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For Writers: Writing Bi Characters

bisexual

Today’s writer topic comes from QSFer Amelia Bishop:

I’d like to ask about bisexual romance. One issue is, when the characters are in a different gender pairing, the readership for m/m is not interested. I’ve written bisexual characters plenty of times, but I always skip the m/f scenes, and I tend to focus on the m/m. Part of that is just that I know my readers are primarily m/m readers. But obviously, the characters are still bisexual no matter what type of relationship they’re currently in. So I’d like to talk about exploring what makes something bisexual, in terms of story.

Does the character have to be in multiple relationships? Does their bisexuality have to be a part of the story problem? Or is simply mentioning it enough? What level of representation is enough to make a story legitimately “bisexual”?

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2 thoughts on “For Writers: Writing Bi Characters”

  1. I think the decision comes down to the word “romance.” It is assumed in a romance novel that the pairing will be monogamous. Therefore I think the romance is categorised as MM, FF or MF. I would argue that there is no such thing as a “bisexual romance” genre if there are only two main characters. To involve a character in a story who is bisexual and has sex with multiple genders, you either have to step away from the “romance” label (either into erotica or fiction) or write a romance that is MMF (with or without a HEA). Categorising a book MMF ensures that people know that both pairings may occur.
    So, yes, if you have a character in an MM romance novel that is bisexual, you shouldn’t have MF sexual descriptions. It’s breaking an unwritten rule that those who read MM expect.
    A character can be bisexual in an MM novel, and I think that this is a good thing. A bisexual person who is monogamous to the same sex is not suddenly gay. They are still bisexual. It’s just that the story should not show him with a woman, or then you are drifting out of “romance” category. Sex with a partner other than the other MC is frowned upon.

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  2. I just wrote my second bisexual character for my latest MM romance. The first time around, there was a vague mention of a past girlfriend and a brief discussion on the first date, but that was it. This go around, I wanted my bisexual character to be clearly bisexual in the sense that the issues he’s dealt with in his life as part of the LGBTQ spectrum were addressed with as much importance as I typically give my gay men. He deals with misunderstandings from a work partner, (he’s a cop) wrong assumptions and labels from those around him and ends up helping his gay love interest’s thirteen-year old brother when he begins questioning his own sexual preferences and realizes he’s attracted to both sexes.
    The main thing to remember when writing a bi character (speaking as a bisexual woman), is that we’ve dealt with so many misconceptions that are specific to our orientation. As my latest character says: ‘people want me to be one thing or the other (gay or straight) they don’t want me to be both.’ Focusing on that truth for a bi person is what is the most important (in my opinion) aspect to including that orientation in an MM read.

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