THE BYRNES STYLEBOOK
With Extra Excerpt Goodness!
Via The Malcontent, I came across this GLAAD press release lauding the Associated Press for updating sexual orientation references in the AP Stylebook. I have to admit that this ordinarily wouldn't interest me -- anyone who's read my books knows that my 'style' owes little to the rules of a stylebook, which is not a bad thing in fiction -- but it does pertain to When the Stars Come Out (the new and recently-completed novel, in bookstores in September, which you are going to buy) so I have content for the day. Yay!
In the novel, I used a few stylistic tricks to get the reader into the heads of the characters... and since the book is all about the 'mos, many of them relate to words they use when talking or thinking about homosexuality.
For example, where the younger characters relate to the word 'gay,' the older characters -- especially the straight ones -- are much more likely to use other words or awkward phrasing to convey their age or comfort level.
Exhibit A -- the seventyish film star who uses the term 'homosexual':
“The ‘B’ word?” Kitty asked.
“Bitch,” said Dean from his perch at her side.
“Oh… uh… I guess all I can say is this. Quinn is the person who had sex with men in our bed while we were married. Quinn is the person who tricked me into marrying him, even though he was a homosexual. And, after all these years, Quinn is the person who wrote all those nasty words.” Tears appeared in her eyes and her voice cracked. “I was faithful, I married him because I was in love… and, even 36 years after we divorced, I have been discreet and not attacked him.” She looked straight into the camera, her eyes still glistening. “Now you tell me which one of us is manipulative, greedy, and the B word.”
Exhibit B -- the crass publicist who, through her words, shows she has a problem with it:
She gasped, and almost swallowed the gum he realized she was somewhat discreetly chewing. “He’s a gay? Quinn Scott is a gay?"
“Gay as, uh, me. And ‘gay’ isn’t a noun, Lindsay.”
She ignored the grammar lesson. “Gay as you? That gay?”
Exhibit C -- outward hostility from a TV producer, countered by an overly-mannered response from his studio boss:
“We want to take advantage of the Quinn Scott story.”
“Quinn Scott. Q.J.’s father?”
MRC thought about that. Something made him uneasy. “Isn’t that the fag?”
Stan Roth cleared his throat. “If you’re asking if Quinn Scott is the gay gentlemen you’ve been hearing about lately, then the answer is yes.”
[And a note about the word 'fag': I am prone to use it, but my editor doesn't like it. Even my mobsters in The Night We Met had their language toned down. Therefore, you will find the word used only rarely in Byrnes Lit.]
So that's your writing lesson for the day. The words they use -- in dialogue or in narrative POV -- can help define your characters. You thought you knew that, of course, but now that you've read it here, you can believe it.