Damien, what do you think of tumblr romanticization of Persephone and Ades' myth? Like he basically kidnapped and rape is implied, but at the same time tumblr seems to make it the most beautiful love story of Ancient Greece...
WARNING: I’ll try to be brief because this is a topic for actual discussions and tumblr is not a classroom, I just came back and I have other stuff to do soon, so I’ll simplify a lot.
OFC there is stuff to add that I were in a class but here is not the place to discuss. So I’ll make it very skinny and very rushed, forgive me if I don’t put all the precisations of the case.
Myths and stories are products of their own time, so we cannot value them or judge them through our present values. It’d be ahistorical and intellectually incorrect. There are behaviors that are universally and timelessly (more or less, let’s say since the birth of society) considered wrong (eg - murder without an accepted cause, cannibalism, necrophilia, incest, “kinslaying”). There are instead a long series of things that were considered right or not bad for a long time and that we had to learn were wrong (racism, sexism). This is why speaking in modern terms in first world countries it is a bit… laughable. A lot of mess with this myth comes to the fact that our definition of rape is (THANKS GOD) a lot wider than Ancient Greek one.
Since we do not regard women as properties or “gifts” to be handled, but as human beings, rape becomes a violation of their body and sexual autonomy. But Greeks had a fairly different view of women and rape was more seen as “spoiling” a good to be solve and its emotional burden seems to be taken into consideration only with Virgins or Virginal-connected figures (nymphs, Artemis’ companions…) . And the shame was to be undone with marriage
(we return to that later)
Greek society was not particullarly advanced on the whole misoginy thing. There are many good articles about the feminine monsters of mythology as warnings to man against Impure Women, while most male monsters were warnings against the animalistic nature of humanity in general. Bejor explained that well imho, if you find it online. Marina Cavalli, who taught and I think still teaches Ancient Greek Civilization in Milan, during a conference of violence in 2013 once pointed out that a big portion of greek myths and therefore foundation narratives and sacrality aspects and rituals are born from rape.(I FOUND A PIECE OF IT ONLINE IF YOU WANT TO CLICK - If you understand Italian I always advice her, because she is immensely bright and a pleasure to listen to). Although for example Mary R. Lefowitz says it would be unfair to call greeks misoginistic when they aknowledged the role of women for example in the family and the cults and reprimands us on a very impoverished and weaker vision of women in greek society.
It’s not a case that myths that portray a negative, anger reaction from women to violence usually end up representing one of those above mentioned huge taboos (killing or cannibalism), because women were very rarely seen as member of society with actual dignity and rights, their anger was basically considered always animalistic, inhuman and therefore “of course” they would break terrible taboos. OFC different city-state held different rules, the condition of the women in Sparta vs in Athens was… absurdly different, but in general we do have to admit Greek myths can be for our modern standard pretty misoginistic. This is also for psychological reasons that are not hard to guess, there is a lot of talk in Psychology of Art in the ancient art department about how women with powers/witches are often connected to the dark side of the “magic of life”, of the womb, that can bring so much joy but that was such a mystery.
Now, there are possible reaction to violence in greek myths:
the negative reaction of revenge (50 Daughters of Danaus);
the reaction of avoidance/metamorphosis (Daphne) ;
the positive reaction in which she marries and joins the kidnapper (option c) (also Sabynes);
Cavalli refers suicide but I feel like that could fall into avoidance/metamorphosis for this brief sunto since she considers them parallels herself - also she omits wedding as it would “undo retroactively the rape” for greek standards, but we put it for love of completeness.
Persephone choses the C which is society’s favorite. Which doesn’t make it immediately good, but just socially accept and in Ancient Greece view it turns the violence retroactively to, simply, pre-marital consumption of the marital vows.
BUT then again, this is if the violence preceeds the marriage, while - given Ancient Greece has no concept of marital rape - there are elements in the myth that speak to us of the thing as an actual wedding. Not a violence after turned into marriage.
Hades’ marriage starts connotated in our eyes as a kidnapping made heavier as there are elements that do suggest a sexual act(the pomegranate is a sexual symbol, it does have not only the sexual connotation allowed to most fruits, but it’s also red, bloody) (remember this for later), although this does not mean that the myth is about rape, as myths have symbolic meanins and also contain elements from tropes and traditions (in this case tied to marriage and perception of female body integrity) that were for their civilization clear but can escape our eyes.
kelsey! happy pride! i wanted to let you know i'm offering Her Name in the Sky for free right now, in case any of your followers might want it (especially since it can be hard to buy lgbt books if you're not out). there's a post on my page about it if anyone wants the coupon. hope you're having a super super super super super gayyyy month!
Hey friend! That makes me so excited and I will find it now!
*GUYS! I have read this book and it is a beautiful story! Get it while you can* ❤️
Today at Nabra’s vigil in Reston, VA her cousin came up and said that the one thing she wants us to remember about Nabra is that she is a Black Nubian Muslim and that we should say her name. She repeated this twice. Out of all of the beautiful stories shared by her friends and family this was one that stuck out to me the most. May Allah have mercy on her soul and all other souls lost to injustice. Rest In Paradise Nabra.
I also love how Black Panther looks set to have the strongest representation of women in any Marvel movie by far
I mean five named women, one of whom is well over 50?
Tell me what Marvel movie even comes close to that; who has even attempted????
it’s rare for them to scrape together as many as three White women (who dont interact) in one movie, much less a cast of powerful, well-rounded Black women who are fighters, inventors, sisters, mothers, rulers…
and who will obviously interact and speak with one another onscreen!! it’s awesome and after seeing Creed/Bianca and knowing what a beautiful love story Ryan Coogler can direct, with really strong respect and love for the leading lady, Im so excited for this movie!
Hey, you're awesome, thanks for existing, basically ^_^ Anyway, I wanted to know if you have any tips on how to write different personalities? My characters (all of them) always end up with the same default personality that I fall back on. Thanks!
Thanks for your question, darling! I think most of us have struggled with this – after all, we’re conditioned to one way of thinking, feeling, and acting for as long as we live. That doesn’t necessarily mean we write characters like ourselves, though. In fact, many of us have a “default character” that’s sassier than we are, sweeter than we are, or in some way different enough from us that we still feel like we’re writing a character.
The problem, then, isn’t that we can’t visualize a different personality than ours. On the whole, we can. What we’re missing are the small details that make it feel whole – otherwise, it’s like painting the same room six different colors and trying to pass it off as six different rooms. Different dominant traits can’t hide the fact that you’re working with one template!
So the question we’re left with: what are the traits we’re missing? And how can we change them to create a unique and whole personality?
Three Types of Character Traits
There are, as the title suggests, three major categories of personality traits as I see it: fundamental traits, acquired traits, and detrimental traits. A well-rounded character needs some of each to be three-dimensional and realistic.
The fundamental traits of a person’s character are not as simple as interests and preferences; they are the very base of all decisions and desires. They are either learned in early life or developed over a long period of time, rooting deeply into the personality. A few examples of fundamental personality traits include:
Upbringing – The word choice here is conscious, as upbringing encompasses many different aspects of a person’s development. Consider who raised them, and with what morals and practices they were raised to adulthood. Consider their influences, both familial, social, and in media; consider the relationships that were normalized during their development, as well as the living conditions (financially, emotionally, environmentally, etc.). The people, places, emotions, and conflicts made common during a person’s developmental period are essential to their personality in adulthood. This is why psychologists often draw present-day problems back to a person’s childhood memories – because those formative years can subconsciously dictate so much of a person’s future!
Values – These may not coincide with the values a person is raised to hold, but upbringing certainly has an influence on this. A person’s values will direct the course of their life through every decision, large and small. You don’t need to outline everything your character believes is important – every moral and every law they agree/disagree with. But those values which stand above others will give your character purpose. A few of my favorite examples are: Jane from Jane the Virgin (whose initial storyline is heavily based on her religion and desire for a beautiful love story, as well as her childhood influences who inspired these values) and Han Solo from Star Wars (whose character development rested upon his values shifting from money and gratification to more honorable things).
Beliefs – Different from values, beliefs are a more general set of guidelines for how a person believes things are supposed to be. Beliefs can also be a source of great conflict, as a character tries to stay aligned with their beliefs despite other values or desires. These beliefs can be established systems, like religion or politics; they can also include more personal belief systems, like nihilism or veganism. A characters beliefs, like their values, can change over the course of the story – but even if a character is questioning one system of belief, like religion or pacifism, they should have other belief systems in place to govern some of their activity.
Reputation – A lot of human activity, whether consciously or not, is dictated by how others perceive them (or how they believe others perceive them). There are two types of reputation: personal and passing. For instance, a woman named Sally who gains a personalreputation of sleeping around will behave in reaction to this reputation – either sleeping around because everyone already expects it of her, or specifically not hooking up because she wants to shake this reputation, or developing a thicker skin to deal with the rumors until it passes. A man named Billy who, because of his tattoos, bears a passing reputation as an intimidating man will either try to soften his demeanor with strangers, own up to the image, or at least learn to expect judgment from strangers as a consequence.
Self-Image – Also relevant to a person’s behavior is the way they perceive themselves, which can often have little to do with their reputation. A lot of self-image is based on definitive moments or phases in the past. For instance: for several years after I started wearing contacts and cutting my hair, I still saw myself, in dreams at night, with long hair and glasses. One of my friends, similarly, could not seem to notice when boys would flirt with her during sophomore year – because she still saw herself as an awkward middle schooler with braces, and not as the charming cheerleader with the great smile. Inversely, self-image can be inflated, causing character to behave as though they are funnier, smarter, or more prepared than they truly are (see: the rest of my sophomore acquaintances). This can be an overlooked character flaw opportunity – or flawportunity…
Now we move on to the acquired traits of personality, which are the ones you’re more likely to find on a character sheet or a list of “10 Questions for Character Development”, alongside a million other things like their zodiac sign and their spirit animal. But the traits I’m about to outline are a little more relevant to a character’s behavior, and more importantly, how to make this behavior unique from other characters’ behavior. The following traits will be learned by your characters throughout their life (and their story), and are more likely to shift and grow with time:
Interests – I know, I had to reach deep down into my soul to think of this one. But it’s true! Interests, both in childhood/adolescence and in adulthood, are an important part of a character’s personality and lifestyle. Childhood interests both reveal something about the character (for instance: my nephew loves trains, Legos, and building, suggesting a future interest in construction or engineering) and create values that can last for a lifetime. Current interests affect career choice, social circles, and daily activity for everyone. Forgotten or rejected interests can be the source of pet peeves, fears, or bad memories. There’s a reason I’ll never play with Polly Pockets again, and it 100% has to do with bloody fingertips and a purse that wouldn’t open.
Sense of Humor – This can be a little hard to define, understandably. If you were to ask me what my sense of humor is, I’d probably start with a few stupid memes, pass by Drake & Josh on the way, and somehow wind up telling you bad puns or quoting Chelsea Peretti’s standup comedy. A person’s sense of humor can be complex and contradictory! Sometimes we just laugh at stuff because someone said it in a funny way. But anyway, to help you boil this down to something useful: take a look at a few kinds of comedy and relate it to your character’s maturity level. Do they laugh when someone lets out a toot? Are they the kind of person to mutter, “That’s what she said,” or simply try not to laugh when something sounds dirty? Can puns make them crack a smile? Do they like political humor? Do cat videos kill them? Is their humor particularly dark? Can the mere sound of someone else laughing make them laugh? Figure out where your character’s sense of humor is, and you’ll feel closer to them already.
Pet Peeves – For every interest a person may have, and everything that makes them laugh, there’s something else that can piss them off, large- or small-scale. Are they finnicky about their living space and neatness? Do they require a lot of privacy? Do certain sounds or behaviors drive them crazy? What qualities are intolerable in a romantic interest for them? What kind of comments or beliefs make them roll their eyes? If you need help, just try imagining their worst enemy – someone whose every word or action elicits the best eye-rolls and sarcastic remarks and even a middle finger or two – and ask yourself, what about this person makes them that mortal enemy? What behaviors or standards make them despicable to your character? That’s all it takes.
Skills – Everybody has them, and they’re not just something we’re born with. Skills can be natural talent, sure, but they’re also cultivated from time, values, and interests. What is your character okay at? What are they good at? What are they fantastic at? Maybe they can cook. Maybe they have a beautiful eye for colors. Maybe they have an inherent sense of right and wrong that others admire. Maybe they’re super-athletic or incredibly patient or sharp as a tack or sweet as a cupcake. Maybe they know how to juggle, or maybe they’re secretly the most likely of all their friends to survive a zombie apocalypse. Where do they shine? What would make someone look at them and think, “Wow, I wish I were them right now”?
Desires – A good way to “separate” one character from the next is to define what it is they want, and then use every other detail to dictate how they pursue that goal. Every real person has a desire, whether they’ve defined it or not – whether it’s something huge, like fame or a family of five with triplet girls and a beach house on an island, or something small, like good grades for the semester. These desires can cause a person to revise their values or forsake their morals; and these desires can conflict with other people’s desires, influencing how people interact with each other. Remember that every character is living their own story, even if it’s not the story you’re telling.
Communication Style – A majorly overlooked character trait in pop fiction is unique communication styles. Having every character feel comfortable arguing, or bursting out with the words, “I love you,” is unrealistic. Having every character feel paralyzed at the idea of confronting a bully or being honest to their spouse is also unrealistic. There should be a healthy mix of communicators in a group of characters. Some people are too softspoken to mouth off at their racist lab partner. Some people wouldn’t see their girlfriend kissing another guy and just walk away without saying something. Some people just don’t react to conflict by raising their voice; some people enjoy sharing their opinions or giving the correct answer in class. Boldness, social skills, and emotional health all have a part to play in how people communicate their thoughts – so keep this in mind to create a more realistic, consistent character.
Emotional Expression – Along the same lines but not the same, emotional expression is more focal on feelings than thoughts. If you’ve ever heard of the fight-or-flight response, the different types of anger, the stages of grief, or the five love languages, then you’re aware of different “classifications” of emotional expression and management. Read up on some of those things, and think about how your character handles emotions like happiness, sadness, fear, anger, loneliness, paranoia, and so forth.
While acquired traits are certainly more enjoyable to brainstorm during the creation process, detrimental traits are as important – or even more important – to the character’s wholeness as well as their role in the story. Not only do these negative or limiting traits make your character realistic, relatable, and conflicted – they create a need for other characters and their strengths to move the plot forward. A few examples of detrimental traits include:
Flaws – Character flaws are probably the first thing that came to your mind while reading this, but they’re the essence of the category. Flaws in a character’s personality, morality, or behavior can be a source of character development; they set an individual on their own path and provide a unique motivation for them. Having Character A struggle with sobriety while Character B learns to be a more patient mother can do a lot to separate their stories and personalities from each other. Even if certain flaws don’t reach a point of growth, they create a third aspect to personality and force us, as writers, to be more creative with how our characters get from Point A to Point B, and what they screw up along the way.
Fears – Everyone has fears, whether we’re conscious of them or not – and I’m not talking about phobias or “things that give you shivers”. Just like everyone has a primary motivation throughout life (romance, family, success, meaning, peace of mind, etc.), everyone has a fear behind that motivation (loneliness, failure, emptiness, anxiety). We all have something we don’t want to happen– places we never want to be and things we never want to do. We’ve all been in situations that mildly bothered others but wildly affected us at the same time. For me, it’s a lack of autonomy, or in any way being forced to do something or be somewhere against my will. What does this mean for me? It means that when other people have nightmares about being chased by an axe murderer, I have nightmares about being kidnapped and locked up. It means that I’m continually aware of my “escape plan” if something goes wrong in my living situation, and I’m hypersensitive to someone telling me, “You have to do this.” It means I struggle to follow rules and usually don’t get along with authority figures because I have to assert my independence to them. It’s irrational and continual and doesn’t just affect me in one situation; it subconsciously directs my steps if I let it. That’s how real, guttural fears work. Phobias are only skin deep, and they don’t make you feel any closer to the character.
Secrets – Even goody two-shoes Amber from the swim team, with her blonde blonde hair and her good good grades, has a secret. Everybody does, even if it’s not a purposeful, “I have a deep, dark secret,” sort of secret. We have things we don’t tell people, just because they’re embarrassing, or painful, or too deep to get into, or they don’t paint us in a good light. While the secrets themselves tell a lot about a person, so do the reasons a person keeps a secret. Hiding something out of shame suggests a person is prideful, or critical of themselves, or holds themselves to a higher standard than they hold others. Hiding something painful suggests that the person struggles to handle sadness or regret, or that they feel uncomfortable showing raw emotion in front of loved ones. And so on and so forth.
Conflict – Whether internal, interpersonal, legal, moral, societal, or what have you, conflict will limit your character’s actions at every turn. A story is nothing without conflict driving the plot in different directions and causing your character to rethink both their plans and their lifestyle. Without Katniss’s moral conflict over killing other tributes, The Hunger Games would be the story of a girl who entered an arena, killed a lot of people, and lived the rest of her life rich and comfortable. If Luke Skywalker didn’t have interpersonal conflict with Darth Vader, Star Wars would be the war-story of a guy who joined a rebellion and then… yeah.
Health – Physical, mental, and emotional health is a huge limiting factor for characters that often goes untouched, but it’s valuable nonetheless. Not everyone has a clean bill of health and can jump off trains without pulling a muscle, go through a traumatic life experience without any hint of depression or anxiety, or watch a loved one die in gunfire and shove right on without emotional repercussions. Consider creating a character who’s not perfect – who isn’t perfectly in-shape or abled, or neurotypical or stable day-to-day, or completely clean and clear of residual heartache, unhealthy relationships, or bad emotional habits. Don’t define them by these traits, of course – but don’t feel that you can’t write a character with health issues without writing a “sick character.”
So this post got ridiculously long, but I hope it works as a reference for you when creating unique characters. Remember that you don’t need to outline all of this information to create an individual, realistic character. These are just some relevant ideas to get you started! It’s up to you, as the writer, to decide what’s necessary and what’s excessive for your creative process.
Still, I hope a majority of this is helpful to you! If you have any more questions, be sure to send them in and we’ll get back to you :) Good luck!
SARAH’S WOMB:a creative project of Black-Jewish solidarity
sarah’s womb is a collective, digital zine being curated by dia ( @blackamydunne ) and sefa ( @hintele ). we are looking for art, photography, poetry, short prose, personal stories, and any other forms of self-expression that can be published in a digital zine, and we’re looking for them from black people, jewish people, and black jewish people.
the histories and experiences of the black and jewish peoples often sing similar tunes, even if in different voices. we are resilient peoples who constantly fight for justice, who have experienced unspeakable hardships, and who have unique, beautiful stories to tell.
sarah’s womb will be a collective story told in several parts:
i. love (might include: romantic love, friendship, family, love for humanity, etc)
ii. loss (might include: loss of loved ones, loss of agency/opportunity, loss of knowledge, loss of home, etc)
iii. culture / traditions
iv. body / self (might include: work discussing how being black and/or jewish has shaped your view of yourself/your body)
vi. justice (might include: work highlighting the historical coalitions between black people and jewish people, histories of standing up for what is right, current political commentary)
vii. solidarity and togetherness
these are intentionally broad, general topics so that your artwork isn’t restrained by parameters that would prevent you from telling your own personal story. the examples given above are just that – examples.
if you have any work that you would like to create or submit for sarah’s womb, please check that it fits the following guidelines and submit it to us!
-we are looking for content from any and all sorts of jewish people, but we are not interested in receiving, reading, or publishing work that is in defense of the illegitimate settler-colonial state of israel. additionally, we are not looking for content from Black Hebrew Israelites that denies the legitimacy of the judaism of any jewish people.
-submissions that include any manner of racism or antisemitism will be rejected immediately and without ceremony. this is not a platform for discourse, hostility, or arguments between black and jewish people.
-please do not submit work that includes graphic imagery. please refrain from using slurs or nazi imagery, for example. [if you feel that your work CANNOT exist without one of these things please discuss it with us privately and we will decide how to proceed]
-prose fiction submissions cannot exceed 3,000 words
-work that uses the work of others MUST include sources (and permission, if necessary)
-work must be submitted by August 10, 2017, as we want to publish the zine by the end of the summer
for more information about us and about the zine, check out our about page. to submit work, go to our submissions page.
if you have any questions, please send them to our ask box, or ask either of us personally! we are so excited to put this project together and to share with the world the experiences, artwork, writing, and other works from people who are black and/or jewish.
nonblack gentiles are strongly encouraged to reblog this post so that we can spread the word and receive content from as many black and/or jewish people as we can!
Friendship Comes First: What (Good) Fanfiction Can Teach Us About the Romantic Subplot.
I love all forms of storytelling: television, books, movies, you name it. As long as it’s quality, its ripe for the picking.
It’s so easy for me to become engrossed in the lives and psychologies of fictitious characters, to care for them as though they’re people I really know. Which, on some metaphysical level, I suppose is true, but that’s a topic for another essay.
However, in the midst of all my possibly Asperger’s-fueled hyper-fixation and nerdery, there’s one inevitable aspect of seemingly every plot to which I will almost always role my eyes and click the fast-forward button: the goddamned romantic subplot.
So many times have I seen the exact same variation of romantic love between fifty homogeneous couples, and each time, I failed to see the appeal: in books, the smirking, obnoxious male love interest will woo the object of his desire through flagrant disrespect, the same toned bodies will copulate furiously on my television screens (typically at the exact same moment my parents or small siblings will walk into the room), the same vapid, flirtatious stares and generic dialogue will be exchanged.
But where’s the basis for it? Yes, these people are stressed to be attracted to one another to the point of obnoxiousness, but do they even like each other as individuals? Are they even friends? Is there any three-dimensionality to their relationship besides sizing each other up and deciding to bump uglies?
Simply and also sadly, the answer is very rarely. And so, it
seemed to me that romance was not my cup of tea, both in the
fictitious world and out of it. Or so it seemed.
Because it was then, at approximately seventeen, that I discovered
a remarkable phenomenon that would change my life forever:
Never before had I been so enraptured in the relationships of
fictional characters, and I was baffled as to why. Yes, I’ve
read a tremendous deal of fanfiction that is, in fact, book quality,
but as an avid bibliophile, I was perplexed as to why I’d never
been so captivated by the romantic endeavors of a published author as
I was by the passion-projects of writers not much older than I was.
After a lot of time, careful consideration, and the illuminating
words of some of my fellow bloggers, however, I believe I can finally
put words as to why.
1. Give your characters a narrative purpose (besides being The Love Interest.)
Do you ever wonder what inspires Supernatural fans
to tirelessly churn out fics about their favorite human-on-angel
pairing? I have, and this is someone who’s a proud proponent
of the stuff.
The sheer magnitude of free literature available, constantly repositing the
pair in all manor of situations and walks of life, is absolutely
baffling, and undeniably impressive. Indeed, some of the best works of romantic literature – and yes, I do consider fanfiction to be a form of literature – I have ever come across were starring none other than this specific pairing: from the infamous Twist and Shout (which I don’t recommend if you ever want to listen to Elvis Presley music, visit a beach, or feel joy ever again) to the charming Have Love, Will Travel (probably my personal favorite), some truly beautiful love stories have blossomed from a pairing that has never even been confirmed onscreen to have romantic connotations.
Perhaps just as baffling is the other end of the spectrum: Lisa Braeden. Lisa, for those unfamiliar, is basically posited as the love of Dean’s life, with whom he lived for a year before being forced to give up his dream of a family life and return to full-time demon busting. They’ve canonically kissed, had sex, shared a bed, and everything typically associated with an onscreen couple.
Yet comparatively no fanworks exist about them. When Lisa does appear in a fic, she is usual Castiel’s rival for Dean’s affections, or simply a hapless bystander.
Why is this? Well, a disillusioned observer might point to straight women’s apparent predilection towards fetishizing male homosexuality (I, for the record, am not straight myself; I’m a proud bisexual who, thus far, has only dated women.) I’m inclined to retort that this isn’t giving female fans nearly enough credit.
For starters, remove all context from each relationship and examine them with a critical eye: on the one hand, you have Castiel, Dean’s angelic savior from forty years in perdition. Castiel is clearly fascinated with Dean, appearing in his bedroom, somewhat suggestively (advertently or otherwise) inquiring about his dreams, watching him sleep, routinely invading his personal space, and ultimately rebelling against heaven in accordance with Dean’s wishes.
On the other hand, you have Lisa, a perfectly nice character who’s introduced as “the bendiest weekend of (Dean’s) life” and…well, that’s about it. She’s later shown as a sort of amalgamation of Dean’s subconscious desire for a mother figure and normal life, but she, as a character, remains somewhat underdeveloped and hollow.
You can’t expect fans to hold the two relationships to the same caliber and then cry internalized misogyny and fetishization of gay and bisexual men when they don’t.
The fact of the matter is, onscreen “friendships” are typically much more developed, much more three-dimensional, and much more ideal of what a truly epic romantic plot should be. A character with a clear place in the narrative and three dimensional characterization all their own will almost always be more charismatic than a character who’s introduced as exclusively The Love Interest.
This is not to say that what makes fanfiction so great is that it sexualizes or romanticizes friendship. In fact, I’m inclined to believe it’s the other way around.
Which brings me to my next point…
2. Make sure your characters are friends.
It’s a romance for the ages. A love like no other. They’re soulmates, yin and yang, a match made in the stars.
But do they enjoy each other’s company? Laugh at each other’s jokes? Take part in each other’s interests? Are they even friends?
The sad fact of the matter is, romance and erotica are, as a whole, starved for values of friendship and camaraderie.
This is something I realized only after my love of fanfiction took root, when I tried to return to my normal sources of adult entertainment (romance, erotica, and porn) and found them, by comparison, almost bafflingly lacking in warmth and camaraderie.
What I think makes fanfiction so addictive is the fact that it’s built upon the established relationships of two or more characters (the Onceler and company notwithstanding) who, typically, care for one another as friends and compatriots.
Look at some of the internet’s favorite pairings: Dean Winchester and Castiel remain a classic. Bucky Barnes and Steve Rogers are always crowd-pleasers. Kara Denvers and Lena Luthor are seeing a rise in popularity. We all know Sherlock has somewhat fallen from grace, but the union of its two main characters still retains a devoted following.
This is no accident: despite lacking onscreen confirmation, these characters have proven themselves to care for one another as more than objects of their sexual desire. They’re friends, with relationships based in loyalty and warmth that are, unfortunately, sorely lacking in typical fictional romances.
Once you get a taste of this brand of friendship-infused romance, in fanfiction or otherwise, it’s hard to go back.
This isn’t just limited to quote-unquote “fanon” couples, either: couples such as Mulder and Scully, Bones and Booth, Yuuri and Victor, and Ladybug and Chat Noir can all attribute their popularity to this strong basis in friendship, camaraderie, and mutual respect.
This is also the leading cause as to why the formerly booming 50 Shades franchise, and other arguably sexist, abusive dynamics, are struggling at the box office.
Which reminds me…
3. Make sure your characters are equals.
Unless you’re writing a Lolita-esque social commentary, it’s probably your best bet to keep your characters on fairly equal ground.
I mean this in every sense of the word, too: I have a difficult time getting invested in a romance when there’s a pretty blatant power imbalance, which oftentimes occurs due to the implicit sexism of the entertainment industry.
Disproportionately young actresses are assigned as love interests to much older men, such as Emma Watson’s twenty-something-year-old character lusting over a man almost twenty years her senior in Irrational Man.
Physically mediocre or average-looking male characters are frequently pared with stunningly beautiful women who like them because they’re “nice,” fueling the existing mentality of all self-proclaimed “nice guys” who think society owes them a hot girl.
I love Splash and the Fifth Element as much as anybody, but both films incorporate all these tropes in ample proportions, and it’s frankly ridiculous. (On the topic of Splash, however, I’m greatly looking forward to a subversion of this trope in its remake, starring Channing Tatum as the titular merman and Julianne Belle as his human love interest.)
On the other hand, you have fanfiction. I’ve read numerous essays professing that fanfiction is becoming increasingly popular due to the fact that same-sex relationships tend to be implicitly devoid of these sex-based imbalances, and I’m inclined to agree.
However, I’ve read others stating that male-male pairings tend to be so popular because male characters are typically more well-developed by writers, making it perfectly understandable that fans would be more invested in a possible romance between two characters of equal multidimensionality (see point 1) than one that is sorrowfully underdeveloped. I’m inclined to think that this theory is even more on point.
Because look at some of the successful onscreen relationships I listed prior: we root for Bones and Booth’s inevitable union the same way we swoon over slowburn fanfiction, delighting in Mulder and Scully’s banter and craving their interaction.
These are, in my opinion, some examples of straight couples done right, because they’re portrayed as friends (see the previous point), and just as importantly, as equals.
Last, but certainly not least, the male characters in both pairings are depicted as having nothing but respect for their female compatriots, depending on their intellectual know how and not being ashamed to say so.
A more contemporary example that gets this wrong? Well, not to offend any fans of the pairing, but Mon-El and Kara, a la Supergirl. Mon-El was, at the beginnings of his arc, consistently disrespectful towards Kara, putting her down and insulting her in the very same episodes in which her female compatriot – Lena Luthor – is shown vocally admiring and praising her.
Mon-El has since improved on his behavior, but the damage is done: I still have a difficult time seeing him as a likeable character, much less a suitable love interest for my beloved Kara.
These are just a few recommendations, based on the ways in which my somewhat obsessive love of transformative literature (i.e. good fanfiction) have helped me as a writer and helped me view the implicit problems with mainstream romance with a more discerning and critical eye.
Here, I could provide a counterpoint with the recurring problems I’ve noticed in fanfiction, or I could go into some recomendations for writing explicitly gay and lesbian relationships. Both of these, however, are topics worthy of another essay.
Disclaimer: I am assuming that any and all readers are trying for an enjoyable, healthy romantic subplot with equally charismatic, consenting, and likable characters. Dysfunctionality can be just as interesting from a literary standpoint, but again, this is a topic for another essay.
There will be essays like this published at least once every other week, so be sure to follow my blog and stay tuned for future writing advice and observations!