Writing ace-spectrum characters in fanfic, and Which part of my experiences are my asexuality?

This is my submission for the March 2015 Carnival of Aces, which had the topic “Writing About Asexuality“. Details are in the call for submissions here, and once the round-up of all submissions is posted, I’ll edit this blog post of mine to include a link to it so that you can read all of the wonderful things people have written this month that relates to this topic.


I’ve been blogging about asexuality for over a year now, and I’ve also written a couple fanfiction things with fictional asexuality mentions/ace characters, and am working on a more massive ace fanfic project right now as well.

I’ve found that writing about asexuality certainly comes with an array of challenges.

For starters, you need to understand your audience.

One example: How comfortable will fanfic readers in this particular fandom be with a narrative that changes the canonical sexual orientation of a character? I tend to not write “commonly headcanoned as ace” characters but rather just take a woman who, on a TV show, has pretty much been confirmed to be straight, and be like “no, she’s ace”. I’ve also done “no, she’s bi” a few times, and in my current project I’m taking Kurt on Glee as one of four characters to be ace-spectrum – yes, Kurt, who everyone who doesn’t even watch Glee knows is gay – and I’m making him non-homosexual, but rather homoromantic gray-asexual. Is this okay? Glee fanfic readers are likely to be more okay with this kind of switch than my Switched at Birth readers were when I made one of the main characters, Bay Kennish, asexual. Because Switched at Birth is a fandom with mainly het and gen fics, mainly keeping to the canon sexual orientations of the characters.

So to continue from above, as I said, regardless of what you’re writing, you need to understand your audience. Will they have heard of asexuality before? Who do I expect to be reading my blog? Will people who stumble here after a Google search bother to click links that provide definitions for the ace community’s nuanced words, or will they be tripped up when I start using the slang abbreviation/umbrella term “ace”, or by the first sentence of a blog post such as this one saying it was written for some type of “carnival”??

In general, it’s impossible to successfully address every member of the inevitably varied audience that is likely to read my writing. So I just have to make a decision.

On this blog of mine, I expect people reading my asexuality-related posts to already know quite a bit about the sexual orientation. On my tumblr, sometimes I cross-post my WordPress stuff verbatim, but if it’s a new tumblr post or a reblog with a comment from me, I tend to assume a lower common denominator – I assume some fandom people who follow me because of fandom are learning about asexuality for the first time thanks to my post, and in that case I might try to spell things out more. Sometimes. Other times, I just assume people know a lot by now because I’ve been tumblr-ing about asexuality for what feels like forever now. In reality, it has been less than 2 years, but still. 😛

If I’m writing fanfiction, it… depends. In my recent Teen Wolf oneshot fanfic where I made Kira demisexual, Malia pansexual, etc… I kind of decided not to spell things out for people. They could look up the words if they were curious. That wasn’t the focus of the fic. The focus was that Kira was dating Lydia and Malia was jealous, as Malia was also into Kira. In my fic, we also knew Malia had dated Stiles and it is implied she would’ve kept dating him if he hadn’t broken up with her – and their break up wasn’t about her sexual orientation at all, it was about her choice to move in with her murderous father, which Stiles couldn’t forgive. Anyway, since Malia and Kira are female, and Stiles is male, it should be clear to readers of my fic who don’t know what pansexuality is that it is an orientation where a girl can like people of multiple different genders. For the specifics, they can do their own research, and the same is true of how I handled demisexuality with Kira. I left just enough breadcrumbs that people who were demisexual would hopefully feel represented and happy, people who had heard of demisexuality would get it, and people who don’t understand might be intrigued enough to do some research. I didn’t spell it all out. I actually presented it from the point of view of Malia being a bit confused by Kira’s demisexuality, anyway. So I couldn’t spell it all out, because Malia, the narrator at the time, doesn’t fully know what it means.

That fic wasn’t me writing about asexuality (or demisexuality) at all, though. That fanfic was me writing about the Teen Wolf characters going to prom and friendships with secret unrequited crushes and the demisexuality was just a note in one paragraph. The fic was a gift for someone who ships Malia/Kira, Kira/Lydia, and more, and who said one of her favorite things to read about was ace-spectrum Kira. So I threw in the demisexuality for her (the gift recipient) more than anyone. But most people in the Teen Wolf fandom are pretty well informed on LGBTQ+ issues, I’ve noticed. So maybe a lot more people than the person for whom the fic was written for will appreciate what I did there.

Right now, I’m writing a fic that will be about 10 times longer – a massive Glee fanfic – where 4 characters are ace-spectrum. And the focus of the fic is on their asexuality and gray-asexuality, as well as their romantic orientations and stuff. In fact, it’s so focused on it that I plan to title the story Four Ace Faces.

As cinderace just said in her recent post,

Because there are so few books with ace characters, and even fewer where the ace is the protagonist, when writing a novel about an ace it’s hard to escape the pressure of needing to do it just right, in a way that won’t somehow portray asexuality negatively or inaccurately, or leave aces disappointed or unhappy.

This applies not only to books, but to Glee fanfiction stories. There are so few fics in the Glee fandom where a character is ace, and none that I’ve found of the 50,000 word length I’m attempting to reach. So I feel an immense pressure to do it right. And it’s really tough, tougher than I thought it would be. I don’t want to be too technical and make readers feel like they’re reading a Asexuality 101 pamphlet rather than a compelling story. I want the characters to still feel true to the series of Glee, despite me changing their sexual orientations slightly (or re-interpreting canon, really, as I believe all four characters’ ace-spectrum-ness can sort of be supported by the show). I don’t want to imply that all demisexual people are like my one demi character of the 4, that all gray-aces are like my one gray-a character, or like the only two ways to be non-gray ace (to be asexual, full stop) are the other two ace faces in my Four Ace Faces fic. I don’t want to write things that could imply incorrect things about asexuality, but incorrect assumptions are hard to avoid, as it’s hard to predict what my readers might be thinking while reading my fic! I am working really hard on all of it, but it’s just… surprisingly tough. What I’m also finding more difficult than I expected is writing about ace characters who… aren’t like me. Who don’t experience asexuality like I do. Who actually have a libido, unlike me, or who have a more defined romantic orientation, unlike me, or who like sex, unlike me. I’ve read so many narratives about so many different types of ace experiences, and I thought I would be able to easily draw from them, but it’s really hard. I haven’t read many fanfics (and I’ve read no original fiction) that include these types of non-averse asexuals, or asexuals with libidos, and trying to write a compelling fictional story from the point of view of a character who I’m having trouble fully empathizing with, because I’m confused about how certain things would make them feel… it’s surprisingly difficult. I… I guess I also find it difficult to write about allosexuals though, from an actual allo point of view, despite their narratives being everywhere in fiction. As a sex-averse non-libidoist asexual, it’s really hard for me to ever feel like I’m fully able to empathize with sexual feelings, no matter how hard I try. I still do keep writing these stories, however, and trying.

The last thing I wanted to mention in my post for this carnival was that sometimes, it’s really hard not to write about a lot of other topics, which all feel tied into asexuality for me. Not having a sex drive, and being some type of gray-romantic/possibly-aro/wtfromantic… being sort of touch-indifferent/touch-averse… these things are kind of inseparable, for me, from my asexuality. Yes, you can separate them out and say the only thing that my asexuality is is my lack of sexual attraction to anyone. BUT… it doesn’t really feel like that a lot of the time. Not liking sex is a big part of my own, personal, experience of asexuality. So are all of my experiences dating, kissing, etc. My asexuality is tied to so many other parts of my experience. How can I not talk about the fact that I’m a fanfiction writer, who is attempting to write asexual characters, when I write in depth about what my asexuality means to me? A desire for people who are asexual to be represented in all forms of media is something that rose directly out of my own self-discovery of my own asexuality. Etc, etc.

So… I guess this blog post is over now.

Writing about asexuality is a complicated thing, and before the Carnival was over, I just wanted to share some thoughts on my own experiences trying to do it. I hope someone enjoyed reading it. 😉

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9 thoughts on “Writing ace-spectrum characters in fanfic, and Which part of my experiences are my asexuality?

  1. I also feel like I’d have a hard time writing an ace character whose asexuality looked a lot different from mine (when I’ve written allo characters I’ve basically just ignored their sexuality :P). As much as you might read about and see other kinds of experiences, it’s hard to really understand those experiences when you haven’t had them yourself, which makes them hard to write about in a believable way… At least for me, anyway; I feel like some people don’t really have this issue. Anyway, I hope your writing goes well and that you can figure out how best to handle the various issues. 🙂

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    1. I am writing furiously right now, as I’m not at 7,000 words yet but I want to get to 10,000 words before I check-in for the “out with a bang” Glee fanfiction writing challenge, and the deadline for checking in is April 3rd… http://outwithabangbigbang.tumblr.com/ 😛 I think I’m doing an okay job. I have two (allosexual) betas helping me out, so they can steer me back on course if I accidentally run off of it… if you know what I mean… 😛

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    2. Oh and yeah I’m really good at writing allo characters and ignoring their sexuality… so much so that, you know, as I mentioned here (in a tumblr comment that has been linked to here on my WordPress blog via this post: Being an Asexual Fangirl (Part 2))

      “I have a friend who once, after leaving a review on a Klaus/Hayley/Elijah (The Originals) oneshot I wrote: http://archiveofourown.org/works/1667120

      Mentioned to me:

      I’ve been meaning to point out, ever since you “came out”, I realized that your stories have a certain innocence to them that also attracts readers. It’s hard to explain but I’ll try lol. In lots of fics there’s the sexuality behind the characters’ actions, in can be in small gestures, little sayings that don’t exactly say it but the reader can feel the tension. You don’t have it here and because of that, it gives a clear idea of what lies deep down in the character’s mind. I think I mostly noticed it in the Quinn story even earlier on because in it Quinn and Puck sleep together and then when they’re together, like Quinn staying at Puck’s house, she doesn’t seem to have that experience in mind at all. If I for example had slept with a guy and then lived with him (and sorta liked him), I could not look at him once without acknowledging it and feeling and thinking about it and it would cloud my every thought and action. Now when you take all that out, it makes the character more likeable cos they act with their pure instinct instead of letting their sexuality make certain decisions.

      And I felt like “Wow, maybe I’m doing this stuff all wrong”… but I mean my Quinn (Glee) story she was referring to AND that Klaus/Hayley/Elijah oneshot are both so well received, so popular, and even this friend of mine thinks the “innocence” and lack of sexual tension is somehow a positive.

      So I don’t even know what is true, anymore.”


      But the truth is that I have sometimes attempted to write about sexual and romantic attraction, or romantic attraction from an allosexual character, even before I really understood asexuality or knew about romantic orientations I was writing about that stuff, at least to a small degree. And sometimes it’s really hard, even though I feel like I understand what I want them to feel, the “how” can be so tricky!! I used to write it off to being so “inexperienced”, when I thought I was a straight girl. Now I realize just how inexperienced I really am, as an asexual who is literally incapable of experiencing any feelings of sexual attraction… lmao.

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    3. So I finished my ace fanfiction story! 😉 Only took me 6 months. I love Big Bangs. They’re exactly the motivation I need.

      It’s here: Four Ace Faces.

      I made Marley explicitly sex-averse and Beiste implicitly sex-indifferent, I guess, but I think I could’ve done so much better with certain explanations or with how I portrayed (Emma’s) demisexuality & (Kurt’s) gray-asexuality?? Like making the characters more averse despite being under the grey-A umbrella? I don’t know.

      I really wanted to try to tackle as many ace-related issues as possible and be fair and realistic and I worked hard not to misrepresent people but in the end who knows how well I did. I hope I get critical comments from people so that I know what, if anything, I should avoid doing next time. I hope no one hates me and thinks I’m doing a disservice to anyone. At times, it was a ridiculously tricky fic to write, and I’m honestly surprised anyone wants to bother reading it. It’s got a very 101 focus to it too so asexual people might be bored and feel like they’re reading about things they already know… but Glee fandom needed a 101-heavy fic I think. There are so few ace fics in the Glee fandom so far. Mine is by far the longest one that I know of (I don’t know of any other 47,000 word fics with even one ace character) and we’ll just have to see what the reaction to it is. I just posted it today so it’s too soon to tell. 😉

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  2. It’s funny that you mention not having read any fanfic with non-averse ace characters, because my experience has been the exact opposite. I mean, chess-ka’s semi-famous post about asexuality in fanfic (http://chess-ka.tumblr.com/post/63762267800/some-issues-with-asexuality-in-fanfic) is about how acefic often ends with the ace having sex. There was a period of time when I had to stop reading acefic because “and then the ace will have awesome sex and it’s okay because it’s with [super special partner]” was such an omnipresent narrative. Granted, a lot of what I was reading was in the Sherlock fandom (which has an unusually high proportion of allosexual authors writing acefic and also has SUPER problematic “sociopathic asexual” tropes everywhere), but I’ve run into the same issue in other fandoms. I’m trying to think, and I know…probably half a dozen fics where ace characters are explicitly averse (as in, they’re like, “No, no sex for me, thanks” rather than “I dunno, ask me later” or other vague statements) and only two where the ace character is touch-averse.

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    1. I guess I’ve read so little ace fic. My sample size is limited. I’ve read more than I can easily count from memory, because it’s been over a year of reading them… but it’s not that many total, not as many as I’m sure you’ve read.

      I’m not in the Sherlock fandom, and I tend to avoid Sterek fics in the Teen Wolf fandom, so even though asexual Derek is relatively popular to headcanon as ace, it’s the same Johnlock problem where even the ace fics have them together… and idk. I just keep coming across the ones where the ace characters don’t want to have sex, I guess? I suppose I’m self-selecting rather well, somehow. It might just be luck. Lol. But I mean I’ve read ace fics mainly in the Glee, Teen Wolf, and Harry Potter fandoms. Oh I know what it might be – me avoiding reading fics rated higher than T/PG-13 could do it. I don’t always avoid those, but I may be filtering out without even realizing it ace fics that include sex because I am constantly avoiding fics about sex at all… lol. I mean, in huge fandoms like Glee, Teen Wolf, and Harry Potter I don’t need to read rated M or E fics to find good stuff, and usually when I do it’s after I’ve read a fic by the same author that’s rated lower, because I found their rated E fic by looking on their profile for more fics they’ve written. 😛 In smaller fandoms, like Switched at Birth, I’m more likely to be willing to read rated M or rated E fics, because there are just so few fics to choose from anyway.

      Anyway… I’ve never read ace fics where the characters are explicitly sex averse, exactly, but I have read ones where they just don’t do sex, where not wanting to have sex is an implied consequence of being asexual. Which is problematic in its own ways. But it’s what I remember from those fics.

      Even the few short Sterek oneshots I decided to actually read with an ace Derek tended to be like that! Lol. Being touch averse though, I’ve never seen that in an ace fic.

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      1. Oh, restricting yourself to T/PG-13 stuff will definitely get rid of a lot of the fic about aces having sex. You probably also haven’t run into the “this character is asexual and that’s so hot it really makes me want to have sex with them which I will do right now” fic, yeah? (I read…a lot of pretty squicky Sherlock fic in summer of 2012, ’cause that was pretty much all there was out there…)
        It’s interesting that sex is understood to be off the table in the fics you’re reading, ’cause A LOT of the Sherlock fics I read did NOT operate off that assumption. Rather, the assumption was that certain things would be on the table (assisted masturbation was almost always the minimum) and other things would be difficult (usually because of a weird understanding of how arousal works for aces????) but up for negotiation.

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        1. I don’t remember avoiding rated M or rated E fics on Archive of Our Own, but I think that’s probably what I was doing. It’s hard for me to remember my searching habits, sometimes. For less written about characters, even in the big fandoms… like Karofsky on Glee, I know I’ve read rated E stuff, but those weren’t ace fics. For ace fics… I don’t think I’ve stumbled across a single one that happened to be rated M, and it may have been just luck, or it may have been me actively filtering to avoid them. I’m honestly unsure.

          And yeah, 2012 was before I even knew I was asexual, and no I never have stumbled across any of those types of fics, luckily! I’ve heard the horror stories and it sounds really upsetting to find those fics, honestly.

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