Gender Politics and the Modern Storyteller

Why does the princess dress as a boy?  Why does a girl cut her hair and run away?  Why does a young woman throw her life away, entering a lethally dangerous world, to reject  the marriage proposal she doesn’t want?  Simply to escape the trap of being female in a male dominated society.

The struggle for an equal voice in our society is just as old as those Fairy Tales, if not older.  Some are of the opinion that Campbell’s mythic Hero’s Journey is for men, exclusively, and to place a female in that role is ‘manning’ her.  After centuries of waiting, women–in fiction and reality–are breaking free of the imposed roles of golden princess, mother goddess, and throne side trinket.  We are becoming the Hero, because the hero is Human.

Movie and TV Producers don’t think it’s happening.  Toy Producers don’t think it’s happening.  Book Publishers don’t think it’s happening.  Everywhere I look are people who don’t think it’s happening.  Some Manufacturers see it, I think, but are sure to charge us more for the same product sold to men, while simultaneously paying us less.

Can you not see it?  I see it in social media, dating practices, self-published books, and Sci-fi awards (including the backlashes).  And it’s not just about the equality of genders; it’s equality for all the things a Human can be. (None so blind as those who will not see.)

I see the signs everywhere.  The firm rock our culture is built on is shifting toward equality, moving like a tectonic plate.  Gender politics pop up in every aspect of our lives, like sudden volcanos sprouting in open fields.  The ground shakes, liquefying, and you either figure out how to float or sink down.

It’s a struggle, figuring out who you want to be as a gender.  Some of us make mistakes, as many are quick to point out, fingering the most obvious cases of toxic feminism, confusion at gender fluidity, and concern over woman becoming too manlike.  We are evolving, and that is a difficult process.  Mistakes will be made, and hard lessons learned.  (That’s just the tip, Honey.  Lye back and get used to it.)

I don’t want to take away or suppress the masculine voice.  I just want to be able to say, “Me, too.  I have a story!”  Equality is understanding we all have both masculine and feminine sides, and being allowed to express them as individuals is the evolved form of society.

It may feel like we are entering a new Era to you, but it’s been whispered to me my whole life.  The earliest myths, Fairy Tales, and the stories we tell ourselves are all part of it.  The voice is louder now, promising a better way, if we are strong enough.  You can’t keep a segment of the population suppressed forever.  All of the stories tell us…  They rise.  Always.

I don’t want to be your Queen, or Goddess, or Mother/Sister/Daughter to have your respect.  I want to be acknowledged as roughly fifty percent of the population.  I am equally human, so don’t force me to play the Bitch card just to be equal.

Keep your eyes closed.  Pretend it’s all going back to the way it was.  Feel free to take that risk.  Just be aware that if you keep trying to force that golden bikini on us, we have new role models, and we will wrap that chain around your throat and pull.

If we choose to put that golden bikini on, for you, for an evening, that’s another story…

(Dammit, I’m back to erotica.  Again!)

 

 

 

Genre in Fiction: A Writer’s Search for Clarity

Genre is on my mind a lot lately.  I have to make some hard decisions about my manuscript, and decide what path to take in the revision.  The decisions I make now will directly affect the promotion of the book when it is ready to self-publish.  I have to choose carefully so my  future readers will be able to find me, and so I don’t give potential readers the wrong impression about my book.  Lets take a walk through my mind…

Some genres have to do with the setting, like Science Fiction, Fantasy, Modern, and Historical.  Add the more recent sub-genres like Alternative History, Dystopian Future, Paranormal, Steampunk, Cyberpunk, & and you end up with a place for the story to take place.

Other genres have to do with the plot, like Mystery, Romance, Horror, and Adventure.  These can be subdivided into other genres like Crime or Epic, although Epic could have more to do with length than plot. This is the path the story takes, and each genre has certain expectations placed on it by the readers.

Still other genres seem to be about the voice or tone of the story, like Literary, Young Adult, or Erotica.  There are also descriptors that are less of a genre and more of a flavor, like Gritty, Hard, Military, Sport, Steamy, Cozy, or Warm Hearted.

These lists are by no means complete, just off the top of my head and hopefully enough for you to get my point.  Humans like to slot things into categories, but the single word genre is often woefully inadequate to describe most books.  So we play mix and match, and get things like Cozy Mystery, Paranormal Romance, and Young Adult Fantasy.  But we also get Gritty Fantasy, Steampunk Romance, and Literary Adventure; which could work, or be a total disaster, depending on the writer, and the reader.  (Has anyone tried Cozy Horror?)

My opinion of my own manuscript’s genre has shifted as I’ve written it, from Science Fiction Romance to Erotic Science Fiction Romance, simply because I can’t seem to ‘look’ away from the sex scenes.  It interests me, how the two characters navigate a new relationship, including the time they spend in bed, whether it’s talking, making love, exploring some aspect of their sexuality, or contrasting the way that their cultures and species are different.  They spend time outside of bed, of course.  They both have friends, family, and jobs.

To get a better handle on the expectations of the readers of Erotica, so I could mesh it with the other genres I’m using, I did research.  What I found was a lot of people equating Erotica with porn. I keep hearing “Erotica doesn’t need a plot,” or “Erotica is just sex,” or “I don’t read Erotica, it’s trash.”  And a lot of handcuffs, but not enough feathers.  I’ve been very confused, since I didn’t realize there was such a negative perception to the word Erotic.

Maybe it’s just me, but I thought erotic meant engaging the senses related to romantic desire and sexual love.  That’s what the dictionary says. I read things in most books that I consider erotic.  The description of a first kiss, depending on the author, could be erotic, along with the feeling of lying on a blanket with your love interest while stargazing.

So I look down at my 179,194 word manuscript, trying to figure out if I can cut the sex scenes, and revise the character arcs into less racy words, but that…

Makes me want to chunk the whole thing in the trash and go back into fiber arts.

I haven’t yet, but I’ve come close.  Then I look over at the notebooks full of my other stories, waiting their turn to be developed.  They have themes and words in common with my current project.  If I take out the intimacy, I lose interest in telling the story.  This issue isn’t going to go away for me, unless I give up on crafting stories out of words.  I don’t want to give up.  Writing has become my choice of hobby, vice, and meditation.

So, I’m back to figuring out my genre.  Steamy would be misleading about the graphic words I use.  Is there such a thing as Cozy Erotica, or Spiritual Erotica? Am I really going to try to market under “Warm Hearted Hard Core Erotica Science Fiction Romance”?  Shall I add “Strong Female Lead”? How about “Don’t Read This Because It’s Confusing and Mislabled”.

That Damn trash can is laughing at me.

When is a Cock Not a Rooster? A writer’s confusion…

Word count first.  I’m at 126,648 on the Beta draft, and have passed the chapter that could be a cliff hanger if I decide to split the book in two.  I wrote an alternative chapter ending suitable for the cliffhanger, saved it, and continued on the  original manuscript.  I had some zero word days during the week, due to the holiday, but I also had one 5,000 plus word day.

I love those.  They make me feel like a grown-up writer, although I end up a bit spacy by the end of the day, unable to come out of Bookland.

Anyway, adults only from here on.

18 and over please.

Don’t keep reading if you are under 18.  I have already ruined my daughter’s childhood, or so she has told me.  Who knew she would react that way to the word ‘McGuppies’?

I mean it…

When is a Cock not a Rooster?  When it’s a penis, of course.  Did that word make you flinch?  I still does for me, sometimes.  I think it’s strange, how words can make you react so viscerally.  Still, it’s better than some of the historical terms.  If you ever need a laugh, look them up and use them in conversation, maybe even the bed room.  Tallywacker is a favorite.  Try whispering it.

Moist.  That gets a lot of people, but I like it.  Moist cake.  Moist kisses.  Equally decedent.  Equally sought.

I’ve always had a problem with the way people use vagina as the word for female genitals.  That is the internal structure.  Shall we just call the penis a ‘shaft’?  The problem is, I’ve never found a word for the female genitals that isn’t used as an insult, or giggle-inducing flowery, and I have LOOKED.   Just don’t get me started on the ridiculously childish V-jay jay.  You are a grown-ass woman, act like it!

Then you have all the words and phrases for the sex act.  So, so many…  Why are we so obsessed?  There are entire dictionaries with timelines, for the more historically minded.  You don’t want to use the wrong slang in your historical romance, do you?  Do You?

Anyway, the writer attempting to write a sex scene has a hard road to follow.  There are only so many words the modern audience will understand, or tolerate, so you go to the Thesaurus, or lift nice words from other writers.

What word gives you a thrill when reading it?  Put it on the list.  Don’t like it?  I have those words, too.  Frankly, I’m only allowing an author the word ‘lave’ once per book before I want to throw the book at their head.  I’ve seen it too many times in the past three years.

So, now you have all the words; medical, flowery, slang, dirty, and everything in-between, but you can only use them so often before they lose meaning or just bore the reader.  Wait, what if there is more than one sex scene?

Depending on the category of words you use, your work is split into different places.  Romance, vanilla, steamy, erotica, hard core, or porn.  There are probably more, but I’m still playing catch-up.

Problem is, nobody will define the categories, or they contradict themselves.  One publisher’s submissions tips I recently read insisted they wanted steamy ménage (specifically, only m/f/m) but ‘no erotica or porn’.  They didn’t want anything that was ‘just sex, outside of a relationship’.  No porn, yeah, but how does that include erotica?  Is there a different meaning to the word ‘erotic’ that I’m missing?

Then there is the question of what would your character actually use, both as spoken words and internal dialogue.  You have to stay true to the story.  Right?  Yeah, I thought so.

Now, you have your reader.  The range from “Urg, they’re kissing, again”, through “Eek, no squishy bits”, to “Meh, too tame.”  Luckily, no one has to admit their guilty secret if they like to read erotica, especially in the age of e-books.  Awkward is the moment you head to the Erotica section of a book store, only to find someone already there.  Doubly awkward if the person is the opposite gender.  “Just passing through…  this clearly marked, hard to get to, right angled corner of the store.”

Hmmm, I seem to have rambled, and we’re not even into the content of a sex scene.  I guess we should pick it up next week.  Keep an eye out for ‘How deep is your love?’ or maybe ‘Just the tip, I promise.’  I haven’t decided.  Enjoy the start to the new year!

 

Todays topic: Pseudonyms

As those who know me may have noticed, I have been playing with using the original spelling of my given name.  My parents tried to make pronunciation easier for people, and used a phonetic spelling.  At my first doctors appointment my name was called…”Danny?”  Oops!  What followed was many years of explaining…

Temptation is strong to use an unrecognizable name, since there seems to be an element of erotica in my writing.  Have I not mentioned that?  It is because of the derision heaped on those who write romance and erotica.  The words ‘trash’, ‘smut’, and ‘useless’ have been thrown around by writers I deeply respect.  I know the moment I publish will be the moment I will never be respected, by these people and many others.  I am learning to live with that.  Personally, I don’t read much contemporary romance, although I have found several paranormal romance writers I adore.

Strangely enough, I have used aliases all my life.  First was my characters from D&D (original boxed edition) and other role playing games.  Then I spent my twenties and beyond in the Society for Creative Anachronism, where I created a persona. I am surprisingly comfortable with a pen name.  It’s like a mask at a friends party.  Your friends know who you are, but you are partially hidden from strangers.  Perfect.

So, if I use ‘Danae’, what about a last name?  There are the obvious choices; Penman, Penwoman, Penname, Pseudonym, Scribbler, or maybe just ‘Hack’. The less obvious choices from my likes; Winter, Snow, Capricorn, Malachite, Obsidian, Oak, Willow, Grey, Wulf or Wolf.  I could even use ‘Jones’, most people probably think it’s fake.  (Sorry, Hubby.)  Hmmm…

Word count to date: 18,992  That’s averaging just over 2,000 words a day this week.  Started chapter six, today.  I seem to have hit a flow.

Yay me!