30 August, 2005

Story characters, alter-egos, and why a real-life partner will never live up to a story character (and vice versa)

I wrote this several weeks ago, and never got around to posting it, but it seemed to fit with other things I’m thinking about right now, so here it is.

I really started writing stories in the fifth grade. We were supposed to do a book report, which normally would have been fine. But the teacher said we had to do a book report on a book we hadn’t read.

This posed some difficulty for me. I pointed out to my teacher that I had read every book I owned, and I had likewise read all of the books in the library at school. I proposed that, instead, I write a story of my own. After checking with the librarian, my teacher believed that I had read pretty much every fiction book in the school library, and most of the non-fiction books, too. So she let me write the story.

The battered folder with the pencilled story is packed away in a box somewhere, but I remember the main details. There was a pair of twins, to whom I gave the middle names of myself and my best friend at the time. The story starts with an awkward, derivative bit of deus ex machina, in which a “squeaky voice” out of nowhere gives the twins the “wishing power,” in which their wishes would all come true. I wrote perhaps five pages for the school assignment, and then kept at it on my own. And, of course, there were spankings in it. The story, of course, continued to be derivative—a strange combination of Edward Eager, Beverley Cleary, Carol Ryrie Brink, and who knows how many other authors. Eventually (sometime the next year) I outgrew the characters, and the story got packed away in a box, for me to bring out and read fondly every so often.

Over the next year, I dealt with life, and sixth grade, and hormones, and losing my best friend but not yet finding new friends. And I kept writing stories to find myself friends somewhere. Finally, I wrote about Jill, and something clicked. We had the same initials, for one thing. We had cute, blonde haired, blue-eyed younger sisters, for another. But there the similarities largely ended. Jill was snarky. Jill was vocal. Jill’s parents weren’t abusive. But she still got the occasional spanking. And she and her sisters got sent away to boarding school. Jill stayed with me for years. I was still occasionally writing about her in college. But eventually, I outgrew her, and the various futures I created for her, too.

I wrote other stories, and occasionally wrote other story series. There was Arynn, my foray into fanfiction, until I realized that I didn’t have the patience to learn someone else’s world when it was so much easier to just create a world of my own. There was Beth, a girl on one of the planets newly colonized by Earth. There were Beth’s various descendants, whose names I can’t even remember. It was probably a good thing I didn’t need much sleep in high school, or else something else would have gone undone!

By my third year in college, I wasn’t writing many stories. Maybe it was depression, maybe it was having a heavy writing load in my classes, maybe it was that I was remembering too many things that I didn’t want to write about, and couldn’t make up someone else’s life. Maybe it was just that I had friends, and didn’t need to fill up my loneliness with imagined people. For years, I might write papers, or grant proposals, or press releases, or annual reports, but I wasn’t writing many stories.

But then I read other people’s stories online, and started thinking about writing my own. The first of what are now the Janey and Michelle stories was actually about Janey and Jill, my original alter ego. But as I wrote the stories, I realized that the person I was writing about as “Jill” was someone else entirely. She was like me in a lot of ways, but not exactly the same. So I gave her my middle name, and she became Michelle. A little brattier than I am, perhaps a little braver, but pretty much the same. And Janey became pretty much my ideal in a partner. Warm, nurturing, intelligent, playful, just a little bit snarky. And a top.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the characters in my stories. Mostly, about the Janey and Michelle stories. In the months after I wrote the first story, I wished desperately for a partner like Janey. In many ways, the woman I’ve married is very like her. Warm, nurturing, intelligent, playful, just a little bit snarky. And even a little bit of a top. But sometimes I get frustrated, because my wife absolutely fails to read my mind. In the stories, Janey generally knows just what to do to meet Michelle’s needs. Michelle hardly ever has to say what she needs, virtually never has to ask for the things she can’t say.

Of couse, the reason Janey can read Michelle’s mind is that they are fiction. They are both inside of my head, and I’m quite sure I pass messages from one’s subconscious to the other’s, so that they don’t have to articulate those things they would rather not say.

An actual, real-life partner has a lot of advantages over the best fictional character. She’s really there when I touch her. Her spankings hurt my real-life butt. She makes real dinners I can eat, and we go on real dates where I’m out in public and everything. But she’s never going to read my mind. Her failure to do the things I want her to do, but don’t ask for, is not out of meanness, or oblivion. It’s because real people can’t actually read your mind.

So I guess that leaves me with doing some work. It leaves me with asking for the things I want, with admitting the things I need. And it requires compromise—there are things Janey would do that my wife won’t. There are things my wife wants that Janey would never ask for. In a real-life partnership, desires don’t match up perfectly, or consistently, or conveniently.

But maybe I’ll take the easy way out, and write some more Janey and Michelle stories, and give them to my wife. You know, as a subtle hint.


Haron said...

This is really interesting. I wonder, have you found that in response to your experiences in reality your fantasy tops/partners are morphing into somebody more realistic (for instance, somebody who doesn't read minds?)

'Cause that's what I've found, pretty much. And I'm not sure whether it's good or bad for writing. :)

Dyke Grrl said...

It might make my stories more realistic if it did change the writing. Honestly, I haven't written much fiction since meeting my wife. And in the world of fiction, my fantasy tops/partners still seem to know more about what "I" want--because it's hard work to actually talk about what I need, and much easier in a fantasy for the person to know on their own what to do.

And it may become clear as I blog about wrangling my way through this dissertation, I try to avoid hard work. (Not really--I don't like it, but somehow, that seems to end with me doing *more* of it. Hmpf.)

Handspan said...

Her spankings hurt my real-life butt.

I like that line!

Honestly, I haven't written much fiction since meeting my wife.

There's something sweetly touching about that!

And in the world of fiction, my fantasy tops/partners still seem to know more about what "I" want

That crosses over into an "us" thing, though... I feel like part of meeting your need to be topped is being told or shown what it is I think you need. That's about as close as I can get. :O)

Natty said...

Ah, treading into an important topic here. Definitely something I've been thinking about as I spend more time with my significant other, though haven't thought it through enough to write much yet.

And I think, in answer to Haron, living reality makes writing stories harder. For me, writing was a way of articulating what I wanted but now that I've got real life going on, it gets articulated in other ways. Or maybe just going through a fallow period. I dunno. :)

Dyke Grrl said...

Natty--I agree completely about how writing is a way of articulating what I want. More than that, it was a way of substituting for what I want, and when I'm getting what I want (or need), I don't need to make it up in my head.

Also, having a partner takes time, and there is only so much time in a day.

Wintermute said...

What a wonderful account, Dyke Grrl.

I was not able to write until I had
graduated college and got a lot of
practice writing design documentation
and the like. But growing up I had
serial fantasies. These fantasies
were inhabited by the same women,
who all had names and personalities.
Given my kink, they all like or needed
to be spanked.

For a long time I had never met anyone
who made up stories like this. Then
I went to a Society of Janus lunch and
met a woman who had such fantasies. I was
fascinated to read your beautifully written
account of your own inner life.



Anonymous said...

My first attempt at leaving a comment didn't work, so I'm trying again.

I thought this whole discussion was v interesting. I wrote spanko fiction as a way of convincing myself being a perv was ok. (I didn't realize that's what I was doing at the time.) It was the first fiction I'd written since I was about 12. Once I convinced myself, I stopped writing, and I find those early stories sort of embarrassing now.

Molly B (even tho I think I have to pick the "Anonymous" button to post)

Dyke Grrl said...

Thanks for the comments.

It's interesting, Molly, that you haven't written stories since coming to terms with your kink.

For me, writing fills a lot of spaces. It's a way to process through things in my head, a way that I manage to "tell" things I can't otherwise talk about. And a way to figure out what it is I want, I guess.

And there's something seductive about the ease (or relative ease) of writing a story as opposed to writing my dissertation. I am more confident, I feel more capable of conveying what I intend to convey. So I use writing stories as a reward for the more frustrating and less pleasing process of writing out my research. :)