Can a writer effectively compose a first person narrative story but from voice of their opposite gender?
There are a lot of interesting questions people struggle with in the NaNoWriMo Facebook group, and this is just one of them. Most of the responses are fairly predictable. "Yes… I can…I'm told they're accurate, too, from my male readers….There is more difference within genders than between…."
The discussion drifts off to sexuality.
I added my two cents with
Wow! I came at this from a very different perspective than most of the other people on this thread. My first thought was, "It all depends on whether you are cis or trans".
This, of course, led me to thinking about gender being socially constructed. If we are creating new worlds, we can also create gender constructs as we please.
I wonder how many of the forum participants get the reference to "cis or trans" or "gender as a social construct".
On Wednesdays, I speak with my eldest daughter who is teaching in Japan these days. Recently, she went to a conference on gender equality there. During our discussion of her experiences, I mentioned an interview I had recently listened to where the speaker identified herself as being in a third gender. She was a western woman in a strongly patriarchal Muslim country. In the country, there were acceptable roles for men and for women. Yet, she, as a western woman, could participate in activities traditionally reserved for men as well as in activities traditionally reserved for women.
My daughters and I often speak about social constructionism and I've been planning to weave the idea into my novel for NaNoWriMo. As my mind wanders along this path, I bump into the Constructivism philosophy of education, and I start thinking about social constructivism. Writing a novel is a great opportunity to experiment with challenging social constructs. How do writers create or reinforce social constructs? What role does the fourth estate play in shaping the third gender?
I must admit I've always had problems getting past Orlando "slicing at the head of a Moor which swung from the rafters". Yet the idea of Virginia Woolf's Orlando has alway intrigued me. At this point, I don't expect to have an Orlando like character in my novel, but we shall see.
We are less than two weeks away from the beginning of National Novel Writing Month, #NaNoWriMo. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. Just straight through writing. You can save the editing for later.
The first year I did NaNoWriMo, I wrote a mystery in Second Life, and made the goal of 50,000 words. Subsequent years, I've started off on story ideas that were not clearly thought out enough, were too close to home, or I just didn't have the time. I've tried various variations on NaNoWriMo and am preparing for this year's attempt.
I've been thinking of writing some sort of psychological political philosophical treatise pulling together thoughts on aesthetics, politics, the genome, the biome, great awakenings, transcendentalism, transhumanism, the apocalypse, the singularity, social constructs and social contracts, neural networks, group therapy, attachment therapy, filter bubbles and a bunch of other ideas.
The starting point I've settled on is a campaign for State Representative. I will draw from my experiences running for State Representative last year, as well as experiences with other political campaigns, but I need to remind everyone that what I'll be writing is fiction, trying to weave together a lot of different ideas. If you find that a character sounds a lot like you, attribute it to good writing and not being a commentary on you. If you have ideas you want to share, make them about ideas and not your thoughts about different people.
With that, here is the general idea: In a fictional district, based loosely on the area I am from, there is a long time incumbent State Rep. His twin brother is a mayor in one of the towns in the district. His father was a Congressman. No one wants to run against the incumbent, so a political philosopher decides to run, but a completely different kind of campaign. No lawn signs, door knocking, palm cards,, advertisements, or any of that sort of stuff. Just discussions. Discussions about anything and everything. Discussions aimed at bring people with different viewpoints together, modeled on Chicago dinners, and aimed at breaking filter bubbles.
One of the towns in the district is a suburb where many college professors live, so there are lots of chances to talk about the genome, the biome, social contracts and social constructs.
I have a lot more ideas built into this, but I'll save some of them for November. Now, here's my ask: what sort of things would you like to talk about at a filter breaking dinner discussion organized by a long shot candidate for state representative? What points would you like to see gotten across? What conflicts would you expect?
As you can see by my comments about transhumanism, singularity, and the apocalypse, this is wide open. Let me know your thoughts!
There is a Twilight Zone episode from 1960 entitled "A Nice Place to Visit" where a thief dies during a robbery and ends up in this other world where all his whims are met. He can't understand why he has ended up in this paradise, but eventually gets bored and says,
"I don't belong in Heaven, see? I want to go to the other place."
His guide replies, "This is the other place!!"
The thought came to me, as I read the latest news of the intransigence of Republican leaders in Congress as our economy careens towards an economic apocalypse and my daughter sang along to Imagine Dragons latest song, "Radioactive"
This is it, the apocalypse
Some of my friends expected some cataclysm as part of the Mayan Apocalypse in the end of 2012. Others expected a rapture.
In Christian eschatology, there is talk of a time of tribulation and a belief that the rapture occurs either before, after, or in the middle of the tribulation.
Another popular discussion about the end times, more common among the environmentally active is the story of the boiling frog.
Has the apocalypse happened? Are we in the middle of the great tribulation of boiling frogs, where the rate of climate change has reached escape velocity, spawning more and more storms, famines, riots and political change? Has God hardened the hearts of political leaders such that they cannot see the harm they are doing?
With all of this, how should we live? Perhaps no differently than we should otherwise. To borrow from the WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM,
Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
I am starting this blog post Saturday evening after a long day. I got up at about 5 AM, or about 16 hours ago. I put up a blog post and checked in on social media. I drove to New London for an enrollment fair. I was weary and ambivalent about having such a busy Saturday scheduled, but it was a beautiful fall day, a little on the warm side. Along the way, I stopped to play a little Ingress and balance out work and fun.
There was a lot of positive energy at the health fair. I took some good pictures which I will share later. From there, I drove up to Middletown where folks from CHC were helping with Habitat for Humanity. They are in the process of renovating a really beautiful house. I took a bunch of pictures and headed off to the next event.
One of my co-workers teaches archery with 4-H. The archery club was at the Portland Fair and I agreed to show up and take some pictures. I posted a few of them on Facebook and hope to share more later.
Finally, I arrived back home, took a nap and watched a little H+ with Kim.
NaNoWriMo is just a few weeks away, and I've been wondering, will I have the time and energy to write? In the evenings, my mind is just too tired for such activities. Perhaps, I can build a schedule to get up early, write, and then head off to a normal day, gathering experiences for my writing.
I've been thinking more about approaching life from a participant observer stance. It seems to me, that to write well, you need to work, hard, on your craft, yet at the same time, you need to be in the world, gathering experiences to write from.
I'm especially interested in this right now, in terms of trying to get a better sense of the people around me, how to create more compelling characters in my stories, and not just flat, two dimensional caricatures.
As I look for depth and complexity in life, I'm struck by the contrast between Thoreau and Ginsburg.
The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. … A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind.
Too many people work hard all day, come home exhausted, and veg out in front of the TV; the modern day amusements of a mankind leading lives of quiet desperation.
From Thoreau, I go to Nietzsche.
I TEACH YOU THE SUPERMAN. Man is something that is to be surpassed.
and from there I go to Ginsberg,
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
How does one surpass the men of quiet desperation without ending destroyed by madness? How does one adopt the stance of the participant observer, without ending up on the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix?
My mind drifts back to H+, transhuman. From transcendentalism to transhumanism. H+ the web series, is complex. It is the sort of entertainment that I enjoy, challenging my mind.
Yet too often, I just don't have the energy to watch a few more episodes. So, perhaps, they will wait for rare weekends, and I'll try to come up with a schedule of writing in the morning, participating and observing the lives of quiet desperation during the day, trying to consolidate thoughts and then dig into additional material, as I have time and energy in the evenings.
On Sunday morning, I slept a little later than usual. I've been thinking more about what our Facebook posts say about ourselves and if there is any relationship between Nietzsche,transcendentalism, transhumanism and what is going on in the polarization of current U.S. politics. And, with my interest in health disparities, I'm wondering how all of this relates to culturally and linguistically appropriate services and multiculturalism.
There are probably several blog posts worth exploring in this, but it is time to wrap up this post, get a little webwork done before heading off to church and a couple family events. More later...
As elected officials in Washington set aside their own pride and gluttony and worked together to meet the needs of all the people in our great country, our not, I spent the day going from one event to another seeing the power of community coming together.
My Thursday morning started with a visit to a small neighborhood school in New Britain. They were starting a new program, a "Walking School Bus". Parents would walk their kids to school, along a predetermined route. Along the way, other kids would come out and join the group. They would all get exercise as they headed off to school. Parents would talk, and get some exercise themselves. The community would be strengthened and absenteeism would be decreased.
People from various community organizations showed up to join the celebration, encourage the families and look for ways to spread the program.
From their, I went to a meeting of the Connecticut Multicultural Health Partnership. We were discussing the National Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) Standards in Health and Health Care.
A friend, who does trainings on this for the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, spoke about the importance of challenging your own thinking. I've been thinking about this a bit in writing. Next month is National Novel Writing Month. I wrote a novel one year, and tried a few other years, but just couldn't make enough time. I need to work much more on my writing; plot development, setting, and especially my characters. Other friends of mine in health care write novels, and it struck me that culturally and linguistically appropriate character development training would be great for novelists.
As an aside, Friday, I met with an HIV outreach worker and a couple college kids to talk about a social media and beyond project addressing stigmas in health care. The HIV outreach worker is HIV Positive. He talks a lot about being 'positive' and at one point we got into a discussion about how people with health stigmas, like being HIV positive is rarely portrayed in popular culture, let alone portrayed in a way that reduces stigma.
I ended Thursday off with a visit to a Fall Food Fair for Diabetes Awareness, yet another chance for people to help one another in culturally appropriate ways to live healthier.
Today, I head off to help people get health insurance, then to document people from work rebuilding a house for Habitat for Humanity.
All of this, I set against what is going on in social media. The noise about disfunction in the GOP controlled House of Representatives in Washington dominates my feed, interrupted by people talking about their struggles. One person grieves the death of her son to pediatric cancer as an important Muslim holiday approaches. Two others have posted about friends of theirs who have recently taken their lives. One wrote a great status update. I shared it with my own status update following the same vein.
I hate those: "If you're a real friend you'll post one word as a comment about how we met, copy and paste my status verbatim, send me $100 and annoy the hell out of all your friends at the same time" sort of status updates. They aren't real.
They are as bad as the "Facebook is taking selfie pictures of me in the shower and sending them to perverts in Croatia. Please change some unrelated privacy setting so hackers in Moscow can't come through your friend feed to get to those selfies" posts.
So, I was struck by John's post today. It's real, folks. It is about connecting the way we are supposed to connect, with compassion and empathy. Yesterday, another friend posted about someone they were close to who took their life.
Please, read this, read John's status update. Stop and think about the people behind the other status updates you read today. Try to find some way to help others around you.
Thank you John for starting this discussion. Let's hope it spreads.