The Elusive Bi Character

In preparation for a fantasy novel I am planning to write in the near future, I decided to look up bisexual characters because my main character (actually two of my main characters) are bisexual. This proved to be easier said than done.

What I found was not exactly what I was looking for. I wanted to find books with bisexual characters, or more importantly, characters who happened to be bisexual. In the media, bisexual characters are often treated as merely plot devices. Oh, is the drama ebbing? Let’s toss in a bisexual character who will come into the protagonist’s life and either steal their boy/girlfriend or to form a love-triangle. This has added to the prejudice society has against bisexuals and leads people to falsely believe that bisexuals cannot be monogamous, will cheat on their partner, or wants a threesome. Just because a person likes two genders does not mean they want both at the same time. I came across a lot of books that sadly used these tropes.

I then decided to go onto Goodreads and explore their Listopia section for books with bisexual characters. This lead to numerous lists of LGBT characters, which I was not willing to pick through. My attention span does not last long enough for me to investigate two hundred different books, but I did find a few lists that could be of use to my research. As I scrolled through, of course a number (probably the majority) were straight up romance novels, which I skipped past. It wasn’t surprising since it makes sense that a writer would focus on the character’s sexuality, but the amount of stories that I found with a character who just happened to be bisexual was a bit disappointing. Because my future project will be a fantasy story, I wanted to find some books in the same genre. Luckily, I came across Pantomime by Laura Lam on an LGBT blog’s list and am hoping to read it in the near future.

As I was doing my research, I began to think about my characters and some of the problems a writer may come across while writing a bisexual character. Because society tends to think in terms of gay or straight, sometimes it’s hard to solidify that a character does indeed like both men and women. How many relationships need to be mentioned to get that across? Do I need to show these relationships or can my character just say she is bisexual? Then, I was wondering if she will be judged by her latest relationship. She previously had a girlfriend, but now she is falling for a man. Will she be straight-washed by readers? Will they assume she is suddenly straight? The answer is, probably. If she was dating a woman most recently, would they say she was gay or would they say she was experimenting? On some level, I don’t think there is a correct answer. No matter what order I portray her relationships, she will probably be only identified by her last relationship. My male character will also face the same difficulties. Male bisexuals tend to be immediately deemed gay or assumed to be a gay man who cannot accept himself and therefore still has relationships with women.

When writing characters, I don’t go into it thinking they will be x or y, but as I get to know them, I learn more about their past histories and often their past relationships. As I have gotten further into figuring out these two characters, I realized both had had relationships with their own sex and the opposite sex. They pose an interesting challenge in terms of the way the public may potentially view them and how I can work around these issues or if I should pay them any heed at all and just write what I feel is right for them. More than likely, I will do the latter.

If you know of any books with bisexual characters, please send them my way.

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12 Comments

Filed under Writing

12 responses to “The Elusive Bi Character

  1. Good for you for drawing these conclusions. It’s always difficult to portray characters the right way so readers get your intentions. I’m sure once you write the novel, the characters will be closer to reality than the stuff you’ve had to sift through. I feel like when trying to portray them, you don’t have to make a big deal–like they don’t have to stand on a table and come out to your readers. It’s hopefully something they can figure out why who they are. Tricky business. Good luck!

    • Kara Jorgensen

      Thanks, Whitney. I agree that once I start writing, it will solidify by itself. It’s just who my characters are, and they’ll sort it out more naturally than I ever could trying to force it.

      • I guess my main question is how will the sexuality affect the portrayal of your characters? Or can it be a “non-issue”? Since sexuality is a “hidden” part of a person, unlike race or hair color, it usually doesn’t come up until you know more about hir life. How do those details fit into the plot of your story? Is it just a part of your characters or does it drive their motives? I hope that makes sense.
        Whitney’s right. You have the correct “definition” of bisexuality, so as you write your characters, any worries will probably work itself out naturally, without a great amount of research on your part.
        P.S. TY for wanting to include this realistic aspect in your next story.

      • Kara Jorgensen

        Overall, I think their sexuality (using their since a male and female character are both bisexual in this story) will be a non-issue. It’s just an aspect of their lives. Her ex-girlfriend features heavily in the story, and she is also attracted to a gay male character which adds a bit of comedy to a rather dark story. Even though the story is 3rd person omniscient, most of the story is from the bisexual female character’s pov, so the reader will get a lot of her thoughts. I also think her sexuality drives her toward certain characters and can also be a trap for her (since it’s fantasy, there may be a seductress in the plot). It definitely won’t be something that the plot revolves around though.

  2. Maurice by E M Forster includes a bisexual man, however he’s not the main character.

    I totally agree about the straight washing, though. I wish you the best of luck with your next project, and can’t wait to read it. 🙂

    • Kara Jorgensen

      Thanks, Jaz. I actually have Maurice on my tbr pile. I may need to hit it up. I liked Forster’s Howard’s End.

  3. Nice post! I think these kinds of subjects are difficult to portray in writing, without them becoming steroetypical and creating cardboard cut-out chraracters solely defined by their sexulaity. I used to read Mercedes Lackey, and while there is a lot of monolouging I did find her portrayal of LGBT characters to be a lot better than others I’ve come across. Although, for me personally, I’m striving for a more realistic approach in my writing when creating such complicated characters! Good luck with your project. It sounds really intriguing!! 🙂

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