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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » There is something wrong with what I'm writing

   
Author Topic: There is something wrong with what I'm writing
Susannaj4
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I know, I know, I'm sure a lot of you are holding up your hands right now saying thank you thank you.

It isn't going to work. The basic premise I have isn't going to work. And I mean that it isn't publishable. Something's wrong with the idea itself.

So now I am questioning(ever so slightly) if I can write something else. I can't get this idea, this place, these people, out of my head and yet I know that I can't sell it. Something's nagging at me to put it down but write it any way.

I feel like it's wasting time.

I can't be the only one who's ever felt this way, right?


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Christine
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I'm going to tell you the story of a story I haven't finished yet...one that I'm going to write because the people, the millieu, the ideas keep nagging at the back of my head.

It started when I was 11 years old and had a dream about getting kidnapped by aliens. I wrote ten drafts as a short story between then and high scvhool, when I sat down and wrote my first novel-lengh story.

It sucked. It was completely implausible.

So I began changing things. Little things at first and then bigger things and bigger things.

It is currently still my pet project. I've got it pretty well outlined. The only thing it has in common with that story I wrote when I was 11 years old is the name of one of the main characters -- and she isn't born until the second book in the trilogy.

NOTHING IS SACRED

If you remember that when you're working on ideas, then you will be able to salvage something you really love out of what you've got. I refuse to believe that it's as unsalvagable as you're presenting.

[This message has been edited by Christine (edited April 24, 2006).]


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Elan
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As they say, sometimes you have to "kill your darlings." It shows your improvement as a writer that you are willing to reassess that which you have held as sacred, and be willing to lop off the parts of the story that are not working.

I find that often my first intuitive hit is correct. Chances are, so is yours. You don't say specifically WHAT you think isn't working. What does your first intuitive guess tell you?

Experiment. Try writing an alternate version, adjusting it according to what your gut feeling is telling you. Most importantly, SAVE what you've already done; rename it, archive it. You don't have to consign it to the trash. Knowing the original version is always still there will give you the courage to try a secondary approach. Once you've done the rewrite, you may decide it's OK to trash the first version, or you may elect to merge parts of the two.

But be willing, always be willing, to sacrifice the bits in favor of the whole.

[This message has been edited by Elan (edited April 24, 2006).]


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Survivor
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As a writer, nothing you write for the love of it is ever a waste.

You will look back on a good many things that you sold and cringe (assuming that you sell a good many things). Maybe not enough to wish you hadn't sold them, but then again.... Seriously, usually only enough to wish that you'd worked on them a bit more, or followed your instincts rather than that advice about marketability, or that you'd just sold it to someone else.

More importantly, you will look back on things that you wanted to write but never did. Look at it this way, by choosing to be a writer, you've already chosen love over money. Just be true to yourself. And as others have pointed out, just because it isn't publishable now, that doesn't mean you won't ever see this thing through.


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Thieftess
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It's a fabulous idea. And someday, you will use it. Just not today.

Consider it a young wine, and rack it down in the basement to age.


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CoriSCapnSkip
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The more compelling an idea is to you, the more of it you should write down. You never know which parts will be useful later and in what way.
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pantros
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Why isn't the premise workable?

What would have to be different to make it workable?

Why can't you change it along those lines?


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Susannaj4
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It's too controversial I think. I have been trying to rework it and I can't put my finger on the right approach.
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pjp
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I bet it is more publishable than you think. Controversy is a sure way to get attention. I could see it being difficult to sell for a first novel, and at the same time, that being a selling point (presumably it would be somewhat unique to never have been published before). Also, it could be that the market would be small for it (say, if you were demonstrating the "evils" of Christianity).
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Christine
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Personally, I love controversial. If you feel comfortable posting the quandry here, maybe we can help. If you don't, feel free to e-mail me with the gist of it and maybe I can help (or just have my curiosity satisfied ).
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Christine
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pjp slid in there -- let me elaborate:

There are some popular controversies such as homosexuality in which you can get readers on either side of the issue, depending upon which choir you wish to preach to.

There are some common sense ideas that some people are going to gasp at for some silly reason but, written well, could really bring truth back into the topic. For example, a few months ago there was a woman who got some publicity for daring to say she loved her husband more than her children, no matter how much sense this actually made.

Then there are going to be the "looney-bin" ideas. Say, promoting terrorism. Is you don't get arrested, you will either find this an extremely difficult sell or an extremely easy sell (public outrage can sell books, believe it or not).


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pantros
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I'm a little familiar with your work and I suspect this has to do with your current novel in progress.

There is a potential to take this story into a very controversial area. If you make a child into a vampire and proceed from that point on to use it in sex scenes while in the body of a child, I would say that is too controversial. I would not be able to help you finish that novel if that were the case.


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pjp
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If that is the case (and I wondered if it was related to the vampire story), then it would depend on the situation. Provided it doesn't come across as condoning pedophilia, and the scenes aren't graphic, then it'd probably be OK.

It'd very much depend on the situation. Anything with a prepubescent would probably not work (and would seem out of place, really, unless it was a vampire crime novel). Time period would also be relevant. It wasn't too long ago that it was considered normal for people to marry at 14 or so. I believe it is still legal in some places, with parental consent, for those under 18 to marry someone.


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Christine
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Oooohhh..if it is the one pantros mentioned good luck! I did the same thing once...not with a vampire...it was a scifi story with a person who stopped aging just before puberty so she never died. In the end, nobody could handle it. I was very sad for my main character because she was 300 years old and nobody would love her. (readers and people in the story alike) I thought about having her kill herself but that's awfully controversial too.

There really are some things that we (humans in the US in the 21st century) can't or won't handle. I find it mildly sad. In another story, I wanted to have my main character perform a humanoid (she was an alien so not really human) sacrifice and still remain sympathetic to the reader because of the way society forced her into doing what she did. But in the end, nobody would buy that either so I changed it so that she wasn't given the task until nearer the end of the story and then made different choices.

We live in a world of moral absolutes and it is very difficult for us to fathom other ways, even real other ways. It is always wrong to kill. Heck, on the news twice in the last month (local to Kansas City) there were two self-defense killings. Clearly self-defense. And the news reported it as if the homeowners (they were both protecting their homes from armed burglars) had done something wrong but might get off anyway due to a technicality!

Anyway...I'm not saying there aren't things that can be done with any plotline, but you have to ask yourself what i is you want from your story and what is important. In the end, I called my long-lived character "ageless" rather than "pre-bubescent" and it seemed to work. I'm not familiar enough with the particulars of what you want to accomplish in your story do know if something like that would work.


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Silver3
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I may be wrong, but I think you should read "Fledgling", by Octavia Butler. It touches on some of the same issues. The protagonist is a 53-year old vampire, but she is in the body of an 11-year-old girl.

Being unfamiliar with the exact storyline, I'm not sure your problem is the same, but it might come in handy all the same.


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pantros
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Yes, Christine, I remember that discussion with you.

I'm glad you found a way to tell your story.


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Susannaj4
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Yes, Pantros it is the one to which you are referring, but under no circumstances do I write or promote pedophila. I'm questioning the basic idea behind it all. There's more to it than just vampirism. We(You and I) haven't gotten that far yet, though.
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pantros
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So far as I've seen, the premise is good.

When I see more of the story, I might be able to tell you whether you've picked the right starting point of your story.

Keep going. You can refocus as needed once you have more written. Even if what you are writing now is not where your novel really should start (and it just might be), it is valuable information for you to have documented.


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Survivor
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quote:
I was very sad for my main character because she was 300 years old and nobody would love her.

I love children. That's why I don't project sexual impulses on them. The same thing is true of at least a few people in the "300 and over" range. I love them, but I don't get all sexual about it. The same thing is true about the men I love, the family members I love, and all of you.

Love is not a matter of finding a warm place to put it.

Enough on that subject.

Anyone here watching Karin? If you're doing a vampire themed story that involves little girls dealing with...you need to watch this. I'm serious, even if you've never watched anime before. Download a bittorrent client, go to a.f.k or whereever, and start watching this. I'll not changing my stance on the issue as expressed above...but I really do cry when I'm watching that episode.

You can do it, if you do it right. Will everyone like it? No. But it can be done.


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Christine
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quote:
Love is not a matter of finding a warm place to put it.

Interesting that you would say that, because in the story in question theere was never any actual sex or the hint that there was, is, or would be....people still found the man's interest in the childlike woman distrubing.


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Survivor
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By the way, I didn't tell you which episode it was on purpose, you have to just start at the beginning
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Survivor
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Oh, and back on that subject....

Watch Karin. I've loved every moment of it so far. That serves as a dissertation in itself.

Speaking more directly to the issue of the ageless sylph...if there wasn't any hint of sexuality in the man's interest, I find it hard to understand what anyone could have been upset about. Men normally like little kids, we all recognize an aversion to them as being pathological. All adults are fascinated with the peculiar beauty of childhood. A child who is precocious is just that much more delightful...as long as that unusual development stays away from certain subjects. We find children old in the ways of manipulation and death frightening and pitiable at once, and there is a similar sense when a child is advanced in sexuality.

But a child-like immortal shouldn't arouse any such aversion in normal humans. Quite the opposite, they are a longstanding part of our deepest and most enduring myths. So clearly there is some kind of deep misunderstanding here.


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Susannaj4
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If I understand you,Survivor, and I'm not sure you are talking about what I've written, but it definitely seems to fit, then you see that the fascination in my MC isn't a sexual nature towards the girl but a fascination in the fact that she knows something she shouldn't(being only a witch). HE's also fascinated with how small she(physically) is with such large knowledge.
She, on the other hand, becomes a woman in the eyes of her people at 16 turnings. She has also had to be the 'woman' of the house for much of her young life. So she would naturally be curious about many things. I never said she went to the village. And she knows that the MC is much different than her father. Would it have been any different if I had made the MC female and the girl had the same feelings of wanting to leave with her?

But then again, the whole thing about the MC being so overly sexual in nature in a subtle way(like many characters in life or fiction, most people classified as vampires do have an attraction that is undeniable, whether it be sexual or not, the attraction is there.)


So what is being read in as sexual is just an interpretation by the reader. I never say that she wants to have sex with him, only that she is drawn to him. She is an old soul, one that wasn't exactly cleansed before being born again. She is there for a purpose. Her role is small but profound.


And this is what I was talking about. It is becoming so deep that I just don't know what to do. It definitely didn't start out that way.


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dckafka
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I'd like to step back to the reason for your posting.

A: What is the basic premise of your novel? You should be able to state that in a couple of sentences.

B: Why do you think your basic premise doesn't work? Again, you should be able to state this in a sentence or two. No hand-wringing allowed. Just the facts, ma'am.

C: We're your support group. We're there for you, kiddo. But I'm not clear as to what kind of support you're looking for. Just feeling a bit whingy and need to vent? Need advice on how to step back from a MS that's got you all OCD? Need us to tell you to quit with the self-doubt, obey the literary voices in your head, and get back to work?


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Susannaj4
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A. basic premise- There are rules to follow, even for immortals. Break the rules and there are consequences. Facing the consequences may mean becoming evil to find the good.

B. It deals with religion. And most people believe that Vampires and witches are evil.

C.What's whingy?

I read posts here and in other places and I got the impression that I shouldn't write something that's too deep. The more I try to change it, the deeper it gets. I can't seem to compile all of the advice given and turn it into something I understand.

Now, having said that, All of the statements made here have helped me greatly. Thank you!!!!!!


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dckafka
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A. basic premise- There are rules to follow, even for immortals. Break the rules and there are consequences. Facing the consequences may mean becoming evil to find the good.

B. It deals with religion. And most people believe that Vampires and witches are evil.

Hmmm. Your basic premise deals with religion?


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dckafka
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Oh, sorry. To whinge is to complain, protest, grouch, grouse, etc.
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Jeraliey
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"I read posts here and in other places and I got the impression that I shouldn't write something that's too deep. The more I try to change it, the deeper it gets. I can't seem to compile all of the advice given and turn it into something I understand."

So don't. Write your story. Let me repeat that. Write YOUR story. If you're driving along with only a bit of your attention on the road and the rest of it with the squabbling flock of backseat drivers you've invited along, your driving becomes poorer. And if you're writing along with more attention to the critiques than to your original vision, the story becomes poorer.

My advice after reading the above-quoted sentences would be to immediately take your WIP out of the public eye and write it the way you originally envisioned it. There will be plenty of time to get feedback and critiques later, but it looks like getting them now is distressing you and taking you away from your story. YOUR story.

Stop making it anything but YOURS.

/$0.02


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pantros
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Deep is fine.

Just make sure you have substantial information inside the story to keep the tunnel down to the deep from collapsing. Basically, be consistant in the rules you establish for your world.

There is nothing wrong with religion or creating alternate theories of the start of religion. Everyone does it to the jewish and christian religions without worry for repurcussion and if you write it decently and make it controversial, well, making the news is free press, free advertising. Now, that said, rewriting islam will get you even more press and a hefty price on your head.

You are aiming at an established target audience, even if you go very deep philosophically. Anne Rice had some very very deep philosophies wrapped into her stories, sometimes bigger than her talent. But, she still sold the books and got her stories and her philosophies read.

Its tough to write deep without sacrificing narrative flow. Fitting in the rules may come across as preachy or legalese if its rushed. Keep it interesting and keep it moving and fit in your base rules of the universe (religion).

Good luck.


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Keeley
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quote:
So don't. Write your story. Let me repeat that. Write YOUR story. If you're driving along with only a bit of your attention on the road and the rest of it with the squabbling flock of backseat drivers you've invited along, your driving becomes poorer. And if you're writing along with more attention to the critiques than to your original vision, the story becomes poorer.

I love that analogy. It's taken me a while to discover how true that is. I think it was Stephen King who said he never lets anyone see the first draft of a story he's working on, outside himself of course. It's only after the first draft that he lets others take a look.

The more I write, the more wisdom I see in that.

Edited to add that I love Paul Gallico's stories (The Abandonded, The Snow Goose, The Poseidon Adventure). One reviewer said that when you tell someone the summary of a Paul Gallico story, it can sound highly implausible and at times silly (I mean just take a look at the premise for Love of Seven Dolls). But when you read the story itself, he makes it work. Maybe he would be an author to look into for inspiration/how-to.

[This message has been edited by Keeley (edited April 26, 2006).]


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Survivor
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I was talking about a problem Christine encountered earlier which seemed similar to what you're worried about.

Anyway, this gets back to one of the things that may be a basic difference between men and women. Men don't necessarily associate sex with love. In fact, one thinks of John Wayne's character in North to Alaska, who has difficulty pursuing the woman he loves because he loves her. Men get that. I'm not sure that women do.

Part of this is because for women, the expression of sexuality is far more pervasive in all their interactions. It's much harder for women to draw a sharp line between an expression of sexual affection and other kinds of interaction. Female POVs, written by women, tend to read...like romance. Most women who don't write romance (or "woman's" literature) have struggled to overcome this problem. Honestly, I think it's not necessary to overcome it, only to understand it.

But the converse it true as well. Women need to understand that male sexuality is actually very circumscribed, far more so than the way men have been trained to speak would have you believe. For instance, men don't actually get "hard-ons" for drag-racing, or extreme sports, or football, or whatever. When they speak this way, they are (as nearly as I can tell) merely reveling in the fact that women don't understand anything about male sexuality. That's another basic difference between men and women, while women want men to understand what it's like to be a woman (and men are naturally motivated to find out what makes women tick), men don't have any desire for women to figure out what makes men tick. They might want particular women to understand them as individuals, but they don't want those women to understand masculinity. The exact reasons for this are hard to explicate. I think it's probably a means for providing additional security against reproductive cheating, though there could be other factors.

Anyhow, this is all in the nature of a digression.

For non-humans, you have to work out the issues yourself. Just don't make the mistake of assigning them human sexuality if their sexuality is supposed to be non-human.


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pjp
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quote:
Anyone here watching Karin? If you're doing a vampire themed story that involves little girls dealing with...you need to watch this. I'm serious, even if you've never watched anime before. [...] I really do cry when I'm watching that episode.

By the way, I didn't tell you which episode it was on purpose, you have to just start at the beginning


I nearly cried from watching the first episode. I've yet to see anime done in a way that isn't a form of torture (A Clockwork Orange comes to mind). I wouldn't mind seeing the episode you're referring to, but there's no way I can watch them all until I stumble across it.

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cvgurau
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I have a short story I've been working since the ninth grade, some eight years ago. It's been through several versions (at least five), more a dozen drafts, and I'm never satisfied. I've finished it, then gone back. I've had it critiqued (here, actually, to a more or less collective yawn), and it's never good enough. It never syncs with the original vision. I love this story, and I think it could be great, but it's been on the backburner for more than a year.

My point is, sometimes you have to move on. At least for a while.


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Survivor
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quote:
I nearly cried from watching the first episode. I've yet to see anime done in a way that isn't a form of torture.

Oh, come on. You expect me to believe that you watched the first episode?


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pjp
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Well, I assumed this was the first: "175M 2006-04-26 18:05 [a.f.k.] Karin - 01.avi"

Whatever that is, if not the first, is what I watched.

Edited to add... I did come close to stopping 3 times, but decided to muster my way through.

OK, I'll even summarise.

The middle child of 3 is the MC, named Karin. She's apparently not "good" at being a vampire. She reacts badly to a male newcomer to school. She eventually bleeds in front of him, at which point the viewer is finally told the she is a "reverse" vampire, in that she creates blood (I might add that since she knew all along, so should the viewer). Her father is a half-wit, her mother domineering and bitchy. Her younger sister hasn't become a "full" vampire, and her brother was off somewhere, not actually in the episode.

[This message has been edited by pjp (edited April 27, 2006).]


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Survivor
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Ah, ah, ah. POV error. First person and objective.

Why did you watch it if you hate anime so much?


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cvgurau
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I watched Karin.

It wasn't revolutionary (same ol' anime, really, but who said that's a bad thing? Not I) but neither was it the steaming pile pjp seems to think. I'm intrigued enough to keep watching.


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Survivor
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Well, to be fair, pjp apparently hates all anime. I'm just curious as to why he watched it at all, that being the case (I'm also a tiny bit curious as to why he regards it as a form of torture, but probably the fact that it's very Japanese, particularly when you watch it in Japanese with subtitles, explains most of that).

One thing that may need explanation. In anime, nosebleeds are conventionally regarded as resulting from sexual arousal in males. Thus it is a matter of dire mortification that Karin suffers from them (in addition to endangering her family secret). For related reasons, the title of every episode is [Something] is so Embarrassing. If you have problems dealing with girls dealing with things that are embarrassing, you probably will have trouble enjoying the show. It's not for everyone.

That's why I only recommended it in reference to the little girl vampire problem.


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Doc Brown
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For whatever reason, American culture thinks of sex between bodies, not between people. I know this holds for movies, I'm less confident about books.

Consider these two examples of American fantasies where bodies were mismatched with personalities:

In the movie Big, Tom Hanks had a physical relationship with an adult woman, even though his character was well under the age of consent. The movie never showed a sex scene, but imagine what it would have been like if the same relationship had been depicted showing a little boy's body to remind us that he was a kid. Shocking.

In the movie Ghost, Patrick Swayze inhabit's Whoopie Goldberg's body and kisses Demi Moore. During the kiss we don't see Whoopie Goldberg, despite that fact that in the story it is clearly her body in this metaphysical adventure. I'm sure that reason is that an American audience would stop seeing a supernatural story and start seeing a homosexual story.

It printed form your readers might tolerate your story. Maybe. If it were made into a movie, the same story would be branded child pornography in this country. It might be okay in Europe.

BTW the suggested story of the evils of Christianity might be a blockbuster . . . but not in the U.S. Here it would attract a fringe audience at best. But most of the world is not Christian, and the worldwide perception of Christianity as the religion of hatred is very high right now. That story might make someone rich, if you strike while the iron is hot.


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pjp
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I watched it because I was curious about your point: "If you're doing a vampire themed story that involves little girls dealing with...you need to watch this. I'm serious." I was curious what it would "bring to the table."

I do find all anime to be "bad," though yes, I was being melodramtic about it. Subtitles are an annoynace for any movie, as it detracts from what I'm trying to watch happen, but that is a minor, nit. A good movie can overcome that setback.

My main problem with anime is the "bad acting." In the Karin episode, when she goes through the park and falls down before the guy sleeping on the bench, his "reaction" to jump up on the bench was awful. Next, is the style of the animation itself.

So... which episode is the relevant one?


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MightyCow
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I always thought that the reason we saw Patrick Swayze kissing Demi Moore is because Whoopie Goldberg is too freaky.

Who's going to suspend disbelief enough to think anyone would want to make out with her? There had to be heroin in that clay!


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I don't get what's so wrong with Whoopie Goldberg. I mean, she does aim for comedic rather than sexy, but is she really as freaky as all that? I suppose asking that question establishes why I'm able to take anime seriously, eh?

Big isn't subtle about driving home the point that a lot of "becoming an adult" really is just a matter of your body's age. It doesn't deny the role of establishment and experience, but it does subordinate them. After all, not everyone has the same experiences growing up anyway. And in our modern culture, only a relative minority of adults really depend on their known history, most of us deal with people who haven't known us since childhood.

As for sex being between bodies rather than people...that's just the way it is. If you have people who don't have bodies, they can't have sex. On the other hand, bodies have sex all the time without people. It's as simple as that.

Now, you might feel that sexuality is an essential characteristic of the person. That's an interesting subject, but not one on which there is universal agreement. I believe it, many people I know also believe it, but a great many people vehemently disagree with that notion. And I don't think that it matters for purposes of argument. If I wake up tomorrow in a ten year old body, I'm not going to try going on any dates (presuming I otherwise would have). It would freak me out to be expressing my mumblesome sexuality through a ten year old body, leave aside how it would make my date feel, I wouldn't feel comfortable with it.

I think the same thing would be true if I woke up in a woman's body. Look, I don't think that my personhood is directly connected to certain bits of my body, but I wouldn't be eager to remind myself that they were missing in action by trying to get it on. Maybe that's just me. And I'd probably get used to the physical changes after a while. So maybe that doesn't support my argument so well.

But the ten year old thing...yeah, I'd go ahead and wait a few years, and the problem would start to solve itself. For a different guy (or a woman) I'm sure the answer would be different. But to me, and to most people (including women) the body makes a big difference when you're talking about sex. We have sex with bodies, we can't have sex without them, and the form of that body makes a big difference in what that sex is like.

Just think of how difficult it is for most people to deal with even minor changes in the body when it comes to sexual expression. Women who've had mastectomies or hysterectomies, men who suffer from erectile dysfunction, para/quadraplegics, even facial scarring or loss of a relatively non-sexual body part like an arm or leg. When a loving couple already committed to a sexual relationship has to deal with such an issue, it is a very real hardship.

That's sad, but it's a simple fact of the relationship between bodies and sex, it isn't just some weird cultural thing.


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