Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Only a handful stories to tell

A friend of mine emailed me to tell me she wasn't interested in reading "Scorpion".

(No, that's everybody's right - while I hope that people take chances on my writing, I understand those that rate a book badly because it's a menage and they hate menages, or people who don't buy books that deal with certain elements... writing romance, and especially selling romance, we make erotic fantasies. If it fails to turn on, it's not worth it for a huge amount of readers. People have a certain amount of things that gets them going - so they look for that. And ignore the stuff that doesn't... that's the deal with erotic romance. Like porn, people look for something specific and can't, usually, be brought round.... "look, you really want to try $kink" - no, they don't.).

So on the bus, I spent some time thinking about what it is that turns her off with "Scorpion". I analysed its deep structure. The underlying story. I wrote this by the seat of my pants, so I can only do the literary analysis now. I tend to discover the mythological structure (the "mythos") behind it much, much later. I'm not aware of it while I do this... I'm not sure I *want* to be aware of the structure, either. To re-create a myth, you have to firmly, deeply, passionately believe in it. Magic happens when you believe. I believe with my emotions and not my frontal lobes.

And I had this "oh wow" moment when I finally understood what the story is that I'm telling. Over the last two years, I've written a lot of stories that are about a younger/more immature guy maturing and proving himself "worthy" of an older, charismatic, even, in certain ways super-human man. Young alpha learns how to howl with the big guys. Young man becomes worthy of his idol.

It's in "Lion of Kent", "Return on Investment", "Blood Run Cold" (where the super-human is a vampire and the younger guy's a psychopath and craving to be a vampire, too), and, yeah, Scorpion. Usually, the moment of high drama is when the young alpha saves the older alpha's neck (William stops the murderer, Martin stops the rapist, Frederik is willing to lay down his life, Kendras frees Adrastes).

It's the same story. Sometimes told as a romance, sometimes told as a coming-of-age story, sometimes both in varying quantities.

This is one of my personal myths, one of the stories I carry in my bones, my creative DNA (and I'm pretty sure it's the most positive way for me to deal with the father issues I have. Fuck you, Freud).

The other story is that of the man reclaiming his humanity and independence. Usually, he's a deformed person with strong inner convictions that may or may not be good for him, and things that happen to him either break him or develop him out of an unbearable situation. Vadim in "Special Forces", the eagle shaman, and the spetsnaz in the sci-fi novel. It can even be applied to Thierry in "Test of Faith", Andrei in "Clean Slate"... and probably a number more.

Those are the two stories I'm telling. That's it. Fascinating stuff.


  1. With that in mind, I'll have to look at my own stories some day to see if there are any unifying threads.

  2. I swear, sometimes it's like psychoanalysis. I can even see where both stories come from in my own biography. One one my mother's (and mine) father complex and the other's my mothers (failed) emancipation. I just switched genders around.

  3. The revelation of your discovery boils it all down, doesn't it? I'll bet if you analized the creation of your characters,they would all be trying to prove something to their fathers.

    You've proven your mettle. Your father wouldn't be worthy to polish your shoes!

  4. Yes, they tend to be at odds with their biological fathers... always conflict. There's not one positive father relationship going on. My characters are all fatherless.

  5. Mine tend to be fatherless or have assholes as fathers, both things I felt profoundly though he lived in the house.

    We are a sum of our parts, all of them and can't escape that, no matter how hard we might try. Some can tamp it down, but the toxic effect lives on.

    I'd like to think it makes us better writers. Gives us something tangible to rail against.

  6. Oh yeah. Scars are always interesting. :) Build character.

  7. If we're smart enough to let them. They can also do damage we might not recognize until much later in our lives.

    The negative voice in my head has only recently abated. I walk a bit taller now.

  8. Imagine my horror when I realized I've recycled the same few characters since I was 16. I have strong themes like yours, too, which you know as well as I do. :P I tend to have either very negative or very positive father relationships, although the positive father relationships are always father/son. I can't think of a single father/daughter relationship that isn't monumentally f-ed up, if it's present at all. If a woman gets along with her father (like Elena), she's always a spoiled, psychotic bitch.

    Psychoanalysis indeed.

  9. Raev - I think your themes and mine work very well together... but yeah, we all keep coming back to the same stuff. Fascinating.

  10. Hoffe es ist okay wenn ich hier jetzt auf deutsch schreibe...manchmal ist es gut über das zu schreiben wovon man Ahnung hat und was man vielleicht selbst irgendwie erlebt hat..dadurch erscheint die story viel realer...
    Tut mir leid mit deinem Vater..ich kann auch ein Lied von meinen daddy issues singen:D..hab schon ewig nicht mehr mit meinem geredet...wenn ich ein Buch schreiben würde...dann hätten meine Charaktere hundertpro auch Probleme mit ihren Vätern...

    Naja ich hab ja jetzt nur Special Forces von dir gelesen..aber ich will aufjedenfall deine anderen Geschichten auch lesen, dann kann ich vielleicht mehr mitreden ;)

  11. You've never written to fulfill a customer's needs or wants, Aleks, and I'm glad you won't. When it comes to your writing, you don't have a single commercial bone in your body and I am certain ALL your fans know that.

    Your fan who said she won't be reading Scorpion knows and respects this and knows that if she wanted a Romance and wants it done a certain way, she should write her own book.

    Sometimes, I agree with your partner, at least when it comes to writing for the Romance genre - you could be wasting your talents and aggravating your muse to no end.