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(Kem uses they/them pronouns.)

I'm outlining a story about a witch named Kem who has to protect the world from evil. Kem befriends demons and other witches, but I don't want them to find a crush or anything and I want to keep their feelings for everyone are platonic or familial. I want the reader to understand that Kem isn't looking for love, they're just navigating the world of witchcraft and battling baddies. So how do I show the reader that Kem's relationships are entirely non-romantic, that Kem has no attraction to their friends, and that there will be no romantic sub-plots? I don't want people to ship Kem with other characters either, so how do I make it absolutely clear Kem is just there for friendship and companionship?

  • Do a search for "platonic". Unfortunately the site automatically related your question with "romance" so it is suggesting other "romance" questions that are the opposite to what you are looking for. – wetcircuit Feb 20 at 16:02
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    "I don't want people to ship Kem with other characters either" Regardless of what your intentions where, you cannot prevent readers giving their own interpretation of the story. In the moment it is read and enjoyed, it stops being just "your" story and it becomes a little "theirs". You may have to let go your concerns on that matter. – Reinstate Monica. Feb 20 at 16:33
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    Voting to re-open since there are nuances to this question not present in the other questions. – wetcircuit Feb 21 at 3:48
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Don't write it in.

What readers do in their own fan responses is on them, not on you, and you can't prevent people from shipping anyone they like.

But if you don't want canonical romance, just... don't put it in. Make sure your narrative voice doesn't talk about Kem in a way which could be interpreted as romantic or sexually attractive. Don't have romantic plots or interactions. Don't have characters attracted to Kem.

If Kem is aromantic and asexual, they could even lampshade it by discussing it with the other characters.

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    "Doctor, my arm hurts when I do this!" / "Then don't do that." – Mason Wheeler Feb 21 at 19:07
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Don't avoid it. Address it and move on.

Have a character, especially one that knows they are attractive, be overtly flirty to "test the water", and get shut down. It's like a Jedi testing their mind-trick, once they see it fail they won't bother with it again.

Since they are sexually confident they do not take it personally – rather, they have a mature, experienced reaction that establishes Kem's non-sexuality as "fact". Set them up as the "expert", they try an experiment which comes back negative. The expert registers the results (probably with just an expression of acknowledgment), and that is that.

Kem doesn't even need to know they have been tested.

Since you have established it for the reader, it can be assumed by the rest of the characters. In practice they all take a cue from their resident expert (who likely would have gotten 1st dibs on all new crew members). You can now develop a comfortable friendship between the two, because the expert will behave in a less flirty way than normal around Kem, or not feel any pressure to impress, or deliberately flirt in a dead pan "you make this so joyless" kind of ribbing, so there is a friendship without any tension. It is a reminder that the expert views everyone else as sexual except Kem.

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    I'm wary about this method. Bringing it up and then having it fail could easily set the reader up to think there will be a 'redemption' or 'victory' later on where Kem DOES find love. Failing to find love might make the reader WANT (and expect) Kem to find love. – Thomas Reinstate Monica Myron Feb 20 at 17:47
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    That's why you have an "expert" declare it as matter-of-fact early on (probably their 1st meeting), rather than the MC avow it or allow a debate. The idea is to show the expert is convinced with no doubts. – wetcircuit Feb 20 at 17:49
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In the rebooted Jughead comic (in the Archie Comic Universe), Jughead is explicitly Ace. He tries dating someone (they were in a burger costume), but realized, "nope, not me." I really love how direct that was, and I hate how so often ANY friendship in a story = twu wuv, and if people are colleagues AND protagonists, they end up together.

You may want to have them say "gah! Stop assuming everything is a wannabe relationship. Do y'all NOT work with people of your preferred gender? Aren't you statistically friends/colleagues with more people than significant others? Friends are friends, and friends are awesome." (but y'know, in your own character's way.)

(I'm someone who always thought most fictional love triangles should be handled by just dating ALL involved people, until you decide "yep, clear attraction/compatibility match this way, not that way" , or "no choice needed: poly works!" So I'm all for non-heteronormative focus, in whatever direction!)

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    I almost had to look up "twu wuv" on urbandictionary. I thought it was another internet acronym the kids must be using…. – wetcircuit May 30 at 14:28
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The most famous ship of all (perhaps the one that started it) is K/S aka Kirk/Spock. Even though both characters have been portrayed as 100% straight.

Many other characters have been shipped in ways that go against their sexual orientation and/or other partner preferences. Including in cases when the work isn't heteronormative.

Ace characters will not be any different here. Readers do what readers do.

It's not clear to me if Kem is asexual or simply not interested in romance or hookups right now. Either way, just show them as things are. Either by describing friendships and desires for non-romantic non-physical emotional intimacy, or by explicitly stating that they are Ace (or not in that headspace now).

As for the readers, let it go. We should all be so lucky to have readers who interact with our characters on a personal level. Even if we aren't happy with what they do with them. It's not something you can control, though you can be clear that it wouldn't be canon, should you be asked to approve fan fiction or something.

  • 1) Holmes/Watson were being shipped long before Star Trek aired 2) If by "portrayed" you mean "1960s TV couldn't show them kissing," sure, but the emotional connection between those two was, to coin a phrase, visible from space. :) – Lauren-Reinstate-Monica-Ipsum Feb 22 at 10:58
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    @LaurenIpsum Ha ha well it's not exactly ST:TOS showed actual lavender people, though they certainly existed. Some researchers do say K/S was first, though it's not a hill I care about dying on. – Cyn says make Monica whole Feb 22 at 15:13
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    @LaurenIpsum Going even further back, Gilgamesh and Enkidu? – Chronocidal May 30 at 12:15
  • @Chronocidal absolutely! good call. – Lauren-Reinstate-Monica-Ipsum May 30 at 16:45

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