Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Writing Process: Part One the Preliminaries

It seems that people like the idea of me sharing my writing process and I think it will be fun for me too. So, over the next few blog posts, you’ll be able to see how it is that I write a story.

Every writer is different. Every story is different. My process may not be your process, but you’ll get the chance to see my errors (even ones I don’t see) and, hopefully, we’ll both learn something.

The story I’m going to be using is a WIP (Work In Progress) and I’m handling that story the way I’m handling these blog posts: I don’t know where it’s going, but we’ll see. I’ve not courted any publishers with this WIP and I don’t even have a title for it yet.


The Writing Process: Part One…

This story started with an itch of an idea. I wanted to do something with a eunuch and I also wanted to work with a little bit of politics, gender persecution and sexual oppression. (And some people just realized erotica writing isn’t all about the sex.) One day, the idea of blending those two itches came to me and that generated another host of thinking.

Now I start adding layers to what I want to do with this piece and always keep in mind my audience.

1) I want to do a story with a eunuch.

2) I want to figure out why it’s “a eunuch” and not “an eunuch” according to Word—better check on that.

3) I want to work with the heavy political issues that are actually a commentary on the Taliban’s treatment of women. That’s the REAL point of this piece. I want to express some of my views about the Taliban, but fiction is not a preacher’s pulpit. This isn’t church and leave the preaching in there. So, I have to handle this in a way so that it feels like a story and not political or religious propaganda.

4) I write m/m and my readers expect m/m. That’s going to make having a female romantic lead a little difficult.

5) And to further deter me from preaching to my readers, I’m going to aim for humor. I think this will work for me. I’ll be presenting heavy topics, but in a way that’s easy for the reader to handle. I won’t be bludgeoning the reader with a big o’le “This is wrong!” stick, but I’ll be showing the readers a section of the characters’ lives and let the readers come up with their own ethical decisions.

Using a eunuch—a third gender—is how hope to blend everything I want with what my readers expect in this piece.

But, how can I talk about the Taliban without talking about the Taliban? I’m rather familiar with the Taliban from a feminist perspective, but, to be totally honest, I ain’t that motivated to do all the research I need to do to give the story an air of authenticity. Sure, I’ve read reports and case studies. Yes, my anthropological studies help me here, but I really don’t want to add a lot to my work load. So, I decided to make it about the Taliban without making it about the Taliban. I’ve created a new race and that’s the Karne.

Now, how can I make the main point of this even less obvious (thus deter myself from getting on a soapbox) and explain that I have a race that doesn’t exist? If I set it in contemporary Earth (which is by far the easiest setting for me work with) then I have this whole “who are the Karne” thing rattling around in the reader’s head. No. That’s unacceptable. I don’t want to risk anyone’s willing suspension of disbelief and I don’t want to distract the reader with unnecessary questions. I have two choices. I can do the Robert Aspirin and Piers Anthony thing and create a whole fantasy universe or I can do the Gene Rodenberry thing and make it sci-fic. I’m a trekkie from back in the day, so, I fast forward into the future and drop the plot inside “speculative fiction.” Speculative fiction is basically sci-fi.

Ok, so we have our setting now: outer space at some point in the future. We have our genre labels: m/m erotic humor sci-fi or yaoi humor sci-fi. And I’d like to shoot for a short novel with this one so we’re targeting somewhere around 50K words. That’s Full Circle’s length.

Now, I need to gather some information about eunuchs. I’m a m/m erotica author. Specifically, I’m a yaoi writer. My readers don’t want to read about a Ken doll. What exactly is castration? What functions remain in castrated males and what doesn’t? What body parts remain and which don’t? What are the visuals I’ll be working with when it comes to the erotic scenes?

I don’t personally know any eunuchs. My friendship circle includes a vast selection of fetishes, but that’s not one of them. So, I hit historical documents. After reading what helped me only a little bit, I hit the modern day eunuchs. I haunt the boards, read their stories (fiction and nonfiction). I e-mail them and talk to them. And here’s where I learn there are a multitude of forms of castration. Also, the type and the timing of the surgery as well as any hormone treatments after the surgery affects what functions and which body parts remain. This is also where I learn what physiological effects happen in castrated males.

(Sidenote: Before I started writing, I never confused affect and effect. Now, I no longer trust myself and question it every time I write it. Affect is the verb. Effect is the noun. X affects Y and that end result is effect. When you affect something you have an effect on it. *sweatdrop*)

[Another sidenote: With a few notable exceptions, if you tell people you’re a fiction writer working on a story, they’ll be glad to tell you just about anything. Most people in fringe groups (fetishists included) are sick to death of writers getting things about their lives wrong and will jump at the chance to help. I’m always upfront and honest when I’m doing research for a story. ]

Now, I start picking what I want for this character. I do not want a penectomy. I want this character to have a penis—that’s kind of important for my m/m readers. However, as I was doing the research on eunuchs, I read a beautiful description of the male anatomy without testicles. That visual stuck with me. That’s the visual of this character’s genitalia that I want. So, I want a eunuch who can still function in bed. This character will be the uke so I don’t need to worry about reliable erections that can be used for penetration, but I do want both characters to enjoy any sexual activities.

He needs to keep enough testosterone in his system to achieve an erection, climax (if treated well) and enjoy the experience of sex. After talking to some eunuchs, I learned all of these are fairly common, but not with the regularity of an intact male. One eunuch I spoke to said that he achieves about two orgasms a year, but sill enjoys sexual play and contact even if he doesn’t climax. Another said about two a quarter and another said it all depended upon how his top treated him. A few, due to hormone treatments, have noticed very little change in their libido and sexual response. Some of those who have very few orgasms a year report having extremely powerful (to the point of almost entering seizures and blackouts) orgasms. IF I give my character the right procedure, I’m covered when it comes to sexual play.

I also need to keep in mind my readers. Us yaoi fans love our fluids—that’s evident in our artwork and stories. Eunuchs tend to have thinner and more watery ejaculates, but that should satisfy the yaoi fan’s need for fluids. However, I ran into a hitch. Eunuchs who do not get hormone replacements will experience a shrinking of the prostate as well as penile tissue. Sometimes this will happen even with hormone replacement therapy.

And, there’s something I can’t figure out. Prostate massages will produce a good deal of fluid on a healthy and normal prostate, but how will that change if the prostate has shrunk due to a lack of testosterone? However, I’m not going to let that keep me from the story.

Luckily, I’ve set this story in the future and this character isn’t human. So that gives me some cheating…I mean…wiggle room. All I need to do is come up with a procedure that will mimic castration, but not leave the character impotent and asexual.

Also as part of this research I watched a lot of live action porn (mainly amateur) and made note of how many men lose their erections while bottoming and yet still seem to have a satisfying experience. (A lot more than yaoi fans ever consider.)

So after some research, I’ve figured out what needs to be altered on this character and what doesn’t. I’ve figured out what organs need to stay intact, what kind of procedure has been done and when it was done, how to explain the surgery to the reader and how to explain why this is done within Karne culture.

Medical research? Done (at least for now.)

Honestly, think about it, I’m going to be talking about a procedure that doesn’t exist, on an alien race that doesn’t exist in a time frame that hasn’t happened yet—do I really need to worry about if someone is going nitpick on whether or not my eunuch can have a cum shot? No. I wasted months of writing time by over-thinking this. And yet, I’m still concerned that readers won’t accept this character in a sexual situation.

After a few months of working on this story, I now have a setting, one partial character design, one partial race design and not a single word written. I consider this good progress for a story like this. Oh yeah…and no plot. That doesn’t bother me yet. A lot of writers start with a plot and sometimes I will start with a plot, but not with this story. Actually, I rarely start with a plot. I usually start with a flash of a scene and have to work out the plot from there.

Now to flesh out the character design a little bit more. For this eunuch character I’m dealing with a character who has been surgically altered and lived in a repressive environment. Logically, we should be talking about a shy and withdrawn character. We’re probably dealing with some Battered Wife Syndrome and maybe some Stockholm Syndrome. This is a person who will be very submissive, flinch when unexpected gestures are made and cower at raised voices. This will be the TOT of the story. At this point, this character has not been named which I think I will do so now. I also need to keep in mind that once this character has a taste of freedom and security they MIGHT go a little bit wild.

I’m going to spare you the details of this, but here’s how I go about naming characters. My first destinations are the baby naming sites. The majority of my character names are picked due to origin, meaning and decades of popularity. I never expect the readers to look up my character names, but it’s something I do for myself. This did not help me in this case. My next stop is a random name generator. If I’m still not happy, I’ll try to blend a name from the “meaning list” with the “random list.” Then, I’ll go to friends and ask for suggestions.

Marbles suggested Souja for this character and I really appreciate her suggestion. I was going to go with that until I saw Souja typed next to the seme’s name. That’s information Marbles didn’t have and I think that combination was a little hard on the eyes. Also the longer I looked at the name Souja the more feminine it felt. Yes, this character is effeminate and he is a eunuch, but I don’t want a really feminine name. A little feminine, sure, but if I’m making the reader struggle to keep a male face in their heads when they see the name, then I’m not writing properly.

I also need to eliminate any names that start with the same letter as any other prominent character. You don’t want your reader getting confused and asking, “Which one was Kan and which one was Kai?” So, I can’t have anything that begins with K,V,G, or E.

So now I start all over again. I need something that smells of Arab connections, but not too much. The random name generator gave me this one Ryririr. That’s too busy and I’ll never remember how to spell it, but I like the spirit of that name. Ryir. “Rye-ear” Ryir. It has that sneaky hint of a Middle Eastern connection and it’s masculine, but not alpha male masculine. Hell, it’s not even beta male masculine. It could easily be a woman’s name.

The character’s full name is Ryir of the house Tijoh. (This took way too many hours.)

Now, I need a seme who can make everything all better for Ryir as well as draw him out of the abusive cycle. I need a seme who can bring Ryir out from behind his shell of hurt and abuse. I have already partially designed this seme. He’s a dreamer type who is too quick to give away his heart (after working so much with Anand’s reluctance to love, I wanted to work on different type. Also Ryir is not the type to pursue a lover and I need someone who is WHOOSH infatuated and can chase Ryir.) He’s a sucker for lost causes and has a sarcastic and dry sense of humor. He’s got a strong ethical code and tends to do what he feels is the right thing even if it hurts himself. Note: What he thinks is the right thing may or may not be what the reader or I think is the right thing. He’s kind and caring, but clueless. By clueless, I don’t mean Too Stupid To Live because no one likes TSTL heroes (especially publishers).I mean the man has been in what he thinks is love more times than he can count, but hasn’t a clue as to about how courtship goes. In short, he’s in love with the idea of being in love. He also thinks he’s a bad boy, but he’s totally not. That character’s name is…well…what he tells everyone his name is: Kawosky.

The main pairing of this story will be Kawosky and Ryir.

Kawosky can’t handle a ship by himself. So, I need some side characters.

We need a money guy, because Kawosky is too much of a dreamer to handle that. We need a doctor, because that’s specialized information and this character will also be the “brain” of the group. (Kind of like how Alvaro is the brain of Full Circle and Hakkai is the brain of Saiyuki. If the reader needs a question answered the author can use the brain to answer it. Since the brain is the brain, the reader rarely wonders why the character knows that particular piece of information.) We also need a mechanic and “a heavy”. The heavy is the ass-kicker or co-ass-kicker of the group.

The accountant is nicknamed Enron. He hooked up with Kawosky while he was on the run from some casinos. He’s not human, but I’ve not completely figured out what kind of alien he is. I see him as a short rotund man with a bald head and John Lennon glasses. That’s not very yaoi and I may change that. I also need to check into the legalities of using the word “Enron.” Since the company is no longer in business, it shouldn’t be a problem. Since he’s the accountant, this can also fall under “parody” and thus be under “fair use”. He’s the record keeper of the group.

The doctor is Vesrod. He’s half-human and half Syhpris (a race that has serpent evolution). He’s hot. Tall and slender with reptilian eyes and I’m seriously thinking about a split tongue. I WANT the reader (and here’s where yaoi fans kick ass) to think there might have been something going on between Vesrod and Kawosky when the lightyears got a little too long. Vesrod is caring, compassionate and logical. The logical element will help me cover any potential jealousy issues when the new love interest comes into play.
He’s the bookworm type. I need to come up with something “misfit” as part of his story to make him fit in with this crew. Some kind of something that had his medical license revoked.

Grease is the mechanic, co-pilot and “the heavy”. She’s full blooded Trylock. I wanted a female in this role because I’m sick to death of wimpy women in fiction. She’s hot tempered and sassy. This is not a woman you want to piss off. She’s the tallest and broadest member of the crew. I see her race as a warrior race with dark skin and bits of boney “armor” over parts of the body. Her bones will be damn dense and her muscle tone bulky. She wears her hair in long braids. I don’t see her as a lesbian, but I also don’t see her letting something as minor as gender keeping her from getting what she wants.

With the preliminaries: I now have a target genre, a setting, and five partial character designs. However, I have nothing written and no solid plot.

Aside from naming Ryir, I had this stuff worked out months ago. The next time I post on this, I’ll get into how I work plot ideas.

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