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Guest Post: Write What You (Almost) Know by Laura Pohl

This guest post was written by Laura Pohl in honor of Aromantic Awareness Week 2020.

Laura Pohl Author Pic

Laura Pohl is a Brazilian YA author. She likes writing messages in caps lock, quoting Hamilton and obsessing about Star Wars. When not taking pictures of her dog, she can be found curled up with a fantasy or science-fiction book. She makes her home in São Paulo, where she graduated in Literature.

She is the author of THE LAST 8 and THE FIRST 7. When not writing, she likes reading science fiction and fantasy, and enjoys deep discussions about conspiracy theories and alien life. Learn more about her on her website (www.onlybylaura.com), and make sure to follow her on twitterinstagram, and pinterest. Goodreads

I think one of the biggest recurring pieces of advice we get as writers is  “write what you know”. It’s good, solid advice, it’s advice that lets you begin a story in a place that isn’t scary for you, that you’re familiar with, and then journey toward something you don’t know, or that you’re still trying to figure out. It’s advice I’ve always taken to heart because all my stories begin in a place I’m familiar with. It can be a movie or a book that originally inspired it, or a concept which I want to explore.

I didn’t know exactly how to begin writing Aromantic characters because it wasn’t something I knew at all.

It started with my own feelings, as I navigated what I wanted to write in a story. I had just learned about the word “Aromantic”, had just learned that this was something that fit me, and I wanted to navigate the hardships that came with claiming that part of myself. I wanted a character who was like me, who survived at any cost, who didn’t stop to think about romantic consequences, who only wanted to get to the end. Who could love people, but would not put it above her own survival. Who could be sad, but who was stronger for it.

Out came Clover Martinez, protagonist of The Last 8.

I didn’t know what I was writing then, exactly. It was a tale of survival, a tale of friendship, the story of a girl who the world tried to break but who refused to get beaten down. She refused to succumb, no matter what happened. She stayed strong, she didn’t lose sight of her ambitions, and she got what she came for.

Then I published my book, featuring the Aromantic-Bisexual girl as the main character. And one of the first pieces of criticism I got was: “this is a blatant stereotype, reducing Aromantic characters as cold and calculating.”

It was like a cold bucket of water thrown on my face, hard and unforgiving. I’d written Clover like I’d seen myself, struggling during all these years because I was someone who prioritized being “logical”, and someone who didn’t want romantic bonds, only to get once again called out by the very thing I was trying to put into the page — often by people who weren’t in the same spectrum, who couldn’t understand that I was writing about my own experience.

This happens with all queer stories. A standard has been created: we must fit into a box, we must be “nice”, we must be “sanitized”. The contents of our souls are not fit for anyone else to see unless they are what society deems to be acceptable.

I spent my whole life thinking that the way I felt wasn’t acceptable, that being Aromantic isn’t acceptable. Then, when I finally get it on the page, when I tell the world how I feel, it’s not acceptable either.

What we must remember is that, like all people, Aromantics aren’t a monolith. Some of us will enjoy love stories, some won’t. Some will want a relationship that could be classified as romantic, and others won’t. Some will be the most caring people in the world, and others might not. They can all be parts of the experience. I don’t want to be classified as a stereotype because I feel the way I feel, because I am the way I am.

I am often cold and unfeeling. I am prone to using more logic than emotion. I sympathize with villains and often get tired of romantic relationships in fiction. I want things, I am hungry for more than what I have. I am scared that loneliness will never leave me.

I also see my friends weekly. I call people on their birthdays, I like cooking for my loved ones. I’ll go with them to things I hate just because they want company. I love my dog more than anything in the world, and I would do anything for my friends if they asked.

I get to write who I am. I get to put that experience to paper. And the experiences of my characters won’t always be the same as mine, they won’t always fit the same stereotype. They’ll always be a part of me, though, one of my struggles, as I go into this journey of what it means to be myself.

Being Aromantic is often trying to sort feelings you don’t know, feelings that don’t seem to fit together, trying to make a path in-between the things you’re almost sure of. Trying to find a way that the page will bring out what you want, and to make your courage conquer your fear.

Write on those feelings, on things that make you afraid, and don’t listen to other people. Write to see yourself in things. Write what you want. Write what you (almost) know.

 

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