Archive for September, 2009

things wot are cool

I’m making a commitment to write something in this blog once a week at minimum, I suppose we’ll see how well I stick to that. I might also stick to writing fluffy things for a while; I have kind of a pathological fear of putting my foot in my mouth.

Speaking of fluff, I have a confession: I kind of love Tom Cruise pre-1995. I know this is not a popular opinion, but, two words: Top Gun. Gayest movie of all time, am I right? (Proof: volleyball scene. “Hrm, we are all shirtless and oiled up. Let me just flex my bicep while I check my watch.”) I also love Risky Business and Cocktail and… oh, hey, A Few Good Men is on my TV. This is one of those movies I almost always watch when I run into it on cable and it never gets old even though I’ve got large swaths of it memorized. I don’t know why. The cast is good, it’s an interesting story, Aaron Sorkin writes snappy dialogue, Tom Cruise does what he does best: playing a dude with assholish tendencies who makes good. Heck, I was still a Tom Cruise fan as late as 2001 or 2002 when he was on the cover of I think Vanity Fair, and I bought the magazine just for him, because, yeah. And Tom Cruise and I have the same birthday! I guess it turned on me around the same time he married Katie Holmes. He hasn’t done a movie I’ve liked in a while, he’s kind of crazy, it’s not cool to find him attractive. But, what can I say? It was like my stepmother said to me once after we’d seen Rain Man: That Tom Cruise is a hunk.

What about you? Any movies you always watch on TV? Secret celebrity crushes you’re kind of ashamed to admit to?

Other things that are cool: I agree with the Smart Bitches that these ads for an event put on my Lorelei James and MaryJanice Davidson are pretty cool. I also love that vintage art, like the covers of great pulp novels. (Incidentally, I’ve read and enjoyed most of Lorelei James’s McKay brothers series. I mean, what’s not to like? There are cowboys. Full stop. Cowboys, people. My favorite of the series, Rough, Raw, and Ready manages to accomplish both being a hot read and having a really interesting emotional arc. It’s a menage, which usually isn’t my thing, but it’s a great book.)

authenticity and audience redux

I’m still mulling this over a little, but here are some things I’ve contemplated:

+ I feel pretty strongly that, as a writer, I personally want to Get It Right. I’m not looking to appeal to any one audience in particular, but to as many people as possible.

+ Genre can sometimes be a crutch. In my writers group, which includes authors who write in a number of different genres, we sometimes get into conversations that basically go like this: “This scene seems a little ridiculous.” “It’s okay, it’s a convention of the genre.” I mean, there are for sure some things that can only be found in romance novels, and I even like some of these things, but having someone tell you a scene is trite and silly will make you think again. Just because I can get away with it doesn’t mean I should do it.

+ I was tickled by this discussion (probably NSFW) about silly things sometimes found in m/m romance. I aspire to avoid some of these problems, but I think this is also a level of detail I rarely write. There’s a fine line between romance and erotic romance. I personally like to write just enough detail so that the reader knows what’s going on but I prefer not to describe every vein and hair. And I definitely fall into the some novels have too many sex scenes camp. (I’ve read books where I found myself skipping sex scenes. They either detract from the plot or they lose some eroticism by happening so often.) So, um, what was my point? Oh, yeah. We female writers don’t always have male bodies hanging around to study, I suspect some inaccurate things creep in, but it’s funny how sometimes those inaccuracies become a trope, and hopefully I’ve not ever written anything that will make a male reader go, “Um, what?”

+ Relatedly, there’s been much made in the m/m romance blogosphere of the Lambda Literary Awards’ decision to only give awards to GLBT authors, despite the great number of excellent straight female m/m writers. TeddyPig sums it up pretty well: they’re idiots! Victor J. Banis also weighed in. And Jane and Sarah F at Dear Author also have some things to say. Maybe we can all agree that a good book is a good book, regardless of who wrote it?

+ Bonus: Erastes on how to write an m/m book… or not!

authenticity and audience

I’m currently in the midst of having an almost-finished novel workshopped by my writers group. I have a character in the novel who even I can admit is kind of schmoopy. One of the members of my group called him emo and said that all of his internal monologue sounded like it was written by a woman.

This is fair criticism. I, obviously, have no first-hand experience with what the internal monologue inside a male brain sounds like, but I’ve read books that rang oddly to me, where it was obvious that it was a woman pulling the strings behind the male characters, and that lack of authenticity bothered me enough to pull me out of the story.

It’s making me self-conscious about the character I’m writing in my current work-in-progress, a man suffering from depression. He’s divorced, he’s stuck in a dead-end job, and just when he finds himself in a relationship that turns out to be a bright spot in his life, his ex-wife threatens to take custody of their daughter away. So life sucks for this guy, and he has a small breakdown. I worry that I’m not writing him masculine enough, that he will become, essentially a Chick with a Dick, a convention I am not a fan of, especially in m/m fiction, wherein one of the character is essentially a woman with boy parts.

I’m maybe especially self-conscious after reading this:

Certainly, [women] have a tendency to make gay love more romantic than it really is, assigning it the same emotional values of straight or Lesbian courtship. While a guy can readily get into wham-bam-thank-you-man sex for sex’s sake, and can get turned on by reading it, women tend to be turned on by mental involvement with which men wouldn’t be bothered in real time.

[…]

The transference of female emotions onto gay fictional characters may make gay men, in general, come across to women as better men than their straight male counterparts, if just because gay men, word-painted with the universal, albeit artificial guise, of being so often so truly kind, caring, loving, and considerate, have morphed into the female ideal of the perfect mate and lover. Is that a good or bad thing? I’m for anything that makes gayness more acceptable. If in the end, it’s a totally unrealistic way of seeing gay men, how many women are actually going to know they’re indulging in pure illusion?

My takeaway from this is that men portrayed as “truly kind, caring, loving, and considerate” (or, you know, sappy and emotional and sensitive and whatever else it is women are thought to look for in men) are not realistic, but if that’s what women are buying, it’s okay to write them that way. (“How many women are actually going to know?” I feel like this assumes all women live in some box in middle America where gay men fear to tread. It feels a little disingenuous for me to be all, “I have gay friends, I know what gay men are like!” because that sounds to me like, “I’m not a racist! I have a black friend!” but, on the other hand, I would hope that my gay friends fill me in when I’m portraying them in delusionally romantic ways. That’s neither here nor there, though.)

I don’t even know what to do with this. First there’s the gender essentialism (men like sex for sex’s sake, women like emotions, blah blah whatever). But say we buy into the notion that some emotions are feminine, I have the added problem of, generally speaking, finding beta men more attractive. I can certainly understand the appeal of the big, strong, alpha male, but I’m a sucker for a guy who is funny and caring and a little nerdy. Is that realistic? And what is romance if not fantasy? If I write a guy who is a little… feminine, is that still okay if that’s what my audience wants?

I’m still inclined to think that I’d rather get it right, that I’d rather write men who read masculine, who seem like men to my audience. Even fantasy requires plausibility; even if you’re writing about unicorns on Mars, they need to be depicted in a way that rings true to the reader, that seems reasonable and believable.