(Photo credit: kevindean)
There is nothing that will help a writer fully develop a villain better than listening to politics in an election year. It’s made up of people whose ideas of how to reach the exact same prosperity and opportunities are called by the other side naive, even evil.
When I was 24 Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash. I had helped out on his campaign every weekend and had even appeared in a couple of commercials for him. I have not been involved in politics since that 2002 election. Until now.
I haven’t been volunteering for a specific candidate like I did in the past. Instead, I’m telling my story. Trying to put a human face on the issues that have turned into statistics and dollar signs. These last four years have been the hardest of my life. Due to my chronic disease, and the reactions to medicines taken for it, I have lost my job, lost my health insurance, and come close to death more than once. When politicians talk about healthcare and social welfare reforms they are talking about my life. So when I see or hear someone in my personal range talk about these things like the people using or wanting these services are all moochers who just need to “pull themselves up by the boot straps” I tell my story.
It’s not easy for me. In fact, I mostly hate it because I know my words will have no effect. Most times the response I get is one so off the mark I know that the person was not truly listening to me. For example, today I read a comment about how much money could be saved if only those at risk were insured. I responded by saying driving is a risk. At any moment we could be hit by an under insured* or uninsured motorist. The response I got was, “Secure the boarders!” That woman was so set against anything that might challenge her belief she blurted random rhetoric.
Even knowing my words will probably mean nothing to the person on the receiving end, I still say them. I used to bear these comments with shame and silence, but no more. I am strong enough to speak up now so, I do. I figure if everyone who depended on these services spoke up eventually we would become a friend, a neighbor, a human being instead of a number.
*Most states don’t require more than $300,000 coverage and most of us (US Citizens) get the minimum. Extended stays in hospitals with surgeries could reach over a million very quickly.
Now that I’m older, my mom and I have a relationship that’s closer to friendship. Well, except when I swear…and when discussing Fifty Shades of Grey. My mom doesn’t want to know if I think any of that is sexy and I sure as hell don’t even want to say the word bondage around her. My mom, the most asexual person in the universe, at least in my eyes, read the entire Fifty Shades Series. Why? The story.
I’ve heard so many writers say they would never read these books because they’re poorly written porn masquerading as literature. And they are. But as a writer you must read them. There is a reason that they are so sickeningly popular. It starts with a S. Story. As someone who regularly pays for sex from my local book store, I have read much better written books where the sex was just as steamy. Opal Carew and Megan Hart are two of my favorite word pimps. If you have never read Broken you are seriously missing out on an awesome book in every regard. Every other chapter is almost pure sex, but between there is an incredible tale of a woman and her quadriplegic husband.
The one thing that those books don’t have that Fifty Shades has is a specific world that is so clearly defined that it translates into a universal human experience. Even if, like me, you knew sub/dom relationships existed in the world and have scrolled hastily over the ball-gagged during a trip to a porn site, you didn’t know all the things that E.L. James lays out in the pages of the first book. That specificity of worlds is so crucial in all great stories. If the Godfather was just a family full of criminals would we have been as fascinated? Discovering the very clear rules of an Sicilian mob family was crucial to understanding the conflict that was created when the rule of the oldest son taken over was broken. In Shawshank Redemption, we were thrust into that prison’s world through the eyes of someone who had seen every part of it. There is only one rule. Don’t hope. Hope keeps you from finding the tiny slivers of good floating in that world full of doo doo. Andy oozes hope from every pore threatening to destroy the delicate balance Red uses to survive. The world is the reason the first 100 pages of sub-par writing in Fifty Shades of Grey is necessary to the story.
Yes, Christian Grey was super hot and the sex was even hotter. But I still wanted to put down the book after a few romps until the unbelievable happened. She said no. No. Two letters that changed the purpose of this book from an excuse to masturbate into a real story. Too often characters do stuff because the writer thinks they need to do more of this or that. It would have been so easy for Ana to say yes to the S&M lifestyle, even if she changed her mind later. That, however, would not have been real and all the women reading would have wrinkled their noses. Consciously or not, they all would have known that only a character in a story would do that. The average woman who Ana is painted as would not.
Could we all have lived with only one Fifty Shades book? Gone on with our life carrying that heartbreaking ending seared on our brains? Most definitely yes. We have to go through the other two though because they’re there. These characters are real to us now. We need to know what happened to them. Through all three of the horribly overwritten books we stay with them because they stay real. I’ve never met a person that hasn’t wondered what their significant other is thinking at some point in their relationship. There isn’t one who didn’t need to be brave and communicate something they worried might hurt their relationship. Or one who hasn’t begged in their heart for their mate to just understand. Fifty Shades amplifies these issues through a defined specific world and that’s why it is so popular.
Despite the inevitable internal eye rolling at the Fifty Shades of F’ed up writing, there are surprises and a relationship based in reality that is worth the read.
Story is the most beautiful thing in the world. It even shines through an ugly package.