That seems to be a theme in my writing, both solo and with Ray Van Fox. In fact, one of our beta readers just wrote a comment in a new book we’re writing:
I would like to point out that if Character A had mentioned at any point, “Hey, I don’t sleep well around strangers, which is why I didn’t want to stay at your apartment, but I don’t think you’d bother me,” THIS WHOLE NIGHT WOULD BE SO MUCH LESS AWKWARD. Bonus if he threw in “Hey, I’m glad we’re still friends, but if you’re interested in being more, I’m open to that.”
The problem is, Character A wouldn’t say either of those things. He’s just out of the Air Force and barely beginning to cope with the hyperawareness from his PTSD, and he’s had a grand total of one relationship with another guy — and in that one, the other guy was the one who made the first move. Yes, he’s completely comfortable around Character B, who’s a childhood friend (reunited after 15 years apart), but he’s not comfortable with himself.
When we’re not comfortable with who we are, either because we don’t like ourselves or simply because we don’t know ourselves, it’s hard to talk openly and honestly. Realistically, it wasn’t until chapter 3 that Character A was ready to to say, “I’m having a lot of difficulty coming to grips with some things that happened to me in the Air Force, and I’m not comfortable around strangers, especially when I’m sleeping and vulnerable.” Not to imply that he said it so openly. He hinted and poked at the edges of the idea, and eventually he got the point across, after a whole lot of awkwardness.
And he’s certainly not ready to say, “Hey, I’m struggling with my sexuality, and I’m scared that if I confess how attracted to you I am, I’ll ruin our friendship.” That’s going to take chapters, unless something extraordinary happens. (And Character B is having this exact same struggle.)
I’ve seen a few critiques on romance writing blogs that this is a bad idea, but I have to disagree. While the world might run more smoothly if we had 100% full disclosure everywhere, that’s not how it works. People conceal things from themselves and from other people.
This is especially important when coming to grips with being queer is a big part of the story. These characters aren’t concealing information for the sake of furthering the plot. They’re barely ready to face these facts themselves, much less discuss them with others.
And that is the plot, or at least a big part of it. Through the rest of the book, these characters will mature and grow. Will Character A get to the point where he can talk honestly with Character B about his sexuality and PTSD? I hope so, but we’ll have to see. But I can guarantee that he’ll reach a point where he at least understand who he is.
ETA: I know the beta reader meant this humorously and not as actual criticism, and that we’ve made it clear in our writing (I hope!) that the characters aren’t talking because it would be out of character for them to do so. This isn’t meant to be a criticism of her feedback!