Pronouns in a Lesbian Love Story?

I’m currently writing the first of many LGBTQ fantasy stories I’ve got planned and I’m so psyched! But one of the most frustrating things I’ve discovered whilst trying to write is how difficult it is to distinguish between who’s who during a romantic, intimate or sexual scene. Sometimes using the pronouns is not enough and I don’t want to overuse descriptive details like eye colour etc because I feel it comes off a little cheesy after a while.

Do you have any pointers on how I can improve?

Writing in first person would be the easiest, then it’s I, me vs her, she. The other simple way is to just use names instead of pronouns.

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Hey, I write gay romance too, and I always end up using descriptors like ‘the blonde’, ‘the older man’, etc. They’re not just their pronouns, and using descriptors can help with building a visual picture of your characters.

Or you know, their names.

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@saintc @CassidySavidi

Thank you both for your replies! Do you think it’s a little clunky to keep saying their names over and over? Unfortunately, I think 3rd person works better for this story because it’s set in the war and my main character is a soldier so she could die. I don’t want people to assume she’s going to live since she’s the one telling the story, if you know what I mean. It does make it quite a bit harder for the more intimate moments, though!

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Names can definitely get repetitive like pronouns. This is why it’s a good idea to give your characters nicknames.

In Narration Andrew’s Andrew, but his partner calls him Drew, and his close friend calls him Andy.

Doing this can also help with making your character seem more human, so it’s a win-win.

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Honestly this was my entire struggle and downfall with third person POV. I went back to First. Works like a charm.

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Smh, heretic (JK.) I love 3rd person, hahaha.

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Haha, I struggle with this all the time when writing love scenes between my characters! What I usually do is just use their names anywhere a pronoun might be unclear. Or, I have one paragraph focusing on one character, then switch to another with the focus on another. That way, even if you do rely on pronouns, it’ll be obvious from the context of the paragraph which character is doing what.

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If anyone is interested in the premise, it’s set during a war between faeries and humans. They’re a group of friends affected by this war – two of them are faeries and three of them are humans. They end up having to fight each other. It’s about the main character, Meera, coming to terms with having to fight her best friends and being determined to live through the war so she can tell her doctor friend, Daria, how she feels. So the stakes are high and I thought 3rd would match that quite well.

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I do too and that’s why I cry myself to sleep every night over third person’s defeat over me.

I’m a huge failure and I’ve let down my ancestors.

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I don’t even write LGBTQ+ romance and still, this is the reason I write first person. Third person gets impossible when there’s three people of the same gender in one scene. Especially in dialogue.

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Even pronouns can get repetitive. I agree with @LittleBird317 , use the pronouns as long as you make it clear. So mix it up. You can always start with the name and then use transitions to make sure we know it’s still the same person doing an action. Use the name again when you switch characters and then pronouns after that until another switch. Ex. Shannii slammed her book on the table. Then she…

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We have a second word for his/hers/theirs in Danish and English should do everyone a favour and adopt it.

So if John took his bag, it’d be ‘John took sin bag’ (since he is not taking Kyle’s bag but his own)

English needs the word ‘sin/sit’

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I know that struggle!!! Names are good, and so are descriptions when used sparingly. I personally try not to go more than six or so lines without a clarification on who’s speaking or acting.

Also ayyyyy this story sounds super cool!

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I write bxb, mxm. I sort of do it like this

Their fingers brushed and Joe smiled. Deacon smiled back, hoping Joe’s small upturn of lips meant he felt the same rush.

So he here is Joe, even though I’m in Deacon’s head.

This often happens to me when writing non-romantic scenes, when two male or female main characters are talking to each other or something along the lines of that. Often it gets turn into “she said” for one character and “she said” for another which can be rather confusing…

So I agree with what @CassidySavidi said:

Since it generally helps with non-romantic writing and romantic writing, especially if there is a scene where two of your male or female MCs are doing something together. :smiley:

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I also run into this problem a lot because I write third limited and my protags are gay.

Personally I’m not a fan of epithets (the blonde man, the tall woman) because they always shake me out of a story. It seems weird to describe the POV character’s lover as “the sailor” or something because that’s … not at all how the POV character would think of / refer to them within the context of the scene. But again, just one person’s opinion. YMMV.

A while back I read a piece of advice re: writing third limited. When writing in a character’s POV, use mostly pronouns for them (call them by name only when necessary to identify them), because it’ll feel more authentic; I’d never refer to myself by name, only by pronoun, and deep third is more or less first with the pronouns subbed out.

This winds up working out really well for sex scenes. I’ll call one character mostly by name (unless I can use a pronoun and it’s explicitly clear what I mean). There are times when I have to shake things up a little – it’s not a 100% hard and fast rule by any means – but for the most part when I’m having trouble with phrasing because of my ‘rule’, it’s a sign that there’s something wrong with the scene itself. Either I’m going into too much detail, missing a transition sentence, or (most often) getting too itemized with my descriptions (X touched Y. X took off Y’s shirt. X took off his pants) and need to inject more scene, emotion, whatever.

I’m including an example from a scene so you can see what I mean :slight_smile:

Summary

Arden swallowed back the swell of feeling that made his throat tight and his eyes itch, pressing forward until Valory’s thighs hit the edge of the bunk. “You’re overdressed,” he said, two fingertips tracing a line from Valory’s throat down to the buckle of his belt.

Valory needed no more motivation than that, it seemed. He twisted, wrestling out of the complicated shirt he’d donned for meeting with the Admiral and tossing it Illen-knows-where they’d find it in the morning. They stripped off boots, stumbled over trousers, laughed at their clumsy haste until Valory wore nothing and Arden had only his half-unbuttoned shirt hanging past his hips.

Arden’s breath stuttered. Valory wore nothing.

He wished — again — for a candle, for moonlight, for anything to better see by. With mouth gone dry he crowded Valory against the bunk, kissing him hard. Valory let himself topple and Arden was on him in an instant, straddling his hips and tearing his own shirt off over his head. He let himself touch, shaky hands running down the lean lines of Valory’s torso over and over.

Looking back at it, the basic idea is that I use Arden (POV character)'s name only when absolutely necessary and stick with “he” the rest of the time. Arden mostly calls Val by name; Val only gets a pronoun when the use of his name would cause an obvious prose echo and the pronoun doesn’t otherwise confuse the reader (or so I hope!).

I’ve also noticed that I try to get rid of possessive pronouns re: inanimate objects to prevent using “his” 10,000x in a row – so I’ll say “a belt / the shirt” or just “belts and shirts” instead of “his shirt” wherever possible. I also try to be creative with actions and the use of objects and space to help the reader know exactly who’s doing what (they’d know the complicated clothing was Val’s for certain in-context, for example).

Hope some of that was helpful. Good luck writing TheSex! :slight_smile: