you just write the one gay couple, it may come across like you don’t know what the BTQIA+ stands for. It may come across a bit tokeny.
The thing with The Gays™ is they travel in packs. Queer friends have queer friends. Just like how a volleyball player is probably friends with other volleyball players because they share perspective and interests, queer people tend to hang out. So it’s actually pretty unrealistic to write one gay person or couple out in the world by themselves.
So what do you do? Add more of The Gays™? No! It’s time to explore the BTQIA+. Why keep returning to the LG when there are five-plus (omg the plus is actually a plus) other letters to worry about? It’s crucially important to include not only “a queer character” in your book, but to incorporate the queer spectrum. *rainbow jazz hands*
You are not required nor expected to write your book to include One Lesbian Character, One Gay Character, One Bisexual Character, One Transgender Character, One Intersex Character, One Asexual Character, and One (oh, let’s sayyyyyyyyyy) Polyamorous Character. This isn’t Gay Lord of the Rings. But if your goal is to include queer characters and you don’t explore all the flags, then you’re falling short.
written by Christina Kann
The short answer: Anyone!
The longer, much more accurate answer: Anyone who will write their queer characters with the same level of respect and dignity and research that they would any other character.
Queer characters should exist in stories, the same way they exist in the real world. Even if you’re not part of the LGBTQIA+ community, any world you create needs to acknowledge that queerness is part of life, part of story, part of humanity.
Plus, writing stories is about blending our own unique reality with creative license, with imagination and deep ponderance of the world around us, including the parts we don’t know everything about. Great writers have great empathy, the ability to imagine what it’s like to live in someone else’s shoes. And wouldn’t this world, and literature in general, be incredibly boring if authors only wrote characters like themselves?
What’s important is how you write queer characters.
Here are some things you need first.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you think about your characters.
We love celebrating queer literature, so we’ve pulled together some of our favorites. If you haven’t checked these out, please, be our guest!
Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
What happens when America's First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?
When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius―his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There's only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.
Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instragramable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through? Casey McQuiston's Red, White & Royal Blue proves: true love isn't always diplomatic.
Storygraph review: kaebee_
“Loved, loved, absolutely loved this book. One of my all time favs this year by far. There were so many times where I just sat and laughed at something in this book and then moments where I held my breath and wished. Also definitely recommend listening to the audiobook and reading the book at the same time. Makes those funny moments even more funny.”
The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
Linus Baker is a by-the-book case worker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He's tasked with determining whether six dangerous magical children are likely to bring about the end of the world.
Arthur Parnassus is the master of the orphanage. He would do anything to keep the children safe, even if it means the world will burn. And his secrets will come to light.
An enchanting love story, masterfully told, The House in the Cerulean Sea is about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours.
Storygraph review: audrey01
“There are two types of authors in this world: the ones that don’t impact you and the ones that do. TJ Klune is the latter. This book seems to have all the elements you would want: love, adventure, self-discovery and self-reflection all cooked up in a wonderful 398 pages. You’ll melt at Chauncey’s kindness, Lucy and Talia’s sass, Sal’s growth, Phee’s adventurous nature and Theodore’s quiet yet moving heart. But even more, you’ll find a love story that’s highlighted by the simple moments like a disagreement between two philosophers. A love story made real. Dear god I absolutely loved this story! I don’t want to spoil anything else but I will say two more things: special mention Calliope, Zoe and Helen (which btw I want more of!) and special mention to all these gorgeous gorgeous parts of the book (p 116, 119, 124, 158, 180, 182, 194, 208-209, 223, 231, 239, 247, 280, 283, 305, 307, 326, 333, 336, 338, 341, 360, 372, 376, 383, 396. A magical experience that I would recommend to anyone!”
Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju
Judy Blume meets RuPaul's Drag Race in this funny, feel-good debut novel about a queer teen who navigates questions of identity and self-acceptance while discovering the magical world of drag.
Perpetually awkward Nima Kumara-Clark is bored with her insular community of Bridgeton, in love with her straight girlfriend, and trying to move past her mother's unexpected departure. After a bewildering encounter at a local festival, Nima finds herself suddenly immersed in the drag scene on the other side of town.
Macho drag kings, magical queens, new love interests, and surprising allies propel Nima both painfully and hilariously closer to a self she never knew she could be--one that can confidently express and accept love. But she'll have to learn to accept lost love to get there.
From debut author Tanya Boteju comes a poignant, laugh-out-loud tale of acceptance, self-expression, and the colorful worlds that await when we're brave enough to look.
Storygraph review: mstanley79
“This book felt like coming home. It felt like a hug. It felt safe in the best way possible. I wanted to disappear into it and soak up all the magic.”
The Stonewall Reader by New York Public Library with Edmund White (Contributor)
June 28, 2019 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, which is considered the most significant event in the gay liberation movement, and the catalyst for the modern fight for LGBTQ rights in the United States. Drawing from the New York Public Library's archives, The Stonewall Reader is a collection of first accounts, diaries, periodic literature, and articles from LGBTQ magazines and newspapers that documented both the years leading up to and the years following the riots. Most importantly the anthology spotlights both iconic activists who were pivotal in the movement, such as Sylvia Rivera, co-founder of Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries (STAR), as well as forgotten figures like Ernestine Eckstein, one of the few out, African American, lesbian activists in the 1960s. The anthology focuses on the events of 1969, the five years before, and the five years after. Jason Baumann, the NYPL coordinator of humanities and LGBTQ collections, has edited and introduced the volume to coincide with the NYPL exhibition he has curated on the Stonewall uprising and gay liberation movement of 1969.
Storygraph review: wowshecanread
“WOW I loved this book. Being able to read first-hand accounts of life as a queer person during the ‘60s from numerous points of view was absolutely illuminating in every sense of the word. For me, each story I read added another layer to the world I was able to visualize in my head, helping me imagine what felt like the real, immersive 3D world that these writers and activists once lived in.”
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?
Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.
Summoned to Evelyn's luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the '80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn's story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique's own in tragic and irreversible ways.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is "Tinseltown drama at its finest" (Redbook): a mesmerizing journey through the splendor of old Hollywood into the harsh realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means--and what it costs--to face the truth.
Storygraph review: thebookishgamerr
“Honest to God, this book... I can't put into words. Just... READ IT. LGBTQ+, bi-racial, all different types of races and people; so good and so beautifully handled.”
Golden Girls Forever: An Unauthorized Look Behind the Lanai by Jim Colucci
The complete, first-ever Golden Girls retrospective, packed with hundreds of exclusive interviews, behind-the-scenes and never-before-revealed stories, more than two hundred color and black-and-white photos, commentary, and more.
They were four women of a certain age, living together under one roof in Miami--smart and strong Dorothy, airhead Rose, man-hungry belle Blanche, and smart-mouthed matriarch Sophia. They were the Golden Girls, and for seven seasons, this hilarious quartet enchanted millions of viewers with their witty banter, verve, sass, and love, and reaffirmed the power of friendship and family.
Over thirty years after it first aired, The Golden Girls has become a cult classic, thanks to fan fiction, arts and crafts, podcasts, hundreds of fan blogs and websites, and syndication. Now, Golden Girls Forever pays homage to this wildly popular, acclaimed, and award-winning sitcom. Drawing on interviews with the show's creators, actors, guest stars, producers, writers, and crew members, Jim Colucci paints a comprehensive portrait of the Girls both in front of the cameras and behind the scenes.
Bursting with fun facts, anecdotes, reminiscences, and insights, Golden Girls Forever is the ultimate companion to the show for fans old and new.
Storygraph review: nicolemhill
“This is the greatest book I have ever read. I am not exaggerating. This is the ur-text for the rest of my life.”
All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
In a series of personal essays, prominent journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson explores their childhood, adolescence, and college years in New Jersey and Virginia. From the memories of getting their teeth kicked out by bullies at age five, to flea marketing with their loving grandmother, to their first sexual relationships, this young-adult memoir weaves together the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys.
Both a primer for teens eager to be allies as well as a reassuring testimony for young queer men of color, All Boys Aren't Blue covers topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, structural marginalization, consent, and Black joy. Johnson's emotionally frank style of writing will appeal directly to young adults.
Storygraph review: redlikeroses
“I usually don't pick up memoirs-it's just not my thing.
I usually don't like them.
All Boys Aren't Blue however, is an exception.
“As a bisexual, I always have had a craving since childhood to see myself in other people. My struggles, my heartbreak, my fear and my love. This book did that. I truly could relate to all the trauma and hope that George Johnson has gone through, though we may have been from different backgrounds.
“Reading this was like reading a part of my soul, a part that has been tucked away for so long I started to doubt, even wish it didn't exist. After all, who wants to be afraid for their lives for being different? Johnson ends it by saying "Whether this book is a bestseller or a flop, if one person is helped by my story, then it was all worth it." (297)
“It was worth it. Thank you Mr. Johnson.”
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood.
Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues--a bee, a key, and a sword--that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library, hidden far below the surface of the earth.
What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians--it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also those who are intent on its destruction.
Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly-soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose--in both the mysterious book and in his own life.
Storygraph review: amhud1030
“This is a favorite for me, and this is a reread however my first time listening to the audio. Which I highly recommend as the narration is excellent!
“I find it difficult to describe this book
All I can say is every time I read it, it consumes me and I can’t read anything else. I must give this book my full attention.
“It seems per other reviewers that this tends to be a love it or hate it book for many. For me it is a love, one of my favorites.
“This book is stories within, stories that are non linear however the characters and stories are all woven together.
“It is so visually descriptive you feel like you are in these places, and can see, touch, smell and taste what’s being described.”
Wilder Girls by Rory Power
It's been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty's life out from under her.
It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don't dare wander outside the school's fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.
But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there's more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.
Storygraph review: swamp_wytch
“This book was so good. The pacing was great, and the core story is haunting. I wish it hadn't ended so abruptly, but it feels like it's setting up for a sequel, and if that's the case I'll buy it ASAP”
Sistersong by Lucy Holland
King Cador’s children inherit a land abandoned by the Romans, torn by warring tribes. Riva can cure others, but can’t heal her own scars. Keyne battles to be seen as the king’s son, although born a daughter. And Sinne dreams of love, longing for adventure.
All three fear a life of confinement within the walls of the hold, their people’s last bastion of strength against the invading Saxons. However, change comes on the day ash falls from the sky – bringing Myrdhin, meddler and magician. The siblings discover the power that lies within them and the land. But fate also brings Tristan, a warrior whose secrets will tear them apart.
Riva, Keyne and Sinne become entangled in a web of treachery and heartbreak, and must fight to forge their own paths. It’s a story that will shape the destiny of Britain.
Storygraph review: irfoxwriter
“An absolutely brilliant book! I adored the characters and found myself very emotionally attached to all three main protagonists, despite sometimes disagreeing with their choices. I loved that it is written in first person present - unusual but so compelling and allows you to feel very close to the characters.”
Loveless by Alice Oseman
Georgia has never been in love, never kissed anyone, never even had a crush – but as a fanfic-obsessed romantic she’s sure she’ll find her person one day. As she starts university with her best friends, Pip and Jason, Georgia’s ready to find romance, and with her outgoing roommate on her side and a place in the Shakespeare Society, her ‘teenage dream’ is in sight.
But when her romance plan wreaks havoc amongst her friends, Georgia ends up in her own comedy of errors, and she starts to question why love seems so easy for other people but not for her. With new terms thrown at her — asexual, aromantic — Georgia is more uncertain about her feelings than ever. Is she destined to remain loveless? Or has she been looking for the wrong thing all along?
Storygraph review: geodrite
“growing up as a hopeless romantic aroace without realizing i was aroace was terrifying because i always felt like i was broken in some way when other people described their experiences with sexuality and romantic attraction, but the older i get the more i realize just how many of us aroaces are out there. it's so liberating to finally see the representation and recognition that i needed and i hope that no one ever has to feel like they're alone again.”
Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao
The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain.
When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.
To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way—and stop more girls from being sacrificed.
Storygraph review: cristina_m_casas
“I will always root for feminine rage so Zetian was someone who was easy to get behind. I really appreciated how her initial mission was over so quickly & so much of the book was her constantly pivoting & honestly going a little power mad.
“The relationship development was so amusing to me because as a reader it was fairly obvious where it was heading but the characters are so oblivious.
“I couldn’t answer a single question you asked me about the chrysalises or the war; but the vibes were excellent!! I look forward to the sequel & the author’s inevitable book about the French Revolution.
“This book majorly gave the hunger games for me despite them being so different”
This Is How You Lose the Time War by Max Gladstone, Amal El-Mohtar
From award-winning authors Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone comes an enthralling, romantic novel spanning time and space about two time-traveling rivals who fall in love and must change the past to ensure their future.
Thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, becomes something more. Something epic. Something romantic. Something that could change the past and the future.
Except the discovery of their bond would mean the death of each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win. That’s how war works, right?
Cowritten by two beloved and award-winning sci-fi writers, This Is How You Lose the Time War is an epic love story spanning time and space.
Storygraph review: vicsbookishthings
“This book has my soul in the palm of its hand. The prose, the beautiful descriptions of love, the nicknames, the banter are *chef’s kiss* the best things I’ve ever read.”
Nimona by ND Stevenson
Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from ND Stevenson. Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel has been hailed by critics and fans alike as the arrival of a "superstar" talent.
Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren't the heroes everyone thinks they are.
But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona's powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.
Storygraph review: kaseycanread
“I loved every second of this”
The Midnight Girls by Alicia Jasinska
In a snow-cloaked kingdom, two wicked rivals secretly compete for the pure heart of a prince, only to discover they might be falling for each other.
Karnawał season is a time for mischief and revelry. For the next few weeks, all will be wintry balls, glittery disguises, and nightly torch-lit sleigh-parties.
Unbeknownst to the merrymakers, two uninvited girls join the fun. Zosia and Marynka are drawn to each other the moment they meet, until they discover they're rivals, who both have their sights set on the prince's heart. If one consumes a pure heart, she'll gain immeasurable power. Marynka plans to bring the prince's back to her patron in order to prove herself. While Zosia is determined to take his heart and its power for her own.
Their ambition turns into a magical contest with both girls vying to keep the prince out of the other's grasp, even as their attraction to one another grows. But their attempts on his life draws the attention of the city that would die for him, and suddenly their escalating rivalry might cost them not just their love for each other, but both their lives.
Storygraph review: chuuzone
“oh this had EVERYTHING i wanted... ya sapphic fantasy with the two mcs being the "i fucking hate you pls just drop dead so i can win this round you infuriate me so bad oh my god i wanna kiss you so hard" kind of rivals who get such a thrill from fighting and competing with each other that the sexual tension is coming off from the pages in waves and you're waiting for them to kiss in the middle of the battle, the gay ass prince x knight side characters who also hate each other but not really because they have underlying affections for one another, all the banter between the mcs mid-fight, and the banter between one of the mcs and the prince who she's supposed to kill, THE "DON'T TOUCH HER!" TROPE BUT SAPPHIC, the kiss scene, everyone is gay I NEED MORE”
written by Grace Ball
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