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.
2 thoughts on “Top Ten Writing Tips: Aromantic Characters”
TLDR: I want add some more detail and reliability to my character while keeping it subtle.
so my character Merith already has all of the mentioned list going for her (though I fear that she’s leaning a bit to the “Ew, y’all are gross” stereotype. It fits her personality but I don’t know if it will read as insensitive or not.) But I’d like to add in some common experiences that aro folk have, just as a bit more of a “Oh, she’s just like me, fr!” moment for my eventual aro readers. the problem is, I live in the deep south and none of my friends OR internet friends are aro, (or at least out as aro) so I can’t just ask someone what common connecting experiences are, because i feel it’d be rude.
thank you soooo much for your time!!
Whelp, I’m aro (I’m the website owner and one of the people who contributed to the blog post), so I might be able to help? I will say, I’m not out that widely in meatspace because I just can’t be fussed to explain what aromantic means to strangers – which, I suspect, is a fairly common aro experience. (I genuinely can’t remember what’s on our list here, we wrote this like a year and a half ago lmao). Hmm…common experiences…I’d suggest things like:
1. watching romantic movies and just. not understanding. what could possibly bring the characters together, since they don’t seem to like each other and the romantic aspects are fucking weird???
2. finding common romantic gestures really uncomfortable, not knowing how to respond to romantic gestures, etc. Like, someone brings me flowers, and I a. don’t want them, b. don’t like them, c. don’t know how to react appropriately.
3. hatred and/or confusion over the sort of…play-acting?…that alloromantic people do as part of courtship. Like, if I’m interested in someone, I don’t play coy or anything, I just tell them I like them? The games that go into “will they/won’t they” always seems incredibly pointless to me.
4. what even is flirting? how do I flirt? why do other people flirt? why does this even exist what is the point?
5. finding the need to participate in romantic rituals exhausting, frustrating, unpleasant, etc. Like, I can force myself cause I know my wife enjoys them, and I’ll even enjoy them sometimes, but I also don’t get any kinda…glow?…from stuff like that. Like, going on a date night can be fun but it doesn’t “feel good” or impact my overall love for my partner.
I’m trying to think of some that aren’t couched as negatives, as the above are, but it’s a little tough just cause so much of the aro experienced in an allorom world is encountering romantic stuff and just being like ??? I will say, I think it helps me think more clearly in conventionally romantic situations, because my judgement doesn’t get clouded by the romantic attraction aspect. I can just vibe, and it means that the most “romantic” things a person can do are like…actually listen to me, consider my opinion, remember my likes and dislikes, etc. The things I find “romantic,” if the word is even applicable, are people who have clearly considered ME when we’re in a relationship, instead of just doing “the things that society say are appropriate for a romantic situation.” For me that can often be as simple as bringing me a flower in a pot instead of cut flowers; I make no secret about not liking cut flowers but I’ve had exes who brought them to me ANYWAY; meanwhile, my home is full of plants in pots so anyone paying attention would know I like them, and bringing me a plant in a pot is just. a nice gift. and I’ll appreciate that. So for a not!me character, I’d say a focus on enjoying the friendship aspects of relationship (like, I literally married my best friend, which proved to be a great plan, our 9th anniversary is in a week), and that a “romantic” relationship is, for an aro person, pretty much exactly the same as a platonic relationship, except for the level of interpersonal commitment.
I hope any of this makes sense/is helpful?
Note that for me some of it gets clouded by my being both neurodivergent and asexual as well as aro, so if your character is allosexual aro they might not mirror me quite? idk.