|"Catwoman" by Kevin Wada|
During the past few days I have been thinking about “Pages & Playthings” in more ways than celebrate its publication. Excitement and the thrill of writing naughty words aside, I have been thinking about the set of restrictions involved in writing the piece. Though nowhere near a BDSM dungeon, Geek Love runs on a strict set of parameters to screen through its submissions.
The stories need a strong speculative element, a strong carnal element and feature at least one character with geeky predisposition. Although spicy, this is a very specific recipe, which needs to happen within the confines of 6,000 words, which further adds to the challenge. The writing community in general has a mixed response to prompts and themes in general, especially if they are specific ones.
From my experience, the popular personal argument against writing with prompts deals with creativity. I've heard writers feel oppressed (for a lack of a better word and restricted already abused beyond good taste) and stories about the completed work missing that internal part of the writer's individual voice or style. To each his own, but a recent opinion I have heard voiced over Facebook is the profitability from all the hard work. I tend to agree that stories written with a single, specific intention tend to sell harder, if they were rejected, but I digress.
What “Pages & Playthings” taught me is that prompt stories need to feel in sync and consistent. I think this ought to be a general rule in fiction, but it goes without saying that you should pay more attention to how well the prompt, the theme and your voice for this category of writing you will do. Since this is writing I'm discussing and not something exact like an algorithm, every story will be a new exploration for the Indiana Jones inside every you.
Since I'm on the subject, I'll give you an example with “Pages & Playthings”, because I can't just seize and desist with my selfish horn-tooting (though I guess what I should have said is that I'm a Samaritan at heart). Here is how I synced and layered all three Geek Love requisites.
1. The Erotica & The Geek
Contrary to popular belief (my references are 80's US sex comedies, so spare me), geeks aren't a race of asexual beings and they like to get into each other's pants, especially after a hard day of devoting themselves to their hobbies and interests, which is pretty much what I focused on. The bridge between the geek hobby (in case of my character, extreme aversion to reading) and the sex is the foreplay and inclusion of the physical book as a prop leading towards intercourse. The thing with erotica is that people who don't read it assume it's all about the mechanics of sex, but in fact it's all about the tease and promise of a really, really good time. Reading a hardcover for a serious bibliophile already has taken an almost sensual nature, so it's very easy for the feeling escalate after an indecent proposal.
2. The Geek & The Speculative
This has been the easiest thing to do, since culture has so many myths about the supernatural properties of books. Throwing a magic book at a book worm is hardly the toughest thing to do in any context. Since this is science fiction with horror elements, all I had to make sure is follow through a rather creepy introduction of the artifact and establish its possessive qualities.
3. The Speculative & The Erotica
Sex between people who happen to be superheroes is tricky business. If you write about normal sex, then you can't really use the speculative element (in this case the superheroes to any effect, other than deconstruct the idea, which has been overdone). At the same time not tying the book in with the sex creates a chasm between the erotica genre and the speculative genre. Since I had a limited wordcount, I designed super powers, which could add some spice into the sexual act to actively involve the speculative element and trigger the characterization process. Then the book itself had to be reason why these people were having sex in the first place.
Now that these elements flow naturally into each other, the story finds its own balance and the ideas gel with each other to create one organic effect. Or at least create it after extensive editing.
What's your experience with writing with prompts?