Saturday, February 16, 2019

Characters and Relationships

The topic for this month’s round robin is an opinion on love, sex, and relationships in books. What seems acceptable? Is it necessary in a story? And what goes too far?

For me, the relationship between characters is a huge component in both my reading and writing. Relationships come in many types of rapport, often nuanced between accord and discord. I think it is one of the keys to a good story. These relationships include family or friend, acquaintance or stranger, and involve a wide range of human emotions and reactions.

In most romance novels it is the developing relationship between a couple that makes the story, and this opens many paths to sexual encounters. In other genres, it is the past and present relationships between friends and family and how they affect the main character's purpose and agenda that develops the story, although romance and sex show up in them, too. In all stories, the main characters' relationships, good or bad, help develop a story. It is how these relationships move the story's ultimate purpose that counts. That is why I enjoy reading and writing, no matter what the genre is.

For thousands of years, going all the way back to Babylonia and probably longer than that, explicit sex or sexual innuendo has attracted readers, mostly in verse. It just wasn’t published as today's stories are, so the sexual act in writing has always been prevalent. Now the genre of erotica takes sex in all directions.

Another thing that has developed is a new awareness of human sexuality. Today sex isn’t just labeled heterosexual or homosexual, but can also include asexual, bisexual, or pansexual. Any of which can lead to a scene in a story although sexual encounters don't necessary mean love. A reader just needs to choose a favorite type and read.

This emerging attitude has had an influence on storytelling in the last few decades. For many years most major publishers or romance like Harlequin avoided any sex scenes other than kissing in their novels. Now they seem to prefer publishing stories with very explicit sex scenes. But mainstream had other values. The Group by Mary McCarthy, published in 1933, was a best seller in America but banned in other countries for its objectionable content.

What goes too far? It doesn’t seem like anything goes too far. Readers can find almost any type of sex on the Internet through various publishers. Most are loving sexual scenes. Some are not. I often wonder about what the readers/viewers take away from some degrading or abusive scenes written for the seeming pleasure of the reader, not their abhorrence.

I’ve read many types of sexual scenes, but surprisingly don’t seem too proficient at writing them, so usually leave implied encounters rather than explicit ones. In reading, my personal preference is no graphic depictions of rape or vicious sexual encounters of any type or those that degrade one partner or the other. Sometimes sex scenes just bore me, too, especially when such a scene doesn’t do anything to move the plot forward. It often appears to me as nothing more than a gratuitous inclusion. On the other hand, I know this is my preference. I do not make judgments on what anyone else likes to write or read. 

Please read the following authors' posts on this topic:

Margaret Fieland
Skye Taylor
Victoria Chatham 
Beverley Bateman
A.J. Maguire 
Marci Baun 
Dr. Bob Rich

Diane Bator

Friday, February 15, 2019

All In - Shelley Shepard Gray

Bridgeport Social Club – Book 2
Perfect 10
Blackstone Publishing
ISBN: 978-1438440889
February 2019
Romance Women’s Fiction

Bridgeport, Ohio – The Present

An unexpected hit in the back while hiking dropped Meredith Hunt to the ground, and whoever hit her, stole her backpack with all her vital information, car keys, telephone, and money. She didn’t see the person who struck her. A man, who calls her darling, helps her to a sitting position. Then she recognizes a young man with her rescuer. Finn, a sophomore from her friend’s classroom where she volunteers once a week, stands nearby. His father, Ace Vance, and Finn saw the mugger, but stopped to help her. Ace tells Finn to follow down the trail to see if her backpack has been discarded, and Finn does find it. They insist on taking Meredith to urgent care for her bleeding hand, cut on glass shards where she fell. While surprised at their kindness and at the giddy feelings her rescuer inspires, she doesn’t want to be a burden. She felt that often enough while growing up when she never seemed to reach her mother’s expectations or earn her respect. Her father left when she was five to never reenter her life.

Vance has taken over the care of his son from the boy’s mother Liz. Finn has become his priority. His boy needs someone to show they love him and will always be there for him, unlike how his mother treated him. A brief encounter resulted in Finn’s birth, so Ace can’t regret it, except Liz was not a very good or caring mother. He has Finn now, and a few weeks ago they moved from West Virginia to Bridgeport for a fresh start. The difficult part is that Ace is now far from his loving parents and siblings. He works as an auto mechanic working on valuable classic cars. He knows Finn has trouble in his new high school, but the coach is very interested in adding Finn to the varsity football team knowing Finn’s size and talent will help the team.

Finn has trouble relating to anyone as his mother always left him to fend for himself. Allison, a junior girl from his high school, lives next door. But in a brief encounter to look at her dog’s puppies, he realizes her family is the perfect family, and when among them, he doesn’t know how to relate, how to act, or what to say. He finds it difficult to believe anyone wants him for who he is.

The unexpected relationship between these three wonderful characters develops quickly and goes through several distressing events, which allows them to emerge as stronger individuals who want to take a chance in believing they are worth someone’s love. Their mutual support helps them develop in important ways, and they each have supportive friends who add interest to the story. Themes of loneliness, parenting, developing friendships, and finding not only love with someone else, but also self-love, create a moving, emotional story. Yet overcoming doubt and distrust is difficult. Once readers start down this story’s trail, they won’t want to stop, earning it a Perfect 10.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Symbols, Systems, and Meaning

Why are symbols so important? Because they encompass our entire communication system, and often certain symbols evolve into very personal meanings whether they are audible, visual, or gestural. As new scientific information shows, we have been developing these systems since the Neanderthal age.  This was previously discussed in We've Been Recording Information Longer Than We Thought. Some scholars even study symbols under the theme of Semiotics which explores the history and meaning of signs, symbols, and their significance for believers.  

Every human uses symbols every day. Every word anyone says is a symbolic sound with meaning. These sounds were put into letters to symbolize those sounds as numerals symbolize numbers. Other visual symbols include images such as %, $, #, @ and so forth including mathematics symbols. I have a whole collection of blogs on numerical symbols that have little to do with math. We also use gesture and expression symbols. When a person rolls their eyes and isn’t passing out, its often a gesture meaning “Do you believe that?” or “Whatever.” Our choice of clothing is often symbolic as are many other choices we make.

Authors frequently use symbolism in the form of allegory, analogy, metaphor, or simile to tie hard to understand ideas with easier to comprehend ideas such as: the brain acts as the home of memory.

Our belief systems have used symbols for equally long times, even during the Byzantine period of Eikonoklasmos or Iconoclasm, where all visual religious symbols were destroyed in the churches during the 8th century for profaning the Commandment 'Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.' The leaders of the Church in Rome knew their believers needed those images to understand their God since so many were illiterate. Looking back on that practice, I guess the Emperors of Constantinople didn’t realize the language and decorative devices were also symbols.

Prophetical symbols are used in most religions. They embody the practice of prediction through astrology horoscopes, numerology, and the tarot. Astrology, based on observable movements of the solar system, began as far back as Mesopotamia, but aspects of it are still used today, as is tarot. Tarot began as a card game in the mid-1400s and a few hundred years later became a means of divination. It is also the basis of the modern design of decks of playing cards today, although the Chinese began card games much earlier.

Businesses use symbols today in the form of logos or the symbol of a company. These let customers know right away where a product comes from. Our country and others have symbols such as flags which represent their government and are often used on their money. A person's name is also their symbol.

Animals, both real and mythical, often have symbolic meaning not only for sports teams but also for nations and many other purposes.

With any symbol, it is the personal interpretation that counts. All the symbols found on any keyboard (letters, numbers, punctuation marks, etc.) are pretty straight forward in meaning for the translations of sound. It is the other symbols in every society that are often open to interpretation by an individual's understanding and psychology. Some individuals even select personal symbols to represent their psyche. This is why I find symbols fascinating.