On writing non-asexual romantic narratives

18 Mar

I’m in a fandom that shall remain nameless, but I’ve really been enjoying it. As fandom tends to go, though, romantic narratives are at the forefront of most of the stories. And romantic narratives are usually non-asexual narratives. Writing is one of the few spaces where I tend to think about passing as non-asexual. Sort of.

I wrote a longer story about Character X trying to ask out Character Y. One of the comments really stuck. I’ll paraphrase, but it was basically: “X never shows any sexual awareness towards Y or their situation. Is X repressed? Or just completely unaware of what happens when you date?”

My response was to start laughing because in the thousands of words that made up that story, I never once considered having X think about anything more than kissing Y. It’s really only in a story with a sex scene that I remember to try to incorporate sexual attraction. And I run every line by a beta reader to see if it “works.” Which usually, it doesn’t without editing, because I can’t make that leap to understand what sexual attraction feels like. In this story, I knew I didn’t want to write a sex scene, so incorporating sexual attraction just didn’t occur to me.

Usually I don’t really care about passing, mostly because I’ve had the luxury of usually being in a group of people who don’t sit around talking about sex often. But in writing non-asexual characters in a romantic relationship, I do care about passing. Passing when I write means that my writing’s more realistic, that more people can relate to it, that I’m telling my non-asexual characters’ romantic narratives well. And I know that I can’t actually pass.

I think I can nearly pass, enough that people can read into things as sexual attraction that I didn’t intend to be that way, unless it’s a situation where they expect to see more — an intuitive leap I can’t always make myself. And that comment reminded me that incorporating attraction doesn’t cross my mind unless it’s a glaringly obvious situation like non-asexual characters having happy, romantic consensual sex.

I thought about the effort it would take to incorporate sexual attraction into all my romantic-focused writing. I would have to figure out when noting sexual attraction was appropriate, how long it should be between “attraction” thoughts, vary what was noted, and wonder how to hold back enough so that readers wouldn’t expect a sex scene where I didn’t intend on writing one. I would be constantly catching myself and going back over what I’d written to make sure I was keeping up. And I would still fail to convey it well, because in trying so hard I’d probably end up overcompensating and any editor would make me take most of it out, or edit and edit it.

I think it would be exhausting on a level as to make me stop writing. So, I’m going to try not to put so much pressure on myself to try to do it in the future. When I write sexual people, I’ll incorporate the things I know how to incorporate — noticing small details about the other person, describing small touches, etc. Things that people in the past have told me work well, and that aren’t difficult for me to remember to incorporate.

These are things I think of as “showing, not telling.” A friend would notice things and possibly touch the other person, too, but the things they would notice and the ways I would describe the touch (as well as what kind of touch it would be) would be different. So they’re essentially the same tools I would use writing a non-romantic relationship, just applied at a different angle. Which makes writing not only manageable, but also more natural.

I suppose some time I will talk about how it is to write a sex scene from a non-asexual character’s POV. And other creative writing things.

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