by Janine A. Southard
My editor gently reminded me that not all my teen characters can be ace. And she’s right.
As someone on the asexual spectrum, it doesn’t occur to me to put sexual tension (or interest) between strangers into my books during the drafting phase. That’s the drafting phase, though. In editing, I can’t assume all the characters will be just like me. Sure, some characters may never have romance plot lines, but many will have sexual thoughts.
For instance, I once wrote a novel where my teenage protagonists find themselves in a brothel. (Hive & Heist) On the third draft, my editor gently mentioned that at least one of my characters would consider the wares on display. Part of me was happy to add that bit of verisimilitude, and part of me felt like a sell-out. But, really, I had plenty of characters left who had better things to do (e.g., learn knife fighting), so it wasn’t all of them.
And that’s the crux of writing while ace or demi (or bi or homo or trans), we can be sure to add characters just like us. But we don’t get to assume the mainstream doesn’t exist in the same way it can forget we do. I mean, we can but it reduces verisimilitude.
I like to think, though, that by adding characters who are ace-spectrum, more readers will see that as a normal state that coexists with the mainstream. I once had a reader tell me that he’d never heard the term “ace” for asexual before reading one of my books. (This one isn’t YA, but does have an explicitly asexual character: Cracked! A Magic iPhone Story.)
That’s a tiny foothold on the path to mainstream acceptance.
Janine A. Southard is the IPPY award-winning author of Queen & Commander (and other books in The Hive Queen Saga). She lives in Seattle, WA, where she writes speculative fiction novels, novellas, and short stories… and reads them aloud to her cat. You can hang out with Janine online, usually on Twitter and periodically on her website with free fiction and novel inspirations.