The Process of Perception

Welcome to those of you headed this direction via the writing blog tour! Also Happy Memorial Day!

Thanks to Jennifer Kincheloe at http://jenniferkincheloe.com/ for sending folks my way.

I’m working on some cool projects right now, including a series of Business Principles for Geeks (starting with How to Run a Convention), a series about Cole Harris, the super hero psychologist, and a set of short stories retelling fairy tales as LGBT Steampunk fiction.

Speaking of LGBT Steampunk fiction, I do have a lot of Steampunk elements creeping into my writing. My best quality is definitely all the great female characters of impact. Not to brag, but I work (type) hard to develop characters with power over their own destinies, without turning them into the tomboy-man-with-boobs concept so prevalent in modern fiction. If you’re tired of the tropes, dig into one of my stories.

And why wouldn’t I write science fiction with real characters in it? Who doesn’t want to read about real people? I write to give life to the amazing people around me.

Now, let’s talk about process. Some of you may know that I write a lot of female characters–and QUILTBAG characters, and characters from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. My process of character development and writing comes from observation, and from perception. I hope my worlds will reflect the world I live in, if only by the characters that exist within them.

So first a crazy idea comes to me in a dream (maybe), and then I sit down and outline it. A short story under 1500 words will probably not be outlined, but anything longer than that needs to have a solid beginning->middle->climax->resolution->ending sort of pattern. So I write up an outline.

That outline usually looks a little bit like this:

Chapter 1: Kip wakes from a bad dream, realizes her roommate is missing. She leaves without saying goodbye and takes the maps with her.

Chapter 2: Kip runs into trouble with the local gangs while searching a library for clues to the past. She escapes on her bike only to be surrounded.

Chapter 3: Kip gets knocked out and wakes up in a strange place. She meets a man who claims to be part of an underground resistance. He wants her to help him.

…and you get the idea. Each step of my outline gets a little mini two-to-three-sentence rundown of what I expect to happen in that chapter. That way I can connect the dots and push through roadblocks if I get stuck.

 

Unfortunately, this long blog tour is slightly dead-ended on my side because I got on the train after all the bloggers I know were already on.

But! I hope you check out a few good reads:

There’s Josh Vogt, who has lots to say on writing and publishing process.

And then there’s Quincy Allen, who spends a lot of time honing his craft and writing about Wild West Steampunk.

And Guy Anthony De Marco, who is published all over the place.

Enjoy your travels, friends.

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Relationships: Fantasies and Dreams and a Woman’s Body

Adult topic alert! This post will, in fact, go into the realm of TMI.

First of all, let’s talk about the difference between fantasies and dreams. Dreams are goals that your subconscious sets in retaliation for the input you give it. If you have goals and want to make them a reality, you meditate on those things by feeding your brain what you want. If you do NOT have goals and do NOT make an effort to feed them, whatever negative malarkey you input as a result of peer influence, television etc will influence your dreams. Input, output. What goes in is what comes out. And try to avoid eating fast food right before bed. Ugh.

Separately, fantasies are wishes or desires that are not likely to be achieved and are possibly unobtainable, whether intentionally or because it’s just not physically possible for you. For example, I will never be Michael Jordan, for a variety of obvious and less obvious reasons. Fantasies don’t have to be sexual in nature but often are, because we all think about sex. A lot. Some of us more than others, but it’s still a basic need for survival, and we haven’t really gotten past needing that interconnection between each other.

Now, on to the relevance of this distinction and relationships.

Once upon a time, years and years ago, when Jamie and I were young and still nurturing our budding relationship (please hold the giggles), we had a serious conversation about fantasies. I told her that I wasn’t comfortable with the amount of role playing we did, because I “felt like” she didn’t want to have sex with “just me.” If I recall correctly, this was a year or so into our relationship, and before I took a class called Human Sexuality (with a textbook by the same name) as my last elective psych class before graduating. A good delve into that class material really opened my eyes to a lot of the myths that we as women (and especially as lesbians) have bought into over the years.
It also made me realize how much I hurt Jamie by dumping my body insecurities in her lap the way I did, though it took me a couple of years to work on straightening that one out.

The things that my textbook covered that I hadn’t understood previously included:

Body image. Women are taught by other women from a very young age to be ashamed of the fact that they are a woman from the waist down. First there’s fact that there are no words that are both sexy and scientifically accurate to describe a woman’s sex organs. Try saying “labia” in bed and see what happens. But don’t expect to get laid that night. Romance novels that go into great detail about the female body are usually clumsy and awkward. Nicknames for those parts given to young girls are usually designed to make them avoid touching themselves–things like “Private parts,” “girl parts,” “dirty parts,” etc. And then there are the horrible slang words like “Va-jay-jay.” Yep, that’s totally hot. Makes me really horny right now.
Obviously not.
Language is important, and going through this part of the lesson made it very important to me to not teach my daughter that anything about her body is inappropriate or “wrong” somehow. But now as a parent, I stumble on the words to teach her to call herself… She’s at the age of labels, and the scientific words are a bit tough (and awkward) for a two-year-old. And so the struggle continues…

I’m really concerned that when I google “teaching our daughters” the first eight or so hits I get involve the word “modesty.” Modesty is a code word in the modern world for suppression, although I don’t believe that girls should be allowed to run around showing whatever skin they feel like showing. But when I was growing up and being told I needed to be modest, when the boys could go shirtless, I was being told that my body was too _______ and needed to be covered up. And later I was being told that boys couldn’t be trusted to control themselves, so it was my responsibility not to be attractive.
That’s a good lesson for a young woman to learn.

Back off of this part of my rant. The next thing that my textbook taught me is that only a small percentage of women report regularly orgasming, a large percentage report “faking it” to keep their partner happy, and an even larger percentage report that they have to be very active in achieving their own orgasm–either by working themselves up first, by moving to be in the right position regardless of the action of their partner, or by fantasizing during intercourse. The latter was a very large percentage (like 64% I believe, if I am recalling the study’s numbers correctly).
We discussed this in class because it seemed very foreign to a lot of the people in class, both male and female. The argument that “fantasy is cheating” went around quite a bit.
What do you think? Is fantasy cheating?
This was a complicated topic for me, for various personal reasons. I think the conclusion I finally settled on was that fantasy about real and obtainable people (like a coworker, for example) is in fact cheating, because it’s not so alternate universe as to be impossible. Fantasy about someone unobtainable (celebrity, imaginary character, etc) is not cheating because it’s not real outside of the moment. Obviously this is a case by case sort of thing. It’s up to the individual couples, consenting adults, to decide what they deem “OK” in their own sexual relationship.

Now, this article has some thoughtful points about both sides of the story, if you are curious.

It’s interesting to note that, since books like 50 Shades of Grey have gained popularity, the modern public is more comfortable admitting to having sex and being sexual in other ways than the missionary/heterosexual standby. Being sexual is not necessarily deviant as compared to, say, 50 years ago (see Pleasantville the movie). All of the swirling mayhem about women being rejected in the gaming and media communities goes down deeper, to a thought process that women and men are completely different biologically to such a level that women are incapable of operating on the same wavelength.

Weigh in–where do you stand?