This is a submission for the September 2019 Carnival of Aros “Aromanticism and Fiction”.
I’ve written about aromanticism and fiction multiple times on this blog before. Here are some examples (with the caveat that these posts are 2-7 years old and may not reflect my current views):
“WHAT THE HELL: An Aromantic (Moi) Thinks There Aren’t Enough (Villainous) Alloromantic Characters in Fiction”
The Valley of Life and Death: An Wuxia Novel with a Female Protagonist who May Be Aro-Ace
An Aromantic Reads Wuxia
Female Characters – Without the Romance
An Aromantic Reader and Fictional Romances
Aces Become Sex Gurus; Aromantics Become Romance Gurus; (& Bonus Mini-Linkspam)
Almost all of the above posts – and any other posts I’ve written about aromanticism in fiction – have been written as a reader/critic. I suppose that since I have written fanfic with aromantic themes, I could write from that perspective instead, but I don’t feel like it right now.
Therefore, for this post, I am going to RELEASE SOME PLOT BUNNIES!
Like many (most?) avid readers of fiction, I sometimes get ideas for creating my own fictional stories. Almost none of these ever become anything more than daydreams. There is a particular set of story ideas which have been marinating in my daydreams for at least a year, but given that I have yet to make the slightest attempt to write a story based on them, I think the odds are low that I will ever turn them into a properly written work of fiction. I’m going to try to describe these ideas in the post (at least the ones related to aromanticism) as an example of the type of fiction one specific aro reader (me) dreams about.
The story would be in the xuanhuan genre. It would start at some school of magic, and the antagonist would arrange for the protagonist to be unjustly expelled from the school because the antagonist is in love with someone (nope, I have not worked out the details). Protagonist would very outraged and upset, and also baffled by why the antagonist would do this.
Yes, this would be a story in which not only would the antagonist have an abundance of romantic feelings, romance would motivate/justify many of her villainous actions. Her one true love would also be a villain, and their love would eventually be mutually requited, and they will use The Power of Love to do horrible things. Yes, this would affirm that Romantic Love Is Powerful, yet demonstrate that power can be used for bad purposes.
As I play with the idea of how to develop an antagonist-antagonist romance, I run against the issue that is mentioned in this comment, that writing a halfway decent romance arc requires a higher level of character development than many villains receive. Thus, giving the antagonists a romance subplot of any significance would force me to develop their characters to some degree.
Our protagonist, being unfairly expelled, would have to return to her parents, whom she does not get along with well. My idea of the protagonists’ parents are heavily inspired by the famous Taiwanese novel Yānyǔ Méng Méng / Fire and Rain by Chiung Yao. It is a “romance” novel in which the protagonist is so bad at handling personal relationships that her boyfriend breaks up with her THE END (though the 1980s TV adaptation changes the ending to suggest that her boyfriend changes his mind and comes back). In Yānyǔ Méng Méng, the protagonist’s father is a fallen warlord who has had many concubines, including the protagonist’s mother. The protagonist believes for a long time that a) her father has never felt romantic love for any woman and b) her mother was possibly in love with someone else before her father forced her to become his concubine. It is eventually revealed that the father is still passionately in love with a woman he knew in his youth, and only man that her mother was ever in love with is in fact her father, that she willingly became his concubine, and even after years of neglect and abuse she is still in love with him. This is interrelated with the protagonist’s own (messed up) romantic life (did I mention that this is a ‘romance’ novel which ends with a break-up?)
In my story, the protagonist’s father would also be some type of fallen warlord, but instead of it being a dramatic reveal that the father is obsessively in love with some woman he knew a long time ago, and that her mother’s one true love is her father, these would be things the protagonist knows. And the protagonist will find both of these facts baffling. And it will tie into the protagonists bafflement over the antagonist getting her expelled ‘for the sake of love’.
In this universe, and important part of developing magical abilities is having the courage to face things which make one uncomfortable and to submit oneself to the unknown. The protagonist does not want to pity herself forever, so she resolves to develop her magical potential without formal education. And she recognizes that something which makes her uncomfortable and she does not know is romance. Therefore, she reckons the best way to develop herself magically – and to figure out what the heck romance is and why is makes people act so strangely – is to apprentice herself as a matchmaking magician.
Learning ‘love’ magic for her is very, very hard. She tries to break down romance into components that she can understand, she tries to figure out what makes some romantic relationships work better than others, she struggles to get a grip on what ‘romance’ actually is. She is disturbed by the possibility that ‘love’ magic could make someone fall in love when they were not already in love. Eventually, she actually becomes one of the most effective ‘love’ magicians in the land, and sought after because she is known for results. Yet even at this point, she has never felt the stir of romantic feelings in herself.
It does not click for the protagonist that she is aromantic until she encounters a few other people who also never feel romantic feelings. But when it clicks, it really clicks for her, and she becomes very interested in creating a community for aromantic people.
And guess what? All of this would just be the first major story arc. I love novel which go on for over a thousand pages, so there would be more story arcs as the protagonist develops her personal potential, though I guess the later story arcs would have less to do with aromanticism. Meanwhile, the antagonist will also be growing more powerful, and doing increasingly horrible things, especially as her romance develops. The protagonist would try to stop the antagonist from doing horrible things. Thus, the overall story would actually about the rivalry of the protagonist and the antagonist as they both become increasingly powerful, and the story would end in some kind of showdown between the two.
It was fun for me to write some of these story ideas out, and I hope you enjoyed reading about them. If you are also an aro who likes reading fiction, would this kind of story appeal to you? (though maybe you aren’t nearly as fond of 1000+ page novels as I am)
This is a wonderful and interesting story idea for an aromantic protagonist. I’m curious though if in your vision she’d be allosexual aro, or aroace. I feel like it would matter for the details of which parts confuse in which ways… although the topic could also be avoided and not all aros classify their sexual orientation at all…
In my vision, this story would avoid addressing sexuality as much as possible, which means that her sexual orientation (and other characters’ sexual orientations) would never be explicitly defined. Thus, no explicit asexual representation, but the lack of sex would make the story ace-friendly.
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