If you have looked at my new website for Small Town Witch, you may have already read the character sheets I posted about the main characters. These include a lot of interesting facts about the characters to help you familiarize yourself with them. Reading them is not necessary for understanding the story, but they may add to the experience.They contain some of the information that I keep for myself to remind me about the characters.
Well, the things that I included on the website were deliberate–and so were the things that I left off. For example, you may notice that I included a “race” designation for all of the characters (referring to which type of magikin they are) but no “ethnic” details. This was left off because it’s not important to the characters or the story, for the most part. The story is not about ethnic tensions or racism in the sense that humans are judged for their skin color. (There is tension between humans and magikin, so those details are explicit.) From the names of many characters, ethnic diversity even in the small rural town can be implied. As far as I am concerned, they’re Californian.
In the same vein, I have not noted any characters’ sexual orientation. This is a little more relevant to the story because sexual orientation is discussed a little bit. But I absolutely did not want to make this an important point in my characters. I want to have diversity in my stories, because there is diversity in the people that I know, but I do not want them to be defined by their sexuality. This is not a LGBTQ story or a time to preach about LGBTQ issues. This is a story that happens to have some non-straight characters.
I know that I have already received some criticism about my characters from readers, and I know that I will face more. I do not care. Rosa is a girl who happens to study witchcraft, play the clarinet, take photographs, and is attracted to both boys and girls. That’s part of who she is and it’s not going to change. She doesn’t need to “make up her mind” and she is not “confused”. But at the same time, it’s not an issue book so I am not going to spend three chapters defending her “lifestyle choices”. Accept that she is bisexual and move on, or don’t read the story.
I have tried to tread a fine line between making her sexual orientation explicit enough so that I don’t cause confusion, and making it into a major issue for the story. I know that there are great stories which tackle issues like coming out, discovering who you are, facing discrimination, etc. Those stories are important. But I think we also need books about non-straight characters where their sexual orientation is not the main focus of the story, where it just happens to be there without taking over. My goal is to tell the story of Rosa’s family struggles and her discovering the strength to be her own person. I want this to be the same as any story about a heterosexual girl where her heterosexuality is not important to the plot. Bisexuality is not the norm, so I have had to spell it out in a few spots to avoid having readers say, “Hey, wait, she said she liked that girl, but now she is talking about this guy! What’s going on?” But I hope that I have achieved something in the middle.
What do you think? Do you want stories that include LGBTQ characters if the book is not about LGBTQ issues? Do you stop to think about the sexual orientation of the characters in a story that you’re reading about (whether or not that character ever shows romantic interest in another person)? If you’re straight, are you comfortable reading about characters who aren’t the same as you? Do your feelings change knowing that the story is intended for young adults?