That may be a terrible title, but it had some alliteration, so I’m sticking with it for the moment.

I have two novels with the agents right now. One they’re currently working on selling, and one they’re currently reading to see if it has potential, and if so, what I can do to get it ready to be something they can sell.

This is not a big deal — and okay, that’s obviously a lie, but I’m leaving it, because if I have to deal with my own thought processes trying to wave their hands desperately to try not to spook anyone, then the rest of you can come along for the ride — but the main character of each of those books is a non-binary person. (Also, happy International Non-Binary People’s Day!)

In both cases, I made the choice to have the main character be non-binary because I wanted to see more non-binary representation in novels, and not just novels about non-binary people agonizing over their stuff. I wanted comedies with goofy non-binary people, and adventures with swashbuckling non-binary people, and romances with sexy non-binary people, because not every book needs to be the Very Special Episode where the conflict revolves around the protagonist being non-binary.

The next thing I want to write is gonna have a romance, and I need to figure out the gender of my two leads. It’s currently… well, I’ve been me long enough to know when part of the issue is that the different parts of my brain are arguing about something, and I’m not going to make a ton of forward progress until that argument is done. Ideally, getting older and wiser would mean getting through that argument faster and with less random internalized name-calling.

Currently, it’s going something like this:

Patrick the Hack: Okay, look, we’re just using the plot of (redacted movie). That’s a guy and a girl. Why are you making this harder than it has to be?

Patrick the Non-Binary: Well, representation, for starters.

Hack: We’ve done two books with a non-binary hero, and neither of them have sold yet. What are we representing, people whose books don’t sell because it turns out using they/them for your protagonist makes it hard to read?

Non-Binary: Okay, first, ouch.

Patrick the Romantic: I mean, we liked writing Masked Empire and Feeder, and both of those had f/f love stories.

Hack: Are we remembering how Feeder didn’t, you know, actually sell as well as we wanted it to? You really want to take another run at writing a full novel with a romance that isn’t straight — which is what sells — and also isn’t own voices? You really want to be that guy who writes nothing but lesbians?

Non-Binary: I mean, we’re not a guy–


Non-Binary: So, what, you want to just write a male/female romance because it’s safer?

Hack: Yes! Like, remember the last thing we wrote, which was supposed to be a fun little romcom, and then you got your angst all over it? What if we maybe set the bar at something we could actually accomplish this time, like a fun romcom between a guy and a gal, because that’s what we’ve seen most of and can probably pull off, like we did with The Palace Job? Or do we absolutely need to make it as difficult for ourselves as possible? We gotta do it lesbian? Or non-binary? Or hell, make it two guys and do it gay?

Romantic: I can’t do it gay.

Hack and Non-Binary: …

Romantic: I like reading lesbian romances and male/female romances and the few non-binary romances I’ve tried, but, um, with very few exceptions, I have trouble reading guy-guy romances. I don’t really feel comfortable with the characters. I’m not sure why.

Non-Binary: Yeah, it’s a real mystery.

Romantic: I’m attracted to guys, and two guys kissing as a visual is fine, but being inside the heads of two guys during a love scene…

Non-Binary: Gosh, if only we could figure out some reason you’re uncomfortable identifying with a male POV during a love scene.

Romantic: What do yoOhhhhhhh.

Hack: Okay, no, could we not unpack more of (waves at Non-Binary) whatever this is? Could we write something that gets us paid instead of just working through our issues?

Patrick the Activist: How about getting paid and making the world a better place?

Hack: Oh, for… Nobody invited you!

And it would be awesome if this high-school production of Herman’s Head (or I guess Inside Out for today’s hashtag teens who don’t remember random short-lived TV shows from the early 90s) came to a conclusion, but the various emotional selves of Patrick, represented here as Practical, Queer, Idealistic, and Horny, are still fighting this one out.

I could write it with a non-binary protagonist. Do I want to do that, because I have a responsibility to try to put more works with non-binary protagonists into the world, while also knowing that there’s a good chance that decision consigns it to the niche market even if it does sell?

Or do I write it with two women, which still has a risk of making it niche, and which could also result in people judging me for writing a lesbian love story while not being a lesbian (my Honorary Lesbian pin from HavenCon notwithstanding)?

Or do I write it with a guy and a girl, which might be the easiest? Am I selling out if I do that, or am I just trying to stay within visible distance of my comfort zone instead of just going completely off the rails? Or am I deluding myself that that actually will be easiest, since the last guy/girl love story I published in novel form was a few pronouns ago?

And the truth is, none of that is going to be the deciding factor! Those are things to think about when I figure out what I’m doing, so that I can mitigate risk and avoid obvious pitfalls, but those aren’t what determines what I write! That whole internal argument is a bunch of aspects of me arguing should, and the stuff that I’ve written that did well is generally not actually the stuff that I wrote with conscious decisions about what I should do, but by what I saw in my head and decided I must write. Yes, sometimes there was prodding to ask the questions (“What if Loch in The Palace Job wasn’t just a white guy?”, for example), but if that prodding doesn’t result in something I’m immediately and intuitively passionate about, then even if I do write 80,000+ words out of dutiful stubbornness, the odds are pretty good that those words aren’t gonna turn into a novel that knocks anyone’s socks off. My best work, regardless of how it sells, only comes out when I’m writing with excitement for something that I can’t wait to see exist.

Whatever the four aspects of me currently yelling at each other in my mind say, what matters is what Artist Patrick says, and Artist Patrick still hasn’t weighed in yet.

Hopefully Artist Patrick figures their crap out at some point. In the meantime, I sit and think and plan things that will work whatever I end up going with.