In the middle of a twittersation a year or so ago, one writer friend asked “What do you call a girl who ditches her Prom to go have sex?”
Another writer friend answered “Normal?”
Although she was joking, she and many other people are of the opinion that seventeen and eighteen year olds are bonking each other’s brains out at every opportunity. And maybe they are.
I’ve heard similar theories posed about how everyone smokes marijuana, or how all cross-dressers are gay, or all bisexuals are secretly either gay or straight, or a million other things for which actual statistics are hard to come by.
We are nothing if not diverse.
Some adolescents are promiscuous. Some have one or two special relationships, and that’s it. And some adolescents go through their teenage years without ever being kissed. Lots of people try pot at some point in their lives, while others never do. And I firmly believe that a cross-dresser can be gay, straight, bi, trans, or some other undefinable orientation.
When creating a character, I try to give them believable, endearing characteristics. If it’s a characteristic I have little to no personal experience with, I worry that it might not be plausible. For example, in one of my Kingdom Come stories (Dogs, Cats, & Allergies…specifically, Cats…) which are set in a polyamorous society, a bisexual woman and her closer-to-lesbian wife (I treat orientation as a spectrum) decide to add at least one husband to their marriage, the bisexual wife finds a candidate immediately. In the scene where the the lesbian wife walks in on them, I wrote her reaction as being surprised, but accepting. A beta reader (who is bi, married to a lesbian) said I grossly underestimated the level of emotion for that character.
I trust and believe this beta-reader. But I can’t always find critters who are that specifically attuned to my characters. I’d like to be able to describe a character as having dark skin, but I worry that a black reader would say “Oh, a black woman would never say/do that…” And the cross-dresser? (Pangalactic Sojourners, Mostly Harmonious) I’m not even going to ask. (Semi-spoiler: he’s straight, but not narrow…) I expect if I did poll a room full of GLBTQ & S folks I’d get a range of answers from “No! All cross-dressing men are gay” to “The cross dresser wants to have a sex change.” I doubt the entire room would agree on a specific definition.
In the work I just took off the shelf to re-write (Under the Radar) the main character, Scharona, is obsessed with her big brother’s best friend, Kevin (as inspired by Christian Slater, seen above.) By the time she’s in her mid twenties (Er…I’m using Earth-time for the sake of this post. Don’t get me started on the length of a Kingdom Come year and how they keep time…) she has very little sexual experience, and it’s not due to lack of trying.
I’m afraid some readers are going to say “Pshaw! She’s a normal, healthy, 20-something woman. She’s not hideous. She could go out and have sex whenever she wanted!”
But that’s not Scharona. At times in her life (like expending all her adolescent energy pining after an older man) there are specific reasons for her lack of a love life. At other points in her life, she is hopelessly frustrated with the idea that no one seems to want her.
I’ve felt like that. I know many women and men who have. So, pshaw if you must, but this character isn’t some magical construct of the science fiction universe I created. This is a woman with feelings and issues that are just as real in our own real time as they are in the fictional world.
The diverse fictional world.