How to Ally: Writing Allo-Aro Characters, Part Two

Handdrawn illustration of a yellow pasture against a background of hills and sporadic trees. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Aro Worlds Discussion Post sits across the image in a black, antique handdrawn type, separated by two ornate Victorian-style black dividers.

Yesterday, I began a two-part series on writing allo-aro characters as an ally. To conclude Aro Week, I’m going to examine fictional tropes in want of considerate handling, explain how to contextualise your work without contributing to allo-aro erasure, and discuss the vital role of ally in “writing allo-aro characters as an ally”.

Many tropes regarding romance, relationships, intimacy and love cause aromantics harm. Others erase our aromanticism when treated as universal to all. Some are obviously problematic, like settings in which all characters possess destined soulmates; others require analysing the ways fiction shapes amatonormativity and amatonormativity shapes fiction. Tropes like “friends to lovers” may be loathed by some aromantics but tolerated or even appreciated by other aros! To discuss the use and pitfalls of all these requires more words and time than I possess, so I’m (today) focusing on tropes that either specifically impact allo-aros or are overlooked in our conversations about representation.

Please, especially when writing aromantic-spectrum characters in intimate relationships, examine your story with an eye for the ways amatonormativity and antagonism may shape your character arcs and plot. Many of the tropes we take for granted in the fictional journey towards a happily-ever-after ignore aromantics’ existence at best–and aren’t covered in this already-long post.

As this is an exercise in continued verbosity, you may want to grab a drink before strapping in for another long read!

Continue reading “How to Ally: Writing Allo-Aro Characters, Part Two”

How to Ally: Writing Allo-Aro Characters, Part One

Handdrawn illustration of a yellow pasture against a background of hills and sporadic trees. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Aro Worlds Discussion Post sits across the image in a black, antique handdrawn type, separated by two ornate Victorian-style black dividers.

I have a problem with most how-to-write-character-of-X-identity posts: representation loses complexity when we reduce it to a list of must-avoid tropes and stereotypes. While this simplification makes it easier to steer clear of accidental antagonism, rarely do such posts acknowledge how avoiding stereotype enables the erasure of those allo-aros–and people of other marginalised identities–whose lives happen to resemble them. Too often we end up praising and valuing representation that regards loveless, neurodiverse, low-empathy, aplatonic, non-partnering and non-monogamous aromantics as too “problematic” for depiction.

For some time, I’ve answered the question of “how to write allo-aro characters” in one sentence: write many allo-aro characters of differing experiences, intersectional identities and roles within their story.

Allies, however, keep asking me for resources. Pithy sentences may be honest, but they’re inherently flawed: they aren’t actionable. A list at least offers safety’s illusion by explaining what not to write! If you don’t know where to start, or so fear causing harm that you can’t, how can you write more than one allo-aro character?

For Aro Week, I’m expanding upon this with a two-part guide explaining the work allies should undertake in creating allo-aro characters and the stories containing them. I outline steps for educating yourself, discuss how to contextualise your work in the field that is “intentional allo-aro representation” and explain concerns I have as a potential allo-aro reader. Please keep in mind that I don’t provide concise answers! I’m only hammering guideposts along the path of your research and reflection when it comes to depicting allosexual aromanticism.

So let’s strap in for a discussion about language, sex negativity, and, most importantly of all, the role and duties of an ally to allo-aros.

Continue reading “How to Ally: Writing Allo-Aro Characters, Part One”

Fiction: The Cage and the Road

Banner for Nine Laws: Allosexual Aromantic Fairy Tales. Image features a tree in the foreground, lanterns hanging from its branches, against a background of heavily-overgrown grey stone walls and archways leading into smaller courtyards. Vines and ivy cover the walls, archways and steps; an array of grasses grow around the bases of trees and walls. Text is set in a white, slightly-curving serif type; white curlicues matching the text, set in each corner, form a broken frame around the text.

Prudence Revered revels in her work as witch-hunter. (Well, census-taker.) What’s not to appreciate in travelling new roads, meeting new people and experiencing new freedoms–ones impossible as the demure once-wife to the Sorcerer Potentate? If she prefers to bed and befriend the witches she tracks down, well, she doubts the Citadel cares (much) about a minor official’s lack of interest in investigation and interrogation. The only clouds on her endless horizon are those ignorant souls who preach the rules that once caged her–the rules witches taught her to break.

She thought herself content wearing the Citadel’s uniform, but when a chance-met companion expects Prue to wage a moral war against unwed witches and provocatively-shaped trees, she fears that her new life isn’t different enough from what she thought to leave behind.

Mother told such stories. Their silken filaments clung to everything Prue knew herself to be, until she was less a person than an actor upon the stage, reciting the lines of a play so old that the audience mouthed the words along with her.

Continue reading “Fiction: The Cage and the Road”

Fiction: Before Crows’ Eyes

Banner for Nine Laws: Aromantic Asexual Fairy Tales. Image features a tree in the foreground, lanterns hanging from its branches, against a background of heavily-overgrown grey stone walls and archways leading into smaller courtyards. Vines and ivy cover the walls, archways and steps; an array of grasses grow around the bases of trees and walls. Text is set in a white, slightly-curving serif type; white curlicues matching the text, set in each corner, form a broken frame around the text.

Even knows himself: son, baker, non-partnering. He doesn’t want to want sex, marriage or children; he wants the village’s acceptance of a life best lived crafting seed buns and fruit pies. He doesn’t want the local flock of crows as his only companions; he wants human friendships free of pressure and expectation. Most of all, he wants Ma to let go of the idea that a sorcerer’s magic can and must “fix” him.

Desperation leads Even into the forest to seek the only person who can advise him on resisting a sorcerer: the witch Miser Felled, “skilled purveyor of magic and pleasure”. A master of scandal-provoking arts never undertaken before open windows and watching birds. A mysterious figure who has more in common with Even than just an affinity for crows … and offers a more extraordinary solution than he ever thought possible.

Why weep for something no more rightly part of him than garlic in a recipe for apple pie?

Continue reading “Fiction: Before Crows’ Eyes”

Hallo, Aro: Hunter – K. A. Cook

Banner for Hallo, Aro Allosexual Aro Flash Fiction. Image features dark black handwritten type on a mottled green background. Diagonal rows of arrows with bands, heads and fletching in the colours of the green/light green/white/yellow/gold allo-aro pride flag cross the image above and below the text.

Hallo, Aro is a series of flash fiction stories about allosexual aromantic characters navigating friendship, sexual attraction, aromanticism and the weight of amatonormative expectation.

Contains: A cis, pansexual, quoiromantic, polyamorous protagonist who knows what she wants … and hunts the Ring’s witches to gain it.

Only then did Prue know herself as destined to wither inside stone and melt beneath glass, and few appreciate rebellion more than a witch.

Continue reading “Hallo, Aro: Hunter – K. A. Cook”

Hallo, Aro: Witch – K. A. Cook

Banner for Hallo, Aro Allosexual Aro Flash Fiction. Image features dark black handwritten type on a mottled green background. Diagonal rows of arrows with bands, heads and fletching in the colours of the green/light green/white/yellow/gold allo-aro pride flag cross the image above and below the text.

Hallo, Aro is a series of flash fiction stories about allosexual aromantic characters navigating friendship, sexual attraction, aromanticism and the weight of amatonormative expectation.

Contains: An allo-aro who discovers a magical shortcut on the road to freedom from their village’s traditions of sex negativity and amatonormativity.

To speak truth to a witch is to court danger, but honesty offers less grievous a hazard than falsehood.

Continue reading “Hallo, Aro: Witch – K. A. Cook”

Hallo, Aro: Antagonist – K. A. Cook

Banner for Hallo, Aro Allosexual Aro Flash Fiction. Image features dark black handwritten type on a mottled green background. Diagonal rows of arrows with bands, heads and fletching in the colours of the green/light green/white/yellow/gold allo-aro pride flag cross the image above and below the text.

Hallo, Aro is a series of (mostly) flash fiction stories about allosexual aromantic characters navigating friendship, sexual attraction, aromanticism and the weight of amatonormative expectation.

Contains: A trans, heterosexual aro who realises that his story’s self-designated heroes leave him one role to play.

Male. Heterosexual. Aromantic. Evil.

Continue reading “Hallo, Aro: Antagonist – K. A. Cook”

How to Ally: Advising for Sex-Negative Language

Handdrawn illustration of a yellow pasture against a background of hills and sporadic trees. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Aro Worlds Discussion Post sits across the image in a black, antique handdrawn type, separated by two ornate Victorian-style black dividers.

Note: I consider this site’s content advisory page sufficient for non-fiction posts, but as I need asexuals to read this essay, I’ll begin by saying that I reference sexual attraction, sex acts, sex repulsion and sexualisation. And romance! I also cite common examples of sex negativity/sex-negative language, misogyny, ableism, cissexism, heterosexism, amatonormativity and allo-aro antagonism.

I now seldom participate in–and even actively avoid–online general aromantic and a-spec spaces.

This isn’t because I don’t wish to meet other aros. This isn’t because I’m uninterested in what other aros have to say. This also isn’t entirely because chronic pain limits my online interaction and I can’t afford the supports/technology needed for full access (although this is the reason why I fail in replying to comments and asks).

This is because any space predominantly occupied by asexuals results in my being exposed to posts that hurt like a punch to the gut.

Continue reading “How to Ally: Advising for Sex-Negative Language”

How (Not) to Ally: The Good and Bad of Allo-Aro Rep

Handdrawn illustration of a yellow pasture against a background of hills and sporadic trees. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Aro Worlds Discussion Post sits across the image in a black, antique handdrawn type, separated by two ornate Victorian-style black dividers.

How (Not) to Ally is a series discussing the supportive content made by well-meaning asexual allies to allo-aros–and why some approaches still fail to recognise, promote, welcome, protect and include us.

It’s now not uncommon to see alloromantic allies asking questions about how best to write (or not write) aro characters. It’s also not uncommon, in response to open questions or in discussing a-spec and/or aro representation, to see not-allosexual aros and alloromantic asexuals reference allo-aros in their answers. Writers should include and depict a diversity of aros in their works, so we do need our asexual kin to remember us!

Unfortunately, most discussions argue that good allo-aro representation encompasses the following:

  • Sex occurring in the context of close, intimate, “serious” relationships or partnerships
  • Emphasis on monogamy or exclusivity
  • Idealised, non-harmful depictions of sexual relationships
  • Emphasis on possession of meaningful, intimate bonds with other people
  • Capacity and desire for friendship and emotional intimacy
  • Emphasis on ability to love and experiencing love for others
  • Focusing on non-sexual thoughts and experiences
  • Avoidance of sexualisation
  • Emphasis on healthiness and “wholeness”

When I look upon such lists, all I know is this: they do not include me.

Continue reading “How (Not) to Ally: The Good and Bad of Allo-Aro Rep”

Fiction: Bones of Green and Hearts of Gold

Banner for Nine Laws: Allosexual Aromantic Fairy Tales. Image features a tree in the foreground, lanterns hanging from its branches, against a background of heavily-overgrown grey stone walls and archways leading into smaller courtyards. Vines and ivy cover the walls, archways and steps; an array of grasses grow around the bases of trees and walls. Text is set in a white, slightly-curving serif type; white curlicues matching the text, set in each corner, form a broken frame around the text.

Constance, princess of Blackvale, knows the duty of a summer-hearted heir: wed the prince, birth the child, symbolise her people’s prosperity and fecundity. Love, joyously and passionately, a man even she believes handsome and kind. But what if her heart can’t cast summer’s warmth? What if she feels solely the profane desires of skin and flesh? What if Blackvale’s crops wither and rot unripened because their future queen can’t—and won’t—bow to the nonsensical-seeming rule of seasons?

She knows only one way to avoid catastrophe, falsehood and marriage: surrendering herself to the Forest Witch. Not even for his daughter will the king risk angering the feared but necessary master of briars, protector of forests and abductor of women.

Constance expects a lifetime’s bondage to a dangerous witch, freeing her cousin to inherit Blackvale’s throne. The witch has other ideas…

She owns no place in a world ruled by sacred seasons, and even a witch’s tower must be more welcoming of a princess whose heart beats unknowable.

Continue reading “Fiction: Bones of Green and Hearts of Gold”