Most of the books that I continue to think about years after reading them are those that challenged the way I used to think. They opened my mind to experiences that are generally hidden from mainstream media and conversation and shocked me into respecting difference. Incidentally, most of the books I can think of that fit this description feature bisexual characters. Another Country. The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Less Than Zero. Harry Potter. The sexual tension as well as the social drama displayed in these books have kept me equipped with an endless supply of intellectual fodder as well as pleasure in the fact that bisexuality is steadily making its way into the public consciousness.
I probably won’t end up being the next person to write a great bisexual novel, but by compiling my impressions of bisexual novels here, I hope to equip the readers of this blog with some wisdom on how to do so.
Here is a list of six tips on how to write a great bisexual novel:
1) Include biphobia in your story. But make sure to challenge it. Many of the popular works of fiction today that feature bisexual characters tend to portray those characters encountering adversity in the form of biphobia. This is to be expected, as the experience of any minority group usually features some adversity or persecution. Bisexuals are no different. Bisexually identified people are subject to stereotypes that present them as promiscuous, unable to commit, confused, or on their way to becoming homosexual. Novels with bisexual characters should highlight these experiences, but they should also make an effort to challenge the false conceptions that lead to these experiences. Bisexuals are capable of committing to exclusive relationships, are not necessarily more promiscuous that heterosexual or bisexual people, and are very often comfortable and proud of their bisexual identities. There are certainly instances where bisexual individuals fit certain stereotypes; however, this is not exclusively a function of their bisexuality. Your next bisexual novel should honor this complexity.
2) Your bisexual character should be incidentally bisexual. Bisexuality, like all varieties of sexuality, is a significant element of one’s identity. Nonetheless, it is not the entirety of every bisexual’s identity, and it does not motivate every decision a bisexual person makes. With this in mind, the bisexual character of your next great bisexual novel should encounter challenges and choices that must be made with considerations other than just the character’s sexuality. There is nothing wrong with bisexuality coming up often throughout the novel; but it should not be the only guiding force for the character. By acknowledging the reality that bisexual people make decisions based on concerns related to their families, their careers, their personal vices, and their spiritual proclivities, your bisexual novel will do a good job of humanizing the bisexual reputation.
3) Your protagonist should be bisexual. Several of the books I mentioned above that intrigued me by including bisexual characters did not have bisexual protagonists. Bisexuals are a tiny minority of people on this planet, so it makes sense that the protagonists of these novels, who are designed to relate to the reader’s experiences, are heterosexual. However, the greatness of your great bisexual novel will come, in part, from the boldness you deploy in writing your story with a bisexual protagonist. Many bisexual people today are pained by the fact that when they try to identify relatable characters in fiction, they only find side characters such as quirky best friends, mysterious sexual deviants, and confused former lovers. By including a bisexual protagonist, you will be giving a voice to one, some, or perhaps many bisexuals, which hardly any works of fiction do today.Your bisexual protagonist will show bisexual and other readers that it is possible to craft a compelling story about a character that has to grapple with interesting issues and also happens to be bisexual.
4) Make your bisexual protagonist male. OK, I’m not actually telling you not to write about a female bisexual character. And I’m definitely not telling you not to write about a transgender or genderqueer bisexual character. However, it is worth pointing out that finding a bisexual male character in modern fiction is, as one blogger puts it, like looking for a unicorn. Novels about bisexual males attract much less attention than novels about bisexual females and trans* characters. This is, perhaps, a consequence of males being less prone than females to exploring same-sex experiences and more at risk of losing social capital as a result of such exploration. By constructing a male, even manly, bisexual character who relinquishes none of his maleness in his experience as a bisexual, your novel would do many male bisexuals the service of removing some of the stigma of male bisexuality.
5) Be honest. Your bisexual novel does not need to be a sacrifice to the Social Justice gods. There is much progress that must be made in order to make bisexuals a comfortable minority in our society, but your novel does not need to fix everything. Your novel should explore real human experiences in an honest way by portraying the glorifying and damning aspects of a bisexual character’s life. As I noted above, some bisexuals do (incidentally) fit the stereotypes associated with bisexuality. Some bisexuals are confused. Some are very promiscuous. And aside from stereotypes, many are not necessarily the kinds of people whose company you’d enjoy. Your bisexual novel should not ignore these realities. By creating characters and situations that highlight the difficulties and contradictions as well as the beauty and freedom of bisexual life, your novel will achieve the ultimate goal of making readers think.
Post submitted by Jacob.