Going Over the Rainbow: Like a Moth to a Flame
This week has been chaotic at best and I apologize for the lateness of this article.
As writers who write living beings at some point our characters will probably experience attraction to another being and desire a relationship. But what kind?
Romantic relationships often seem to be the default in books and movies. Hero A must get with their OoD (object of desire) by the end of Act 3 or your story is a flop. The default romance has become such a staple of mainstream media that to not have it can make it feel as though your story is missing something. So is it?
No not really. Ever watched a show with a really great partnership/friendship. Those are relation(ship)s too. Just with a different kind of attraction. Mad Max: Fury Road was a great example of this. Max and Furiosa’s relationship is not one of sexual attraction at all. Even Capable and Nux don’t have a blatantly romantic relationship. Theirs is based more on shared comfort in a society that sees both of them as disposable objects.
So what kind of relationship did they have if it wasn’t a romantic one?
Yes, you’re on the right track. There are several different forms of attraction (and love but that’s for later). Don’t forget though, romantic attraction does not equal sexual attraction for everyone. Your character can be romantically attracted to someone without wanting to engage in sex.
Let’s look at what this means.
Sexual attraction is what people feel when they look at someone and their first thought is something along the lines of “I want to jump their bones” or “How do I get in those pants.” It’s a response to finding someone physically appealing. Think lust.
Marketing companies bank (literally) on our being sexually titillated to sell things. Sex sells, right?
(Personally, I have no idea what is appealing about this picture but it came up when I looked up sex in advertising.)
So if there are other kinds of attraction, like my attraction to that burger, what are they? Why do we as writers need to be aware of them and how can we be more diverse by writing characters with different attraction orientations?
Just as there are different sexual orientations, there are different romantic orientations. Just as there are asexual persons, there are aromantic persons. I consider myself panromantic with heavy aromantic leanings. Meaning: while my romantic attraction is not defined by gender I am less likely to engage in anything traditionally romantic or be romantically attracted to anyone regardless of gender. It does not mean that I don’t—or am not capable—of love. Remember earlier? Love and romance are not the same thing. It is entirely possible to love people without being romantically attracted to them.
There are many different types of attraction, including:
Sexual attraction: attraction that makes people desire sexual contact or shows sexual interest in another person(s).
Romantic attraction: attraction that makes people desire romantic contact or interaction with another person or persons.
Aesthetic attraction: occurs when someone appreciates the appearance or beauty of another person(s), disconnected from sexual or romantic attraction.
Sensual attraction: the desire to interact with others in a tactile, non-sexual way, such as through hugging or cuddling.
Emotional attraction: the desire to get to know someone, often as a result of their personality instead of their physicality. This type of attraction is present in most relationships from platonic friendships to romantic and sexual relationships.
Intellectual attraction: the desire to engage with another in an intellectual manner, such as engaging in conversation with them, “picking their brain,” and it has more to do with what or how a person thinks instead of the person themselves.
Maleficent (2014) is an excellent example of True Love™. In the movie it was not the Prince’s kiss that could break the spell. Only Maleficent herself could do that. It was the fact that Maleficent was the only person who Aurora truly loved that allowed her to break the spell. This is platonic love.
This is the kind of attraction between characters who are very close friends. I’m pretty certain you don’t have any problems writing friendships.
Sensual and sexual attraction are much more common than aesthetic attraction in books and movies. Women in close, non-sexual, relationships are often shown as being sensually attracted to each other since cuddling, snuggling, hugging and holding hands are seen as more feminine type behaviors. Don’t be afraid to break stereotypes or expectations. Men can initiate cuddling, hand holding and other forms of non-sexual intimacies.
Knowing these various types of attraction can help us as writers be more diverse with our characters and their relationships. Hero A might not find the Hero B sexually attractive, but could be aesthetically attracted to them. Or Hero B might find Sidekick C sensually attractive and want to cuddle and watch Netflix with them.
Don’t be afraid to allow your characters other close relationships even if a romance is the primary focus of the plot. This will help round out all of your characters.
Next time we’ll dive into the various types of romantic orientations and how to write them.
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