Writerly Non-Sex Kinks M-Type Thing
Name five ‘non-sexual kinks’ you have as a reader/writer: that is, five writing techniques, themes, settings, or character types that really draw you into a story. (If they are different for you as a reader than as a writer, please name both!)
1. I love characters that I loathe and yet empathize with. I remember once reading a Joyce Carol Oates' novel (I forget the title because her titles tend to be ridiculously unmemorable to me) where I found myself simultaneously nauseated by the PoV character and yet far enough into his headspace to understand his reasoning and motivation. It left me feeling a little greasy and quite disturbed, as when this happens, it is always a reminder of how a slight change in circumstance could eradicate what we believe is best about ourselves and leave us someone we would loathe in our current circumstances. It is also a reminder that almost everyone finds a way to live with themselves. This has long been my approach as a writer: Every character, no matter how heinous his or her deeds, has to be able to fall asleep at night. Eventually, at least. This is very often a starting place for me when writing a character.
2. Imagery, metaphor, and precision in language. I love a writer who wields these in such a way that an otherwise nice but ordinary scene comes to life in a new way or where new connections are made between perception and meaning. I love writing where I savor the words like wine. (Not a particularly great metaphor!) I try to be that writer too; I often play a game with myself where I look at a person or a place and ask myself, "If I had to describe this, how would I do it?" I love writing where the writer chooses a word where I find myself thinking that there is no better possible word to communicate what she or he is trying to say. I have a theory that I call the language layer cake about the varying layers of meaning to a word; when a word hits spot on for all these layers, I am usually reduced to a happy sighing pile of joy.
3. Flashback. I sometimes worry that I overuse this in my stories, but I can't help myself; it's how I write and always have! My stories tend to snake back and forth between present and past, with past events (hopefully) illuminating present circumstances. I suppose this clicks for me as a reader too; I remember reading novels as a teenager and getting excited whenever I'd see a long block of italic text, thinking, "Yay FLASHBACK!!!!" (Interestingly, having heard from my once-upon-a-time-typesetter/printer-turn
4. Complex situations. This sounds kind of dumb, and I'm having a hard time pinning down how exactly to say what I mean. I suppose I would sum it up by saying that I love to read and try to write stories where it is clear that no situation has a single interpretation and where every character would tell it a little differently. In Silmfic, it is a favorite tactic of mine to take a situation we all think we know well and tell it from the PoV of a character whose viewpoint very obviously wasn't the one represented in the texts. Just like complex characterization, I like the sense of discomfort that this provokes; the reminder that a situation that seems so clearly "right" or "wrong" to me seems so clearly the opposite to someone else. As an idealistic person, I rely on the strength of my convictions, and I like fiction that challenges the unshakeable basis of perceived rightness. In Silmfic specifically, I love stories that play on the idea that Tolkien developed throughout his writings of his tales having their origins in the oral and historical traditions of the societies that he represents and present how familiar texts might be seen from a different perspective.
5. Women without swords. This one has developed over the years (The Work of Small Hands being my first conscious attempt to do this) but has become an approach to writing women that I really enjoy: How women shape their worlds using the means allowed to them within sexist or misogynist societies that do not involve stepping into typically masculine roles. Too often lately, it seems the need to include more women in fiction involves plopping a gal in armor and handing her a sword and assuming that this makes her a strong, powerful, and admirable character. But this really isn't how it works in the real world the vast majority of the time. Since becoming a teacher--and I am presently the only woman teacher in my school--at a school dominated by very physically imposing men, I have realized the strength and power that I can wield that makes me effective with my students where my male colleagues are not. Women often face obstacles because of being women as well, and one cannot simply hack away those obstacles with a sword. Stories that represent those struggles realistically--not stories that erase those struggles as though that erases sexism and misogyny--very much appeal to me.
This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!