Monday, June 29, 2015

#AskELJames and My Own Fears as a Writer

Apparently, today is one of those days where I get uber paranoid, terrified, frustrated and angry all at once... as if the rest of the world isn't already so goddam negative, all that bad energy is getting to me.

Let's be clear: I'd only read the first "50 Shades" book and I saw the movie twice. First in theaters and second after getting it on DVD. The movie was much better than the book. For someone like me who gets sensitive around a lot of sexuality, it was a relief that the movie only had 4 major sex scenes. And yes, that does kinda scream to the school of "this genre is probably not for you"... but forgive me for wanting to stretch my boundaries every now and then.

As a writer... I will concede that the book was badly written... but the attacks that really caused this Twitter trending event to go off the rails came from all the critics of the "50 Shades" series and the author didn't answer any of those concerns.

Concerns that she not only misrepresented BDSM as rape culture but also condoned domestic abuse and perpetuated that "it's okay because Christian Grey is rich." I'd heard many of these concerns before and reading the first book, I understood them.
It's written from Anastasia Steele's POV, so I see and feel everything she feels. I felt the sexual liberation when she lost her virginity and I did feel the heat in the sex scenes. One caveat I had was that it was just too damn repetitive and too damn often that they [excuse me] fucked in this book. But seriously, how often can you write sex scenes and keep the reader engaged without it getting repetitive?
What I REALLY felt reading the book... her low points where she felt used by Christian, the moments where it felt like he really didn't have a heart...

The movie treatment gave Anastasia Steele more positive qualities. Granted, the second time I saw the movie, her pleading with Christian for this relationship to be NORMAL... it got a little repetitive too. But I liked that she was taking initiative about things.

I did have a point to all this....I just got a little lost in rehashing all these details.

We all have our fears as writers. The most prevalent is not getting published and all this hard work being for nothing.

One I have frequently is that people will say my writing is terrible. That my characters are two-dimensional. One of my own fanfics [based on one of my favorite animé series] that I transformed into original fiction... a couple of my commenters said the writing was terrible and my protagonist was a "Mary Sue"... which is writer's slang for BORING.
People have used the same phrase to describe Bella Swan.

Which is yet another issue I had with #AskELJames... I know "50 Shades" was originally "Twilight" fanfiction... but I never saw Bella and Edward's relationship as an abusive one. The only real negatives I saw was the stalking and the beginning of "Eclipse" where he wouldn't let her see Jacob. I feel about Jacob Black is another topic all to its own... but the short version: I liked him in "Twilight" and "New Moon" (up until he became a werewolf and nearly led Edward to commit suicide... HATED him through most of "Eclipse" and that hate continued until the 2nd half of "Breaking Dawn" after he finally got over Bella.
Yeah, I'm VERY Team Edward and Jacob spent the majority of the series annoying the hell out of me.

Admittedly, in the movie version of "Eclipse," I was incensed that Edward wouldn't let Bella see Jacob by unattaching her car battery... but all the feels I had for Jacob when they finally got time together blew up when he said he'd rather Bella was dead than become a vampire.... I don't care what the circumstances are, you do not tell someone you care about "I rather you were dead"...

Kristen Stewart's portrayal of Bella, I have my nitpicks about... but I've lived and breathed her while reading the books. I know she's better than a lot of people give her credit for.

And again, I'm side-tracked a bit.

I'm afraid I'll never get published. I'm afraid nobody will like my stories. That they're called "bad writing".

One fear with this particular story I'm writing... well, it's warranted, but it's also unavoidable.
When you write about sex and selling yourself for sex, there'll always be critics. No matter how much I rationalize that there are few other options for these girls, people are going to disagree.

I just hope people don't draw negative conclusion about ME by reading the books.
That I'm making light of these situations to further my writing career, that I don't take it seriously...

My characters are by no means perfect. I just hope I don't wind up making Talia and Amber too unlikeable.
Right now, the criticism I could draw about Amber is that she goes too far to achieve her goal. That being a bitch doesn't justify her feelings about things. And also that the other characters shouldn't be willing to automatically forgive her after she explains her motives... Talia is the only one who takes a while to come around. And likewise, it takes a lot for Amber to accept Talia's motives.

Amber wasn't just Talia's antithesis, but she also answers a lot of criticisms Talia may get from readers.
Initially her grand explanation for EVERYTHING is that her stepfather persuaded her to have sex with him and she fell in love with him and her sleeping around with strangers for money is her way of getting back at him.
Amber doesn't buy into it, especially because Talia's experiences were the result of childhood naivety. Whereas many of the other characters actually experienced abuse and Talia's business of using dance to flaunt sexuality is equivalent, in Amber's view, to portraying yourself as a piece of meat for consumers to drool over. As if all the horrors some of them endured meant nothing to her.

Again, what I aim to do with my story is to get faces to girls that have gone through this type of abuse and show how they can use it to fuel their actions to help them channel that negative energy and therefore heal.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Protecting My Girls/Female Cast [Te Busque]

Much like my previous entry about Vanity/Apollonia 6, this began as a Facebook status and I decided it was better suited for a blog discussion.
Only in this case, I didn't even begin a Facebook status because I had this bad feeling that I'd be editing it for half an hour before I came to this conclusion.

The idea for this started when I read a couple things in the paper this morning. The first was about the notion of a registry for strippers and people who work in the adult entertainment industry.
Here's a version of it online for those who are interested.

It does bring up some good points, I will grant it that. Trafficking is an important issue that needs to be cracked down upon.
But the notion of putting these girls on a registry if they want to be the business... what's to say that isn't going to come back to bite them when they move on other industries that are less... what's the word... controversial?
Granted, some will have to declare it in interviews when they have to give their employment histories, but others want to move past it and deny they had to lower themselves to that business because nothing else was working out for them?
Maybe I'm not giving businesses enough credit here, but to me, I feel like that'd be a red flag they wouldn't be willing to work around.

For as long as I am working on this story and writing this novel, I'm probably always going to be looking at storylines in TV and movies and headlines in newspapers and thinking about my girls, my characters... as characters, I have them pretty much hashed out and developed in my head (as well as in various notebooks I'd been keeping). But some of these things probably be used for inspiration and might become elements in my story (in small and large capacities).

It's kinda funny because I'd been nowhere near this industry personally- yet I'd become so close to my girls that I feel protective of them. They don't even exist beyond my notebooks, Word documents and this blog, yet I feel I need to defend them from the stigma that comes from the adult entertainment industry.

Let's get one thing straight, though: my girls aren't strippers.

They are dancers that work at a nightclub. Ultimately what goes on is that they open at night for a number of hours. A lot of young people come to drink (the bar is the only fixture that remains of the original establishment- a restaurant in a degrading neighborhood that was losing money). There is dance music pumping through the speakers. But through the course of the night, the dancers come out to perform elaborate numbers.

I refer to them as "sirens" because they are a) gorgeous, b) the star attraction that draws the crowds- but unlike the sirens in "The Odyssey" they don't create shipwrecks, c) experts at what they do... which happens to be Latin dancing and entertaining.

Another interesting thing that appeared in the paper today- there was a poll asking how many people were in favor of prostitution and against it... the divide was pretty even- 45% for 55% against.
We're here thinking they aren't quite the same thing. But I had to point out that they're different parts of the adult entertainment industry.

I don't know how I'd feel about it being legal in the U.S.... I feel like it might change the aesthetic of the country. Not to mention it'd probably allow for more people to take advantage of the populous and sex trafficking would become an even greater problem than it already is.

What I know for sure is that where my story is set, prostitution is legal.
It's a small fraction of the operation I've constructed, but nonetheless, it is a point of contention.
This is a poor neighborhood, so really, the only source of income involves sex, drugs and tourism. If not one of the big cities like Rio De Janeiro, it's a small town on the outskirts of a big city like Rio. And tourists visiting the area might have heard about these legendary drop-dead gorgeous dancers and that's what generates business... a 4-5 star restaurant might not have the same effect.

I'd hashed out another "mythology" for my setting that does involve prostitution. It's a dodgy part of town I refer to as the Underground... and there, people specialize BDSM.
"50 Shades of Grey" helped a little bit with my creating this facet of the story. Even if it's just a small part of it, it's something else that adds to the motivation of one of my characters.

At this junction of the story- which is really the only junction I care about since it's the part of it making it into the main novel- only three of the sirens are involved in the prostitution side of things.
Ruby's motivation is money-motivated. The rent for lofts and apartments is really high, probably because the money is needed to restore the neighborhood, but with some corruption, it's probably just filling the pockets of politicians. Plus she does it so her twin sister Scarlet doesn't have to. Their experiences growing up with their abusive father had such a negative impact on Scarlet that she doesn't have the confidence to take a lead role in any of the performances (at best she's on stage with her sister and their "gimmick" is dressing and dancing as mirror images of each other). And as I'd recently realized, she hadn't any sexual experience since she was able to get away from him.

Amber's motivation is money-motivated as well, but for reasons other than rent costs. Whatever extra money she has left over after rent, it goes to two of her friends who are saving up to buy another establishment- which happens to be located in the Underground side of town. She also wants to use it as a place to put on her own performances: which don't just involve Latin dancing, but also other genres like hip-hop.
Her affiliations with BDSM, which she became an expert in while living in the Underground for the past 5 years, also helped her secure a position there.
And she also does it, believing Talia would never take her seriously if she was just a dancer.

The addition of the prostitution layer of the business was Talia's idea and it was what sold her on becoming a partner in the club ownership. But her motivation for it is more on the self-serving side of things than it is monetarily. Granted, the money she procured for the mob bosses that owned the place helped pay outstanding rent and utilities and it also goes on to pay for costumes, stage designs and so on.
But she's also a bit of a sex addict :shrug: it doesn't help that in her teenage years, she was told repeatedly by someone she trusted and cared about that sex is the only way to make money in this town.

Sadly, that is true for a lot of people in underdeveloped countries like the ones in South America... there are few opportunities to make a living and most are bound there by the sheer fact they can't afford to migrate to another country that has more to offer.

I honestly don't know why I suddenly took it upon myself to get on this soapbox.
This story all started with the idea of bringing some of my favorite songs to life in a visual capacity.
And originally it was going to be about a girl in the prostitution industry who ends up falling in love with someone she meets at random and her boss(es) wind up having to let her go.

I guess I also wanted to explore the stereotype- that girls who involve themselves in the adult entertainment business come from less than desirable backgrounds. They were either poor, grew up around the industry, were sexually abused, etc.
And I ultimately wanted to say that they are real people and shouldn't necessarily be taken for granted.

But also my greatest motivation: I've never really written a female centric story before. All of my work have involved love stories. Guy meets girls. They fall in love. A lot of shit happens and they either become stronger as a result or someone dies at the end.
Granted, there are some love stories involved here and that is part of the story. But the majority of it is about friendship among women, exploring different parts of yourselves and discovering you had strength that you didn't know was possible.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Vanity/Apollonia 6- Te Busque inspiration

I'm not sure how many times I mentioned how Apollonia 6's lone single "Sex Shooter" was the "activating incident" for this story I'd been writing since 2012... but I'll say it again.

As a HUGE fan of Prince's music and his movie "Purple Rain," I'd put together a playlist of all the music from the movie. Most are songs from the albums, but longer versions. Others are B-sides and outtakes that he'd set aside for the movie, but never made it to the soundtrack.
I believe that particular afternoon, I was listening to another outtake [that later got revamped for Jill Jones's debut album] called "G-Spot" and followed it up with "Sex Shooter"... it didn't just bring me back to the scene in the movie, but gears started turning in my head.

Maybe "Te Busque" was simply my way of resurrecting the "Vanity" look in another time and place with a completely different story...
but this one song gave me an idea I'd been chasing ever since. And also helped me realize ideas I'd been gathering when I had Nelly Furtado's "Loose" album on heavy rotation.

My story has evolved IMMENSELY since then. But the one thing that remains is that these girls are dancers, they flaunt their sexuality in musical numbers, and some of them offer sexual favors to close business deals for their bosses- who happen to work in the drug trade. [Taking that into account, maybe this should take place in Columbia instead of Brazil... but I have plenty of time to figure that out].
The one difference in my version of this cliché- the latter part of the job is something that some of the girls do of their own free will [not all of them participate in this]. They aren't hookers who were forced into the sex trade. It's maybe a little cliché that all of them had less than perfect childhoods and it helped contribute to this. But there's also the fact that there are few options to make a living in this poor town.

Vanity 6 featured three girls dressed in leather boots, heels and lingerie. On stage, their prerogative was to bring sexual fantasies alive with their dancing and their music. Listening to their album, they have songs like "Nasty Girl" and "Wet Dream"... really risqué stuff... I mean, these songs were written by the same guy who wrote "Darling Nikki."

Not all of the songs on my inspirational playlists are nearly that risqué, but I find their stage presence very inspiring. They're confident with their bodies and flaunting their sexuality. All part of the female empowerment motif I'm going for.
I watched some concert footage that I downloaded for inspiration the way I'd used a bunch of music videos and my playlists...

it made me wish I could dance like that :P I promise, it'd just be for research. Another way to get into my characters' heads.

The "Vanity" look suits Amber so well and not unlike Vanity herself [shocking considering how AMAZING she looked while performing], she's not entirely comfortable with this way of performing.
I could totally see her having a similar look and stage presence.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Why Amber's a "Ladykiller" who has "Tickets" to her own show [Te Busque]

The words in quotes are the titles of Maroon 5 tracks.
Whether or not they will make it into the actual story, I'm still trying to figure out.

It's strange- the vast majority of the music that's inspiring my story are all by female artists. Maybe because Talia has this attitude about hating men... I still think about how funny it was that I spent so much time with these female influences (a bunch of personal role models), I fall in love with another male celebrity [this time an athlete] and have zero recollection of the last time I felt that way about a guy.

That kinda dispels any doubt in my head that I'm straight. I may be a little bicurious at times, but I definitely feel that attractive pull more strongly towards guys.

The first time I heard "Ladykiller" while running through Maroon 5's Overexposed album, I was perplexed as much as I was awed.
Because to me, it sounds like Adam's warning an ex-girlfriend to stay away from another woman. In reality, that more likely isn't true... maybe I was just looking for something more spicy..

Then when I started putting "Tickets" on heavy rotation, the visual brainstorming really started kicking into high gear. I see Amber dancing with her two guy friends, Michel and Misha. The three of them are on a stage doing a lot of cha-cha and samba steps. She's being flirtatious as usual. This time around, I started picturing choreography with her arms, folding them and twisting them in different positions in front of her.

Both songs, I see coming into play in one particular pivotal scene.

The set-up:
Talia had just broken up with Juan Paulo, the guy who spent most of the 2nd act (of three) wooing her. And they'd only been together for a couple weeks. An argument ensues, he says some things that he doesn't mean, but she takes very seriously and breaks up with him over them.
Emilia overhears the argument... her apartment happens to be located on the street they happen to be walking... she goes after Talia reason with her, only to find her already making out with another guy. One of many "booty call" guys she has saved on her cell phone when she needs a quick fix.
After the guy storms off upon the interruption, Emilia is beside herself. Talia deliberately kept this part of her and their business from her to protect her innocence. In this instance, Emilia proclaims that she's going to work with Amber instead- since she'd made it clear that she wants to work with her. Talia tries to talk her out of it, saying that Amber takes the business too seriously and she couldn't handle it. Emilia insists that nothing could be worse than Talia shacking up with a random guy not even 10 minutes after breaking up with a perfectly nice guy.

I started brainstorming a bit more while running through "Ladykiller" earlier today and I came across an interesting notion:
I never took into account what the other S&M prostitutes thought of Amber- particularly after she left their side of town and Evangeline and her girlfriend wound up dead. Isaac owned their business and may have told them that Amber turned Evangeline into a lesbian- which led to her murder.

Having said that, "Ladykiller" might take on a literal meaning.

I'd also played around with the idea that Amber was so hardcore as a part of Talia's business that some of the back-up dancers quit because they couldn't handle her way of doing things.
I'm still not entirely sure about going that route.

Supposing my book ever got finished/published and turned into a movie, this could be an interesting number where Emilia wonders through the dingy side of town. Although this city is very poor to begin with, this is the poorest part of it. [For whatever reason, I'm picturing an early scene from "Rock of Ages" where a bunch of local prostitutes harass Sherrie, singing "you were meant for this since you were born"]

The only way Emilia can find out where Amber works her 2nd job is either a conversation with Vanessa or Ruby.
Maybe she calls Scarlet/Ruby's apartment. It's not too late in the evening, so Scarlet is probably still with Javier (they're either having sex at this point or had just finished).
Ruby answers. Emilia asks where she can find Amber because she needs to talk to her. Ruby goes down a few floors, knocks on Amber's door, but she doesn't answer. She then calls Vanessa, asking her the same question.

In a previous scene that I'm still brainstorming about, Vanessa and Amber have another conversation. Amber had just started materializing her idea for a theme night and if Talia agrees to it, she wants Vanessa to be a part of it. She tells her that she really needs this to work out, not just to make a mark at the club, but she needs the extra money for Michel and Misha's business. She relays that she tries to help them out whenever she can and she performs with them some nights.

After hanging up with Vanessa, she calls Emilia back to forward the address. But she still tries to warn her about her. Emilia rolls her eyes, insisting she can handle her being extra hardcore about the business. Ruby still insists that she be careful. Saying how she'd blown up at her several times and doesn't like spending time with the other girls. "Just don't be surprised if she ends up breaking your heart. At the end of the day, she's the only one she really cares about."

Despite what just happened with Talia, how she spent the past year or so looking up to her only to have that image in her head smashed, Emilia remains optimistic. She truly believes Amber is different and wants to really get to know her since the other girls have clearly given up on that.

"Tickets" could very well be an inside joke. Amber dancing to this music because that's how others perceive her. They believe she's only concerned about herself and could care less about the people she hurts along the way.
However, this winds up not being the case. Amber is very warm with Emilia, looking very forward to working with her, while on the inside she's rejoicing because she knew there'd come a time that Emilia would tire of following Talia's lead [ergo the song "Told ya so" by Karmin].

All this being said, I have a couple of scenes to work on.

*Vanessa and Amber- "I have an idea and I want you to be part of it. And I hope Emilia will be too."
*Conversation with Amber and Talia- "You'll see. There will come a time when Emilia tries of following your lead and wants to join me."
*phone conversation involving Emilia, Ruby and Vanessa

*Emilia walking to the gritty side of town, taking in the surroundings, asking the local girls where the place is located and they tell her to watch out for Amber because she got one of their friends killed [and later, the conversation needs to happen where this is clarified]
*Amber's performance with Michel and Misha shortly before Emilia shows up.