Some authors tend toward a particular type of pairing in their writing. It may be a matter of comfort or preference, the same as some authors tend toward a particular genre. I’m not one of those writers. I have written M/M, M/F, and F/F at various times. (Also polyamorous combinations like M/M/F, M/F/M/F, and others, but I want to focus on dyads for this post.) And the reason I’ve done so is because different stories demand it.
Susan Runningwind is forty-five, but already strong enough to have earned a seat among her pack’s elders. Keeping the werewolves in line and doing her share providing for them is a full-time job, but it’s the only life Susan can see herself living. It’s only when Jesse Westfield arrives that she starts to open up to new possibilities.
A vibrant and attractive documentary filmmaker, Jesse isn’t the first to visit their remote corner of the reservation, especially when the area has earned the reputation as a refuge for the so-called “Werewolves of South Dakota”. But when Jesse begins to get too close to the truth, Susan must make a choice between her pack’s welfare, and the growing attraction she feels to the younger woman.
Here’s an example from my own work. My F/F werewolf short story, To Pierce the Sky follows Susan, a Lakota woman who, despite being afforded all the respect of an elder, is still considered an outcast because of tribal fear and paranoia and is therefore unacquainted with intimate relationships, and Jesse, a college student, experienced and out-and-proud lesbian, and budding journalist trying to make a name for herself in the highly male-dominated media industry and willing even to endanger herself to find out the truth behind the story she’s investigating. Susan recognizes in Jesse the same determination to succeed in the face of opposition that she knows in herself, but has to weigh her desire to help and protect Jesse against the safety and secrecy of her tribe. At the same time, Jesse finds a loneliness and a sadness in Susan that breaks her heart and would give anything to break through those walls and help Susan to be happy.
At the risk of sounding immodest, this story only works with two women. You could still tell a version of this story with a different pairing, but it wouldn’t be the same story. Making Susan into a male character would remove the reason for the fear and mistrust of the tribe at the fact that she was so much stronger and faster — men are expected to be so; there would be no reason for this character to be ostracized. Similarly, making Jesse into a male character would take away some of the fire and desperation for acceptance into the field because it would be a much easier path for a man to make a career as a journalist and documentarian, so this character wouldn’t need to take such risks. This is the same reason why the main character in my first story, The Direction of Greatest Courage is a bisexual male. The story of a bisexual female would be very different, because society views them very differently, and so their stories follow a very different path.
For over 250 years, the use of the tarot for divination has been a mainstay of mystical and occult practices. The themes and forces represented by the cards are said to govern our lives and our destinies. Whether you believe that or not, the story of the cards is nevertheless the story of our lives — the accomplishments and the pitfalls, the path from soaring joy to crushing defeat and back again.
Jason is a young man whose bisexuality has made him feel like a Hermit. Beth is a woman with an unconventional lifestyle. When her confidence confronts his insecurities, Jason is swept along in a frenzy. When she presents Jason with an opportunity seemingly too good to be true, he must crawl out of his cave if he wants a chance at lasting happiness.
In my opinion, telling stories with the wrong pairings could be one of the reasons why some M/M authors are accused of feminizing men or writing “chicks-with-dicks” or some F/F authors get flak for having characters that are “too” butch or “mannish”. As authors, we need to let ourselves be challenged to go outside our comfort zones. If a story takes us to a place we’re unfamiliar with, it’s not for us to try and shoehorn it back into something that makes us feel safe. We should embrace it, go with it. If that means a story you thought was M/M works better as M/F, then write that. Maybe the next idea will bring you back to M/M; maybe it’ll be F/F, or bisexual, or trans*. Let the demands of the story create the character, don’t just smash the characters you want into the story.
Erik Moore is the author of The Direction of Greatest Courage and To Pierce the Sky. His short stories can also be found in Storm Moon Press anthologies like Milk & Cookies & Handcuffs and Gay & Lesbian Coffee Break Quickies. Erik can be found occasionally on his blog or on Twitter @ErikRMoore.
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