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nonmerci

How to write an aro ace character without make people think that aro and ace are the same?

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Hi all. Question in the title.
So, I recently have the perfect idea for a novel to have an aro and ace character as main character. Though the story in itself is not about aromanticism (that's about a girl defeating a nasty queen), my main character wll discover through her journey that she is both aro and ace and that this perfectly ok. And with that, my potential reader will probably be learning what is aromanticism because, let's face it, this is pretty unknown (though, to be honest, if due to the number of my writing project and my rapidity to write, that has the time to change). I would be glad if it helps some people to know this not feeling attraction is a possibility.

But, I havea problem. My story is setting in a tme where the labels don't even exist, let alone seen as a possibility. My character will have no possibility to google the term to find information. She will just realizes that she doesn't feel attraction, and still have a meaningful life. But because of that, I fear that reading the book, someone won't get that it is possible to be aro but not ace, and vice versa. i can't really include an aro allo character in the story, nor an allo ace, that could explain thing and balanced, because an important thing of the story will be how she feels alone and no one valids her. I also want her to understand by herself.

I thought about two things to conter the problem :

-a note at the begining or the end of the book that explains attraction (if I ever finished it and published it, I liked to dedicate it to aromantic anyway), but people could not read it

-at the end of the book, after my character figure out and complete her journey, she could hear about aro allo and allo ace, then go and fin them; but I fear that it will not be credible that she didn't find them before (I could find an explanation for that though).

 

Does someone have thoughts about it? I am only at the begining of the project (I know how it begins, how it ends, how my character will evolve, but not what happens in the middle). So, I am open to any critic or suggestion.

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I think this sounds like it'll be a compelling novel once you start writing it! I'd love to hear more about your actual plot, too. Defeating a nasty queen sounds like an adventure!

It also strikes me that this story is more about the journey of self-discovery your character is going through than you realize. There's a difference between the plot of a story and its themes/message, after all. 

My first suggestion is pretty simple: yes, labels may not be a thing in your setting, but your character doesn't exist in a vacuum. When she makes those realizations, who is she around that she's realizing she's different from? Even if you're not explicitly using the labels, you can describe things she's observing in other people and how that does or does not relate to her experience. She may be coming to the understanding for herself, but why and how she comes to that understanding are an important part of her journey. Likewise, having her feel alone and invalid is going to be an important part of her story, but does the story end with her still feeling like the only person in the world who is aro, ace, or both? 

As far as not feeling able to include aro allo or allo ace characters to "explain and balance", my suggestion would be that you don't have to have anyone explain to her extensively, but it could be useful towards the end of the story (once she's become more aware of herself) to have her meet or hear about people who could sympathize with her experiences. 

To be honest, I actually really like the idea of having the note at the end of the book talking about asexuality, aromanticism, and the intersections between them. That could be incredibly empowering for a reader who finds themself deeply sympathizing with this character throughout her journey, especially if you're wanting to avoid actually labeling things in the course of the novel. (It's actually something I might have to borrow for some of my own writing, considering that so many of my characters end up either aro, ace, or both, but their stories aren't about sexuality or romance in theme or plot, so the subject doesn't really come up naturally in the text itself.)

I hope some of that helps?

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Could you have a foreword? Or a glossary that defines aro and ace? So the reader goes in knowing that there's a difference between the two, before the story even starts?

Also, idk if this would work b/c you mentioned that it's unlabelled and the self-discovery aspect is a v important theme. But could you mb already have a character in a sexual qpr or non-sexual romantic relationship? Mb that spurs questioning, but also self-doubt? or maybe for some reason the MC can't ask the aroallo/aceallo character about their lifestyle/preferences???? So there's never an explicit explanation, but mb just food for thought for the MC

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Thanks for your answers. Yes, that helps.

1 hour ago, boba said:

But could you mb already have a character in a sexual qpr or non-sexual romantic relationship? 

Hum, now that you said it, maybe she could see them or heard of that briefly, so she can see the relationship without having the label, and think about it. And if I do that, ifshe comes to find them at the end of the story, it will be more natural. Thanks!

1 hour ago, boba said:

Could you have a foreword? Or a glossary that defines aro and ace? So the reader goes in knowing that there's a difference between the two, before the story even starts?

My idea, if I put something like that, would be to have it at the end of the book. So there will be no spoiler. (though now that I think about it, marketing may thought it would be good to sell it as a book with an aro character, so...).

1 hour ago, FaerySilverwings said:

Likewise, having her feel alone and invalid is going to be an important part of her story, but does the story end with her still feeling like the only person in the world who is aro, ace, or both? 

Good, question, I didn't ask it to myself, not in this term. Well, the two possibility could happen, but I like her to feel like not feeling attraction is a valid possibility, so that there is eventually other people like her elsewhere in the world.

 

1 hour ago, FaerySilverwings said:

(It's actually something I might have to borrow for some of my own writing, considering that so many of my characters end up either aro, ace, or both, but their stories aren't about sexuality or romance in theme or plot, so the subject doesn't really come up naturally in the text itself.)

Yes, that's even more complicated when the story isn't about that at all. I have a character like that in another story (ace, aro I don't know), and it was very difficult to talk about it because it was not relevant and that my character don't really care, it just happens like that, even I knew I was ace myself. I find a way to adress that in a scene, but that's not easy.

Ok for the glossary at the end, true that it can help.

 

1 hour ago, FaerySilverwings said:

I think this sounds like it'll be a compelling novel once you start writing it! I'd love to hear more about your actual plot, too. Defeating a nasty queen sounds like an adventure!

Thanks. I am only at the begining of the project as I said. That's the story of people who seems to live happily, except that my main character discovers the queen is using them for her own profit. So she tries to expose her and defeat her, with the help of people.

Like that, it doesn't seem very aro lol. It's more in the arc of the character, who notices how everybody goes crazy about boys and girls around her, but not her, and so she questions if she really wants to marry or not. And yes, who need s to get marry when you are able to beat an evil queen?

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I find that every time I reach an issue like this in my writing the answer is always: add more characters!!!!
If you're worried about the credibility of her going and finding some aros and aces after the story, maybe she tells someone how she feels, and they realize that they feel a similar way. If this is a culture where aromanticism and asexuality are not discussed, there are going to be a lot of people who don't have a word for it, and she can be the person to prevent someone else from going through what she did.

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Hmm, you could have a side character or a reference to an off-screen character who's ace but alloromantic? Folks seem to understand that asexual = no sex, and that loving relationships can exist without sex. And then you can have your protagonist compared to that identity, and specify that they don't want a romantic relationship at all (either by having side characters gossiping, or having your protagonist exposit it upfront.)

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1 hour ago, Queasy_Attention said:

Hmm, you could have a side character or a reference to an off-screen character who's ace but alloromantic?

ooo i was gonna suggest this too! 

Another idea (?) is for her to discover her asexual and aromantic identities separately? Idk how ur self-discovery timeline is working, but mebe she could realize she's asexual but still not be sure if she feels romo attraction, or vice versa. Maybe this wouldn't be realistic for the time, because even she might conflate the two, but that could potentially establish the identities as separate.

This story sounds awesome! I hope it gets out there, because I want to read it.

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Like others have said, you could definitely include side characters or referenced characters in different kinds of relationships, even if it's just like...the MC's friend asking if what she wants is like other people they've met have. Even if there's no space for a fully fleshed out character that's alloace or alloaro, you can have other references to those relationships existing. Maybe in flashbacks to other people some of the main characters met, or the like? Although if it's exclusively a story about 1 character's coming of age, I don't think you need to worry too much about showcasing every possible orientation? Unless the compare/contrast element is a strong part of the coming of age I guess (but then, maybe I'm not one to say, since I write 90% of my casts to be openly aro-spec and then never try to explain anything...)

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Thanks for all your answers.

14 hours ago, Oatpunk said:

find that every time I reach an issue like this in my writing the answer is always: add more characters!!!!

That makes sense ha ha.

14 hours ago, Oatpunk said:

and she can be the person to prevent someone else from going through what she did.

This is typically something my character could do. I'll think about it.

 

11 hours ago, Queasy_Attention said:

And then you can have your protagonist compared to that identity, and specify that they don't want a romantic relationship at all

Maybe. Comparison are useful when we have to discover our identity. I already plan this kind of comparison when she'll discover homosexuality (no, she doesn't live in an open minded place), and wonder if she doesn't like boys, it could mean she likes girls (spoiler alerte : no).

 

9 hours ago, hermi1e said:

Maybe this wouldn't be realistic for the time, because even she might conflate the two, but that could potentially establish the identities as separate.

This story sounds awesome! I hope it gets out there, because I want to read it.

Thanks (but to be honest, I write in French so even if it gets somewhere, it needs to be big enough to be translated if people here wants to read and I don't know if I can write this good... I prefer to write on my native language and I'm not bilingual enough to write in English anyway).

As you said she might conflate the two. But as you said if she discovers her identity separately, it will be shown they are separate, so I'll think about it too.

 

6 hours ago, Autumn said:

Although if it's exclusively a story about 1 character's coming of age, I don't think you need to worry too much about showcasing every possible orientation? Unless the compare/contrast element is a strong part of the coming of age I guess

True, but I heard that some people are hurt by the idea that romantic and sexual attraction are the same, that's why. I am not forced to show every orientation possible that's true. But I'd like to show the true attraction can be separated.

I don't think that the comparison with aro allo or allo aces is absolutely necessary for the selfdiscovering,  but I see if it can help. I already know however that discovering she doesn't want what everybody else want will play a role , in particular as my character will be bully for it (being called heartless, and things like that).

 

Anyway thanks for all your responses, it feed my thoughts. 

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Guest Randomperson

I’m late I know. I could get why you might be concerned if the character was using familiar labels. Like if they said they were asexual there could be a fear that people would think no asexuals felt romantic attraction. But if it’s basically just saying “I’m not attracted to anyone” without any label is it really an issue? It seems like it would be cut and dry to me. You might be overthinking this. It seems like it’s important to you to acknowledge it’s possible to be alloace and alloaro as well so it might be best to directly talk about them like in the glossary or with other characters like other people said. 
 

As an aroace I’m not against the idea of an aroace character discovering asexuality and aromanticism separately (There are aroaces like that) But using an aroace character themself to show the difference between aro and ace could be a slippery slope. Writers could try to make the aro-  and ace- parts of aroaces as distinct from each other as possible just to show that they can be different things. I most cases itd be simpler and more meaningful to show the difference through an alloace or alloaro. For perspective --it’d make more sense to show how romantic and sexual attraction can be disconnected through a biromantic heterosexual character than through a heteroromantic heterosexual one right?

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Maybe add some different characters that can symbolize different things for her to reject, so to speak. For example you could include a "super cute" romantic couple and have her realize. I don't want that at all. And later she can encounter someone who's all about sexual experiences (that might be harder for the time period though).

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55 minutes ago, Holmbo said:

Maybe add some different characters that can symbolize different things for her to reject, so to speak. For example you could include a "super cute" romantic couple and have her realize. I don't want that at all. And later she can encounter someone who's all about sexual experiences (that might be harder for the time period though).

Good idea.

 

On 8/27/2020 at 12:49 AM, Guest Randomperson said:

But using an aroace character themself to show the difference between aro and ace could be a slippery slope.

I don't necessary want to show it through this character, I am just scared that people get it wrong. I like the idea of side characters, but also the idea of how it can make her question herself in she sees how they behave. I am thinking about it to make something coherent with my story and my character.

But maybe as you said I am overthinking this. I am just scared that something meant to be helpful ends up hurting people.

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There’s always the “about the author” section, where you might be able to mention both terms. I think ultimately, if a reader identifies with your character even in part, they might be inclined to go into doing their own research. And no matter which term you discover first online, it doesn’t take long to be introduced to the idea that romantic and sexual attraction can be separate. Even with people who are neither aromantic nor asexual, if someone comes into their lives who is one or the other, the difference is pretty simple to explain. I understand the worry of misleading the reader, but it might be better to focus less on the story’s educational value and more on making sure it feels authentic and personal. 
 

I’m curious, is your story set in a specific real place and/or time period? If so, there are a lot of specific cultural factors to consider about what norms the character is observing and defining against. For example, when and why do people marry? Sometimes there is a drastic difference there between the upper and lower classes, where upper class people more of often marry for economic/political reason, and with a greater age gap/much younger woman, while lower class people marry because they actually fell in love. This influences what expectations are put on your character. Also, what level of autonomy do unmarried women have? Under what circumstances can they inherit wealth or property? This influences your character’s anxieties about her future. There may also be gendered expectations about how men express attraction vs. women, like how men who were more romantic and less dominating might be considered too feminine, while women were pressured to be innocent (not sexual). And it’s possible that women might have been expected to place their husbands above everyone else, while men were permitted to have male friendships that were more important to them, and in many ways were “homoerotic” by modern standards. This influences how your character ultimately defines herself. And again, depending on where and when this story takes place, these details could vary widely. I was basing these examples on Early Modern (Renaissance) England. 

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3 hours ago, treepod said:

There’s always the “about the author” section, where you might be able to mention both terms. I think ultimately, if a reader identifies with your character even in part, they might be inclined to go into doing their own research. And no matter which term you discover first online, it doesn’t take long to be introduced to the idea that romantic and sexual attraction can be separate. Even with people who are neither aromantic nor asexual, if someone comes into their lives who is one or the other, the difference is pretty simple to explain. I understand the worry of misleading the reader, but it might be better to focus less on the story’s educational value and more on making sure it feels authentic and personal. 

You're right, I didn't think about that. I may be too anxious. And personnaly when I read a book, I prefer authentical stories than too educational things (I like subtely in fact).

 

3 hours ago, treepod said:

I’m curious, is your story set in a specific real place and/or time period? I

Tricky question haha. It takes place at the end of XIX century/begining of the XX century, I haven't decide yet. The begining is in France, but the story in itself takes place in a parallel world, with magical creatures and such, so not a real place.

I have done some researchs about the woman condition in this period, and well, that's not very cool (euphemism). Women are expected to marry or to enter convent, people don't think that not getting married could be a choice. In the law, everything is thinking about that : women depends on their husband, and if not on a brother, an uncle, etc. But that's also a time where things began to change. Women fight for their right, access university. Though she's not born in France, the famous Mari Curie studied in Paris, for instance. So that's an interesting period for woman emancipation. But it won't be easy for a single woman, that's true.

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3 hours ago, nonmerci said:

Tricky question haha. It takes place at the end of XIX century/begining of the XX century, I haven't decide yet. The begining is in France, but the story in itself takes place in a parallel world, with magical creatures and such, so not a real place.

The more liberties you take, the easier it gets. It could be done with an in-universe mythology or legend where this distinction (sexual / romantic attraction) is hinted at. I mean, if magical creatures occur...

Or maybe just make them sex-repulsed, romance-favorable (or the other way around) aroace.

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23 hours ago, nonmerci said:

Tricky question haha. It takes place at the end of XIX century/begining of the XX century, I haven't decide yet. The begining is in France, but the story in itself takes place in a parallel world, with magical creatures and such, so not a real place.

Maybe the parallel world can have some different norms which would give opportunity for your character to reflect on the concept of sexuality as separate from marriage.

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Thanks for your answers.

True that in the parallel world, people are a bit different, and more inclined to have sex without marriage. I didn't think about it, but yes, it can be useful.

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