How Septemus hijacked my story
My original plans for this story, as evidenced in the first chapter, centered around a peripheral narrator. Initially, I wanted to tell a third-person story, but I also wanted to incorporate a reflective, slightly nostalgic tone. Having a narrator who wasn’t one of the central characters would let me achieve this. One of my favorite works of SimLit, Trip’s Eight Cicadas, makes use of this style of narration, and I wanted to try my hand at the wistful distance this approach can create.
I was aware of the challenge: How do you tell events from the perspective of someone who wasn’t a witness? But I was eager to give it a try.
I decided early in the planning stage that Sept, in disguise, would run a café, and I wanted to use a game-assigned barista for the narrator. I planned that readers wouldn’t recognize Sept in disguise immediately (You did!), and I hoped that the slow discovery of Max Culper’s true identity would provide one of the main fuels for the plot.
I guess Sept knew you all would be so smart, for he chose that this would be a love story, just as much a spy story, refugee story, or climate change story.
Anya, an old friend of Sept’s, was the first barista the game sent. I thought she would make a good narrator. I like using an elder for a narrator, since I’m a hop, skip, and a jump away from that life-stage myself. Voice changes after fifty, and I love the rich timbre that comes with age.
The game sent Mallory next. She captured my attention the moment I saw her standing in the street, feeling very flirty, while Max, in his cute tight bell-bottoms, trotted up the steps.
Then, the more I watched her, the more I loved her.
I think it’s her eyebrows.
It became evident from the start, from Mallory’s gaze, expressions, body language, and use of physical space, that she was attracted to Max/Sept. Initially, he had eyes for Caleb (who, alas, thanks to MCCC, was also married off to another guy, just like Lucas!).
But through the next few days, this shifted. Max/Sept began closing his eyes when they hugged in greeting. He chose to be near her, to joke with her, to fire her up. And he was always watching her, with a smile and a glint in his eye.
And then, the night of the Romance Festival, he rolled the whim to flirt with her. I didn’t pin the whim. I had to think through my plot and my plans, considering how many changes becoming romantically involved with Mallory would entail. And while I was considering, Septemus greeted her by kissing her hands. That was the whole enchilada, right there, and I had to watch my plans sail away!
As an aside, have you noticed recently that autonomous greetings have become meaningful? I remember reading in patch notes a few years ago that greetings were relationship-specific (hugs for close friends and relatives, smooches for romantic partners), but I’d only noticed it happening recently with Sept. I just got a powerful new laptop, with loads of RAM, so maybe now my computer had the power to handle the smooch-greeting! Oh, and that movie-style kiss on the porch when Mallory first comes to Max/Sept’s house? Autonomous.
Up to this point in the story, Mallory has been an NPC (non-playble character). I’ve only played Max/Sept up through the last chapter. I’ve really enjoyed having the narrator be a Sim which I can’t control. Mallory lives with Sept now, so I’m back to a more traditional Simming/writing approach. I’m considering writing another piece, or maybe series of short stories, narrated by an NPC–perhaps a gardener, a ranger, or a mail carrier.
If you’ve read Goofy Love, you know that I follow a prime directive* when I play Sims, even when playing saves for stories with plot.
*Spoiler alert: The post behind that link contains mega-spoilers for Goofy Love. If you ever plan on reading it, you might want to resist clicking.
In short, my prime directive is this:
To let Sims be fully actualized digital beings with the right of self-determination.
This means, in part, that they choose whom and how and when to love.
While Sept obviously shared chemistry with Lucas and Caleb, Mallory is the first Sim he rolled romantic whims for or autonomously engaged in romantic interactions with. She’s his choice.
But why pan?
When Sept was child, I often thought he’d grow into a panromantic/pansexual. He has this way of connecting with the spirit of those he loves in a way that is beyond gender and sexual identity. When he was a teen, he developed a grace that made it easy for me to interpret him as gay. And he had obvious chemistry with Lucas and Caleb, both of whom, in my game, are very gay.
When Sept showed romantic interest in Mallory, I considered making him bi. This defintion of pansexual seems to fit Sept, though:
“People who self-identify as pansexual do so with purpose, to express that they are able to be attracted to various gender and sexual identities, whether they fall within the gender binary or not.”
I can easily imagine Sept feeling attracted to anyone, of any gender and sexual identity. My identifying him as panromantic/pansexual is in no way intended to be a form of bi-erasure.
How does a Panromantic Asexual write about love?
Apparently with a lot of references to woolly mammoths and prokaryotes! What, flagella aren’t sexy?
I thought that this might be a bit of a love story: Sept did role “Soul Mate” for his aspiration, after all. But I had intended that the story of his courtship would be told through Mallory’s eyes, as she read his personal blog, “Looking for Love.” I’d hoped it would be funny, a little corny, and endearing.
I didn’t intend for romance to take center stage for the first part of the story. It’s a lot easier for me to write about spiritual attraction and spiritual connection than sexual and romantic, so I hope you’re forgiving in regards to my floundering prose! We’ll be moving on to other plot arcs, if Sept and Mallory allow.
And also, I’m sorry
I know a lot of us really enjoyed gay Sept, and I especially liked the friendship dynamic between Max and Mallory.
It can hurt readers when a favorite gay character stops being gay. I’m sorry if Sept’s self-identification as pan has hurt any of you.
I guess my main point in this author’s note is to say that if I could have continued to identify Sept as gay, I would have. To be true to my Simming prime directive, I had to let him choose.
If my narrative has been insensitive or if the way I’ve handled this has caused hurt or uncomfortable feelings, please know that I respect your perspective and I’m very open to making revisions. I welcome suggestions or thoughts about how I might handle this better. I know it’s not your responsibility to educate me. I’m also grateful for anything you feel moved to share with me in regards to this.
Thanks so much for reading!