Quirk

Taking a cue from buffyannotater, and given my own January-ish Spring cleaning urges, I’ve been going through my old VHS tape collection seeing what I want to keep and what I want to pare down. This time around (I’ve pared down before) I’m interested in what drives my choice of the “keepers.” I was “poked” by a recent post of rahirah‘s on fan fic “kinks and squicks.” She nicely differentiates author “kinks” in stories from repeated themes in an author’s stories, and I suppose what I want to talk about are better thought of as “themes” than “kinks,” but the idea is similar–what draws me to particular movies/books/TV shows, and makes me want to revisit them again and again, is that they contain elements that really push my buttons.

I added my own comment to her post in response to someone talking about books and bookstores. The original commentator noted that being in bookstores drives her crazy because she knows there are books there that include her own personal kinks, but the difficulty is finding them! This resonated with me because I have a very quirky way of choosing what books I will read. I rarely, if ever, pick a book to read because it’s by a favorite author, or recced by a friend, or any normal way of choosing books. I want the books I read to satisfy my kinks or my themes or push my buttons or whatever the appropriate metaphor is. So I find the books I will read by spending hours in bookstores (or surfing amazon) reading the blurbs on the back of book after book until I find one that sounds like it will satisfy a kink/theme/button.

Which is probably why I don’t read a lot of books, or see a lot movies, and tend to revisit the ones I already like.

Is anyone else this way, or am I entirely weird?

Exploring one’s own writing is an easier way to judge one’s kinks and button-pushing themes because you’re in control of what gets on the page. I see repeated themes in my writing. Family is one of them, but it can’t be just anything having to do with family, because there’s a zillion movies, books, and TV shows out there dealing with family that do nothing for me. Children lost to their parents for a number of years and found again is certainly a theme that pings me. Also children who inherit some supernatural talent from their parents. I used to write a lot of “half-alien girl living as human on Earth discovers she is half-alien” stories when I was a teen. Being alien (as in not-human) and what that means to one’s own personal identity is also a big theme with me. Not just as an exploration of how that makes you different and isolated from others, but, for me, how it connects you to others who share your quirky difference.

Part of this comes from being gay, I’m sure. Belonging to a relatively invisible, shunned, but assimilated minority group that has created its own sub-culture due to its relative isolation from mainstream society has its “pretty cool” side, and that gets reflected in stories I write about “groups of aliens living secretly among us.”

But on the whole, I don’t know where a lot of my button-pushing themes come from. There’s nothing in my past that suggests itself as an obvious origin of my need for emotionally screwed-up protagonists, for example, or my odd preference for broad age-difference romantic couplings. And I wonder if knowing the genesis of one’s kinks isn’t like knowing the biological basis of being in love or something similar. It sort of takes the magic out of it, the same way that therapy takes the trauma out of the quirky things that disturb us the most.

Another one of my necessary “elements” in stories is the need for strong women. Many times, I end up primarily identifying with a male character in a story, but if there isn’t any strong women in the story, the Kate Lockleys and Darlas and Hermiones and McGonnegals, I’m not going to continue with a story universe no matter how much I vibe with a male character (e.g., that’s why the LoTR movies just didn’t stick with me after one viewing.)

A few years ago, I took a fascinating writing class called “The Intuitive Voice”. The purpose of the class was to help you discover the kinds of things you should be writing about. What your best mode was, for example–fiction, memoir, non-fiction, short-story, novel, etc. And what repeated themes would supply the most energy to your writing. The instructor actually used this metaphor–that certain themes are like an incendiary fuel that once we learn how to stop avoiding them (in our thoughts or in our writing), would actually get us putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard better than any other writer’s block cure. rahirah notes that many fan fic writers write their kinks into their stories without even being aware that they’re there, sometimes to the detriment of the story, but I think the opposite is true for a lot of would-be writers. They haven’t gotten words on the page yet, or they have, but they’ve written uninspired, half-assed stories–because they’re afraid to write about the themes and kinks that would fuel them the most. Taboos, either societal or personal, block them.

I learned to get past that by telling myself that no one would ever have to read a particular thing I was writing. And lord knows I often censor my public writing a bit lest my kinks be judged. Doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of my personal issues in the writing I’ve put out there for public consumption, though.

In that Intuitive Voice class, the instructor had exercises that helped us discover what our most resonant personal themes were. I need to dig up my homework from that class, because the exercises were pretty cool.

34 thoughts on “Quirk

  1. I would love to see the exercises from that class. I’ve never thought abot my writing or reading in that vein and now I’m going to see if I can dscover a common thread.

  2. I would love to see the exercises from that class. I’ve never thought abot my writing or reading in that vein and now I’m going to see if I can dscover a common thread.

  3. It’s a fascinating exercise, and you can learn a lot about yourself that way. I have to admit, though, to being a little puzzled–OK, a LOT puzzled–by some of my kinks/repeated themes. I have no idea why should should be so compelling to me, as they seem completely disconnected from my own life experience.

  4. It’s a fascinating exercise, and you can learn a lot about yourself that way. I have to admit, though, to being a little puzzled–OK, a LOT puzzled–by some of my kinks/repeated themes. I have no idea why should should be so compelling to me, as they seem completely disconnected from my own life experience.

  5. Fascinating post, thanks for it. Several things you said rung a few bells in my head.

    1. So I find the books I will read by spending hours in bookstores (or surfing amazon) reading the blurbs on the back of book after book until I find one that sounds like it will satisfy a kink/theme/button.

    You are not alone in this. I do the same thing and have been known to get frustrated in bookstores and online – hunting for the book that will hit my mood or push that particular button. It’s one of the reasons I stopped doing book clubs finally, I realized I was a moody reader. I’ve been known to stop reading a book – that was rec’ed by people, that is considered brilliant, and go back and re-read one that fit a kink. Its also why I love lj for book recs – because often someone will review a book that fits my mood perfectly, one I did not know existed and I’ll go hunting for it. The only difficulty is often they are reviewing a book that damn-it, is unavailable or I can’t locate. Some obscure thing. Such as The Iron Dragon’s Daughter.

    2. Regarding the Intuitive Voice class – please share those exercises.
    I’m struggling a bit with my own voice at the moment. I can’t tell if part of the struggle is that I’m resisting my own kinks. Own urges.
    When I think over them – it hits me that I have a thing for “strong women” – and tend to write strong or tough women in my stories. I got frustrated with both LOTR and Chronicles of Narnia b/c they lacked a strong female protagonist, while Harry Potter and His Dark Materials had them. Part of the reason I adore Lost and BSG right now is the characters Ana Lucia and Starbuck – tough women. Another issue of mine is identity. Losing one’s identity to a group, trying to be what others expect or want you to be in order to fit in. And how that eats away at who a person is inside. Also how we create our own monsters by rejecting someone or how a group can create pain and hatred in someone else again through rejection or perceived rejection. Very odd.
    Haven’t really thought much about it before, but now I’m starting to see a trend. That and I appear to like screwed up characters.

    At any rate, please share the exercises when you get the chance. And thanks for sharing the above. I can’t help but think that writing is one way of working out our personal issues – explaining them to ourselves and others.

  6. Fascinating post, thanks for it. Several things you said rung a few bells in my head.
    1. So I find the books I will read by spending hours in bookstores (or surfing amazon) reading the blurbs on the back of book after book until I find one that sounds like it will satisfy a kink/theme/button.
    You are not alone in this. I do the same thing and have been known to get frustrated in bookstores and online – hunting for the book that will hit my mood or push that particular button. It’s one of the reasons I stopped doing book clubs finally, I realized I was a moody reader. I’ve been known to stop reading a book – that was rec’ed by people, that is considered brilliant, and go back and re-read one that fit a kink. Its also why I love lj for book recs – because often someone will review a book that fits my mood perfectly, one I did not know existed and I’ll go hunting for it. The only difficulty is often they are reviewing a book that damn-it, is unavailable or I can’t locate. Some obscure thing. Such as The Iron Dragon’s Daughter.
    2. Regarding the Intuitive Voice class – please share those exercises.
    I’m struggling a bit with my own voice at the moment. I can’t tell if part of the struggle is that I’m resisting my own kinks. Own urges.
    When I think over them – it hits me that I have a thing for “strong women” – and tend to write strong or tough women in my stories. I got frustrated with both LOTR and Chronicles of Narnia b/c they lacked a strong female protagonist, while Harry Potter and His Dark Materials had them. Part of the reason I adore Lost and BSG right now is the characters Ana Lucia and Starbuck – tough women. Another issue of mine is identity. Losing one’s identity to a group, trying to be what others expect or want you to be in order to fit in. And how that eats away at who a person is inside. Also how we create our own monsters by rejecting someone or how a group can create pain and hatred in someone else again through rejection or perceived rejection. Very odd.
    Haven’t really thought much about it before, but now I’m starting to see a trend. That and I appear to like screwed up characters.
    At any rate, please share the exercises when you get the chance. And thanks for sharing the above. I can’t help but think that writing is one way of working out our personal issues – explaining them to ourselves and others.

  7. I’m going to dig up those exercises–as part of my Spring cleaning thing, I have all my writing notes and notebooks scattered all over my living room floor. I want to go through and organize them. I know my *answers* to those exercises are in there, and I’m pretty sure I emailed the instructor and asked her to send the questions so I could try the exercises again now that a few years has past and I’ve been more introspective about my theme and kink choices.

  8. I’m going to dig up those exercises–as part of my Spring cleaning thing, I have all my writing notes and notebooks scattered all over my living room floor. I want to go through and organize them. I know my *answers* to those exercises are in there, and I’m pretty sure I emailed the instructor and asked her to send the questions so I could try the exercises again now that a few years has past and I’ve been more introspective about my theme and kink choices.

  9. Also…glad I could help jog a few of your repeating themes for you. notes that knowing about them allows you to play with them and explore different variations on them, rather than subconsciously just writing the same story over and over again in different forms.

    I know one reason I have been drawn to the characters I’m drawn to in fiction is because they ping those themes and kinks.

  10. Also…glad I could help jog a few of your repeating themes for you. notes that knowing about them allows you to play with them and explore different variations on them, rather than subconsciously just writing the same story over and over again in different forms.
    I know one reason I have been drawn to the characters I’m drawn to in fiction is because they ping those themes and kinks.

  11. Great great post

    So kinks are just sexualized repeated themes when referring to writing, right? As opposed to types of enjoyment in the regular definition about sexual behavior?

    I am not sure I could differentiate between these. Sexuality can’t be easily divided from the whole IMO. What informs the kink would inform everything else too. But then I have never been very successful at compartmentalizing.

    I am still very new to writing with any focus so I am not sure what my themes are. Well a few, that I am working out. They are surfacing with more regularity recently. I am seeing connections that surprise me.

    These conversations just make me wonder if all art is any particular person just working it all out.

  12. Great great post
    So kinks are just sexualized repeated themes when referring to writing, right? As opposed to types of enjoyment in the regular definition about sexual behavior?
    I am not sure I could differentiate between these. Sexuality can’t be easily divided from the whole IMO. What informs the kink would inform everything else too. But then I have never been very successful at compartmentalizing.
    I am still very new to writing with any focus so I am not sure what my themes are. Well a few, that I am working out. They are surfacing with more regularity recently. I am seeing connections that surprise me.
    These conversations just make me wonder if all art is any particular person just working it all out.

  13. Re: Great great post

    described kinks as just “situtions” you feel the need to include in your stories over and over–they could be as non-sexual as “picking out curtains”–where in every story, you feel this compulsion to have your characters picking out curtains.

    Don’t worry about your own themes right now–that will only slow your writing down by making you too self-conscious. They will emerge on their own over time, and they are only recognizable over time and over repetition.

  14. Re: Great great post
    described kinks as just “situtions” you feel the need to include in your stories over and over–they could be as non-sexual as “picking out curtains”–where in every story, you feel this compulsion to have your characters picking out curtains.
    Don’t worry about your own themes right now–that will only slow your writing down by making you too self-conscious. They will emerge on their own over time, and they are only recognizable over time and over repetition.

  15. This is fascinating, Masq. I don’t write, but I’m an avid reader, always have been. There are certain themes that I’m always drawn to; one of them is the hero’s journey, the way the protagonist searches and struggles to find out who he/she is at their very core. I am more apt to read a book which has strong female characters, because I relate to them more easily than to male characters. I also prefer books that have a moral core: by that I mean that the characters struggle to be better than they are. I will toss aside a book that features a protagonist who is too dark and unredeemable, it just depresses me. The characters must resonate emotionally with me in some way. I think one of the things I hated about Joyce’s Ulysses was that none of the characters touched me in any way.
    You’re making me think about what I choose to read, now. I reread books that I like, over and over again, perhaps because they’re in my comfort zone.

  16. This is fascinating, Masq. I don’t write, but I’m an avid reader, always have been. There are certain themes that I’m always drawn to; one of them is the hero’s journey, the way the protagonist searches and struggles to find out who he/she is at their very core. I am more apt to read a book which has strong female characters, because I relate to them more easily than to male characters. I also prefer books that have a moral core: by that I mean that the characters struggle to be better than they are. I will toss aside a book that features a protagonist who is too dark and unredeemable, it just depresses me. The characters must resonate emotionally with me in some way. I think one of the things I hated about Joyce’s Ulysses was that none of the characters touched me in any way.
    You’re making me think about what I choose to read, now. I reread books that I like, over and over again, perhaps because they’re in my comfort zone.

  17. I can honestly say while I don’t look for particular kinks when looking for tv/movies/books I DO go for certain genres only. They are my comfort zones.

    in writing however, my kinks do come out, time and again, in certain characters, certain situations, almost like I’m trying to work out some kind of issues but I have no idea what.

  18. I can honestly say while I don’t look for particular kinks when looking for tv/movies/books I DO go for certain genres only. They are my comfort zones.
    in writing however, my kinks do come out, time and again, in certain characters, certain situations, almost like I’m trying to work out some kind of issues but I have no idea what.

  19. It works the same way for reading as it does to writing. Although you probably choose the books and stories you read for a variety of reasons, certain stories probably effect you emotionally more than others, yes? And you return to them again and again. One of these days you should give a little thought to similarities between your favorite stories.

    Not too much thought–it might take the magic out of it. OTOH, recognizing some of the themes that have emotional resonance for you might help you find new stories that satisfy that “tickle”.

    ; )

  20. It works the same way for reading as it does to writing. Although you probably choose the books and stories you read for a variety of reasons, certain stories probably effect you emotionally more than others, yes? And you return to them again and again. One of these days you should give a little thought to similarities between your favorite stories.
    Not too much thought–it might take the magic out of it. OTOH, recognizing some of the themes that have emotional resonance for you might help you find new stories that satisfy that “tickle”.
    ; )

  21. in writing however, my kinks do come out, time and again, in certain characters, certain situations, almost like I’m trying to work out some kind of issues but I have no idea what.

    We all do, hon, we all do!

  22. in writing however, my kinks do come out, time and again, in certain characters, certain situations, almost like I’m trying to work out some kind of issues but I have no idea what.
    We all do, hon, we all do!

  23. I just want to know what the insane woman and the sexually abused boy have to do with me. They ahve been in my fic since I was about 13. I don’t know them but they’ve been with me over 20 years now

  24. I just want to know what the insane woman and the sexually abused boy have to do with me. They ahve been in my fic since I was about 13. I don’t know them but they’ve been with me over 20 years now

  25. There are definitely stories that reach out and grab me every single time I open the book. Lord of the Rings is one such book..I’ve read it at least 25 times over the past 20 years, and it enchants me every time. I think I am drawn to stories that have well constructed worlds behind them, with lots of backstory. I enjoy reading the Appendices of the LOTR books almost as much as the story.. I really should give this more thought, although, as you say, not too much.
    I think I avoid analyzing why I like certain books because I get caught up in the mystery and magic..I have always been one to get lost in a good story, to the point that the rest of the world fades far into the background. I can usually tell by the end of the first chapter if a book is for me or not. I will persevere, especially when the book is one of the “important” ones, but the truly magical ones practically tie me down and refuse to let go until I’ve read them.

  26. There are definitely stories that reach out and grab me every single time I open the book. Lord of the Rings is one such book..I’ve read it at least 25 times over the past 20 years, and it enchants me every time. I think I am drawn to stories that have well constructed worlds behind them, with lots of backstory. I enjoy reading the Appendices of the LOTR books almost as much as the story.. I really should give this more thought, although, as you say, not too much.
    I think I avoid analyzing why I like certain books because I get caught up in the mystery and magic..I have always been one to get lost in a good story, to the point that the rest of the world fades far into the background. I can usually tell by the end of the first chapter if a book is for me or not. I will persevere, especially when the book is one of the “important” ones, but the truly magical ones practically tie me down and refuse to let go until I’ve read them.

  27. Yeah, like *I* know where the emotionally screwed-up boys or women thing comes from in *my* writing? I’ll admit some of my girlfriends were a bit screwed up, but that’s just another symptom of the same puzzle–why was I attracted to them in the first place?

    And what’s with this father-son thing of mine? My dad and brother were never close, nor did they fight, either, nor do I recall paying much attention at all to their relationship growing up.

    I was reading age-difference gay fiction in high school before I ever even went out on my first date (and my parents are only three years apart, so where the heck does that come from?)

    Who knows? Maybe our issues come from past lives. I’m convinced I was a fucked-up teenage boy with daddy issues in my most recent previous life.

  28. Yeah, like *I* know where the emotionally screwed-up boys or women thing comes from in *my* writing? I’ll admit some of my girlfriends were a bit screwed up, but that’s just another symptom of the same puzzle–why was I attracted to them in the first place?
    And what’s with this father-son thing of mine? My dad and brother were never close, nor did they fight, either, nor do I recall paying much attention at all to their relationship growing up.
    I was reading age-difference gay fiction in high school before I ever even went out on my first date (and my parents are only three years apart, so where the heck does that come from?)
    Who knows? Maybe our issues come from past lives. I’m convinced I was a fucked-up teenage boy with daddy issues in my most recent previous life.

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