Monday, July 21, 2014

30-Week Writing Survey: Week 16: Romantic Relationships



Today's question: Do you write romantic relationships? How do you do with those, and how “far” are you willing to go in your writing? ;)

Hmm, interesting question for an asexual person, eh?

Most of my characters experience romantic relationships. This is because most of the world experiences romantic relationships. I've had some people tell me that it's WEIRD that I write them--or worse, that it's some kind of secret confession, way of acting out my fantasies, revelation about my desires that I can't express in real life, or hidden cry for help--but that's a bunch of crap. If I completely removed sexuality from the lives of characters understood to be non-asexual, I'd be writing hollow, dishonest characters; and if I went the other way and only wrote asexual characters, I'd be accused of just writing self-inserts. Can't win.

But the bottom line is that it only makes sense that most of my characters would have romantic relationships, even if it's beside the point.

And I guess to answer the question about how "far" I'm willing to go in my writing, the answer is all the way. I don't write porn or graphic sex, but there have been a few places where I write about characters having sex or imply that they have done so.

The novel I've written with the most focus on sex and romance is definitely my most recent one, Stupid Questions. Protagonist Nick is pretty traditional as far as his attraction to the girl he likes and what that makes him interested in doing--meaning he's interested in a romance and a sexual relationship with love interest Summer. The romantic relationship that develops between them is sort of cute and innocent at the beginning because Summer has never had a boyfriend before and Nick doesn't want to be overbearing, but then since they live in different states, a bunch of the flavor of their relationship then develops long-distance.

My first doodle of the couple. ;)
Then the book goes into two visits--he visits her first, then she comes to visit him--and in both visits, there's some attempted or actual sexual contact. (There are some complicated reasons why they don't have sex during the first visit, even though they both want to, but interestingly enough, Summer seems more intimidated by commitment to a relationship than she is regarding doing the deed.) There's also a decent amount of sexual humor and couples arguments and stuff. Despite the stuff that makes their relationship very weird, I'd say it's pretty typical sometimes. (This book is a science fiction romance.)

Another novel of mine, Finding Mulligan, also has romantic elements but ends up being more about identity. It did not end up straying toward anything more explicit than a few kisses, but pretty much the whole book plot orbits around protagonist Cassie trying to get her boy. The romantic aspects are complicated because Cassie is actually two people. Her other self is interested in a guy and she's trying to find sort of a different version of that guy. But she finds herself attracted to two guys that may or may not be the right one, and has to figure out what to do about it.

Finding Mulligan has very little sexual content overall (though Cassie's best friend explicitly talks about having sex with her teacher--ah, Gabi, what a gal!), but the romantic elements are central.

Bad Fairy involves sex and romance too, though in the first book the only onscreen romance is Delia's study partners having a very innocently described relationship with each other. In the second book, Delia has her first boyfriend, but the relationship doesn't last very long (it happens when she's thirteen), and in the third Bad Fairy book, there are some opportunities for adult relationships. During her time in disguise, the usually stoic Delia gets rather friendly with a boy fairy, and she seems to be able to let loose a lot more when she's pretending to be someone else. During that time she develops a more romantic and companionate closeness with a local human baker, and even though he isn't as physically attractive to her, she overall values her relationship with him more, especially once the jig is up. I do actually go into some bedroom detail, and as with everything with Delia, plenty of detail filters in about what they're doing and what her experiences were like, though I kind of stepped away from describing the actual sex acts because I felt like Delia would probably spare us that in her writing of the scene. (It's penned as her autobiography.)

And my webcomic Negative One has romance in the Meri Lin storyline, as Meri Lin and her partner Fred are very much in love and the story includes them having a child. There have been a couple bits in her storyline when she expresses some sexual frustration because Fred has become withdrawn due to, ya know, terribly sad circumstances. All of the other adult characters have at least touched on their takes on romantic thoughts, but nothing has really come up beyond philosophy.

I have sort of written one asexual character in my older stuff--in The House That Ivy Built series, the protagonist isn't interested in other people in a sexy way, but even she experiences some attempts at romance, including kissing with two different partners and a few attempts from would-be boyfriends to talk her into more. I think one big difference between her and me is that she sort of wishes she wanted those things--that's partly because lack of interest in such matters is one of the many things that makes her feel like she doesn't belong, and sometimes in her insecure moments she wants to make everything simpler and be like everyone else. I'm not sure yet if she'd be considered to be romantically attracted to anyone, though she has strong attachments to others sometimes.

There's definitely some romance in my short stories too. "Brady" discusses it marginally, when a girl realizes that romantically is not the only way a girl can like a guy. (I'm going to base a YA novel on his short story someday soon.) "Derika and Emily" discusses Derika's lesbianism and how it influenced her take on religion. "Her Mother's Child," the story of mine that's going to be published in Kaleidotrope next year, includes references to a young woman's sexual experiences, but it doesn't go into any detail as it happens offscreen; it's part of a fertility rite (though it happens to be between two cisgender young ladies, so, uh, no babies). And, of course, "Wind" is about the romance between a young man and a fairy.

Anyway, long story short, I don't make a big point of writing sex and I don't think I'll ever be writing something for which I need to write explicit detail of the act, but as for romance and "going far," I'm not afraid of it, and I let my characters decide whether such things are appropriate in their lives. If they want to do it, they get to. Yay.

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