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Greetings, writerly and readerly people!  Apologies for the late post, but I forgot I volunteered to fill in for the inestimable SS, who couldn't make it this week.

Interesting and juicy bit of debate in the YA publishing world over what constitutes acceptable/marketable material (via io9): "it’s not okay to be gay after the apocalypse."  A YA sci-fi manuscript was sent back with the request that one of the POV characters be radically altered:

The gay character, Yuki Nakamura, is just one of five viewpoint characters in their as-yet-unpublished novel Stranger, and like the straight relationships in the book, he never gets any further than kissing. But the agent asked for Yuki to become heterosexual — or else, to have his viewpoint, and all references to his sexuality, removed. Possibly, the agent said, if the series became successful, Yuki could come out in book three or so.

Yeesh.  Anyone have stories like this?  It's worth reading the whole post on Publishers Weekly, for context.

I'll throw in a bit of my own opinion here: groups that are less-commonly represented in fiction face two major challenges.  The first is general non-representation, which is as much a function of well-meaning but clueless actuaries as it is of animus.  Publishers, film and television producers are often aiming for the most 'generic' audience, so even though a "niche" audience can propel someone like Tyler Perry to be the highest paid man in Hollywood, we still persist in this idea that we have to reflect some imaginary audience that demands their fiction to be populated by more generic characters.

The second, and equally problematic, is token representation that's clearly there for no other purpose than to be exactly that.  The background character, the stock friend who gets killed in the first reel, the funny but uncomplicated sidekick, the one who possesses great wisdom but no human dimensions of her own.  

So anyway, you're tired of me blabbing.  Want a writing assignment for today?   Write a brief conversation between two characters, at least one of whom belongs to a less-commonly represented group.  

Tonight’s challenge:

Our friend the callow youth (the Chosen One, etc.) is still seeking the Jewel of Togwogmagog, and things are going poorly.  The youth has to get a vital piece of information from another character, who isn't cooperating.  This may or may not have to do with the differences between them, if you want to emphasize or deemphasize those differences.

Try to use the dialogue and the descriptions to create a fully-fleshed out human being instead of relying entirely on central casting (or if you do pull from central casting, give your character an extra twist or two to make her human instead of cardboard.)

Write On! will be a regular weekly diary (Thurs 8 pm ET) until it isn't.
Before signing a contract with any agent or publisher, please be sure to check them out on Preditors and Editors, Absolute Write and/or Writer Beware.

Originally posted to De hominis dignitate on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 05:46 PM PDT.

Also republished by Readers and Book Lovers and Progressive Friends of the Library Newsletter.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Apologies for the sloppy work, (26+ / 0-)

    but sending best wishes to SS and her family in the meantime.

    Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

    by pico on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 05:45:08 PM PDT

  •  What an interesting discussion. (11+ / 0-)

    I think that often people putting money on the line for sales (whether it be books, films or television) can't really afford to take a risk for controversy at the starting gate.  Only after a show or book or author becomes popular does the publisher or producer or network have some wiggle room. But not always. Look at the utter clusterf**k Dancing with the Stars is this season. And it's a consistently top rated show. There's always risk. And the bigger the money on the line, the more risk averse decision-makers will be

    Which is why you see so few diverse characters in movies. There's ONE SHOT with most films. In books and television you have time to introduce things once the thing is established.

    It's a conundrum for sure. But I've always said TV and film (my industry) don't reflect our reality. They reflect our sense of our reality.

    I recently did some filming about homelessness. Scripted stuff. And while scouting locations for places that looked like somewhere a single mom would live, I had to bypass ACTUAL places where single moms could afford to live because they looked SO crappy. It wouldn't work on film.

    Another example: when you watch a TV commercial with "regular" people in them, the "regular people" do not really look like us. Even if they are grey haired and rotund they do not ACTUALLY look like us and our neighbors and friends. They are the idealized versions of how we envision ourselves.

    It's all illusion. And this adds difficulty to honestly presenting diverse populations in tv, film and books.

    It's the difference between losing a fight and refusing one. (h/t Kossack james richardson)

    by mdmslle on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 06:02:47 PM PDT

  •  Ok my go at the assignment (10+ / 0-)

    Written, as usual (when I do these) in script format. I can't write a novel to save my life.

    CALLOW YOUTH approaches QUEST COMPANION who is sitting on a rock next to a stream

    You coming? Or you just gonna sit there looking...

    Well, where you goin'?  You can't go anywhere with out me.

    Well we cant sit here forever. So.
    Look, I don't if you don't tell me what we have to do. But...But this does need to get done. You realize that, right?

    QC stands and walks briskly past CY. CY follows, trying to catch up.

    I mean...what's the problem? I thought we both had an interest in finding this thing. Are we at least close?

    QC turns to face CY.

    We're close.

    Well then let's get going.


    But QC doesn't move and instead, stands facing CY.

    I...figure we'll be done...pretty much finished, in maybe two days. If you want to hurry.  
    Just two more days. Then...we' all done.

    It's the difference between losing a fight and refusing one. (h/t Kossack james richardson)

    by mdmslle on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 06:16:24 PM PDT

    •  No objection to script format. (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mdmslle, cfk, WiseFerret, GussieFN, Emmet, jabney

      Especially since you have a good ear for speech rhythms (and a just use of ellipses, which can be over- or under-done, but here it's just right.)  Some punchy, concrete details may be helpful, though: it's a little abstract.  Which isn't a problem if that's what you're going for.

      Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

      by pico on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 06:21:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  yea, it's abstract in terms of setting and action. (6+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        pico, Mnemosyne, cfk, WiseFerret, GussieFN, Emmet

        I really didn't spend a lot of time thinking of that. Mostly b/c the assignment was to indicate somehow that the other "character" (a non-stereotypical character) isn't cooperating i the quest.

        In this scene the CY could be male or female. As could the QC. I pictured them both female and I think the dialog "sounds" female.

        One character (QC) has a crush on the CY and is reluctant to end the quest because it means the end of their interaction. I probably should write it slightly differently, as I think it may be a bit too subtle without context.

        the line "We're close" is supposed to have a double meaning. As are QC's last lines.

        It's the difference between losing a fight and refusing one. (h/t Kossack james richardson)

        by mdmslle on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 06:26:22 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Ah... I see. Very sly. (6+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mdmslle, Mnemosyne, cfk, WiseFerret, GussieFN, Emmet

          Would be great on stage, where body language and silence can tell a wholly separate story.

          Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

          by pico on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 06:29:47 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  yeah, that's the problem with screenwriting (7+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Mnemosyne, pico, cfk, WiseFerret, GussieFN, Emmet, jabney

            It really leaves so much of the action and interpretation to the direction and actors. While writing this, I saw it all in my head with perfect clarity. On film, good actors and good direction would bring this tension and meaning out clearly with body language and intonation. In post-production the editor would take it up a notch with close up facial shots cut in at just the right moments. A sound design team would add a score to amp it up even more.

            In a novel, I'd have to describe it so the reader could feel the tension. And THAT is why I cannot write novels. :P

            It's the difference between losing a fight and refusing one. (h/t Kossack james richardson)

            by mdmslle on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 06:35:49 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  interesting . . . (6+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              mdmslle, pico, cfk, WiseFerret, GussieFN, Emmet

              I picked up those, especially in your last lines. But my reaction was how I'd express it on the page.

              Yesterday's weirdness is tomorrow's reason why. -- Hunter S. Thompson

              by Mnemosyne on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 06:40:17 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  I don't want to brag, but I bet that (6+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              mdmslle, pico, WiseFerret, Emmet, cfk, jabney

              my screenplays are worse than your novels.

              "Gussie, a glutton for punishment, stared at himself in the mirror."

              by GussieFN on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 07:04:34 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I bet you they're not. TRUST me on this. (7+ / 0-)

                I tried writing a novel ONCE and it was SO BAD i was just like: kill me now.

                I love writing. But I can't write novels. Weird, huh?

                I'm not sure what it is that prevents me from being able to verbally describe the scene I see so vividly in my minds eye while writing a script. I mean I literally SEE the scene, the actors, the movement. Hear their voices, even a breeze and sunlight. But I cannot write it down in an artful prose.


                It's the difference between losing a fight and refusing one. (h/t Kossack james richardson)

                by mdmslle on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 07:08:22 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Maybe it's because you see everything (7+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  pico, Emmet, ferg, mdmslle, cfk, WiseFerret, jabney

                  so vividly? I mostly bullshit in my novels.

                  'Hm, I need a room. What does it look like? Well, just a friggin' room. Who cares? Okay, here goes: "Liz sidestepped into the hotel room. Dingy light filtered through a few rips in the heavy curtain, catching dust motes in the air. A snarl of bedsheets lay on the double bed, and the faded blue stain on the wall looked like a jailhouse tattoo that someone tried to remove with bleach and sandpaper."

                  It's all just blah blah blah.

                  "Gussie, a glutton for punishment, stared at himself in the mirror."

                  by GussieFN on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 07:24:31 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

            •  If you write novels or stories (0+ / 0-)

              you're the star of the show. As a screenwriter, you're lower than low, an expense to be exploited.

    •  "Script format" is the easy part (0+ / 0-)

      It's the meat and potatoes part that makes writing a "job" and a grind.

  •  Hmph. If my character is going to be gay (9+ / 0-)

    They're gay for a reason. It's central to their actions. It's the push into the story.

    I've toyed with taking a coming of age theme into an alien world, where they can biologically switch genders, or be anywhere along the path in between, including both. It isn't predictable or in anyone's control.

    For the aliens, they've culturally adapted to it. I'm still trying to find a story about what humans think when they encounter this. So far, I haven't been able to let the bigoted, narrow-minded religious types off of earth, which would make it a major issue to play with. I don't know how I'm going to let myself inflict my universe with a 'real life' disease. . .

    I am much too liberal to be a Democrat.

    by WiseFerret on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 06:22:32 PM PDT

    •  So a little Left Hand of the Darkness-ish? (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SensibleShoes, cfk, WiseFerret, GussieFN, Emmet

      I haven't read it, but I understand there's a similar conceit underlying it.  It's a great one, actually: although your twist of having it not being under anyone's control and unpredictable would make puberty even more of a pain in the ass.  

      Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

      by pico on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 06:27:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's exactly right (8+ / 0-)

        The Gethenians are gender neutral except during periods called kemmer, when they basically go into heat and become either male or female.  The same person might be female one kemmer and male another, or always one or the other.   Sometimes couple pair-bond and agree to kemmer only with each other, while others use public facilities that are available for people who go into kemmer while traveling.

        After kemmer ends, people revert to being neutral, unless a child has been conceived.  The pregnant person stays female until after the baby is born and weaned, and then reverts.  That led to one of the most famous lines in the book, "The King was pregnant," and yes, LeGuin knew that the Gethenians had a different word for monarch but kept it the way it was because she wanted people to think.

        Of course now the book seems dated because the Gethenians are all called "he," which was perfectly correct in the late 1960s but wouldn't fly in today for a neuter character.  Lois Bujold has a hermaphrodite in some of her books and refers to the character as "it," while other writers have used neologisms like "zir" or "hir."  Language changes, after all.....

        •  I invented a word for my aliens to use (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          pico, ferg, Emmet, cfk

          for the hermaphrodite. It's a pain in the ass to remember to use it grammatically correct! I'm reconsidering it, maybe using the gender that particular character leans, if only so very slightly, because it's such an editing pain.

          Although, my aliens would consider neuter a taboo or vilely unnatural. Call one of them neuter and it would be fight time.

          I know I read Left Hand of Darkness, but I barely remember it. I should go back. . . Yeah, and see how it probably is influencing my ideas. Ursula Le Guin in one of my top authors.

          I am much too liberal to be a Democrat.

          by WiseFerret on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 07:08:14 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  A few thots on this issue. (13+ / 0-)

    I've had close encounters of that kind, pico. I have some thoughts about this story.

    One is that this is an agent, not an editor. The qualifications for being a literary agent are the same in every state of the Union:

    1. Call yourself a literary agent.

    (That's why anyone considering a particular agent should google, google, google that agent.)

    However, this is, as the writers point out, a well-known agent.

    Many agents are former editors. The agent in the article you post about is not a former editor. So in a way what the agent says editors are looking for is really his/her opinion what editors are looking for and may not be what editors are looking for at all. If this agent said YA publishers don't want gay protagonists, s/he is, in my opinion, mistaken.

    Now speaking as a writer, I'd say a manuscript with five viewpoint characters could very well have other issues.

    As for writing minority protagonists in general: at least in the middle grades market, I can't speak for YA, editors and agents alike tend to steer writers away from writing minority protagonists unless the writer is a member of that minority group.

    I have more thoughts but I wanna know what you think of these thoughts.

    -9.0, -8.3 "Remember, a writer writes. Always." --Throw Momma from the Train

    by SensibleShoes on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 06:26:08 PM PDT

    •  it does seem odd given the popularity of (9+ / 0-)

      certain shows like GLEE, which nobody (well nobody that matters) is freaking out about.

      You make a good point. Are kids put off by it? I don't think most are. So you may be right. It could be the agent imposing her own values OR even using older guidelines to go by. Or, as you say, the book could be a hot mess.

      It's the difference between losing a fight and refusing one. (h/t Kossack james richardson)

      by mdmslle on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 06:31:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Five viewpoint (7+ / 0-)

      characters? I'd need a program to keep track of them, just like in a Russian novel.

      Although the possibilities for headhopping are almost limitless there.

      Yesterday's weirdness is tomorrow's reason why. -- Hunter S. Thompson

      by Mnemosyne on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 06:35:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Certainly likely that the manuscript (7+ / 0-)

      had other problems - they're careful to note that they got other rejections they believe were unrelated to this issue - it's just curious that this agent agreed to represent them on the condition they shoved this character in the closet, which is just... ew.  

      Interesting thoughts re: YA fiction and minority characters.  How does this dynamic work for fiction that has multiple points of view (I don't read a whole lot of YA fiction anymore, but surely this exists)?  

      Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

      by pico on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 06:36:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Now this is where I get (9+ / 0-)

        a little uncomfortable.... See. Hm. The fact is I've tried several times to write novels with African-American protags and been gently rejected, usually with an explanation that such stories are for African-American writers to tell.

        And when I read Christopher Paul Curtis, Walter Dean Myers or Mildred Taylor, I can only say "Yeah. Okay. They have a point."

        Yes, you get YA and MG with split viewpoints. Usually not split five ways.

        My last two published novels were split-viewpoint. Each had a white and a black viewpoint character. Nobody complained. I even got interviewed on the Tom Joyner show and did a couple Black History Month things, and this seemed perfectly acceptable to everyone.

        So that i wonder if there's a perception gap between editors and readers about this.

        But I'm quite sure there's a perception gap between (some) agents and editors about many many things... agents are not editors and this particular agent never was one.

        So. That's talking about African-Americans, who are severely underrepresented among actual workers in publishing btw. Are gay people severely underrepresented in publishing? I don't know.

        If the agent really said this, then yes, Ew with capital Ews. But s/he's an agent. IMHO agents aren't really part of the publishing industry. They don't work for publishers. They don't sit in on acquisitions meetings. They just guess, some better than others.

        If it's a good book with sales potential, I bet an editor would be all over it, gay character et al.

        That's my take, anyway. (This agent is not my agent btw.)


        -9.0, -8.3 "Remember, a writer writes. Always." --Throw Momma from the Train

        by SensibleShoes on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 07:03:43 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Probably nowhere near underrepresented (7+ / 0-)

          in the same way: I'd bet money the gays are all over the industry, even if we're not getting books published telling our stories in the same way.  It's a tough topic to broach, especially since more and more teens are becoming comfortable enough with their sexuality to discuss it at their age, but adults get really creeped out about writing/reading about them.  Not the easiest chasm to fly across.

          I get the race thing, especially when black writers are themselves so underrepresented: if they're not giving jobs to black writers telling these stories, why give them to a white writer?  Or at least that's another way of thinking about it, I guess.  In a perfect world* it wouldn't matter so much, but this is right at the crossroads between economics, social acceptability and necessity, and politically dicey controversy.

          * - Ha!

          Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

          by pico on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 07:13:46 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Well, you said you hadn't read much YA lately (6+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            pico, GussieFN, cfk, Emmet, WiseFerret, jabney

            I think there's quite a bit of YA with gay protags being done in the last say five years.

            One I enjoyed was Patrick Ryan's In Mike We Trust. It's a humorous contemporary YA that follows the fairly common plot of Kid Meets Bad Influence, Gets Into Trouble But Ultimately Becomes a Better Person As a Result, only the kid also is struggling with wanting to come out of the closet when his mom wants him to stay in, and he meets a cute guy.

            It's an ordinary midlist novel. The market's not necessarily small, since you don't have to be gay to enjoy such books, and the outcry is nonexistent.

            -9.0, -8.3 "Remember, a writer writes. Always." --Throw Momma from the Train

            by SensibleShoes on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 07:28:47 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  I've got a manuscript with (7+ / 0-)

      an African protagonist, and my agent said we'd have better luck if he was African American, or African British, but African African was gonna be trouble.

      "Gussie, a glutton for punishment, stared at himself in the mirror."

      by GussieFN on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 07:11:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Not A Literature Example..... (10+ / 0-)

    But I remember Joss Whedon had to threaten to quit in order to get The WB (i.e. The CW's predecessor) to agree to a scene depicting a kiss between two female characters (Willow and Tara) in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

    Even after agreeing, The WB placed restrictions on how it could be shot (e.g. a shot of a bed could not be anywhere in frame).

    And even then, it's probably much easier for the producers of a TV show or movie to get the powers that be to go along with depicting affection between lesbians than gay men.

    ABC's "Modern Family" came under criticism for how it depicted a scene between gay couple Mitchell and Cameron. They hugged each other after a reunion at an airport, in contrast to straight couple Phil and Claire.

  •  Part of the problem with publishing these days is (6+ / 0-)

    the disappearing "midlist" novel and even moreso the daring "niche" novel that garners critical acclaim but not huge sales. (At one time publishers would support these novels with the revenue from the "blockbusters," but alas, now, the emphasis is on all novels paying their way--maximizing profit is the only goal.)

    So the emphasis is now on mass appeal. The problem with YA and gay issues is that in order to bring in the big bucks you have to pry video game obsessed boys away from their monitors and they tend to be more uncomfortable with gay themes than are girls who make up the majority of the YA market.

    This, however, is no excuse, as there have been a number of YA novels with significant gay characters that have done well, Will Grayson, Will Grayson being one of the most notable. I've also recently read Laura Pederson's Beginner's Luck and Meg Howrey's Blind Sight, successful novels with major gay characters that I highly recommend.

    But there's no overestimating how risk-averse publishing has become these days.

    I also have found, from my days working in the entertainment industry, that there is another factor at play: many people who consider themselves liberal and open-minded, are, unconsciously, much less so and are indeed uncomfortable with gay issues no matter how much they convince themselves that they aren't. The "market forces" argument is an easy "out" for these people.

    I just can't resist throwing in this example of the hysteria surrounding gay characters in the past in Hollywood--Few people are aware that the first six episodes of "Cagney and Lacey" featured Meg Foster as Cagney.

    But she was dropped and the show revamped because the producers feared that she was too "butch" and that viewers might suspect that she was a lesbian, so they replaced her with Sharon Gless and made the character decidedly feminine, sexy, and heterosexual.

    Now I for one think that a Cagney and Lacey type show with a lesbian cop paired with a straight partner would be a great idea--except I'd make the straight one the "butch" one and the other would be a lipstick lesbian.

    •  At the risk of dating anyone here, (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cfk, Williston Barrett, WiseFerret, Emmet

      my mom used to watch Cagney and Lacey religiously...  I have vague memories of it at best.  

      The market argument is probably spot on, especially in the current climate.  There's also a lot of unease about how digital publishing will affect these dynamics for the better or worse (or neither, or both in some circumstances).  

      Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

      by pico on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 06:59:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Nicely done, and quickly, pico! (6+ / 0-)

    A great save.  Thanks for that.

    I can't do the exercise, I'm too tired.  But I got a book to recommend: Martin Solares, The Black Minutes (Spanish original, English translation).  A Mexican novel that elicited raves from Junot Diaz and others, and is available in English and has been compared to Bolano's 2666 and Paco Ignacio Taibo II.  In other words, strong books.   So, (a) the dog ate my home work and (b) I am not guilty because I have brought reparations.

  •  My homework (8+ / 0-)

    Where my callow youth recruits her sidekick.

        She heard him long before she saw him. Fighting through the throng hanging on every note dripping off of his lute did not appeal after the day of slogging through the marsh. She caught quick glimpses of the tall, blond, well muscled bard serenading the crowd. He could definitely sing. And dress well. That would help. The seer, at least, had been honest enough. In order to possess the Jewel she was going to need help. Help that appealed to Prince Whelk.
        Prince Whelk, trouble magnet extraordinaire. Assassins, rogue tailors and pirates.
        She was contemplating this as the handsome, well build man rushed by, shedding a shirt to the cooing throng of women. She dove out the door on his heels.
        "Gah!" he yelped, yet moved into the dark of the alleyway and quickly silenced his lute's strings.
        "Bard Ray of the Sun?" Honra inquired.
        "Who wants to know?" he asked back, his voice smooth as silk, matching his well build body.
        "Who wants to hire you," she returned in kind.
        "Lady, every damsel in town will hire me, but it isn't my style-"
        "They aren't on a rescue mission. I want to hire your ass for adventure, those adventures you love so much to turn into songs that cross continents."
        "Well, explain quick before the horde escapes that tavern," he urged. From a knapsack he pulled out another silky shirt, this one dark and helping hide him in the dim light.
        "There's a rich reward-"
        "I've already banked my retirement," Ray shrugged, "I've got-"
        "Seer Marshlow Ell of the O was very specific that you would be the right person for the job."
        "Ell can go stuff a crock hole," Ray snarled, "That crackpot nearly got me killed!"
        "She said you'd do it-," Honra paused, forcing herself to the concession, "I- I will share the Jewel of Togwogmagog with you."
        Ray stopped. His perfect features stopped playing to the crowd and drew up in a scowl of thought.
        "You know what that sharing is? Does he?"
        "You get the back half, I get the front," Honra growled, "I save- we save his ass, he doesn't get to complain."
        "Just whom is he getting saved from?" Ray inquired darkly.
        "Pirates of the Rippled Clam."
        "But- do you think he will like me?" Ray asked, wide-eyed and innocent as any lass that had been in the tavern.
        "Horseturd fruit!" Honra hissed in disgust, "It'll be like two lovesick puppies."

    I am much too liberal to be a Democrat.

    by WiseFerret on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 06:58:53 PM PDT

  •  Persimma shook her head, hard, and (7+ / 0-)
    some more dead cockroaches fell out of her hair and clattered on the stone floor.   She kicked them out of the way, wishing she had a mirror.  Did she have any eyelashes left after that last fireball?  No way to know.  She raised her fist but the door creaked open before she could pound on it.

    "You again."  The voice throbbed with disbelief and/or revulsion.  But Persimma stuck her sword into the doorway before the speaker could slam it and pushed through it.

    Panting, she stared at the Giant Rat of Sumatra.  He avoided her glare, adjusting his cravat.

    "I'm not going to tell you," he muttered to the elaborate knot.  His whiskers bounced and twitched.

    "I don't have time for this."  Persimma heard the snarl in her own voice.  She SO needed a bath and a big nap.

    "Go away.  I don't have time for this either.  I have other things to do.  I don't have to be part of any damn quest."

    Persimma blinked.  "Do you wish you did?"

    He turned away toward his loom.  "Of course not."

    "What's that you're weaving, then?"

    It was the Jewel of Togwogmagog, immense, resplendent, in silk and  linen.

    "Shut up," said the Rat.  He started to cry, big rat tears that dripped off his long nose.

  •  Your late, I'm really late (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pico, cfk, Emmet, WiseFerret, jabney

    Thanks pico.

  •  mine (8+ / 0-)
    "Hitch, please, you do this part for me," Jasper said.

    "No," Hitch said.  He sniffed the air.  "What is that smell?"

    "It is a very expensive perfume.  The lady we need to interview is wearing it.  Over at that table by the window."

    "No.  I not sit down with a human that smell like old flowers," Hitch said.

    "But, we just need a small map.  Just a few hints about the other path where the dragon cannot see us.  It is worth that, isn't it?"

    "You ask."

    "If I go over there and sit down, we will be here for hours.  She used to be attracted to me, and I was not...well, it is a long story.  I don't have time to sit down and hear her whole life story and a long list of my wrongs and why I should renew a friendship with her," Jasper said.  

    His face was red and Hitch smelled embarrassment from the human's feet.  Sweaty feet, sweaty socks.  Better than perfume, but it made Jasper seem even more callow than usual.  Hitch was not inclined to laugh.

    "You go, you say sorry for before, you say you need map or people lose boats.  You get on knees if you must.  I watch and smile at her from here.   You point to me and say I come talk if no map in few minutes," Hitch said.

    "But why would that work?" Jasper asked.

    "Pretty ladies not like trolls," Hitch said.  "She yell at you and cry and give you map quick and we run out door and she happy not know Jasper anymore who walks journey with big, ugly troll."

    "Wait," Jasper said.  "Not all pretty women are mean to trolls."

    "This one is," Hitch said.  "She avoid my eyes.  She look at my belt.  She turn away fast and wave hands to shoo a fly.  She not like me."

    "Well, then, in that case, we don't need a map.  We will go ahead on the mountain path and take our chances, straight up to the gates," Jasper said.

    "You mean we can go right now?"

    "Grab your hat," Jasper said.  

    The girl started to get out of her chair and called out, "Jasper is that you?"

    But the door banged shut and she sat down again.

    "It couldn't be Jasper," she thought.  "He would never let his feet smell and no handsome troll would pal with him."

    Clouds covered the moon.  Jasper and Hitch trudged through the dark each thinking different thoughts about the dragon eye that might be watching them even now.

    Join us at Bookflurries: Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

    by cfk on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 07:30:16 PM PDT

  •  Guess Most of You Have Gone to Bed (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Youffraita, pico, WiseFerret

    But here is my effort.

    So finally I'm at the Sudoku Lounge with the entire Togwogmagog military surrounding me on a crushed velvet banquette. Perhaps letting Wogma tag along wasn't such a brilliant bit of improvisation after all. There seemed to be some history between Wogma and Field Marshall Togwog. And though Private Magog did better at hiding his own chapter, it was clear to me that he too knew the hooker with the literal heart of gold. I was pretty sure though that neither man knew Wogma in quite the same way as I did. I doubt that she opened herself to most of her clients the way she did for me.

    History aside, neither soldat wished to face the other. And neither soldat wished to face me. So it was Wogma on one side of the table and on the other was a corps made up of Field Marshall Togwog, Private Magog, and me. It not only felt a little crowded, it was a little crowded. More than a little, in fact. And to make my evening just peachy, I don't like banquettes, I don't like crushed velvet, and I was quickly learning I don't like being bracketed by a fat-assed Field Marshall and a kiss-ass Private.

    So I did what any orange-blooded stalwart of the realm would have done: get to the task. First I asked when Field Marshall Togwog would be arriving.

    "But that is the Field Marshall!" said Magog. His eyes flashed at me but I sensed the show of indignation was more for Togwog's benefit than for mine.

    "I do apologize Field Marshall. But I was not expecting somebody so youthful, so trim and fit, so ... well to put it plainly ... so dashing. Allow me to offer you a token of my employer's esteem, and an emblem of my esteem." Here I drew an elaborately wrapped bottle out of my flight case.

    Togwog opened the package with the enthusiasm of a child at Solstice. It was a bottle of Captain Morgan spiced rum.

    "Imported rum from Terra, sir. Obviously the young man's employer recognizes your status and reputation."

    With this gag-inducing bit of schtick Magog confirmed all I needed to know about the way into the Field Marshall's good graces. I didn't think Private Magog would be so easy. My plan was to pull one bottle from the case, give it to Magog and then use the second bottle after the Field Marshall had passed out drunk. I could only hope that the bottles of Don Patron would be persuasion enough.

    I reached in the case, pulled one unwrapped bottle out of its bubble-wrap cocoon. Then and there I realized how much I sincerely despised Count Greedo. The shortsighted twit had substituted Jose Cuervo gold for the Don Patron. I had to think quickly,

    "Oh waiter, do you have limes here in Togwogmagog?"

    "Terran imports only sir. What would you do with limes sir?"

    History would later credit a woman named Wogma with the introduction of the Magogarita to Togwogmagog. She did come up with the name. Like she told me later, "Privates like flattery too."



    Strange that a harp of (a) thousand strings should keep in tune so long

    by jabney on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 10:27:06 PM PDT

    •  Awesome. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jabney, WiseFerret

      I like how easily you fold product names into your prose: that is tough to do well, but not only does it feel natural here, it's pretty hilarious right in the context of the sci-fi conceit.  Really well done.  Vivid characters, funny allusions, just all around striking work.

      Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

      by pico on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 11:28:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks pico - I appreciate that (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        pico, WiseFerret

        I keep thinking I'm leaving out a piece of Spanish punctuation over the 'o' in Patron, but there doesn't seem to be a consensus about the usage (at least on the English language websites I can find).

        I'm wondering about a dkos Togwogmagog mashup for those of us that have started using the 'Write On' homework assignments to craft something relatively complete. That is, once we've all had a chance to edit our stuff sufficiently (that could include re-arranging sections to fit a time-line if need be).



        Strange that a harp of (a) thousand strings should keep in tune so long

        by jabney on Thu Sep 15, 2011 at 11:52:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That's not a bad idea. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          jabney, WiseFerret

          I wonder if SS would be willing to put out a call for The Compleat Togwogmagog, with everyone's excerpts showing how far the stories have evolved from their beginnings.

          Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

          by pico on Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 12:01:31 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I'm a day late this week (0+ / 0-)

    and these tend to have a short shelf life. My question is this: if an agent or editor is looking at a manuscript, should I mention that in the queries that I continue to send out?

    •  You may need to ask again. (0+ / 0-)

      Let me know what you find out!

      "The Greek word for idiot, literally translated, means one who does not participate in politics. That sums up my conviction on the subject." Sen. Gladys Pyle (1890-1989)

      by Melanie in IA on Sun Sep 18, 2011 at 05:25:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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