Creating an authentic character means putting in an effort. When it comes to bisexuality, I struggle to find books where I feel like a bisexual character is given a personality. Or worse, it’s highly eluded in their actions that they’re bisexual, but the canon never confirms these speculations. Writing bisexual characters doesn’t have to be hard, if the characters are developed. Also: The Young Writer’s Initiative, the companion group to JUVEN, is a great spot to get feedback from other young readers/writers for your project. And when in doubt, it’s okay to ask a bisexual person to look over your character’s interactions to see if they’re realistic or stereotypical.
It’s okay to say bisexual
I cannot even begin to explain the frustrations as a young person trying to figure out their bisexuality when all the LGBT content I consumed never even mentioned the word "bisexual". And while this isn’t limited to books, it seems across all genres, there is a hesitancy to write bisexual characters who explicitly state their bisexuality. If you’re writing a bisexual character but you don’t want the story to focus on the aspect of coming out, that’s okay. But just remember: it’s common for friends to share stories about crushes and relationships. Confirming, even casually in dialogue, that a character is bisexual can save your readers frustration down the line.
Take one of my favorite TV shows for example: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Beloved character Willow happily dates men throughout the first three seasons and women in the last four. Given the fact that this show aired during the late ‘90s and early 2000s, it was a huge deal and broke records. But to this day, fans argue about her sexuality because it was never openly stated. Is it potential biphobia and media censorship? Maybe. But as LGBT characters become more common both on screen and in publishing, it’s essential that writers feel confident in showing representation by openly stating that a character is bisexual.
Sexuality is a pillar
Probably what separates humans the most from our animal relatives is the fact that we are so multifaceted. As a writer, what makes characters stand out is paying close attention to the fact that people’s personalities aren’t just one thing: they are made up of a million little things, some more passionate than others. Sexuality works in this same way. Sexuality is just one pillar of what makes you a person. A book that talks about this in an incredible way is Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg, where a gay character struggles when loved ones around him struggle to accept his multidimensional personality.
Yes, sexual orientation is an integral part of who you are, but it’s not all that you are. I might be bisexual, but I’m also a feminist; I’m passionate, often sleep-deprived, analytical, and ambitious. I will unapologetically eat more bagels than I should. I use too much lip balm because my lips are always chapped from forgetting to drink water. Every single part of me exists alongside the other parts.
When you’re writing a bisexual character, consider what other parts of their personality you’ll create. If they’re a hopeful romantic, swooning the split-second their crush looks towards them, consider the ways you can flesh out their lovey-dovey feelings. Are they romantic and spontaneous? Brave and extroverted? Shy and nervous around the one they love? Remember sexuality is just a pillar; a building cannot stand without a stable foundation.
Everyone experiences it differently
There is no single all-encompassing way that a bisexual person will live their life. Some bisexual people practice monogamy, some don’t. Some will have a preference towards dating a certain gender, others not so much. Some people feel that being bisexual has always come naturally to them, but it’s also valid to write about benign struggling to come to terms with their sexuality. Watch out for stereotypes, like assuming all bisexuals are promiscuous, hate commitment, or are transphobic. Writing an authentic bisexual character takes all these things into account: but saying the word “bisexual” is a great starting point.
is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Journalism at Ryerson University in Toronto. When she isn't writing, she's reading and working on her bullet journal. You can read more of her work at ashaswann.com