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”

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”

Fiction: Like the Other Prince, Part Three

Cartoon-style illustration of shrubs, roses and grasses growing against a grey stone wall. Scene is overlaid with the mint/light mint/white/light pink/pink stripes of the abro pride flag. The text Marchverse sits across the image in a white, fantasy-style type.

(In Which Harper Can’t Avoid Nevo’s Questions)

Be sensible,” Mama says, “or be dead.”

Harper Mitzin Seili is many things: fashionable, witty, queer. Cautious … not so much. Nonetheless, life as a tavern server on the working side of Ihrne’s dividing wall demands preparation and limitation. He obeys the rules that matter. He remembers what Mama sacrificed for his chance to live as a man. Besides: the end-of-war Proclamations, issued in the name of Ihrne’s trans crown prince, promise a new, better world. A world in which safety doesn’t require his rejecting connection, intimacy and that shifting, nebulous thing called “attraction”.

But when the Traditionalists take up violence in protest of noble-issued laws, Harper’s risky ventures and glib tongue don’t just fail to steer him out of trouble: they destroy the life he and Mama spent two years building. He can stay and suffer at the hands of his neighbours … or begin anew in another place, under another name. A place where he must now submit to every restriction Mama, in her fears for him, deems “safe” and “sensible”.

A third way exists for Harper, if only he dares break Mama’s foremost rule … and several of his own.

Why must he exchange one set of expectations for another? Why can’t he pick what suits him from a wealth of possibilities and craft a masculinity that’s uniquely Harper?

Continue reading “Fiction: Like the Other Prince, Part Three”

Fiction: Like the Other Prince, Part Two

Cartoon-style illustration of shrubs, roses and grasses growing against a grey stone wall. Scene is overlaid with the mint/light mint/white/light pink/pink stripes of the abro pride flag. The text Marchverse sits across the image in a white, fantasy-style type.

(In Which Harper Is Not Actually Fine)

Be sensible,” Mama says, “or be dead.”

Harper Mitzin Seili is many things: fashionable, witty, queer. Cautious … not so much. Nonetheless, life as a tavern server on the working side of Ihrne’s dividing wall demands preparation and limitation. He obeys the rules that matter. He remembers what Mama sacrificed for his chance to live as a man. Besides: the end-of-war Proclamations, issued in the name of Ihrne’s trans crown prince, promise a new, better world. A world in which safety doesn’t require his rejecting connection, intimacy and that shifting, nebulous thing called “attraction”.

But when the Traditionalists take up violence in protest of noble-issued laws, Harper’s risky ventures and glib tongue don’t just fail to steer him out of trouble: they destroy the life he and Mama spent two years building. He can stay and suffer at the hands of his neighbours … or begin anew in another place, under another name. A place where he must now submit to every restriction Mama, in her fears for him, deems “safe” and “sensible”.

A third way exists for Harper, if only he dares break Mama’s foremost rule … and several of his own.

Hindsight offers only the obvious: a man with too stiff a spine to kneel, too glib a tongue to grovel and too weak an arm to fight has no business making himself available to those wishing harm.

Continue reading “Fiction: Like the Other Prince, Part Two”

Fiction: Like the Other Prince, Part One

Cartoon-style illustration of shrubs, roses and grasses growing against a grey stone wall. Scene is overlaid with the mint/light mint/white/light pink/pink stripes of the abro pride flag. The text Marchverse sits across the image in a white, fantasy-style type.

(In Which Harper Can’t Talk His Way Out of Trouble)

Be sensible,” Mama says, “or be dead.”

Harper Mitzin Seili is many things: fashionable, witty, queer. Cautious … not so much. Nonetheless, life as a tavern server on the working side of Ihrne’s dividing wall demands preparation and limitation. He obeys the rules that matter. He remembers what Mama sacrificed for his chance to live as a man. Besides: the end-of-war Proclamations, issued in the name of Ihrne’s trans crown prince, promise a new, better world. A world in which safety doesn’t require his rejecting connection, intimacy and that shifting, nebulous thing called “attraction”.

But when the Traditionalists take up violence in protest of noble-issued laws, Harper’s risky ventures and glib tongue don’t just fail to steer him out of trouble: they destroy the life he and Mama spent two years building. He can stay and suffer at the hands of his neighbours … or begin anew in another place, under another name. A place where he must now submit to every restriction Mama, in her fears for him, deems “safe” and “sensible”.

A third way exists for Harper, if only he dares break Mama’s foremost rule … and several of his own.

If Mama trusts him to lie about a betrothal to a girl in Astreut, why can’t she also trust him to decide when to risk participating in a world void of safety?

Continue reading “Fiction: Like the Other Prince, Part One”

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”

Patreon Exclusive: Getting to Be

Cartoon-style illustration of shrubs, roses and grasses growing against a grey stone wall. Scene is overlaid with the mint/light mint/white/light pink/pink stripes of the abro pride flag. The text Marchverse sits across the image in a white, fantasy-style type.

Even in Ihrne, young men idle together about the street, but something so ordinary becomes even more complicated when Harper learns why Mama wishes him to befriend anyone but Nevolin ein Yinne.

He’s never understood why people treat attraction as so powerful, constant and all-encompassing that it must be indulged beyond rationality.

Setting: Marchverse, two years before the beginning of the war referenced in Their Courts of Crows. The Different in Other Ways stories introduce a brand-new set of characters and circumstances; readers don’t need any familiarity with my other works.

Getting to Be takes place some days after Men Bound by Blood but, due to change of narrator, can (probably) be read with no prior knowledge of the first three stories. Readers should note, however, that this piece isn’t a stand-alone. In other words: many questions are raised, few are answered.

Content Advisory: References to classism; references to misogyny, cissexism, and heterosexism; casual references to sex and sexual attraction; casual references to romance, kissing and dating; vague/veiled/non-specific references to self-harm; casual references to blood, death, necromancy and decomposition.

Links: Series Master Post | Patreon

Previous: Booksellers Who Know Things | Men Bound by Blood | Jeile

Length: 3, 101 words.

Continue for Story Excerpt