Before we launch into this, let’s have a primer on what romanticism is!
What is Romantic Attraction?
Romanticism is perhaps best visualized as the conventional trappings of a relationship: if a character gets a warm fuzzy feeling of “yes, want, be with me,” when someone brings them cut flowers, or holds their hand, or stares longingly into their eyes while snuggling in a Ferris Wheel car, those are all examples of romantic attraction. That attraction may segue into sexual attraction, but they’re not the same thing, and someone can dislike those kinds of “romantic” set ups while still experiencing all other forms of attraction.
Also, be aware: definitions of romantic behavior are cultural constructs, so will be different in different societies.
So what is Aromanticism?
Aromanticism is a lack of romantic attraction. The things described above don’t appeal to an aromantic person. This doesn’t mean they may not like those things, because they may, but they won’t be attracted by them. Many aromantic people (for example, me, writing this post) mostly find that kind of experience baffling. “Wait, I’m supposed to be feeling something right? This is supposed to be appealing? It’s just some dead flowers…” That kind of thing. Different people will of course experience it differently. It’s not a yes/no (circle one) prospect, it’s a spectrum. There are several sub-labels of aromanticism, including demiromantic, lithromantic, akoiromantic, gray-aromantic, quiromantic, and cupioromantic.
Are there other types of romanticism?
Yes, of course! The top-level division is between alloromantic and aromantic people – those who experience romantic attraction and those who don’t. Allormantic people can be heteroromantic, homoromantic, biromantic, etc. It mirrors sexuality…just, for romanticism!
You can’t write an aro character without having a clear understanding of what romantic attraction is, as contrasted with platonic attraction (wanting to be friends with someone), aesthetic attraction (thinking someone is pretty), and sexual attraction (desiring physical intimacy with someone). Note that some activities may fall under more than one of these, and therefore appeal to people for different reasons. For example, some people find making out is sexual, for others it’s romantic, for some it’s both, and for many which it is will vary by situation.
Now that you have a basic idea what aromanticism is, here are our top ten tips for writing aromantic (aro) characters!
- Don‘t have an aromantic character just to cross off something on your diversity list. Like with all queer identities, aromantism isn‘t a token to use so your story look inclusive. Do you research and enlist the help of an aro sensitivity reader if you want to have an aro character.
- Just because there‘s an aro character doesn‘t mean the story has to be about aromantism, or romanticism, or relationships at all.
- Aro characters can and should have close and loving relationships with their friends, family, and significant others. “Not experiencing romantic attraction” isn’t the same thing as “not being able to love.” Aro people get married. Aro people have children. Aro people have queer platonic relationships. Not all aro people, of course, but many do.
- A character‘s defining trait should not be aromantism. Lots of different people are aro. Some are nice, some are assholes. Being aro doesn’t automatically mean someone will behave in a certain way or present themselves in a specific fashion.
- If your story is long enough to support it, have more than one aro character. Show that there‘s a range of people who are aro (this is a good approach with any marginalized group!). Likewise, remember that most people aren’t just one thing – a character can be aro and BIPOC, or aro and disabled, or aro and trans, etc.
- Avoid common stereotypes about aromantic people. These include: that they sleep around, that they’re unfeeling, that they’re incapable of any kind of relationship, that they’re robotic, that they’re doomed to misery because romantic love is intrinsic to the human experience, that they’re heartless and cold, that they’re just “losers who can’t get a date,” that it’s a sign of mental illness, that it’s intrinsically linked with being neurodivergent, that they never marry, and that they don’t want children.
- Aromanticism is not the same as asexuality. Some aromantics are asexual, some are not.
- Aromanticism is not something that needs to be fixed. Don’t assume that an aro character will feel like they’re missing something, like they’re less than others, or that they feel broken. Society has taught many aro people that they’re supposed to want certain things, so yes, some do feel a sense of being off, but many also are happy, healthy, understand themselves and are completely at peace with it.
- Different aro people have different attitudes toward physical gestures generally construed as “romantic,” such as hugging, holding hands, kissing, and cuddling. Some may enjoy these activities; some may be averse to them. As with any orientation, there is no universal experience. This means you can absolutely write an aro character who loves hugs, or who hates hugs, and both can be accurate representation – and if anyone tells you “that’s not what it is to be aro,” they’re wrong, not you.
- Aro people can and often do still enjoy consuming and creating romantic content.
And, a bonus 11th point: Please, we are begging you, don’t only write stories where an aromantic person and an alloromantic person have to navigate their differences to learn to make their relationship work. We’re so tired of that being the primary aro narrative.
Want to learn more? This article is a really good introduction to the basics.
This is a list by Duck Prints Press’s resident aros (there are three of us)! We hope you found it helpful.