Monday, July 14, 2014

Some thoughts on writing asexual characters

This was cross-posted on The Asexual Agenda.  I know I've talked a whole lot about writing my novel here, but I haven't said anything at all over there, so please allow for some repetition.

As a few people know, a few months ago I finally started on my long-time ambition to write a novel.  It would be premature to get excited about it, since no one knows if I write decent fiction, or if I’ll ever publish.  But I might as well say that one of the characters is asexual.  So I’m starting to get more of a first-person perspective on writing asexual characters, and I’d like to share a few of my thoughts.

First I should note that I am not writing genre fiction.  No tentacle aliens or space wizards here, just Characters and Relationships.  And so instead of having tentacle-alien-fighting space wizards who just happen to be asexual, I have relationship-having literary characters who just happen to be asexual.  But it’s pretty hard to pretend that asexuality isn’t relevant to relationships so hey I guess asexuality is sorta central to the plot, huh.

I’ve already told you a lie about my book.  I said one of the characters is asexual, but there are two.  This is one of my ideas about how to do representation right, is to have at least two characters.  For someone like me, who worries too much about what particular groups and traits are represented in media, this is great for peace of mind.  One is white and male, which could be a representation problem.  But the other is non-white and female, so that makes me feel better.  I also get to represent multiple points in the spectrum.  One is openly asexual, while the other believes they’re straight.  One is romantic, the other is unknown.

This is easy to do if you have a large cast of characters, which I do.  But even so, I can’t make two characters representing every group.  I don’t have two major bi characters, for instance.  Oh well.

Another nice thing about having two asexual characters is that they can date each other.  It doesn’t work out though, because I like destroying relationships.

Actually, that’s sort of the book’s theme.  There are many breakups, and the breakups are Good because those relationships were Bad.  I am trying to subvert the idea that happy endings = successful relationships.  I think this is an uncommon idea: I couldn’t find it on TV Tropes.  Although I keep on wondering if it’s uncommon because it doesn’t work…

My last wacky idea comes from someone I met at an ace meetup.  He noted that fiction has the power to throw all this made-up stuff at us, and have us simply accept it, and it could do that for asexuality too.  So I decided to make a lot of things in my story from whole cloth.  I invented a city, which will raise no eyebrows.  I invented a religion, which is also normal novel material.  I invented an ethnic group, and as a reader you just deal.  I invented a sexual orientation, and you have to accept that too.  Wait no that last one’s real.  Tricked ya!

I’m hoping this will make less awkward the obligatory exposition on asexuality.  I really hate having to embed a lecture on asexuality within a story.  I don’t like reading it, and I don’t like writing it.  But I understand why people do it, because how else will you make sure your readers are up to speed?  How can we make the exposition more subtle?  I hope to do it by placing it alongside an exposition of Invented Ethnic Group, and its invented history with colonialism.  Do you think that will work?