Saturday, June 30, 2012

Feral Space

I've seen this discussed on Fetlife a few times now, and it's a new term for me.

The best I can tell, in submissives it describes the place we go that's beyond subspace, when we're taken so deep it's all instinct and no human thoughts. When our bodies take over.

In Doms it describes the place they go when they let the sadist inside them take over. Some Doms say they can never let themselves go completely there because they think they'd go too far if they did. Others say they can let it take over, and that a safeword would pull them out of it.

I've been there, but I'd never had a name for it. I asked my husband about it and he understood the meaning right away, but said he doesn't let it take over. He reminded me of a few times we've played where he said he came close to letting it have control, and with that in mind he's right -- he doesn't need to ever let it completely take over. Seriously. Doesn't seem fair though -- that I get to indulge and he has to stay in control, but life's not always fair. I know the sadist in him must be fed, just as the masochist in me has to be, but feral space is about much more than that.

Is it possible to write a scene where feral space takes over? Probably, but I don't think I have. I have an excerpt up for Safeword: Davenport that might come close, but it's not it. There are other scenes in the story that are possibly closer -- this is the most intense book I've published so far, but I'm not sure it's possible to show how feral space feels. You lose words when you go there, you don't think with language, if that makes sense. So, how do you write about how it feels?

I'm trying to think of other fiction stories that might show it, and I think the "breasts through the door" scene in As She's Told might show it from the submissive's POV, but only as she talks about it the next day. It's possible we see more of it during the summer at the rented house, as it's happening.  Dark Angel Sounding shows a Dom who goes there, I think. And finally, I don't remember specific scenes, but in one of the middle books of Roxy Harte's Chronicle's of Surrender series it's possible the Dom and sub both end up there at the same time, but it's not gone into in detail -- the shark cage, the rock during the storm, they go to some pretty dark places together.

Is this a new term for you? Can you think of any fiction books that do a good job of showing it?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

YKIPNOK or Your Kink Is Possibly Not Okay

Haha. I like to play around with acronyms in the kink world because we use them so much. There is the main acronym, BDSM. There is that long one: YKINMKBYKIOK (your kink is not my kink but your kink is OK). There are tons of other ones too. C-NC for Consensual Non-consent, D/s for Dominance and submission, M/s for Master/slave, D/lg for Daddy/little girl.

I could go on but this is a tangent. I'm avoiding the main topic because it's icky, but it's a topic that came up on Fetlife last week when the administrators discovered a thriving subculture of incest/pedophilia fetishists who were either playing too realistically, or being...sadly...real. I'm also not going to talk about that, because to me there's no "possibly" about it. If their posts were real, it's not okay.

But in the course of discussing what to do about these fringe groups, a lot of people became angry about censorship and the policing of people's fantasies. I suppose that's what I'd like to discuss, although I don't have any answers.

The question to which I don't have the answer is...which kinks are okay? And who draws that line that says, it is okay to fantasize about and fetishize THIS criminal act, but not THAT one?

Putting aside the hot button issues of incest and pedophilia, some other controversial groups and play I've seen on Fetlife pretty regularly get a rise. There are the domestic abuse fetishists, who post photos of themselves looking like battered housewives, with blackened, tearful eyes. Are they real black eyes or makeup? What if they were real? Is it okay to give your partner a black eye if it's consensual?

There are also rape fetishists, of course, givers and takers. I see a lot of photos on Fetlife of rape "victims", usually women, and read a lot of stories. I'm assuming this play is consensual, but does it glorify an action that is destructive and vile? Not proselytizing. Just asking. What's your opinion? For me, some part of it disgusts me but another part of me gets turned on. It's icky, like I said.

What about those photos that depict people...again, usually women...with guns placed against their heads, sexual orifices, or inserted into their orifices? The people who post these pictures will be quick to assure us that the play was "safe", ie, the gun was not loaded or had the safety on. There are similar pictures with knives thrust in orifices, or people turning blue with rope or a garrote wrapped around their neck. Is it "safe" or even responsible to play at death and violence? Is it just good, clean, consensual fun?

As you all  know, my generally held opinion is that fantasy doesn't hurt anyone, and that any safe and consensual play is "okay." But sometimes I see things that test my resolve in this area, and sometimes I wonder if playing at something as a fetish doesn't give it acceptable presence in the world that it shouldn't have. Let's revisit, briefly, those pedophilia fetishists. Let's say they were posting about a fantasy, not something they really intended to do or had done. Okay, then, or still not okay?

I don't know. This isn't a post where I am asserting anything because I just don't know the answer. All I really know are my own opinions and gut checks when I see these things. What are your opinions? Are there kinks out there that really aren't "okay" to you personally? Are there fantasies that aren't "okay" that people should feel obliged to keep hidden? Is it something the community should address, or is it something that should be everyone's personal business?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Darling faults and flaws

We all know that perfection in protagonists is a bore. Think of them: the flawless beauty poised to discover her submissive side, the suave, fearsomely attractive dom. If you can’t bring them to mind, perhaps it’s because they disappear as soon as you close the book. No staying power. No bumps or faults to catch in our memory crevices. No quirks of taste or temperament.

Memorable characters have complex natures, and flaws that end up making them more attractive, not less. But what flaws should an author choose? This question reminds me of the good old job interview advice: If they ask you about your greatest weaknesses, tell them you’re a perfectionist and you work too hard.

Okay, I’m imagining interviewing a lovely candidate for a sub protagonist. “What are your greatest weaknesses?” I ask, pen poised over pad.

She dimples charmingly. “Well, I’m feisty. I tend to speak first and think afterwards. I rarely say how I really feel. Hell, I hardly even know what I feel until I’m absolutely forced to. And I insist on doing things my own way until I’m in such a mess my dom has to rescue me.” A delightfully self-deprecating eye-roll tells me I’ve got the full list.

Turning now to my applicant for the dom role, I ask for his greatest weaknesses. His light eyes gaze deeply into mine for a long moment.

“I tend to brood,” he says, “particularly during thunderstorms. I’m very stubborn, and I have too many responsibilities because I’m so competent and decisive. I know exactly what I want, except when it comes to love and then I’m clueless. My muscles ripple more than is strictly necessary, and I have far too many finely-tailored suits.”

Aren’t they perfect?

But what flaws do we find loveable, or at least engaging, and which are just off-putting? There are couple of novels by Joanne Harris, (author of Chocolat), in which a male character betrays the female protagonist rather meanly for his own purposes, and later is forgiven, redeemed and ends up with her in the end. This is rather an unusual theme, and one that I confess I had some difficulty with. I’d have a hard time in real life, too. These men’s flaws aren’t grand or fatal; they’re sullen and mediocre. But I think Harris is brave to suggest that sometimes men don’t come up to even decent expectations, but when they’re sorry and make an effort, it’s possible to love them anyway.

One of the commonest flawed characters in literature is the guy who drinks too much. He may be a brilliant detective, but he can’t sort through his own past traumas well enough to stay off the sauce. I love these guys as long as they’re witty and only hurt themselves.

Speaking of wit, isn’t that the stellar redeeming feature? We can tolerate a great many faults in our characters as long as they can make us laugh. Unfortunately in bdsm erotica humour is rare indeed. Let’s face it, it’s hard to write, and a reader's main objective is a different kind of sensation altogether. I just don’t think they’re at all incompatible. In fact, my personal belief is that lack of humour is a fatal flaw that is practically irredeemable.

So what are the flaws and quirks you love in a character, and which ones leave you disappointed and unwilling to read on?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

BDSM and Exhibitionism are not the same thing...

I've been noticing something lately...a creeping assumption that if you are truly "in the lifestyle" then you are out in the community, at play parties, at dungeons, at munches, sharing your dynamic with others.

I really don't think this is true.

BDSM communities can be a great thing. They can be forces for education, for friendship, and of course a place to find a like-minded partner or partners. They can offer protection when things feel uncomfortable or confusing, and solace when things go wrong. But being an active part of your local community is not a prerequisite to being a top, bottom, or switch. Your dynamic doesn't have to be public to be valid. Let me repeat that:

Your dynamic doesn't have to be public to be valid.

I've been kind of bothered by something I've seen more and more in BDSM circles, this kind of unspoken expectation that public play is somehow required. Worse, that you must somehow always be playing harder, edgier, kinkier to impress those who watch. That "bedroom-only" is somehow less, and public play is what the really serious people do. This saddens me, because some of the most intense BDSM scenes certainly take place in the privacy of people's own homes. When we belittle "bedroom-only" players, BDSM becomes about exhibitionism and voyeurism, about measuring up to outside observers.

If exhibitionism and voyeurism is your thing, by all means, put it all out there, loud and proud. But don't be afraid to say, "You know, I am not comfortable getting my perv on in a group, in front of an audience." Plenty of people are happy to share and be open. However, if people do not feel comfortable being an open book, putting their dynamic "out there" for the perusal of others, I believe this should be respected too.

I have a touch of the exhibitionist in me, I admit it. My husband does not. He is, in fact, an intensely private person. Many times I've fantasized about being played with in public. I would be a little scared, but I think I'd enjoy being watched, and making that connection with the watchers. However, I couldn't ask my husband to do something that would make him so uncomfortable and frankly, turned off. It wouldn't be enjoyable to me if he wasn't enjoying it. Public play, even connection with the community, is not for everyone.

Sometimes I think we've lost so much privacy through Facebook, Fetlife, Twitter, online blogging, Google Plus, LinkedIn, all those social network connections we juggle, that we've forgotten that discretion and mystery is also okay. Just because you don't want to get out there in the community to network and show your stuff in front of others doesn't mean you have to surrender your kinkster card.

Most of all, you should never, ever feel compelled to play publicly in order to measure up to others, or to somehow prove your kinkiness. The only one you have to prove anything to is yourself and those you play with, either in public or behind firmly closed doors.

Exhibitionism is hot, but not when it's non-consensual. Always be true to yourself.

Friday, June 8, 2012

An Unusual Method to Find Motivation

I'm one of those authors whose characters talk to them. I know it sounds strange and visions of men in white coats coming for me with an "I love me" jacket (i.e. straight jacket) may be dancing through your heads, but it's true -- when I'm working on a story I hear the conversations and visualize the scenes as they're viewed by my characters.

But I've been having problems with a character and his lady love. I know that he's a dominant and that he likes whips. I know his family background, his business, and that he's been interested in his particular lady for several years, but never approached her because he's never seen an interest in her to explore his lifestyle. I have a lot, but know I haven't gotten the whole story from him that I need.

For my heroine, I know similar things -- background, family, business, etc. Not that she hasn't been tight-lipped, she has, the issue is, their book is her hero's story, not hers, so if she goes quiet I don't get so freaked out. At least not yet.

I've tried starting the book four different ways and, although each of those beginnings could work, they just aren't it. When I read Anneke's post from Tuesday, I started's not necessarily the story I need to understand, it's the motivations of my character. I'd had another friend tied up on the phone for five hours earlier this week discussing this particular character's behavior, but it hadn't quite gelled in my head.

So, I did something new -- for me.

I did a tarot card spread for my character. (And no the spread below isn't his spread -- I just laid this out so you could have a visual of what I did)

Standard Celtic Cross spread using The Dragon Tarot
(The Dragon Tarot, Copyright  1996 US Games Systems, Inc.)

It was very enlightening.

I'm not an expert at the cards and I don't claim any special abilities, but I do know that for me my characters are real enough to touch and when they need guidance taking the time to go through a reading can shed some light on their situation. Not only for them, but for me as well.

What I learned from my character's spread was that the story progression was pretty spot on with what had been running through my mind, but that I hadn't taken his motivation deep enough. He hadn't -- and I hadn't -- internalized what drove him, what blocked his path forward, and what was necessary to drive him to his eventual outcome. After reading the spread I could see where the stumbling blocks were.

Interestingly enough, I could also see I hadn't recognized just how strong a dominant this character was. Much stronger than I had ever thought.

If you're wondering if my heroine showed up in his spread -- she did. As did the villain.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Building character

No, the title doesn’t refer to the personality-enhancing effects of a good spanking. It’s about coming up with a new person. A full-grown man with a profession, a childhood, a family, his own preferences, quirks, passions, beliefs, the whole three-dimensional deal. All of which is supposed to interact meaningfully with my heroine’s passions, preferences, quirks, etc.

And I can’t just recycle the domly attributes we all know and (some of us) love. He’s not going to be alpha. He’s neither rich nor powerful. He’s not even particularly good-looking. To all appearances he’s a decent guy who likes sports, works hard and drinks beer with his friends. There’s more to him, of course. He’s very smart, loves his work and has a secret. But I can’t just peel off variations of the usual dom clich├ęs and stick them to the page.

I know where he was born, and how many brothers and sisters he has. I know what he does for a living. Beyond that he’s still a stranger. (He’s not very talkative, so getting information out of him is slow going.) Are his parents still alive? Has he ever been married? Has he dealt with bad times? What are his friends like? Is he a cat person, dog person, neither? What music does he like? Does he have a temper?

I need to get to know the man, because he doesn’t come from me the way my heroines do. I’m not them and they’re not me; the weave is different but some of the threads are the same. Mind you, I’ll probably confer some of my quirks onto the guy sooner or later, like the way Anders hates speeches. But the basic personality is going to be different, so coming to grips with it is delving into alien territory.

I’m not a hugely gregarious individual. There aren’t a lot of men I know deeply, apart from my husband. I did use his beer and blues knowledge in AST, but beyond that he’s not showing up in any of my books. So this is all pretty much pure invention. Making pure invention realistic and believable is a laborious process, at least for me. One more reason you shouldn’t hold your breath for Book Three.