Unlike Henry and Nevian, Cal is a character I decided to make aroace. Isandor has existed for a long time, and there were multiple instances of me stopping, looking at my cast, and considering how I could make it more diverse. What could I change? What would it affect and how would it ripple out? How did it modify backstory, the storylines I wanted to do with them, and how all of that fits with the way these identities were normally represented. Now, aromantic and asexual characters are very often depicted as the loner—the cold character who doesn’t get human emotions and is hard to speak with. I picked Cal because he is the exact opposite of that. Cal is a ball of highly-concentrated love. He is everybody’s friend, super empathic, always ready to help, and happily single. Devotion to friends and family have always been a huge part of his character, and Cal was a natural fit for aro and ace.
So Cal is a way to shatter that trope. He is aggressively friendly, has a good grasp of people, and actively reels outsiders in and makes them feel at home. I also wanted him to value his platonic relationship above all else, and to classify romance as a big nope. Not for him. Many aromantics end in long term relationships that are romantic in nature (hi, me), but that to me was a story for someone else. What I found interesting was that long before I applied that label of aromantic to Cal, I had already pegged him as the biggest gossip. He’s not just everybody’s friend: he’s also everybody’s matchmaker (if they seem interested). In short, Cal is very into romance… as long as it’s not him. And considering how many of my aromantic friend love the genre? That’s also a side of our community that’s always forgotten.
But hey, wow, I’m only talking about his aroness now. Here’s why: the last decision I took with regards to Cal was that his aroness would be a much bigger part of his identity than his aceness. Rep is always the other way around, and often aromanticism is just… subsumed and conflated within aceness. So Cal? Cal is ace, but it doesn’t come up a lot. And I was very careful in how I wrote Cal to avoid “aromantic coding” that is so often used for ace characters (ex: not interested in dating). I wanted the two identities to be distinct, something they are too rarely given.
You can tell that by the time I was making these decisions, I had grown very aware of the ways the ace and aro communities interacted, and what I could do to help counter the bad parts of that. I was no longer writing rep just for it to actually exist: I was thinking through how my rep would fit in the wider scheme of things, both within the narrative and outside of it.
Cal is all that, but he’s also the one who is just plain fun to write. He’s the nice one, the adorable cinnamon roll, secure in his identity and ready to help others. He’s the safe space to write, and sometimes that is a relief. Certainly, when Hasryan and Larryn get confused and angsty over where they stand in their respective spectrum, it’ll be nice to have Cal around. 🙂