Written for the Carnival of Aces, August edition.
Round-up post here.
(German version in next post. Deutsche Version einen Eintrag weiter.)
Let me introduce you to H. H is a secondary, POV character in a fantasy novel I’m writing. As typical for the genre, it is set in some pseudo-mediaeval times.
H is talented with magic, seventeen years old and expected to swear an oath and become some kind of warrior nun next fall. Currently, she is in training for that – a novice, essentially.
In our modern times, H would identify as asexual and aromantic. H likes labels, but since she is not aware that there even could be such a thing, she’s left with ’not interested‘.
Given the monkish lifestyle she is expected to adhere to, H is mostly happy in her environment. Unlike other teenagers around her, she is not constantly bemoaning all the romantic relationships she can’t have. She believes she is following a worthwhile path.
Pre-novel, she is hoping to travel the world one day as envoy for the king with her (male) best friend, also a novice. She is studying hard for that.
Intro one black arts student who fled from his master, and best friend falls in love. The two guys subsequently run away, so that they won’t have to become monks, and H’s dreams implode. She feels abandoned, and is incredibly lonely.
I’m currently about halfway into writing the novel, but I know she won’t have much of a happy ending in that story. She’ll decide to forgive the best friend, and will be left hoping that someday, somewhere, she will run into someone looking for some equally ‘odd’ idea of a partner.
It’s interesting how I expected to run into all kinds of difficulties with H.
Asexuality is, as ace eccentric noted here, hard to do. Novel characters only think about sex and attracting potential partners when it’s relevant to the plot. If they don’t, readers just assume that sex isn’t part of the story, and therefore left out. It’s living proof that asexuality is indeed invisible most of the time.
I would have it worse if my story weren’t about a relationship that involved sex, I guess. Asexuality is not showing on H, which means I have to very much show, and don’t get away with telling the readers about, e.g. her wearing a rainbow flag pin and flannel shirts. If I were writing something more like an adventure romp, bookish H would be expected not to show interest in romance. She’d be assumed to be too busy for it.
Anyhow: showing asexuality when unable to contrast it with other orientations in a world where there isn’t even a concept of orientation is nearly impossible. Especially if you don’t want the inner commentary to drift off to antisexual opinions.
I acknowledge that H currently has every right to hate how those pesky hormones make people stupid, but, well. There’s representation issues right here, as with all minorities. It’s going to be a fine line to walk.
Given how H gets to confront the ex-best friend mid-novel, I’m throwing in some bits that hopefully show how very much she doesn’t get why other people aren’t able or willing to be abstinent.
This will also, I hope, illustrate what H is looking for in a best friend/platonic partner, as compared to the majority. Also, that she is not intending to be totally alone – she might take being alone a lot better than most, but she, too, gets lonely, and needs someone to share the important things with.
I am also aware that writing her is only doable because she is a POV character. From the eyes of a stranger, she would make very little sense at best or seem socially inept and retarded at worst.
In the end, I’m able to draw on many of my own experiences for writing H, and I have to face many a fear that I share with her. This has the potential to hurt. Which means: it’s a whole different kind of ‚difficult‘ than I originally expected.