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Questions about a future idea

edited February 2020 in Writing
It seems that while I’m working on my novel, I already have ideas for two other stories for the future, which is where my questions come from.

I read years ago that a love story is a story about a great love that has such a profound effect on both characters (by changing both for the better) but normally ends in sorrow with the death of one of them. Whereas, a romance isn’t usually as strong or life-altering and has a happy ending. My first question is: can a love story ever have a happy ending where the couple get together in the end? I want to write about an amazing, epic love between two people, but I want a happy ending.

I want this profound love to be between two men over a thirty-year period and part of the issues between them is because of who they are and their sexualities. I don’t want it to be a form of titillation for straight women - I know there’s a genre for this with well-built male torsos on the front of the book covers, but I want to stay away from that. I have read articles saying that people who aren’t LGBTQA+ have no right in writing about gay love stories, and here lies my second question: do I have any right to write about a love story between two men when I’m a straight woman? If I don’t, then I will bin the idea I have. I do want to do it in the right way and feel that it could be a great story that I want to tell. In the meantime, I also want to do a lot of research in the area by reading other books of this genre, but there doesn’t seem to be a genre for the type of book I want to write.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


  • I don't see why any story about love or relationships has to fit into a specific category that has to end a particular way. A profound love with a happy ending? Go for it.

    The other part though - I don't hold with the notion that you don't have the right to write something you are not yourself or haven't experienced. However, you do have the obligation for it to fairly represent the community you are portraying and not to fall into old tropes and stereotypes. So research is essential and possibly sensitivity readers from the community you are writing about.
  • I think that, regardless of ending, what matters is that a story rings true. If your characters are convincing, then it will work. And of course it can have a happy conclusion.

    I don't think that the author's sexuality comes into the equation. Whatever, that's private, personal, and not up for disclosure or conjecture.
  • Thanks, TN and heather. I want to research as much as I possibly can in order to not offend anyone. But, as I wrote earlier, I think it could be a really great story.

    If anyone knows of any similar books, please let me know. I’m currently reading Maurice by E.M. Foster and have ordered others from Amazon - that are modern - in order to research other books that deal with gay relationships.
  • I think Heather is spot on with all she says.  You shouldn't write about it?  You might as well say you have to be a spy to write a spy story!  Yes - go for it.
  • Thanks, Foxglove.
  • I don't think you need be bound by a defenition of genres that you happened to read once.

    Neither do I think you must restrict yourself to writing about characters who are just like you. In fact I think it would generally be a mistake to have every character the same age, gender, class, sexual orientation etc.
  • As Heather mentioned, sensitivity readers, and talking to the community as part of the research process.
  • Thanks, PM and Carol. I’m glad a lot of people don’t think I should restrict myself. Talking to the community should be straightforward, but I wonder how to broach the subject when the time comes, especially with people I work with or see on a regular basis. There’s two men off the top of my head I know of that I could ask.
  • I'd say something like, "I'm writing a book with gay characters in and I don't want to cause offence to any gay men, or make a sily mistake. Do you know of anyone who might be willing to take a look at it for me?"

    That would give them the chance to offer, but not put them under pressure if they don't want to – and they may suggest other people who could help.
  • Thanks for that, PM.
  • Love is love. If you can write a story about about love between a woman and a man (and you have no experience of being a man), then you can do so between a man and a man. HOWEVER, I would point out that gay men have a language that they use together which you probably have no experience of unless you have  number of gay friends, and even if you do, they may not have used that language in front of you. Perhaps it would be a good idea to have a chat with a gay man before and during writing and after give it to one who could read it through for authenticity. My cousin is gay. It was not a shock exactly but when I met him once in the company of gay friends instead of my mum and aunts, he was QUITE different.
  • Thanks, Liz. I was going to speak to some gay men that I know (my hairdresser, a colleague and a dance teacher where I go dancing) and see whether they could give me that information before I write anything - possibly even in the planning stage of the story.
  • A few years ago I worked on a novel which was a gay romance between two men. It was written by a straight woman. It was a love story, pure and simple. I've also worked on novels that were written by lesbians for lesbians. The sex was explicit, but no more so than in other books I've read. It doesn't matter who writes about what, the characters must be credible. When that's achieved, you and they can do anything.
  • Thanks, Baggy.  That's one thing I have thought about: sex scenes.  I want that to be credible as well.  
  • Go for it. Talking to some gay men and doing other research will help, but gay people are no more monolithic in personality and approach to love than heterosexuals. Chances are that someone who reads about the book will be offended because there are some people so deep into identitarianism that they will complain about anything. The novel as we understand it will die if authors can only write about a group they belong to.
  • Thanks, DeneBebbo.  

    I'm so grateful that everyone has been so supportive.  
  • edited February 2020
    Now I've finally looked into all the books and documentaries I could purchase, it seems the scope of reading around the subject is so vast, I really don't know where to start.  
  • Brokeback Mountain started as a short story and was written by a woman, Annie Proulx.
  • Brokeback Mountain was a story I did think of. I haven’t read it, but I have seen the film and it’s so heartbreaking. I will need to read it at some point.
  • Pity Jay isn't still around, he could have advised you. Wonder how he's doing?
  • Who is Jay?
  • He used to be a TBer, but stopped coming. A VERY long time ago. He was a writer of gay romances.
  • Doglover, he was called Jay Mandal. Not sure if that's correct spelling.  
  • Agree with much that has already been said.
    Have you seen The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel? There is a character in it who is looking for the man he had fallen in love with when he was young. The scene when the two men meet again is handled very beautifully and sensitively. 
  • Thanks, Claudia.  I'll have a look at that. 
  • dora said:
    Doglover, he was called Jay Mandal. Not sure if that's correct spelling.  
    Dora, I have checked out his name on Amazon, and the books on there are not available to buy. 
  • It's Jay Mandel. Try looking on here in a search.
  • edited February 2020
    No, Liz - his name is Jay Mandal. The most recent thing I could find is that he is a contributor in Best Gay Romance 2015.

    "In a meet cute for our times, Jay Mandal’s “To Dye For” follows two former classmates who bump into each other, and discover they like exactly the same thing—men! In Best Gay Romance 2015, Felice Picano gathers a sweepingly romantic collection of short fiction that is long on love."

  • Ah, that's weird I tried a search for him and Jay Mandel came up... but not Jay Mandal! I still have two of his books on my computer, he sent them to me to read for some reason lost in the mists of time. I don't feel I can hand them over though. The Dandelion Clock and Scouting (for boys) were their names, so if you want to google them you might be able to buy one, you never know. I've got them down as Jay Mandel.
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