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Old 02-18-2013, 03:08 AM   #1
Robert L.B.
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Asexual Main Character

Okay, here's the deal. I notice that a lot of YA tends to involve romance in some shape or form, with it being a heavier influence when it's a female protagonist. However, I don't really care for romance. I can write relationships, sure, but those little nuances of heart fluttering and short of breath with some guy/girl walks into the room and they're described like living goddesses kind of just bores me. Especially when the description of said person never stops.

So, I want to make my main character asexual. For those who don't know, asexuality pretty much means no sex drive whatsoever. Asexuals can still form relationships however, it's just we're more focused on the mind and other features than just the physical ones. Meaning my main character won't go swooning over a guy/girl at first sight. They'd treat them no differently from anyone else until they got to know them better.

My worry though is that romance is practically expected in YA, especially for female protagonists, and here I am pretty much slapping it down. I'm also worried people won't understand or accept asexuality. I am asexual, and the responses I've gotten from people who found out have ranged from acceptance to disbelief (it's just a phase/you haven't met the right person/yeah right everyone wants sex) to hostility (that's unnatural/you definitely have some wires crossed/have you tried fixing it?) so I know a mixture of those responses will arise should this character be published.
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Old 02-18-2013, 03:23 AM   #2
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The MC in Quicksilver by R.J. Anderson is asexual apparently. You might want to read that and see an example of how it can be handled in YA. Romance is definitely expected and preferred, and I enjoy reading it most of the time, but I would also love to see some asexual MCs. I think many people could relate to it, and it isn't discussed/shown nearly enough. Good luck with your story
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Old 02-18-2013, 03:27 AM   #3
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At some point I wanted to write an asexual character in YA, and I was discouraged because romance is pretty much expected, however, I'd love to see it done well.
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Old 02-18-2013, 03:29 AM   #4
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Slightly trite response: go out and write a bestseller that sells millions, turns your MC into a superstar in the world of fictional characters and shows everyone that asexual individuals are to be treated with respect.

Okay, with that out of the way... I can somewhat relate. I'm writing a story with a gay MC and I've had some struggles and worries about reception (I'm not trying to draw comparisons between asexuality/homosexuality, just about the worry of acceptance of your character). It's a tough thing to navigate and make decisions about.

My advice - and coming from an unpublished writer, take it with as many grains of salt as you please:

1) Write the character you want to write. I spent a long time thinking I couldn't write a gay character because it would automatically turn off a portion of readers regardless of how well I wrote or how good the story was. In the end, I decided that how I felt about my character and who I wanted them to be was more important. I know, that's a little "easier said than done", but I think it's true.

2) If your character isn't necessarily all about romance, don't write a romance. I don't think you stated your story's genre (or I missed it), but not every YA book has to be romance anyway. Yes, there are lots, and yes, it has been a big trend, but tides turn. Trends come and go. I don't agree that a book without romance wouldn't work.

3) Conversely, if you want to write a romance novel, it could be even more interesting because an asexual MC has a built-in conflict (I'm not trying to make light of it or reduce it to a "conflict", by the way). All stories should contain conflict anyways, right?

4) Don't let fear of reaction stop you writing the story you have in your head. I've agonized over it, believe me. But you know what? Even if my very first answer, about writing the best-seller that changes opinions, seems like some far out 'never gonna happen' scenario... well, you never know, do you?

Edited to say: I've seen other posters have replied to say romance is expected. If that's true, I'm out of luck with my urban fantasy adventure that has no love triangle and no relationship for my MC!

Well, good luck to us both in any case, Madican!
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Old 02-18-2013, 03:42 AM   #5
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@nightowling: Quicksilver eh? Never heard of it before, but I'll check it out. Thanks.

@writingguy: Sound advice, and I wish you luck with your own manuscript. I'm not setting out to light the world on fire with this character, but if it happens then I'd be pleased.

Incidentally, the genre of this novel is YA Urban Fantasy, with an emphasis on action and character dialogue.
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Old 02-18-2013, 03:42 AM   #6
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You should check out The Raven Boys by Maggie (can't remember how to spell her last name). The main character is not asexual, but since she's cursed...she will kill the person she loves...she acts asexual for most of the book because she's afraid to love. There is very little romance in the book and I think it ended up being a bestseller YA novel. I loved it and it got amazing reviews. So you can write an asexual character in YA, but you have to write it well.
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Old 02-18-2013, 03:53 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Madican View Post
@nightowling: Quicksilver eh? Never heard of it before, but I'll check it out. Thanks.

@writingguy: Sound advice, and I wish you luck with your own manuscript. I'm not setting out to light the world on fire with this character, but if it happens then I'd be pleased.

Incidentally, the genre of this novel is YA Urban Fantasy, with an emphasis on action and character dialogue.
Just remembered that it's a sequel, if you want to read in order. The first book is Ultraviolet I believe.
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Old 02-18-2013, 04:00 AM   #8
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I would perhaps read an asexual character simply because it would be interesting if done well. But if it was treated as something that didn't matter, I don't think it would appeal to me as a reader. Because romance isn't just expected in YA. It is, as you clearly mentioned, expected in life.

So I'd expect some natural conflict between this lack of natural desire and the very sexual world we live in. This is especially true if the character was heteroromantic (or homoromantic, or any of the 3464735436 invented affectional orientations)

Would also be nice to see a character who is asexual without having a back story of sexual trauma early on. That happens so often that I used to be under the assumption that people are only asexual if they were 'stunted' sexually.
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Old 02-18-2013, 04:08 AM   #9
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I would prefer to read some YA Fantasy (and have available for my kids) stories that don't revolve around teen romance. "Expected" and "important to the plot" are not mutually inclusive. ;-)

Question, though: would the story be about the character's asexuality, or just feature a character who is not interested/does not occupy themselves with dating/sex? The difference is important, I think.
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Old 02-18-2013, 04:15 AM   #10
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It would just feature a character who is not interested in sex. The focus point of the story would definitely be elsewhere.

There would be conflict involved from it though, since I know that when challenging the status quo it has to be looked at more than just in a passing way. Especially when it comes to YA, which is all about having characters beginning to learn who they are and coming into their own. Likely as you mentioned, with her questioning why she feels that way when the world tells her otherwise.
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Old 02-18-2013, 04:29 AM   #11
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Just because your MC is asexual doesn't mean every person they meet will be, of course. Not that a story with an asexual character requires a romantic bent in any fashion, but I think people would probably find it an interesting side-plot (of sorts) to see an asexual character dealing with a person attracted to them - unrequited love and all that.
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Old 02-18-2013, 05:12 AM   #12
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Not a PoV character, but Karen Healey's Guardian of the Dead features an asexual character. YA urban fantasy. It's not like what you describe, since there's still romance in the book thanks to the MC, but it might still be interesting to check out.
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Old 02-18-2013, 05:15 AM   #13
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I think this is something that can be done, although there is A LOT A LOT A LOT of pressure, especially on female YA authors, to include not only romance, but a certain kind of romantic plotline in their work. It sucks, but it's the industry. Not that I think the industry can't be changed by the right agent/editor combo willing to take a risk.

It is tough for YA, because so many adolescents are coming into their sexuality and it's a big deal in a lot of their lives. BUT those sexualities do also include asexuality, and I'm sure there are teens out there who would love a character that makes them feel less alone in our hypersexualized society.

I think if you stuck to a focus on adventure, it could be pulled off. People read and love MG even without romantic overtures because many are super entertaining.

I think the big thing to stay away from would be demonizing sex or especially slut-shaming female characters who enjoy sex, or crapping on homosexuality, etc. As long as you're not essentially supporting the sex-shaming side of our (very sexually confused) culture, I think you'll be good. I say go for it.

And really, if people are that desperate for romance, they'll do it themselves. That's what fanfiction is for.
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Old 02-18-2013, 06:40 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by maybegenius View Post
I think the big thing to stay away from would be demonizing sex or especially slut-shaming female characters who enjoy sex, or crapping on homosexuality, etc. As long as you're not essentially supporting the sex-shaming side of our (very sexually confused) culture, I think you'll be good. I say go for it.
This, this, this, this, this. A thousand times this.

I think this can be pulled off, but I think you're going to have to tread carefully and maybe do a bit of explaining about asexuality and how asexuals are and especially aren't different than other people. You're going to need a damn strong and well-written character, I think. And, unfortunately, you may need to make up for her lack of an interest in sex with some other personality quirk like a killer sense of humor or something. Something to make her shine in the absence of romance. I'm not say I agree with it or that it's right, but I think that's the way the genre and market are right now.

I also agree that it'd be nice to see a character who is asexual just because they are, not because of any childhood sexual abuse/trauma.
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Old 02-18-2013, 06:54 AM   #15
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Just because your MC is asexual doesn't mean every person they meet will be, of course. Not that a story with an asexual character requires a romantic bent in any fashion, but I think people would probably find it an interesting side-plot (of sorts) to see an asexual character dealing with a person attracted to them - unrequited love and all that.

Who says the love would be un-requited? Not all asexuals are aromantic, after all.

Either way, I imagine most people deal with unrequited feelings in fairly similar fashions.




If the OP doesn't want to deal with romance, I think that's fine. Many, many teenagers don't date or have sex, although a lot of those probably do get crushes and such.
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Old 02-18-2013, 06:56 AM   #16
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Yeah, that's another worry of mine. However, I have the advantage of knowing exactly how my character would treat that sort of stuff considering I am asexual. I understand how to handle the subject in a way that hopefully enlightens people without making it seem as though the MC is somehow superior for not having sex.

The primary focus however would be on the adventure over this side-plot though. Like some others have said, I think that if the adventure is good enough then people will be entertained either way. The asexuality is going to be a thing that's there, and remarked upon by the main characters, but ultimately is not important to the plot of the adventure.

Also yeah, asexuals can be divided into many, many, many different categories. There's aromantic like me, people who don't want romantic relationships of any sort. There's also romantic ones who will pursue someone for their mind over their body. Then there's also asexuals who will consent to sex with said significant other, and may enjoy it, but won't seek it out themselves. We're pretty varied under this umbrella.
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Old 02-18-2013, 06:57 AM   #17
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I read a great short story with an asexual MC. I have it somewhere. When I find it I will post the title and collection it came from so you can read it.

It's space opera I think. But this guy had his sexual impulses turned off. In this world you can do that and then get them turned back on later. I can't remember if it was a drug or an operation.

But his mother always called him asking if he found a girl and when will he give her grandbabies. Then he had got a female roommate who and had ulterior motives, she was undercover or something, and she was trying to seduce him in order to get information. She did not know that he had his sex drive turned off.

I don't know if this portrayal would be considered offensive to people who are actually asexual but women/men trying to seduce your MC and maybe parents or friends asking about their love life and when are they going to have children/tie the knot would be real issues that an asexual person would have to deal with without it turning into a novel about a person who is asexual.
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Old 02-18-2013, 10:10 AM   #18
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It's going to be difficult in this market, but not impossible. I'm doing something similar.
My MC was born with Ovarian Agenesis (no ovaries), among several other internal deformities. It provides challenges and breaking the norm in the romance department, because her hormones are completely out of whack, and she doesn't function the way her peers do. So it was definitely interesting to write, and turned out to be a very different take on a love story. It's more about friendship, trust, and the ties that bind rather than the steam, mystery, and raging emotions you see in a lot of YA.

I say go for it. We all need new takes and innovations in literature. Break the mold.
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Old 02-18-2013, 01:04 PM   #19
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I would LOOOOVE to read a book with an asexual mc. Or even an MC that DOES happen to not be asexual, however absolutely no sexual-tension/romance/whatever is mentioned in the story at all, like how it is in Alice in Wonderland or Winnie the Pooh. If kids books can get away with it, why can't YA books??? I hate that YA romance has become so formulaic. It's at the point now where I literally expect the love interest to how up within the first two or three chapters and then I do a countdown to see when the 'Jacob' will show up so that there can be a love-triangle. It's so boring and predictable.

In my story I just hand wave past all this stuff by having the MC be boyfriend-girlfriend before the story even begins and they just have a normal relationship in the background while the real plot happens.
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Old 02-18-2013, 03:22 PM   #20
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Who says the love would be un-requited? Not all asexuals are aromantic, after all.
No one, but I was specifically citing "unrequited love" as a concept which has something of a following. That said, so does requited love, and I'd agree that a romantic relationship between an asexual person/anyone would be interesting, as well ... but I can't see how it could occur in a story without being a significant plot point given how much would need to be explored.
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Old 02-18-2013, 03:30 PM   #21
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... don't much care for romance in novels.
Some is okay. Fine actually.
But it would be really refreshing for there to be novels with none in it.
And some novels really don't require any.
Authors graft it in just to appease readers.
That doesn't work well imo. Rather annoying actually.
G'luck.
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Old 02-18-2013, 03:41 PM   #22
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I have an asexual main character in my YA short story "Accepting Me", which is a standalone ebook from one of my publishers. (My editor challenged me. My daughter is asexual, so I took the challenge.) My character, unlike my daughter, is also aromantic.

I think there's a place for whatever you feel drawn to write. It just might be more difficult to find a place for a YA story with no romance whatsoever. On the other hand, I can think of a few teens I know personally who would probably appreciate not having to read anything romantic.
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Old 02-18-2013, 07:49 PM   #23
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I think everything depends on how you handle it--it could even come across as a "super innocent" book. I remember reading a YA book in which there was some very subtle romance but it happened on a purely emotional/mental level. The character, I think, could have been asexual (or not), it was never stated or denied directly, and most reviewers just thought the author wasn't into sexualizing YA lit.
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Not that a story with an asexual character requires a romantic bent in any fashion, but I think people would probably find it an interesting side-plot (of sorts) to see an asexual character dealing with a person attracted to them - unrequited love and all that.
But how would that be any different from having a "sexual" character dealing with a person attracted to them in the case of unrequited love? There is zero sexual attraction either way.
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Old 02-18-2013, 07:55 PM   #24
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The problem that I see is that most of your target audience for YA is dealing with the reality that their hearts are often set a-fluttering, and the cute guy/girl in their English class is more interesting to them than the Shakespeare they're supposed to be reading. They expect the books they read to reflect that.
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Old 02-18-2013, 08:16 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Myrealana View Post
The problem that I see is that most of your target audience for YA is dealing with the reality that their hearts are often set a-fluttering, and the cute guy/girl in their English class is more interesting to them than the Shakespeare they're supposed to be reading. They expect the books they read to reflect that.
That depends on a teen, really. I could easily appreciate such a book when I was a teen reader. I wasn't precisely asexual, but I had a very practical approach to sex: if you want some, you take risks into account, you do what's necessary to negate them, and then you have sex, simple as that. All those emotional messes? Nonsense. I didn't get crushes, my heart didn't flutter, I had the nickname of Ice Girl (sometimes something a little less neutral than Girl) for a reason. xd

I do tend to write about passionate, obsessive, crazymad love, though.
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