#1567

Tell me, nameless one, do you long for those distant shores? Did I, in giving you the blood of an ancient race, also etch into your heart the longing of all your people for gray ships and white gulls and silver glass? Is that why you stand at the edge of the waves and gaze out to the horizon? Do you long for a time when you can set aside the burden of your charge and finally pass into the west, leave all this, your past and present, your battles and failures and triumphs, far behind in another age? Is that why you can find no home on this side of the water?

Don’t answer the call of those white shores. Not yet. I promise I will set you free one day. Until then, I still need you beside me on this journey.

#1561

Writing Realistic Aces, or: On Listening to Your Characters (March 2015 Carnival of Aces)

[ This is my first submission for Carnival of Aces! Hope I didn’t fuck it up. ]

I have been writing about the same two characters for almost twelve years now. When they first came to me when I was a wee teenager, Tanim and Daren were theoretically heterosexual. I say theoretically because even though they both had girlfriends (HAH!) they were very, very, very good friends. Suspiciously good friends. Like, “major homoerotic subtext” good friends. But I was young and inexperienced as a writer and didn’t really understand that your characters drive the story, not you. You’re just the scribe. So I kept on pushing them at these completely 2-dimensional female characters when they were obviously making googly eyes at each other.

What I learned from this experience is that you can’t tell a character their sexuality, just as you can’t tell a real person their sexuality. They tell you. And what Tanim and Daren told me, in excruciating slowness over years of angst and tragedy and dramatic professions of love, is that they were far from heterosexual. Neither, though, were either of them strictly gay, or even bi. They fell somewhere on a spectrum I wasn’t even aware of at the time (thank you, college Psych 101, for introducing me to asexuality!). For though the connection between Tanim and Daren was definitely romantic*, I knew neither of them would be interested in any other man – or any other person, for that matter. Likewise, though in certain story fragments they did engage in sex, I knew it was something Daren was often repulsed by, and something Tanim participated in for reasons other than physical gratification.

If I had to put my boys on the spectrum, I would say Daren is strictly asexual and aromantic, and most likely sex-repulsed to sex-indifferent depending on the story. Tanim, on the other hand, is possibly gray-asexual or demisexual and homoromantic (though he’s basically doomed to only fall in love with Daren). Tanim’s asexuality is complicated by his fetish, however*. He desires sex not because he’s sexually attracted to other men, or because he has a high libido, but because he craves submission. This leads him to frequently engage in dangerous sexual practices and definitely makes him seem like an allosexual character, but at the end of the day the attraction still isn’t there. So while my characters appear outwardly to be in a sexually active homosexual relationship, the reality is much more complicated. And don’t we all love complex characters?

I’m probably not making much sense. I hope I am. The point is, I didn’t tell these characters they had to be asexual. I didn’t set out thinking, “I want to write about asexual characters, and poof! here they are”. I set out to write about these two characters and they turned out to have been asexual the whole time (much like me, haha). I suppose you could call that accidental diversity, but maybe we need more of that; not diversity for diversity’s sake, but diverse characters for the sake of being true to the characters themselves***.

In short, writing realistic asexual characters is as simple as letting the character be themselves. If they tell you, “I’m asexual but when I meet this other character, I’m going to have sex with them,” then cool! That’s what’s going to happen. If they say, “I’m asexual and all I want is a queer-platonic life partner,” then awesome! That’s what you write. And if they say, “Wait a minute, I’m not asexual, what are you doing?” you listen and let them tell you who they really are. As an ace who thought she would never date and never have sex, but who now finds herself in a sexually active, committed lesbian relationship (that could be considered semi-poly if you count Tanim and Daren in there) let me tell you, life throws curve balls. Asexuals come in all shapes and sizes and flavors and colors. Don’t be afraid if your ace character seems to veer away from the stereotype – chances are, the less stereotyped your character is, the closer to representing real asexuals they are.

*Though their form of romance is rather… unique…

**I am forever grateful to the asexual people who discuss their kinks (especially BDSM) online; you have validated what I thought was possible but didn’t know for sure. Thank you!

***Which could be a great tie-in for what Michelle Rodriguez was saying about creating new POC superheroes instead of just changing the race of currently existing ones, but that’s a discussion for a different time and a different person.

#1555

Your madness is a strange comfort; I slip into it like a warm bath, holding my breath and submersing myself until it blocks my ears, my nose, my eyes, until I am encased in a substance that would gladly drown me if I gave it the chance. The world is different under here – muted, remote, unreal – and I linger as long as my body and mind can handle, heart pounding, lungs burning. Yet even though there comes a point when I must return to myself, your madness clings to my skin as I surface again, little trickling drops that pool between my lips and weigh down my lashes, that drip drip drip as you flex my fingers, testing.

#1527

“Affirmation Prayer”

I am scribe to the Sun and Moon.
I am beloved of Shakespeare’s Sister.
My champion is the nameless Mage.
My patron is the Mother Cat.
I am strong as storm and stone.
I am wanted and worthy.

#1525

Suddenly, I wonder. I ask her, “Were you the woman who walked into the sea?”

She smiles. “Now you begin to understand.”

I do not ask why. I’m not ready yet to hear her say, “for you.” It seems she has done much for me of which I have been too unaware. But it makes sense, and I do not know why I did not see it before. Born a daughter of the earth yet cast out from that green growing place, she became a daughter of snow and sea, salt and storm. Ice water in her veins and unknown fathoms in her eyes. How?

Death, and rebirth. A grave in cold, dark depths, a new dawn on a far distant shore.

How did I not see it before?

#1520

[ I want to develop my story idea about the succubus who falls in love with an asexual girl, but I haven’t had to develop new characters in years (mine are loud enough on their own) so I’m struggling. I thought I’d see if letting my other characters take the reigns might help me learn about these new girls. We’ll see… ]—

[A knock at the apartment door. Tanim opens it to a girl who might have stepped out of The Craft; the plaid skirt of her school uniform is rolled to mid-thigh, her feet encased in black combat boots, her white dress shirt unbuttoned beneath a leather jacket to reveal a generous swell of breast. Her skin is caramel, her hair tumbling over her shoulders in dark chocolate waves, her eyes burnished copper flecked with gold. Someone more appreciative of the female figure than Tanim might say she has “curves in all the right places.”]

Tanim: You must be Remer. Please, come in.

Remer: Nice place. [She eyes the apartment as she walks inside. Her hips sway back and forth with each step.] Kinda stark, though.

Tanim: I prefer it that way. Would you like something to drink?

Remer: You got anything to smoke?

Tanim: Of course. [Tanim leads her into the living room, producing a cigarette pack as she stares out the tall windows. He hands her a lit cigarette, then settles on the couch.] So. Tell me about yourself.

Remer: [She recites the facts as if she memorized them for an oral report.] I’m eighteen, still in school. My father is a diplomat, so my family travels often. I–

[Tanim snorts.]

Remer: [She glares at him.] What?

Tanim: Come on. You don’t need to lie to me. In fact, the whole point of this is for you to be completely honest. How old are you, really?

Remer: [She squares her shoulders haughtily.] Far older than you.

Tanim: I highly doubt it. Try me.

Remer: Three hundred and thirty-six, give or take. We don’t mark time the same way you do.

Tanim: Still just a child… [He politely changes the subject as her glare intensifies.] You say “we.” You’re a demon, yes?

Remer: [She makes a moue of distaste at the term.] A succubus.

Tanim: A succubus, sorry. And your real name?

Remer: Remr’knali’v’sarna’nbat’shi.

Tanim: …”Remer” it is. So you send men to their deaths after a night of pleasure and vice? I could think of worse ways to go.

Remer: Not exactly. My tastes run to the more Sapphic.

Tanim: Ah. Yes, I think you’ll fit in nicely here. [He shrugs when she raises an eyebrow.] None of us exactly toes the heteronormative line. Even Mage is… well… Mage. So, do you have your eyes on anyone right now?

Remer: [She hesitates.] Um.

Tanim: I know that look. Who is she?

Remer: No one. Shut up. [She thumps down on the couch and drags moodily at the cigarette.] I don’t want to talk about it. …it’s complicated.

Tanim: Fine, fine. I’ve been in your shoes. Am often in your shoes, actually. I understand.

Remer: I doubt it. You probably don’t have to worry about accidentally giving in to your instincts and eating the girl you lo– like.

Tanim: That is a rather unique situation. Does she know you like her in a… non-culinary way?

Remer: [She sighs with exasperation.] No. She’s completely dense. I’ve tried everything; innuendo, pheromones, erotic dreams, skin to skin contact, changing my hair, my eyes, my body shape, my clothes… nothing works. I’ve never had this happen before. I’m powerless.

Tanim: Hmm… it’s like that, huh? [He smiles knowingly.] Well, I’m sure you’ll figure it out. [He reaches out as if to pat her shoulder, then seems to think better of it and stands.] I have business to attend to. Feel free to stay as long as you like. [He waves languidly and wanders off down the hallway.]

Remer: [She calls after Tanim.] Hey, what’s that supposed to mean? “It’s like that.” Like what? Where are you going? [When it’s clear he won’t be coming back, she glances around the silent apartment.] …this place gives me the creeps. [She exits the apartment, but not before pocketing the packet of cigarettes left behind by Tanim.]

#1518

maybe I’m not quite ready to hear again the songs I listened to in college, the ones I played on repeat late at night as I sat in the glow of white Christmas lights and electric candles, huddled over a laptop screen or old notebooks full of teenage wishes, wondering if you were even possible, if I was a singularity in this universe, if I had placed my love in untrustworthy vessels and would be broken, broken, broken by the years, maybe I’m not ready to remember how I paced my dorm room, restless with others’ longings twisting in my chest, or how I walked endless circles around campus in the dark, trying to outrun my own longing so I could collapse into bed exhausted and cease wondering and fearing for a few hours, at least, maybe I’m not ready for the songs that remind me of the confusion and heartache and terror I faced alone for years because I could not fathom how anyone would ever understand and was afraid, more than anything, of hope, that cruel flicker which drove me to return to the same circles and what-ifs even when I sought to bury all feeling, will I ever be ready to remember those years without flinching, will these songs ever not hurt?