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How To Pull Yourself Out Of A Writing Hole With A Little Help From Your Characters

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Allow me to introduce you to Richard and Adrian. You may have already met them; then again, you may not, but did you know that they helped me get out of a writing hole?

I’m not talking about a physical hole that I fell into while looking down at the screen on my phone, but a mental hole I hadn’t realised was there. I think many authors and writers fall into this hole, sometimes without knowing. However, Richard and Adrian helped me realise that something was missing in my writing world. 

If you’ve reached this far reading this post, you may be asking two questions. 

  1. Who are Richard and Adrian?
  2. What the heck is Hugh talking about? 

Allow me to answer both questions. What I’m referring to is the lack of LGBTQ characters in my writing.

Where are all the LGBTQ characters? 

I feel pretty shocked about it. As a gay man, you’d think my writing would have many LGBTQ characters, wouldn’t you? Yet when I look back, I see hardly any sign of them. 

Where are they? Are they all hiding in the closet? And by closet, I mean the way some people refer to when somebody hasn’t told anyone about their sexual orientation. 

Maybe it’s because I’m reading the wrong blog posts or books or not following bloggers who write about LGBTQ subjects, but my email box and WordPress Reader are LGBTQ scarce.

Where I have noticed an increase of LGBTQ characters is on television and in movies 

Soap operas especially seem to have exploded with LGBTQ characters. I also recently read that James Bond’ movies made over 40 years ago had hidden gay characters. ‘Hidden’ gay characters? Why are they hidden? Are they still in the closet? 

I guess it was all to do with the sign of the times back then, but I do recall various open gay characters on television shows in the 1970s. And, strangely enough, I don’t remember there being much outrage about them. Most people welcomed them with open arms, yet as a young gay man, I was still terrified of ‘coming out‘ of the closet because of the consequences I may face. 

The day Richard and Adrian came into my life

Although I’ve had a light sprinkling of gay characters in my writing, they were what I call ‘one-offs.’ They appear in one story or piece of flash fiction, and that’s it. Then, on June 18th 2021, Charli published the following 99-word flash fiction challenge prompt – 

June 18, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features a solstice. What is the era and setting? Use the solstice as a celebration, metaphor, or talking point. Go where the prompt leads!  

I wrote and published ‘Edge Of Summer‘, which featured two gay characters, Richard and Adrian. The story went down well with readers and received lots of lovely comments. Some readers had already fallen in love with these two guys. 

A week later, Richard and Adrian appeared again in the 99-word flash fiction challenge, only this time Charli’s prompt had led me to kill Richard off. Perhaps I didn’t like Richard as much as Adrian? But if I had killed off Richard, surely that meant the end of Adrian too? 

Richard and Adrian – two short-lived characters. Or so I thought! 

At least they’d had more than one outing on my blog and at the Carrot Ranch. Imagine my surprise then when Charli’s following prompt inspired me to write about Richard and Adrian again.

Had I bought Richard back to life? No. Well, yes, but I had a good reason for doing so.

The boys took a break during the rest of the summer. But come September, they were back in my mind. They’ve now appeared in over twelve pieces of flash fiction. Not only do readers seem to still like and love them, but we’re beginning to build up a picture of their whole lives. 

I feel as if I’m in the process of writing my first LGBTQ novel 

The 99-word flash fiction prompts mean the life stories of Richard and Adrian are not in any particular order. One week we could be witnessing the beginning of their lives, and the following week we could find ourselves towards the end. But that doesn’t seem to matter to those following their journey. 

It wasn’t long before I realised how fond I was of Richard and Adrian. Now, not only have I grown to love these two gay characters, but I realise how they have helped me write more about LGBTQ life than I’ve ever done before.

You know how much I like a twist, yes?

If you’ve read any of my fiction, you’ll know that I love adding twists to my stories. Imagine then, to my surprise, when I noticed that one of my true-story blog posts about gay life started taking off again one year after I first published it on my blog.

Screenshot showing the total n umber of views on a blog post over a 26 month period

I created Richard and Adrian in June 2021. Bought them back to my blog in September 2021, and they’ve been featured on my blog for most weeks since then.

I still can’t fathom why this particular post is suddenly getting lots of attention again. Something inside me wants it to be a real-life twist and tell you it’s to do with Richard and Adrian. Have they come to life and sent traffic to my true story blog post, or are they doing it from within the fictitious world they live in? 

All I can say is thank you, Richard and Adrian. You came into my life and the lives of my readers, have helped me out of a writing hole and are allowing me to share your life stories with everyone. Are you the reasons behind the surge in views on one of my blog posts about gay life?

Have you ever had fictitious characters come to life or help you with your writing? I’d love to know about them. Leave the details in the comments section.

Image showing some straight lines drawn by different coloured pens on a white background

If you missed my previous posts on Diversity With A Twist, here they are.

Copyright © 2021 Hugh W. Roberts – All rights reserved.

***

Photo of the writer, author and blogger, Hugh W. Roberts

Hugh W. Roberts lives in Swansea, South Wales, in the United Kingdom.

Hugh gets his inspiration for writing from various avenues including writing prompts, photos, eavesdropping and while out walking his dogs, Although he was born in Wales, he has lived around various parts of the United Kingdom, including London where he lived and worked for 27 years.

Hugh suffers from a mild form of dyslexia but, after discovering blogging, decided not to allow the condition to stop his passion for writing. Since creating his blog ‘Hugh’s Views & News’ in February 2014, he has built up a strong following and now writes every day. Always keen to promote other bloggers, authors and writers, Hugh enjoys the interaction blogging brings and has built up a group of online friends.

His short stories have become well known for the unexpected twists they contain. One of the best compliments a reader can give Hugh is “I never saw that ending coming.”

Having published his first book of short stories, Glimpses, in December 2016, his second collection of short stories, More Glimpses, was released in March 2019.

A keen photographer, he also enjoys cycling, walking, reading, watching television, and enjoys relaxing with a glass of red wine and sweet popcorn.

Hugh shares his life with John, his civil-partner, and Toby and Austin, their Cardigan Welsh Corgis.

You can follow Hugh’s blog at Hugh’s Views And News and follow him on Twitter at @hughRoberts05.


12 Comments

  1. Ann Edall-Robson says:

    Characters bring out the best and worst of our inner being. They take us through trials, tribulations, love and laughter.

    A story I was working has a female protagonist. Unbeknownst to me (not seeing the forest for the trees), she was angry at everyone she interacted with. This came to light when I asked a few members of my writing group to read what I had written (so far) to see if they thought it was worthy of me continuing. They were honest, the story is good, but the anger I was feeling from loosing a loved one showed up everywhere in this story.

    Re-writes are inevitable in a writer’s life. The Anger, as I now call it, is now sitting on the shelf. Yes, I will re-write it, eventually. Yes, I will leave some of the anger, it’s part of the story. Yes, I still believe it has a future as a book, just not sure when.

    Your characters have given you an opportunity to write from your inner being. I look forward to reading about Richard and Adrian.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I agree that any emotions we feel when writing tends to come across in one form or another, Ann. I’ve heard it said that we shouldn’t write when angry, sad, or depressed, but I think it can sometimes bring out the best in us.

      One of the stories in my first book, Glimpses, was written while I was under the influence of a fair few glasses of red wine. I tend to be most creative in the mornings, but it was also late at night when I wrote the story. I published the story on my blog as soon as I finished writing it. The following morning, I was faced with a lot of comments about how scary the story was. One reader said – ‘it’s freaked me out so much, I dare not go to bed.’ Since then, I’ve never written a story under the influence or late at night.

      I’ve learned now never to write and publish anything straight away. Always leave it for at least 24 hours before going back to edit it. I now sleep on all my writing before deciding if it’s ready for publication. I compare the first draft to being the bones and the edits being the meat. It’s one of the reasons why you’ll always find me not publishing my 99-word piece of flash until just before Charli’s deadline.

      I’m glad you wrote and kept your story. Feedback is excellent, but keep anything you believe adds value to what you’ve written as the storyteller. I will be interested in knowing if you go back to it and publish it.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Hi, Hugh. Interesting that you say that ‘Maybe it’s because I’m reading the wrong blog posts or books or not following bloggers who write about LGBTQ subjects’. I subscribe to a couple of lists of writer opportunities that contain dozens of sites and publishers run by, and who give preference, to LGBTQI, writers.
    Re openly gay characters in entertainment in the past, my memory of them was that they were usually portrayed as mincing limp-wristed caricatures of no consequence used for comic effect (think Charles Hawtrey). Most gay men in entertainment were terrified of the consequences of coming out (think Rock Hudson, Raymond Burr etc) so it is little wonder that gay folk generally feared the same consequence.
    But I have digressed considerably from your original point re characters who somehow never appear in your writing as they do in your ‘real’ life. I noticed this myself a while back when I realised that I was deliberately avoiding writing about uniquely Australian characters using Australian vernacular because most American readers seemed annoyed because they didn’t ‘get’ them. I’d like to think I’ve conquered that cultural cringe now. 😉

    Liked by 4 people

    • Hi Doug. I follow some other LGBTQ bloggers, but most of them tend to have photography blogs, so they don’t write much about gay life. There are also some I’ve followed who don’t respond to comments, and that’s something I’m not too fond of because it feels as if they’re ignoring their readers. They’d be better off closing comments off if they don’t want to respond to them. I’ve probably been looking in all the wrong places, and it’s something I certainly need to fix.

      These days, being gay and a celebrity doesn’t seem to cause many problems, although there are some areas in life (such as sport) where people still fear ‘coming out.’ Living your life as a lie is something I think most gay people do at some point in their lives, although it is much easier these days to ‘come out.’ Rock Hudson probably experienced much of what I feared when I was a young man growing up who hadn’t come out of the closest. I’m very grateful that I’ve been able to live most of my current life as openly gay and not have to worry about any consequences of announcing it to the world.

      I hope you have conquered that cultural cringe. Not everyone will like everything we write, and providing they don’t become a troll because of it; I have no problem with people telling me. If it’s done professionally and in a friendly matter, all the better. Fortunately, it seems that most folk at the Carrot Ranch like Richard and Adrian as each piece of flash gets many good comments, although I like to think that my writing is also the cause of that.

      Thanks so much for your comments.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Norah says:

    Interesting, Hugh. We are told to write what we know, and I do enjoy your stories about Richard and Adrian and am pleased that they may have provided a positive twist in your blog views.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Jess and Cindy appear a lot in my Carrot Ranch responses, as well as many other queer characters.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. SueSpitulnik says:

    Hugh,
    I too enjoy Richard and Adrian. They are showing me a way of life I’m not familiar with.
    I have found an adult beverage allows me to write more freely as far as emotions go, but the typing mistakes multiply. And I can read through my drawer novel and be reminded of what was happening in my household the day I wrote the scene. If I was angry, so were my characters. I’ve read that’s not a healthy way to write.
    I had to learn the hard way to not write and publish. Thoughts to improve a piece take time to come to the forefront of my brain.
    Thank you for sharing your life and insights.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sue, I’m always so pleased when people who have read any of my LGBTQ themed posts thank me for giving them a glimpse into a way of life they’re not familiar with.

      I, too, also read and heard that we should never write when angry or sad. However, I think it’s more to do when writing letters, emails or leaving comments. Ann mentioned in an earlier comment that some members of her writing group said that one of her characters was too angry. She wrote the piece when feeling those emotions. From my personal experience, I have written fiction when experiencing some form of emotion, and sometimes it works to my advantage and to that of what I’ve written (so I’m told). However, I tend to do most of my writing when in a happy, non-stressful mood.

      Like

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