Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Mad Writer's Club Week 6 --To Trigger Warning or Not to Trigger Warning?

You know how everything comes with a trigger warning these days?

It's an increasing trend I'm seeing, this whole trigger warning business.

The first time I saw the trigger warning tag was back in the days of fan-fic and it was sandwiched among stories that held tags like M/M, non-con issues, bdsm, trigger warning: contains ass babies. Readers of all sorts traversed the world of fanfic and the writers, intoxicated with their strange sort of internet fame (every now and then someone got a cease and desist email from a famous person's lawyer, eeeeef!) began to oblige sensitive readers who demanded stories should have ratings on them because sometimes they just want to read a cute Harry Potter fanfic where Hermione takes initiative and wins Harry's heart, and they don't want to be surprised by Professor Trelawny getting it on with the Weasley twins while Ron is being forced to watch while gagged and bound on a chair.

The trigger warning increased, however, as readers wanted trigger warnings for more than just the bizarre, but also for the potentially emotionally upsetting. Everyone is unique in personality and experiences, and so one cannot anticipate the traumas a potential reader has gone through, and how they process reading scenes that may or may not remind them of bad things. This has always been true as long as there has been fiction writing, and as long as there have been people who have gone through traumas. In the old days, the only way a reader could avoid something with a triggering moment would be if someone else had read a certain novel or story and warned their friend off it, in case it might upset them.

The first time I ran afoul of the trigger warning code was when I posted a fanfic of pirates, and bad piratey behavior happens in it, which basically means murder, looting, rape, and mayhem. The pirates were not good guys by any means, and I wasn't presenting them as such, nor did I condone the bad stuff they were doing. It was just a pirate story.

Feeling pretty satisfied with it I posted it, got a few good reviews and then a very long, very upset review appeared. In it, I was called out for not putting a trigger for the bad things in it. I had ruined her day. I had ruined the characters she loves. The "R" for violence and sex tag I had put on it did not come close to covering what she had been assaulted with while reading. The bottom line, I was rude and uncaring and insensitive to her as a human being. I needed to apologize.

I didn't apologize. She felt bad after reading it, yeah that's sad, but... well... her existence did not come into play as I was writing the damn thing and after posting it? Well... I still don't know what I am supposed to feel. I've seen and been through some horrible things in my own lifetime, just as countless other people have, and those horrible things often show up in my writing. Of course those things are upsetting, they're supposed to be. That's why there are horrible things.

One way of coping after experiencing horrible things is to pretend horrible things do not exist. Now, it's understandable and good for someone who is fresh off a trauma to avoid that particular trauma if they can until they've healed enough to process the badness of the world again, but to avoid it completely for the rest of their lives and ask complete strangers to shield them as well? I'm just not on board with  that.

I have had editors tell me "this scene might be triggery", and although I have done what I can to tweak certain scenes to appease an editor I still can't shake that nagging irritation I feel at being told I have to self-censor to avoid hurting someone's feelings.

I don't think I'll be including one in the manuscript I'm writing. There will be material that is violent or aggressive, or hair raising or whatever. Perhaps there will be a reader or two who will be happily reading along and then they'll run into a chapter or scene where they go, "WTF this shit is upsetting!" They'll fling their kindle aside and never read it again.

 I am not answering to an editor, and potential readers are not my editor either. Sure, there will be some scenes and storylines that might upset someone or other... but I think we can all get through it and survive.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Mad Writer's Club Week 5 --Finding Repetitive Phrases

As I'm  sludging through rewrites of my cracked out modernized hockey rewrite of Dangerous Liaisons, I am finding little annoying things. The worst things are little words and phrases used over and over again, they are sort of like... they must be the way my brain narrates naturally and they pour onto the page unfiltered and they MUST BE DESTROYED!

It's embarrassing finding little things like that but hell, just snip em and be done right?

What I am finding is that I have a tendency in rough drafts of describing everything as "a bit". She smiled a bit. He walked a bit. He laughed a bit. He moved forward a bit. She fell down the stairs, broke her arm, and fell down a pit of doom... a bit.

That's gotta be annoying for any reader to be met with. I know that sometimes when I read someone else's manuscript little word quirks like that will pop out at me and when that happens I cannot unsee them! It's aggravating! Argh! So when you read over a manuscript of yours, look for words that pop out at you frequently. If you notice words appearing multiple times in a paragraph, or worse, in a sentence, snip them out.

I recently had a manuscript rejected but with personal critique. The editor liked it but they noted that the frequency of the word "yet" was throwing them off in the story. WHAT! I gasped. And I looked over the manuscript and did indeed find a lot of "yet"... well maybe not a lot, maybe the editor was having a bad day and the word "yet" was just particularly irritating. Something . >_>

The point is, do NOT leave it to chance. Edit out those strays. Pluck em! NOW! DO IT!

Remember though, when you are writing a first draft, do not do anything to it. Just keep writing forward, and wait til second draft time to start plucking strays. If you keep backtracking and plucking strays or worse, getting paranoid about which words to choose while you're writing draft one you'll never get a thing done and this is what stops probably about 90 percent of aspiring authors who can never finish a draft of anything.

Awrite I'm done here. See ya next week. XD

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Mad Writer's Club Week 4 -- Jumping the Shark

Yeah we all know what Jumping the Shark is right? The legend of Fonzie jumping over a shark in "Happy Days" because the writer's had literally run out of all the plots and like... prolly drugs and stuff. Well even if you didn't know the origin of the phrase, you may have known the meaning which is basically when a writer has no clue what to do so they just open up the corral holding in the pink elephants.

I personally love when things jump the shark. I know it's considered a sign of a series, movie, television, or book hard up for fresh ideas and we're supposed to groan and stuff and moan about how things are just gonna get moar stoopit from now on in the story lines but whatevs man. I like shiny things. I love bizarre things.

So with my cracked out hockey rewrite of Dangerous Liaisons you can prolly say I began by jumping the shark, and that's prolly true, cause OMG WTF PREMISE! Well, if there's any doubt about it, I made sure to jump the shark early on in the manuscript. Mysterious intruder fixated on one of the wives? Bring it. Hockey player from a rival team so in love with another player that he sends him a deluge of tasty gift baskets to his hotel room? Check. Talking goal posts? Yup. Flying monkeys? Oh... they're coming.

There's going to be an experiment here. How willing will the reader be to traverse this messed up universe? How many genres can I mash into one tale? Can I mix both adult romance and children's fantasy into one storyline? Slapstick and melodrama, mush it all together! CAN I DO IT!

Well I sure as hell am going to try.

The thing that annoys me in anything, whether it's painting, or writing or music... whatever, is the words "You can't such and such...." . If it can't be done then it SHOULD be done. Everyone else is following rules so you may as well bend or break them. If it sounds stupid, it probably is but who cares if you're having fun?


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Mad Writer's Club Week Three : Meet My Characters--The Lafets

Week three has arrived! And I seem to be spending more and more time on the rewrites for my insane hockey romance soapie reimagining of "Dangerous Liaisons". So let's meet moar characters!

Well let's meet Cecile Danceny!

She is of course, based on the character Valmont is supposed to seduce in "Dangerous Liaisons"-- Cecile de Volanges. Perky, achingly young, and naive, (the love interest of Chevalier Danceny). In "Dangerous Liaisons" she makes a tasty target and provides like ZERO challenge for Valmont. Well, the poor kid is like fourteen, what sort of fight is she gonna put up against a skeezoid old French rake? *shudders*
I mean just look at this poor innocent thing! Also, holy hamsters there was a time fairuza Balk was innocent!

The original Cecile is not much of a deep character, she is more like a lamb to slaughter. I originally intended the Cecile in my draft to be just as sweet and clueless. I began with her as a cheerful young nanny and a former parochial school girl, and I started writing her as a veritable sitting duck of girlhood and piety. The more I wrote of her, however, the more she began taking on the upstanding Madame de Tourvel's qualities, and well, I went with it.

Madame de Tourvel is the second target assigned to Valmont to seduce. The spotless wife of a member of French Parliament, she has attracted the disdain of Madame de Merteuil who wants to see her fall from her porcelain pedestal. Tourvel presents an epically tough challenge to Valmont and by the time he does get around to seducing her, he's fallen in love with her. (men, i swear!)

So in my rewrite, Cecile is going to have the qualities of both of these characters. She will start out as innocent, curious, girlish, but as the heat turns up and the Valmont character, Christopher Patrick, comes on strongly, Cecile becomes tougher, and begins to dip into her devoutly Catholic faith to try warding him off.

Not only that, but my Cecile belongs to a family tree that appears in and out of my manuscripts and short stories, The Lafets.

I like to connect almost all of my stories and manuscripts and poems together with reappearing characters. I have a few families that I like dipping into. I have the Forresters, the Bertrands, the Cromwells, and The Lafets.

The Lafet family is my most magical sort of family, and probably the most bonkers. They are very eccentric, and wealthy, the women in the family tend not to marry, generally have daughters, and are often tormented by madness and paranoia. They are prone to supernatural experiences and powers, and sometimes a Lafet woman can become quite powerful and apt to abusing that power. They're a perfect perpetual Greek Tragedy. Woo! :D

So the angle I want to work with my darling Cecile, who is a Lafet on her mother's side, is that she is young and innocent but as she matures, and finds her power and voice as a grown and increasingly sexual woman, she is also plagued by devastating fears about her family history and the possibility of madness. It's hard to talk TOO MUCH about her issues cause that will start giving away certain plot points. EEK!

Well that's all for today!

Thanks for sticking with this ~_~

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Mad Writer's Club Week 2 -- Meet The Characters

If you've known me online for any number of years, and I'm talking a lot of years, you are quite familiar with my insane modern hockey rewrite of Dangerous Liaisons, and very familiar with my characters. So this post isn't for you. It's for everyone else who hasn't had the privilege of meeting my crack for brains characters.

So if you're still reading... HI!

I'll talk about just a couple of characters.

If you're not familiar with the novel "Dangerous Liaisons" you probably are familiar with the movie versions. The most famous one would of course be the version with Glenn Close and John Malkovich, followed closely by the modern remake starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Phillipe. My favorite version happens to be "Valmont", starring Colin Firth and Annette Bening.

Why? Because even though "Valmont" takes the most liberties with the novel (and who am I to judge because... um hockey...), I do think "Valmont" has a fresher cast that sparkles with gleeful cruelty and innocence. There is JOY to them that I think lacks in the other versions. The other two versions just take themselves SO SERIOUSLY and ... ugh I just wanna beat the starch outta em.

Ah well.

So going forth!

First off , you cannot have Dangerous Liaisons without Madame de Merteuil!

Beautiful, bored, widowed, unstoppable! In the novel she is the centerpiece, the spider pulling all the strings. She manipulates everyone around her into thinking she is a generous, loving, chaste widow. She is everyone's best friend and the cream of society. Out of cruelty, she plays games with her former lover, seducing people on dares, breaking hearts and destroying lives!

She will be portrayed in my crackhouse of a novel by "Minni Patrick".

In a departure from the source material, Minni will be married, a mother of three! Thirty four years old, and seemingly a friendly, fluffy, blonde beauty of a housewife, no one around will realize the wicked games she is playing as she manipulates everyone out of their innocence, and hearts, and SOULS! Mwahahaha!!!!

Her character, however, will be tinkered with my melodramatic touches. She will have a tortured past, where she will have developed skills for manipulation to survive... but she also finds she has a taste for the cruel. She will love and protect her children with all of her heart, but at the same time, she will view the rest of humanity with a cold practicality.

I'm hoping to balance softness and sharpness, and will give her no middle ground!

Next up, say hello to the Vicomte de Valmont!!

Handsome, rakish, dandy, cruel! He devours innocence and hearts for fun, he matches wits with Madame Merteuil and when she throws him the gauntlet of gauntlets in the game of Broken Hearts he happily dives in to the demise of just about everyone involved.

Tinkering with this character, I have cast Valmont in the character of "Christopher Patrick". Minni's husband and the star goaltender for his hockey team. Even though he and Minni are married, they keep the spice in their relationship alive by seducing those around them and comparing notes. They give each other assignments and dares, and revel in the results.

Christopher will be a star at the peak of his career, drowning in accolades, and league records. To the adoring public he will be quirky, neurotic, a man of eccentric legend. To his family he will be fiercely protective and sometimes silly. Still, he will be driven by his need to own and dominate those in his shadow. Sex is a cold, mechanical thing to him, and it's a tool to claim a soul for him, it's a way to pass time, it's a way to control someone. What will drive his story is the gauntlet Minni will lay down for him, and his need to play the game all the way through, perhaps even past fatal limitations!

So there it is, a couple character sketches!

I hope this sounds interesting enough xD.