Serious topic - is it okay to NOT put labels on your characters? (mental health, sexual/romantic orientation...)

Some people have asked me whether or not certain characters in my story have certain conditions or perhaps certain sexual/romantic orientations.
Is it okay not to label the characters?

I honestly just don’t want to misrepresent anyone, and I don’t want to make the story focus on labels.

If I put labels, I feel like people will say that it’s too cliche/misrepresented… Plus, the labels themselves aren’t the focus. Like, yes, we can see the characters behave a certain way and have certain traits, but having a label itself isn’t the focus in the story. Hence I just don’t put any labels.

I want to let readers interpret things the way they want to.

But is this bad? I don’t want to offend anyone by not putting the labels on the characters…

Ahhh, serious topic! What do you think about this?

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It’s your story so if you don’t want to put labels then don’t, simple as that. In real life not all people like to label themselves too, like I have a friend who hates them, if the person is really nagging him about it he will say he is queer but he doesn’t like to use it voluntarily because he is of opinion that our sexuality doesn’t define us. And I agree, it doesn’t and it is certainly not the most important thing about a person. :blush:

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I don’t think you have to since I have seen so many that are happy having a character that represents them and it is normal. Like on tik tok an autistic person pointed out that Ferb from Phineas and Ferb could be a non verbal autistic character but he is never labelled as such. If you didn’t come up making them this certain thing then don’t label them as it will feel you are just labelling them for clout. There is no reason to label someone if it isn’t needed. :woman_shrugging:

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I am 99% sure Willy Wonka is autistic.

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you dont have to its your story, you dont need to yell out this one is gay, this one is autistic,

the best times is the once where you dont say it but show it like, the simple scene in paranorman where you had the buff chad and at the he says he has a boyfriend, simple plot twisting scene.

I do avicate for diversity, but its not what make a story great.

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Of course it’s okay! Most authors would label their characters if they want that label to be an important part of the character’s identity. It’s totally fine if you feel your characters don’t need any. :blush:

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No it’s not bad at all.

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I agree with this alot. Everyone says “show, don’t tell.”

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I don’t think you need to. I don’t put labels on any of my characters unless it‘s important to the story, and most of the times it’s not necessary/doesn’t come up. I don’t really give it a second thought, to be honest haha

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There’s nothing wrong with not using labels. It may make the most sense within the story to show aspects of a character’s identity rather than explicitly say it. It’s also completely okay to not know what label a character would identify with or not feel like any label fits them well. The only way it could be offensive is if you implicitly or explicitly state that not having a label is some type of more evolved, empowered way to exist, because having a word to describe your experience is also empowering to a lot of people.

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Add it if you want, don’t if it’s not a part of your vision. That way it doesn’t come off as forced, or disingenuous. You should never allow yourself to be pressured into doing something just because your audience wants it. If it doesn’t stick, it’s not meant. Authenticity will keep you more engaged in your projects.

I will say this though - just to give you an overall clear view of the bigger picture - labels are not inherently bad. They do serve their purpose from time to time. Without labels, we wouldn’t know what was dangerous and what wasn’t. Labels can be helpful when we are trying to gather information. i.e.: If you’re someone just coming to realize your sexuality, and/or gender, then labels can be something that help you as you discover your identity; something that helps you define how you go about your life. They are also a great way to create and find communities. On the flip side, this can also be used for people to pigeonhole someone to a specific label - as if they can’t be interchangeable. :roll_eyes: This is when I believe it becomes an issue.

Depending on the person, this viewpoint obviously changes. Some people don’t like any kind of labels - like your friend. In history, labels were created to separate us from them (this is me speaking as a Black womxn). It can leave people feeling ostracized, or left feeling as other. I myself, actually like labels. If you know of them, are aware enough of when/how to use them, you can make informed decisions regarding certain situations…

I say all of this because for some people, knowing where certain people stand can be beneficial… We live in a world full of diversity where no two people are the same, so if one person in your fic isn’t willing to identify as one thing or another, then that’s absolutely fine. Just remember that it also comes at a price. People reading your work have chosen to disassociate themselves from real life. If they can’t find/see themselves in the world you’ve created, they may have trouble connecting to the story. Even possibly abandon it all together.

And regarding the Phineas and Ferb reference, I don’t personally agree that’s the right way to go about it. It’s very much giving me that comment Transphobic Rowling essentially made when she said that Hermione was NOT written with a specific race in mind. There are so many reasons why that is WRONG, but the main point is that when refusing to acknowledge the differences of people, you are ignoring who they are. When Rowling said that, I assume she thought that would appease us, but what that did was confirm what the Black Community already knew when it came to the Harry Potter Universe, and it’s that diversity was not Rowling’s goal. It also showed she thought so little of us to think we would be fine with scraps. That instead of just stating she had no issues with Noma Dumezweni, who happens to be a black woman, casted as the roll of Hermione Granger she went straight to pandering to black women. While race doesn’t need to be thrown in readers faces, there is something to be said when someone is willing to ignore the character who they have obviously written one way only to change it for ulterior motives - but I digress… Sometimes, by not making clear your intentions, it could cause more harm than good… It reminds me of this one line from Hamilton when Alexander asks Burr, “if you stand for nothing, Burr what will you fall for?” It’s a more extreme circumstance sure, but something to think about all the same.

There’s certainly a duality to the subject. Since this is a story, it may be a bit easier to use this as a topic of discussion/debate with open dialogue about how some of the characters feel on the topic… Or, you can continue the “Show don’t Tell” route it seems you’re on. There’s no :air_quotes:real :air_quotes: answer that you can get from us. This has to be something you decide for yourself.

Good luck. :relaxed:

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I mean…yeah you don’t need to put labels in your characters. it’s not really that necessary.

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