In Aromanticism Pt 1 below I’ll take you through some reasons why you should write arospec characters. In Aromanticism in Fiction Pt 2 I’ll start going into more details about how to write them.
Let’s write characters on the aromantic spectrum!
The crowd shuffles their feet awkwardly.
Look, I get it, okay? Stories without romance in them are boring, nonsensical, a waste of time. Happy endings are just physically impossible without someone getting romantically rewarded. Romance is definitely not ever crammed into films just for the sake of it without paying any mind as to how this might fuck up the rest of the film. Romance is absolutely never tacked on merely because society has conditioned us that a dedicated romantic and sexual monogamous relationship is the peak of all human endeavours.
But you know what?
Aromantic spectrum people exist. Aromantic spectrum characters can exist! They should exist. They can be interesting, they can have adventures, they can save the world, and they can do it all without being alloromantic.
Any single character you can think of: they can be on the aromantic spectrum. Any of them. All of them. All of the characters you think of can be on the aromantic spectrum (and/or the asexual spectrum!)!
Arospec people are not just currently single, heartless, friendless, bitter, unable to find love, waiting for the right guy, evil, inhuman, non-human, eccentric geniuses, abused and broken, in need of fixing, old post-romantic wise mentors, ice queens, mentally ill cat ladies, afraid of commitment, extra-special because they’ve suppressed or surpassed romance or love, automatically asexual or agender or autistic. We are just like you, except we don’t experience romantic attraction, or don’t often experience romantic attraction. And by “just like you” I mean “just like you if you weren’t alloromantic” because not being alloromantic actually can make a HUGE difference in your life, especially in a society that’s as amatonormative (and specifically heteronormative) as our present one.
(Arospec people CAN be friendless, bitter, abused, mentally ill, asexual, agender, autistic, disabled. Absolutely do not erase or exclude these people! Just like we need more than The One Lesbian Narrative and more The One Trans Narrative, we need so many aromantic narratives.)
We already have stories that focus on siblings or parent-children or other intergenerational familial bonds, friendships, teacher-student, teammates, work rivals, hero-villain, captain-crew, dedicated platonic partners—why not more of those? Why not more of those where one or more of the characters are arospec?
Why not more romances where one or more of the characters are grey-romantic or wtfromantic? Or bromances with queerplatonic or committed platonic relationships?
Why not… just… more of me? More of us? Any of us.
Here’s a not-comprehensive list of some different arospec characters you could write about:
• an aromantic asexual in a committed queerplatonic relationship with an alloromantic allosexual who has no romantic relationships
• an aromantic in a committed queerplationship with an alloromantic who also has romantic relationhip(s), whether the alloro ranks the qpr above/equal/below their romantic relationships
• an aromantic who’s aromates with another aro
• an aromantic allosexual in a committed non-romantic, sexual relationship
• an aromantic allosexual without a committed sexual relationship, with close platonic relationships
• a grey-romantic in a committed romantic or quasi-romantic relationship
• an aromantic in a romantic relationship, whether happy or unhappy
• an aromantic who isn’t interested in a queerplatonic relationship
• an aromantic with a few very strong platonic relationships
• an aroflux grey-ro navigating fluctuating romantic attraction to their partner
• a poly wtfromantic with romantic and queerplatonic relationships with both aros and alloromantics
• a grey-romantic who practices relationship anarchy and has multiple romantic, queerplatonic, and platonic relationships but does not treat any as most important
• an arospec in a queerplatonic triad with two other aromantics
• an aromantic with passionate friendships
• a grey-romantic asexual who likes sex
• an arospec asexual who’s into kink, whether it’s sexual or non-sexual kink
• a questioning aromantic trying out a romantic relationship
• a grey-romantic who probably thought they were aro and is feeling romantic attraction for the first time
• a demiromantic‘s growing romantic attraction to a friend
• a demiromantic in a romantic relationship before they’re romantically attracted
• an arospec who’s working out what makes their relationship platonic, queerplatonic or romantic
• an arospec with a found family or true companions
• a grey-romantic who’s not in a romantic relationship and not interested
(Important things I’d like to note: queerplatonic relationships do not have to inherently be aromantic. Two alloromantic people can be queerplatonic partners. Also, most of these are interchangeable with aro- or grey- or demi- or wtf- or -flux or anything else that’s part of the aromantic specrtrum!)
Your arospec characters can be as varied as you can imagine (n.b. the use of “can be” and not “are all”!):
Arospecs can be allosexual or asexual, grey-sexual, etc.
Arospecs can be aromantic, grey-romantic, wtfromantic, etc.
Arospecs can be queer, gay, pan, aro, etc.
Arospecs can hate being arospec.
Arospecs can be in romantic relationships, sexual relationships, platonic relationships, any other relationships.
Arospecs can be in queerplatonic relationships which aren’t sexual, or which are sexual.
Arospecs can be in poly relationships. Arospecs can be in long-distance relationships.
Arospecs can be romance-repulsed, romance-averse, romance-indifferent, romance inclined.
Arospecs can like or dislike physical, emotional, or sexual intimacy.
Arospecs can want or not want queerplatonic relationships.
Arospecs can be deeply committed to their family or found-family.
Arospecs can treat a non-platonic relationship as more important than platonic relationships, or they can treat them equally, or less important.
Arospecs can have lots of friends, a few close friends, or very few friends.
Arospecs can be in toxic non-romantic relationships and have terrible non-romantic break-ups.
Arospecs can be toxic, sociopathic, flippant, loners.
Arospecs can be loving, supportive, outgoing.
Arospecs can want children, or not want children, or be indifferent.
Arospecs can have dated in the past, or never dated. They can have had positive or negative dating experiences.
Arospecs can think their arospecness is a really important part of their identity, or not.
Arospecs can be deeply anxious about their futures, about keeping friendships, about living alone.
Arospecs can happily live alone.
Arospecs can be shy, emotionless, find it difficult to express emotion.
Arospecs can have been abused, can have difficulty being close to people.
Arospecs can be non-binary, trans, intersex, disabled, mentally ill, neurodivergent, etc.
(Of course, some groups have a history of being de-sexualised and treated as unable to love or unworthy of love, so be careful with your axes there! In the same way you shouldn’t go “the only character in this story who can be aro is the robot” you also should not think “well naturally an autistic character would be aro” or “it’s natural for an Asian man not to be in a romantic relationship”.)
Potential living arrangements for your arospec characters:
• with their immediate or extended family
• with queerplatonic partner(s)
• with platonic partner(s) (living in a sharehouse, or with a dedicated flatmate, or with married friends)
• alone (maybe they have no partners, or long-distance partners, or short-distance partners who for whatever reason don’t share a house)
• in a magical dormitory or in a ship’s hammock or in a future podroom or in an elvish tent because they’re on a fucking amazing adventure which is just as great as any alloromantic’s would be
Potential plots for your arospec characters:
• PRETTY MUCH ALL OF THEM
Why is this important? Well, if you google “aromantics in fiction” or something similar, you’ll mostly find headcanons, stories where romance doesn’t occur but that don’t actually have any aromantic characters, and comforting things like “this character isn’t interested in romance because they’re an alien sociopath”.
And for the love of god, if you decide to write an arospec character and you are not arospec and don’t have any close arospec friends to ask questions of… how about you… try googling for advice that arospec people have already given and blogs that arospec people have already written about being arospec and about arospec in fiction before sending an ask to an aro tumblr going “help how do I diversity??”
Here are some links that might help as well:
I began to think: well, if society says this part of me is not normal/human enough, what other parts of me are not normal/human enough? The stuff I was thinking/saying of myself back then might be pretty laughable now, but because I was not experiencing romantic/sexual/etc. desires, and people/TV/books said/implied that that was beyond weird (well, my parents didn’t say I was weird, but who cares about your parents’ opinions at that age?)—something only serial killers and aliens lacked—I genuinely had no happy/healthy paths for my headspace to travel.
films, tv shows and books turning what could be a great platonic relationship into an unnecessary, bland romantic relationship
I didn’t know how to write an aroace without giving them a reason to be aroace. A traumatic, broken, pitiable reason. And then he was raped and then he stopped being aroace because he found the right person.
I want to see characters that actually read to me as aromantics, not romantics who just so happen to be single at the moment. I mean. As a person who doesn’t do the whole romance thing? I do not think like a romantic person who just so happens to be single at the moment, okay. My orientation informs how I think and how I plan for the future and how my interpersonal relationships work, as well as a whole other things about my personality.
I would have grown into a completely different person if I had been romantic like most people are. So I want to see that experience represented in fiction. I want to read about people going through the same things I went through, and am still going through. I want to see, hear and read about asexual people who DON’T fall in love, and who have to adapt to the romantic/platonic paradigm in our culture even though that paradigm doesn’t reflect their actual feelings, or even give them the words they need to understand and talk about those feelings.
I wanted lifelong love. I didn’t want to be left behind. So, I obviously wanted a romantic relationship, because that’s the only way to get that. I didn’t want to be the unmarried friend who lost touch with those people she cared about before, or who meets up with them every few years to catch up and listen to stories about their new families.
It is disturbing to see adulthood and maturity strongly associated with the end of relationships that make us happy. And it is equally disturbing to see this taken for granted, as if it is natural, inevitable, and even right. Our friendships are considered less significant and valuable once romantic relationships become an option for us. And if you’re aromantic, or just don’t want romance, then you’re shit out of luck: your platonic relationships get relegated to second-best status even if they’re the most important relationships in your life.
And then we finally recognise ourselves in a character on TV and… and they’re a serial killer or an alien, and a lot of people go “well no, they’re actually probably totes gay”. Media told me that — just because I didn’t feel like dating or having sex — I didn’t have the right to consider myself human. I am still — more than ten years on — dealing with the venomous headspace that created.
Bromance also has, as many of you know, a pretty serious “no homo” problem. We’re so used to closeness and affection being coded as romantic that creators often feel the need to acknowledge and then dismiss the potential for a romantic relationship. You are not obligated to do that, so don’t. Caring about another person isn’t necessarily romantic. Holding hands, hugging and cuddling aren’t necessarily romantic. Kissing and sex aren’t necessarily romantic. Living with someone, planning your lives together, perhaps even raising children together – none of that is necessarily romantic. Free yourself from cultural expectations. Your characters can do whatever the hell they want to do, and so can you.
The point is, not everyone feels like they can easily fit into either the “alloromantic” or “aromantic” categories, so when people try to push the two categories as far away from each other as possible and create strict dividing lines, all those people in the middle fall through the cracks.
Aromantics and asexuals: “Hey, could we include some queerplatonic relationships? Or romantic non-sexual relationships that aren’t considered inferior? Or maybe even some sexual non-romantic relationships that aren’t considered shallow and unfulfilling?”
Fandom: *crickets chirping*
Queerplatonic to me means the breaking down of narratives. It means no rules. It means doing, essentially, whatever you are comfortable with. If you want to be best friends for all intents and purposes but also get married, that’s okay. If you want to kiss sometimes but don’t want to feel obligated, that’s okay too. This is why every person in a relationship like this has a different definition of it, because there are no rules. Queerplatonic means forging your own definition, saying “neither platonic or romantic is right”, and just doing whatever feels comfortable in the moment. It means making your own structure, mix and matching what you and your partner feel comfortable with.
We wouldn’t need a word like “queerplatonic” if you romo assholes were capable of acknowledging that an aro person’s friendships can be on par with romantic relationships, that friendship can be a primary partnership, that friendship can include emotions and affection and commitment identical to the kind you routinely and exclusively practice in romance.
We as a society also perpetuate the idea that platonic relationships are lesser than romantic relationships. For example, people often toss around the phrase “just friends,” implying that friendship is less important and less committed than romantic relationships. We are taught to throw away friendships for romance. We are taught to spend a good chunk of our lives searching for “the one”—a central, romantic relationship to whom we devote all or most of our physical and emotional intimacy. Why is romance the deciding factor of the importance of a relationship?
And in general, navigating things like discussions of queerbaiting as an ace can be incredibly fraught – because one person’s “terrible, queerbaiting example of a [non-ace] gay relationship” is another persons “great representation of a nonsexual but intimate and committed relationship”. And like, the lack of honestly sexual representations of queer relationships is a definite problem. And I agree that many shows like sherlock are designed to be “just homoerotic enough to be titillating, but not enough to be gay, cause that would be gross”, which is an annoying trend. But at the same time, whether intentional or not, instances like these often also end up being some of the best examples of the kind of relationships I want as an ace person, which can be hard to find.
While I understand the frustration that lesbians feel at having their romantic relationships and their identities routinely denied, erased, and dismissed by a heteronormative world that hates lesbians, the Gal Pal joke is hurtful and offensive to me every time I bump into it, because it makes a mockery of the very concept that any two women could be nonromantic life partners: friends who live together, who are physically affectionate with each other, who may have pets or even children together, etc.
Calling a nonromantic best friend a “place holder” for a romantic partner has got to be one of the most disgusting examples of romance supremacist, amatonormative thinking I’ve seen in recent memory. But it brings up an important point for me that I believe every aro person who wants a committed companion or partner needs to take seriously: even in the extremely rare cases where an alloromantic person decides to formally commit to a friend in nonromantic partnership, that decision is almost always based on taking the friendship as a second-best substitute for a romantic relationship.
So, in short, there was this great character that I identified with completely whose ideals completely shifted just for the sake of “character growth”. Bones had a full life before “falling in love” with Booth and their relationship could still be just as strong if her characterization didn’t change completely over the years.
And I’m here to tell all other “heartless” aro and ace spectrum women and girls that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being that. You’re beautiful and valid and your aromanticism and/or asexuality is awesome. You don’t owe anyone your time, your affection, your attention, your kindness, or your emotional labor. Go out into the world and be your fabulous self.
But I want more. I don’t just want characters who could technically be read as aromantic. I want a character who outright states ‘I’m aromantic. (Possibly followed by ‘look it up’.) I don’t get attracted to people romantically. I don’t fall in love “that way.” And this is not a problem.’ And I want that character’s narrative arc to stay true to their identity.
That’s why I sometimes get prickly when I see the lists of possibly aro or ace characters going around and there’s nothing but men on there. We need to take a long hard look at the reasons behind why that’s the case, cause that’s just not good enough for me anymore. I’m tired of having to look to only male characters for traits I can identify with. I’m tired of the feeling I don’t belong in my own gender because I’m not willing to accept someone else’s sexual interest or summon up interest of my own.