There’s an oft-repeated writer’s maxim that you should ‘write what you know’. When writing my comedy novel Straylord, I started with an aspect of my personality that I thought would make for a funny story.
You see, I’m stray. It’s a term I’ve coined to describe a particular part of myself that I suspect is common in many others. I’m straight, and yet I’m gay. Stray. I’m very much heterosexual, but in every other respect I’m quite gay. Yes, as you can imagine, school was a quite delightful experience.
I’ve never been one for traditionally male pursuits such as sports and drinking beer. I’d much rather curl up at home with a good romantic comedy. I was even worse when I was younger; I’d love to pretend that in the 80’s I used to listen to The Cure and The Smiths and New Order, but that would be a terrible lie. I was, in fact, a big fan of Wham! and A-Ha, I had Go West and Pet Shop Boys posters on my wall, and I owned at least two Erasure singles.
Making fun of this side of my personality seemed like a good starting point for a romantic comedy novel, but it soon became apparent that in order to make it dramatic and comedic, I would have to exaggerate somewhat. All the characters in everything I’ve ever written have always been exaggerated versions of me – I figure if I start with myself and develop from there, at least the characters will appear to have three dimensions.
So I started playing around with that side of myself as a story idea – a character who is stray – and I really emphasized that part of him, so that we have this effeminate guy, with very effeminate mannerisms, and all women naturally assume he’s gay. But he doesn’t even realize that’s how he comes across.
Then he meets the girl of his dreams, and she thinks he’s gay, and he doesn’t realize it until it’s too late, and he believes her to be out of his league anyway. So he decides to become her gay best friend, because as he sees it, that’s the only way he’s ever going to be able to spend time with her. And the rest of the story develops from there – he’s her fake gay best friend, and he’s madly in love with her, but he can never tell her the truth.
And although it’s a comedy, and I was always looking for the humor in the situation, I found that, possibly because it had its basis in reality, the story became quite heartfelt, that a lot of emotion seeped in there as well. And I do think it’s quite moving in parts.
But then I’m stray, so I would think that.