So let’s talk about filters. There’s this push in the writing industry to do something no one else has done before – to be creative and edgy (I hate that word. People’s thresholds for edgy are skewed so differently, it’s almost impossible to agree what deserves the label. Rant for another day, though!) To take prose to heights it’s never seen before! This, to me, says push envelopes and write ALL THE THINGS. Write the beautiful, the ugly, the profane. Write things that other people dared not put onto paper and/or monitor for fear of being mocked, scorned, and ridiculed. Approach the seven recycled story plots with a fresh eye! But . . .
Do It Within Reason.
I hate that part. Because I never know where the line is.
Okay, take for example The Awesome. That’s the book that’s been polished to a glossy sheen (sorta – I found I spelled my own state’s name wrong on the second page on the draft that’s supposed to go to editors. I’M A ROCK STAR!) It’s your typical asskicking chick-centric urban fantasy. Only it’s not. See, one of the subplots of the story is the main character wants to become a journeyman monster hunter. In order to “graduate” from apprentice status to journeyman, she has to stake a vampire. The problem is, vampires frenzy for virgin blood and the main character is the big V. In order for her to progress in her career, she has to “progress” in her personal life and find a guy to boink. Craziness ensues!
The way I tried to twist the old standard story into something new and shiny is to make the main character a snide, sarcastic little peckerhead AND to give her a bizarre personal problem to overcome. There are two intimate scenes in the story that I tried to tackle with humor and grace — and I hate writing anything related to sex — but I made sure I touched on the emotional side of things, too. The fear of the unknown, of rejection, of the fumbling weirdness of first-time hookups. I tried to “push the envelope” and “be edgy” by adding in very ballsy female characters who aren’t ashamed to be tough and feminine, who don’t think having sex makes them sluts, and who assume very masculine archtype roles like it ain’t no thang. As one of my readers said, “I fuck around with gender roles with glee.” That’s how I tried to make it stand out.
The problem as I see it? Where I worry about the filter? Maggie’s a profane little monkey and loves to swear. Plus? She’s very pro-sex. Her mother’s even pro-sex and tells her it’s nothing to be ashamed of as long as she’s responsible and safe and she enjoys herself. This is gonna rub some people the WRONG way. Someone big on chastity picks this book up, their purity ring will explode on their fingers.
Hrmm! Did I cross the line? Dunno! We’ll see!
Then there’s the current book I’m writing (which at this point has had 50,000 titles and I hate them all, so I’ll call it WITCH HORROR BOOK.) There’s an implied sex crime done to the main character, and apparently, this is the equivalent of kryptonite to Superman in fiction. The violent deed is done off screen, but there’s no doubt what happens, and despite the fact that one in four women are the victims of sex crimes, it’s a very big NO NO to touch on it. I get that there’s that whole “I read books to get away from the ugliness” thing, but this book is a horror revenge story, and without the TERRIBLE THING happening to the main character, she has no reason to seek revenge. The horror’s not really as punchy if she ends up having a tea party with someone instead of feeding their spleen to a salivating shadow monster.
Ever tried to make murder sympathetic? Yeah. Tough, that. I think I’ve pulled it off, but have I pulled it off at the expense of connecting to an editor/audience because I hit the big red DUN DO THAT button in fiction by implying a rape occurred.
Filters. Filters are difficult. Self-censorship is something I’ve talked about before, and I’m generally against it unless I’m told “NO YOU WILL TAKE THIS OUT” but writing IS a business, so how do I balance it? How do I PUSH THE ENVELOPE and do things no one else has done before all the while taking into account invisible NO NO lines and not crossing them?
It’s tough, dudes and dudettes. Very tough. Someone write a guide and get back to me so I can know “how edgy” I can be without crushing sensibilities.