So you want to start writing polycules from the ground up…

That’s awesome! I’m glad you’re doing this and I’m even more glad you’re educating yourself first.

You’ve probably had some experience writing monogamous relationships, which is a great starting point. In the end, it’s the same goal: having people fall in love in ways that read naturally to the audience. Like a monogamous relationship, this can happen a million different ways depending on the characters and their setting.

With so many choices, how do you even begin?

Take a deep breath, don’t worry, you’re in good hands.

Basic information can be found here:

So once you’ve decided that you want to include a polycule, you have two main ways of going about it:

  • Characters can be comfortable being polyam before they enter into a relationship, and enter into that relationship with it being polyamorous, no matter how many people are in the polycule at the start – whether it’s 2 or 5
  • Characters can also enter into a monogamous relationship and later decide to go polyamorous

What works best for your characters? Do they know what polyamory is? Have they had relationships – of any sort – in the past? How does that color their perspective?

Every character in the polycule will have their own unique view on polyamory and how to go about it.

There are some unique trials your characters might face when in a relationship with two or more people. I’ve listed some of them here. These are things that tend to be unique to polycules – or things that people don’t think ever happen in consensual non-monogamy. A lot of standard relationship issues can also crop up – communication issues, trust, fights etc.

  • A lot of apartments are maximum 2 adults per bedroom
    • Some also won’t allow you to combine your income for purposes of being approved, as far as needing to make 3x the amount of rent, which can be problematic especially in today’s economy
  • An event allows your character to take a +1
    • Who gets brought along? Why? Is it a practical concern? (We’re not out and they know about Bob but not Kathryn)
    • Are there hurt feelings? How do they deal with it?
  • A lot of this boils down to the fact that modern society is built around monogamy
    • Other characters will likely assume your polycule is cheating on one another if they see them with different people
    • Often it’s going to be assumed it’s all about having sex and there’s only one “real” relationship
  • Juggling schedules is always “fun” – if Characters A and B and A and C are dating, but not B and C, and the only day A and B have off in common is the same as A and C’s day off… what happens? How is this resolved?
  • Jealousy is absolutely still a thing in polyamorous relationships – just make sure the characters address it before it festers and becomes too big to deal with
  • Cheating is still a thing – any time a character breaks the outlined rules of their relationship it’s cheating – even if they’re in a polyamorous relationship!
    • E.g. Characters A, B, C and D are all together, but in a closed relationship. Dating or having sex with someone outside that relationship would still be cheating

When building your polycule, some things to consider:

  • There doesn’t need to be a justification for including a polycule in your writing. It can simply be without fuss or drama
    • But it should be there for a reason beyond checking off a box on some diversity checklist
      • even if that reason simply is because it makes sense for the characters involved
      • Or you just really like the ship
      • Or you’re trying to bust a love triangle trope
    • Basically: Have a reason, but don’t feel the need to justify it in the narrative, you can simply let them be and have your own private reasons for it
  • While there will likely be some gender and sexuality overlap between characters, not everyone in a polyamorous relationship is bisexual. Have some variety – even monosexual characters can be in a polyamorous relationship!
    • Remember to be respectful in your depictions of varying sexualities and genders too. As always, do your research!
    • Monogamous characters can also be in a polyamorous relationship – Character A is dating B, who is monogamous, but B is okay with A dating C.
  • Every character will have come around to the idea of polyamory differently – whether that’s through introspection, a previous polyam relationship, exposure through media… and this will color how they view the initial opening of the relationship.

Some questions to ask yourself as you build a polycule:

  • Do your characters know any other polyamorous people?
    • We’re like queer folks, we tend to flock to one another
  • What was the character’s first exposure to polyamory? How did they feel about it then?
  • Who brings up the subject first?
    • Even if all characters are polyamorous, chances are they aren’t all openly polyam with one another and so that initial conversation is going to be difficult – it’s just another form of coming out.
  • Who’s living with whom?
    • Are there any plans to change those arrangements?
    • Note that the answer here can be “No one” regardless of how long they’ve been together but is especially true of new polycules
  • Are they a closed or open polycule? What are the specific arrangements?
    • Especially if they’re an open polycule, how do they handle safe sex?
      • e.g. using barrier protection with new partners until everyone’s had a round of STD tests
    • Where do the kids live? What name(s) do they get? Does it depend on biological parents? Hyphenated? Some sort of cutesy hybrid of everyone’s?
    • When considering everything, keep in mind the shape of your polycule – the answers may be very different if A, B, C and D are all dating and closed, than if A and B, B and C, and C and D are dating and open.

Okay, now that you know how to start building one from the outside, let’s throw your characters into the situation. What kinds of questions might come up during the conversations, especially when one person is less experienced with polyamory?

  • Why? – am I not good enough?
  • What if you end up liking [person] more?
  • Are you cheating/is there someone else?
  • What if I say no? (aka is this ‘open the relationship or we break up’?)
  • What about the kids?
    • Can also be a concern with established polycules

Polyamory looks a lot like any other relationship in that it’s just 3+ people falling in love. The questions I’ve posed here are just a starting point – they are by no means a complete list of things that might come up, and are designed to highlight the differences between monogamous and polyamorous relationships.

Remember, in the end, writing is about having fun. I want you to keep these things in mind as you write, but keep that goal in mind. Let this help expand your writing rather than feeling like it should constrain it. Best of luck in all your writing endeavours!

Originally posted to Tumblr.

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