Share Your World
The two predators at the start of "The Lioness" exist in a London I know far too well. The stretch of sidewalks drenched in black tears that have washed litter into soggy piles in the shadows of streetlamps clinging to the streets of Camden Town. I've gone back to that same spot over and over for close to eighteen years. Given the current plans economic development within the area, that bit of London won't exist for much longer. It will be built over, the references in "The Lioness" will no longer be anchored to a physical reality, and that part of my world will have come to an end.
What does it matter? This is the normal state of our existence. We are transient in a landscape that evolves and changes as much as we do. The technology we use, the things we take for granted, and the places we know are moments in time. A friend of mine, now in her late seventies, lamented the lack of stories about the shenanigans and sexual passions of a generation confounded by war and loss over tea, and I asked her what should we know now. "Well," she said, "this whole gays and lesbians thing isn't new at all." She was half laughing expecting me to be shocked and sipped some fancy Whittard blend which was a personal preference before continuing. "We were all huddled together, waiting for the bombers to pass, and my second girlfriend liked to sneak in a quick grope under my skirt when she knew I couldn't make a sound." Unfortunately, there are very few stories about those other relationships. No one told them. People conveniently forgot. My friend's memories will fade with her, and no one will know any differently than the popular fiction and radio shows of that era which largely censored homosexuality to avoid government intervention.
Unable to sleep while winging my way across the Atlantic, my friend's smirk stuck with me long after I forgot the name and scent of her favorite tea. This is our job now. The barriers have been removed. The publishers can no longer bar the gates and prevent the people from being heard. Do you want other authors to speak for you? Do you want their beliefs to eclipse yours? Will you share your world? Or will you let it wither and fade as if it never existed at all?
Are your characters friends? Many authors incorporate elements of the people and relationships that they know best. When I was first working on Angel, everyone in my small circle of companions knew exactly who those stories were about. Specific friends and acquaintances of mine recur in different settings - cameos for the worthy and the damned. It wasn't until I was working with Miez and Priya that I became much more aware of how so many authors, including me, normalized and sculpted our characters to keep some quirks or special traits from our real life friends, but otherwise made them bland and mainstream. With Sexy Identities and She Comes First, there's been a lot of mutual encouragement between Lelith and I to actually write about the real men and women we know without cleansing and scrubbing them for a vanilla audience. There's a sense that some of these stories are really our secret memoirs, but there's so much satisfaction saying, "That moment will not be forgotten."
There's more to it than that though. Where do your stories happen? In the new revelations that Sable and Sara discover about their father, there's a set of locations and settings which I know far too well. Other times, much like Hollywood, it's easy enough to fashion a generic neighborhood with the right blend of franchises and highlights that readers would expect. That fabricated reality is almost always a puzzling together of an author's experience painted in the colours of the intended genre. We can go further. We can make it real. We can write about the actual rows of houses crowded beside potholed streets. We can write about how drumming tires sing with an uneven cadence as they pass by at night. Maybe we need to have that to remind people of those places that aren't perfect and pristine as well as those places that aren't dystopias and damaged beyond repair.
In the middle, the grey space, there's so much to say. I have come to believe this is the most important thing to keep in mind. While our lives are often defined by peaks and troughs, time mostly passes doing the routine and mundane with a backdrop of the average and plain. We attenuate our senses to tune out the ordinary. We react with adrenaline when things get different, challenging, or strange. As authors, we're often encouraged to write about the stuff that matters, but what about the rest? Is a montage good enough? Here's another place where we can tell stories about our world by filling in the blanks. The stories of Alexi & Andrea raising Sable and Sara are about home life. The rich tapestry of emotions is much more difficult to express, but there are scenes that make Miez and I laugh and grin every time we re-read them. There are others that trouble us both, though she doesn't know what Baby Ruth candy bars really mean because they aren't common in England. The imbetween moments of life slipping through our fingers have beautifully intricate arrangements of sentiment and action in motion, and it's worth exploring and sharing.
Balance, though, isn't always the best draw for readers. Are your stories about conflict and resolution? Skimming my sizable collection of movies at Orlando base, I know I'm more interested in the setup and consequences than the slow burn. I want to get sucked into a book, rage at the characters, know what they should have done instead, and read all the way through the night to see what happens in the end. Other readers want to understand the world the characters are in. I'll be the first to admit that Cherish Desire Divinations diverges from classic shapeshifter and paranormal books because no one - not even the characters - know what the rules are. It might be a bit too much like real life even. There was a conscious trade off in "The Lioness" to favour action over explanation, and that sets a fierce pace which demands a leap of faith from readers. Despite being from an overlapping narrative universe, "Sexy Identities, Collection 1" slows things down and takes the time to explore the unique experiences of individual characters trying to explore their passions and their natures. While leaving the overall relationship between the stories loosely coupled by recurring meta-references, there's a lot more room to answer important questions while leaving some hooks for later.
Perception and placement matter, too. How soft are a unicorn's kisses? Most good writing should incorporate all five senses, but erotica needs to acknowledge a sixth sense: arousal. Far too often, there's a lack of hunt and chase, a strange irrational willingness, and immediate submission which would raise an eyebrow in my world. Getting into the details, I'm in awe of how basic logistics seem to be irrelevant. Look, if you're having a threesome then the people involved need to be close enough to touch each other. I know that I would be a terrible writer if I tried to explain some sportsball game in play. I'm terrified to think about what the usual written sexual exploits of mainstream authors says about their skill in bed. Combine senses with context, walk around the bedroom and think about who is where, and then apply the brush strokes of the writer's craft. The light from the window can indicate dawn or dusk. The heat of a lover can suggest proximity. When there's action and contact, how does she balance while sliding over his legs? What does he see first, can she scent his lust, and is the humming of the refrigerator joining in as they gasp and whisper? A unicorn's kisses are so sweet that they mark the lips of her lovers with a warmth that returns on lonely nights.
Let's wrap this up. You've got writing to do. Even if you have to do it under a different pseudonym, try your hand at telling stories about your world. The one you live in. Embellish, craft, spin, but hold some elements true. Your words will be found long after those moments have passed on, and you may be the only one who ever described that intersection at sunset, the wood grain of the bar cutting into your palms while hoping she'd notice you, the glowing embers of her cigarette in a shadowy motel room afterward, and the long walk home on damp cobblestone streets. We don't just write fiction. We inform the future of our truth.