Demisexual Writing Tips

Posted October 28, 2016 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Ace & Aro Studies / 0 Comments

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Last night, I did a short(?) series of tweets discussing tips on how to write demisexual characters in your fiction. Those tweets have been storyfied here. WHOOHOO! The tweets focus on how to write demisexual protagonists, though it’s probably general enough to give you an idea on how to write any kind of demisexual. (That said, less screen space and no pov time makes it really hard to show a character as explicitly demisexual, so my recommendation would be that, if you want to include demi representation in your stories, make it a prominent character, so you have the space needed to explore how demisexuality works.)

And because I tend to write out longer tweet threads/storms like this before I start tweeting, here’s the original too. It’s slightly different at points because I do rephrase a little as I tweet, usually to allow for the character limit, but it’s effectively the same thing.

tl;dr best tip version: Let characters become firm friends first and then slowly layer in your demisexual character’s sexual attraction. Layer it. Also read the linked tumblr posts on how to avoid invalidating other ace spec sexualities and, when you’re looking for sensitivity readers don’t forget about the rest of the spectrum. Everyone will have something valuable to say about how you handle it!

Demi writing tips? Meep! Demi writing tips! I figured I’d try my hand at giving some, since it was mentioned to me as a topic of interest.

Okay, so. First off, I want to link a couple of tumblr posts discussing demi rep in stories. I like them & encourage you to explore further.

No, actually, FIRST off, I am just one person! Our experiences are many and varied. Ask multiple demis AND ACES for their thoughts.

The asexual spectrum is, well, a spectrum, so if you can get opinions from across it, do. It’ll show you angles you might miss otherwise. Read this. Please, read it before writing demi characters.

It is REALLY REALLY EASY to write demi rep that invalidates asexual readers by accident, so be careful of that.

This is also part of why I suggested you ask opinions across the spectrum. Different people notice different things and all.

I remember being really happy with the way “Stranger” (Smith & Brown) depicted Mia’s demisexuality because it felt familiar to me.

But I also saw discussions from ace readers who felt erased and hurt by the way the book handled Mia discovering sexual attraction.

Honestly, the book handles it by going Suddenly Sexual Attraction with seemingly little build-up to that. It’s like a switch was flipped.

And that can be how it works for people! But in stories you may want to go for a slow and gradual build-up.

That means: be very, VERY aware of the craft aspects of presenting sexual attraction. Know how writing sexual attraction works.

If you do that you can write it as a friendship story and slowly interweave more and more markers of sexual attraction into your demi’s pov.

And then, when that big realisation/climactic scene comes, the character may be really surprised, but the reader (hopefully) won’t be!

Also bear in mind that a demisexual who realises they have sexual attraction to someone they’re close to doesn’t feel the same for stranger.

That realisation is not a case of Suddenly Demisexuals Feel Sexual Attraction To Strangers. We don’t. So don’t write it.

Demisexuals who struggle with innuendo etc may find it slightly easier to follow and understand because of personal experience, though.

Wait. Sorry. I was still supposed to be on the link giving stage. (Disclaimer: Some of my reviews are quoted in the next link.)

Here’s one that looks at patterns in rep:

So there are some patterns in how writers have written demisexual characters in fiction. I love practical examples! Read books with rep!

Also read reviews of those books by demisexuals and asexuals to see what we make of the rep.

After all, just because representation exists, doesn’t mean we think it’s good! Or that we agree on the quality!

And that is me out of links, actually, so back to my thoughts on how to write demi rep. And musings on how I’m tackling DemiPrincess.

For those who don’t know, DemiPrincess is my demisexual fantasy romance WIP. I adore the characters way too much. But that’s not important.

Originally, I envisioned DemiPrincess as a stand-alone novel of between 60-80K words. ‘cause that’s somewhere around romance length, afaik.

I also envisioned it covering… about eight years? Maybe a bit more? YOU CAN PROBABLY SEE WHERE THIS IS GOING.

8 years of relationship is a LOT to cram into an 80K story.

And, indeed, by the time I got to nearly 40K, I had covered, like, TWO MONTHS and, like, TWO MEETINGS. So. Uh. Yeah. Kind of a problem.

Solution? Don’t cram it into a book. Give it time to breathe. Write a friendship book. Maybe two friendship books. Make it gradual.

Oh. Also relevant! It’s a demi/allo romance, so I can contrast how Felicity and how Fíli experience attractions, so you could also do that.

Anyway! Don’t be afraid to take longer to let the romance develop if that’s what works for the story. Demis can need longer too, after all.

Focus on the friendship. Because emotional connections are so important to demisexuals, make that bond front and centre to their experience.

Re-envisioned, I project DemiPrincess will be 3 (maybe more) novels of 60-80K to give it room to breathe.

And at least 2 of those novels will be primarily about growing friendships. Because we need more of those. ^_^

And, bear in mind, this is for when your story focuses on demi characters. Not when they’re secondary ones.

Secondary ones are trickier since they’re often not pov characters and have less screen time, so the subtle, gradual route may not work well.

Try to be a bit more in-your-face about it, if possible, I think. If you can’t go subtle, go obvious.

And, anyway, if you thought there was little explicit ace rep, there’s even less explicit demi rep. So people will appreciate using labels.

As in ‘use the labels in the story itself’. We’re pretty good at using it OUTSIDE the story, after all. Self-ID is VERY powerful to read!

Beyond that… Don’t stress too much. We’re people, so write your demi character like they’re a person, not a set of traits.

Is this helpful? I fail at concrete, practical and general suggestions, sorry, so I hope it’s helpful!

Last year I did a thing wherein I read all my demi rep books in rapid succession and discuss them.

I can’t find any posts where I talked about the findings specifically, though. And, anyway, I have more books now.

And 4 is not a good sample size anyway, so I want to look at it in more depth over the course of at least next year.

But something I noticed just from getting book recs? Writers seem to focus on writing non-heteroromantic relationships.

Hetrom demi rep exists! Just they’re outnumbered, afaik. I think most of the books on my list are m/m. So maybe also take note of that?

And consider getting sensitivity readers for your story! I know I hinted at that, but I figured I’d spell that one out here to be safe. ^_^

Um. I think that is me out of ideas for now? Again, I hope it was helpful to someone! ^_^

Also again: I’m just one person with one experience to share/draw on. Do research! Ask more people for ideas and thoughts!


(Well, okay, I obvs also draw on other experiences, but they are not my personal experiences.)