Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Women Who Love Monsters (Not Just Any Bad Boys)

Can you take one more post on bad boys in books and life? But this time, I mean realllly bad. Like beastly bad. Well, ‘tis the season to trot out the monsters. And that’s what I’m doing, a take on a disturbed Beauty and the unredeemable Beast.

In folk and fairy tales it’s easy. The Beast is really a good guy. Beauty and the Beast; Shrek the ogre and Fiona the princess. The trope may have duped some women into thinking monstrous bad guys are really not so bad. Maybe, as the Beatles sang, all they need is love.

We’ve all read the stories about these women. You know who I mean. The ones who write letters to rapists. The women who marry serial killers. Some think Bonnie (of Bonnie and Clyde fame) may have had the condition. It seems not to matter how heinous the crime, there are women lining up for the chance to forge a future with a monstrous man in or out of prison.

If the man is attractive, there are even more women drawn to him. Ted Bundy, Lee Malvo, Jeffrey Dahmer, Aaron Hernandez, Scott Peterson. There are some great looking men who performed atrocious, inhumane acts. And women. Some women. Get off on that. Literally.

Hybristophilia is a condition in which women (mostly) become sexually aroused when thinking about and/or engaging with men (mostly) who participated in very bad criminal behavior. Like said rapists, child molesters and brutal killers.

Wikipedia says it is a psychological condition not yet listed in the DSM, the psychologists’ bible, but it and other forms of the condition, are potentially lethal. They go on to say it is “ ‘of the predatory type in which sexual arousal, facilitation, and attainment of orgasm are responsive to and contingent upon being with a partner known to have committed an outrage, cheating, lying, known infidelities or crime, such as rape, murder, or armed robbery.’ The term is derived from the Greek word ὑβρίζειν hubrizein, meaning ‘to commit an outrage against someone’ (ultimately derived from ὕβρις hubris ‘hubris’), and philo, meaning ‘having a strong affinity/preference for’.”

The causes of hybristophilia are unknown but experts speculate that the attraction can be traced to the belief that like regular bad boys, these women think they can “save” the rapist. All he needs is the woman she is, and he will change.

Some hybristophiliacs believe that present behavior can be traced to what happened to him as a little boy and they can provide the love and support he needs to heal. Some like that incarceration means he will be faithful because he can’t get to other women, therefore, he is all hers.

Doctors have considered that hybristophiliacs exhibit an extreme fanaticism because they can’t find love in the normal way. With some, their insecurities cause them to seek someone with whom they can’t consummate the relationship.

Some of these women are turned on by the power they impute to men who commit horrible acts. They see him as manly and powerful, in control.

And it is not ruled out that hybristophilia is triggered by the need to be in the spotlight. By proclaiming love for a monster, they attract attention to themselves. “Who could love such a man?” most of us would ask. “Who is she?”

These women leave themselves open to manipulation and seduction. They will do anything for these guys, putting themselves at risk physically, financially, and legally.

In too many of the cases where the “jailhouse romance” led to them getting together on the outside (because of a prison release), women were killed or hurt. These men aren’t the normal “bad guys.” They are irredeemable. And that plays out if they are given the opportunity.

If you are writing romances with a horror element or based on a true crime drama, including a woman with hybristophilia coming onto your monstrous bad guy could lead to some interesting plot twists. Admittedly, this kind of book wouldn't appeal to the normal romance reader, but you might draw in readers attracted to the bizarre and unacceptable, people who follow the true crime stories and know about this type woman.

What if she were even too weird for the monster? What if a prison guard was attracted to her when she visited? What if she stalked him when he got released on a technicality? Or what if he manipulated her and went to live with her upon being paroled? What if they married while he was on death row and she gave him access to all her money which he gambled away, stripping her of financial security? Or what if she was artificially inseminated by her rapist to give him a child?

Oh, so many possibilities.

But even a "normal" romance might include a sub-plot with hybristophilia for a minor character. Most people don't know about or think about the condition. Your book could inform them. Not just romances, but many books include romantic relationships as a major or minor plot line. Consider giving your next book a twist many won’t see coming. Just imagine… what if…? how come…?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Death with Dignity: Who Should Have the Right to Determine When You Die?

Some call it “suicide by doctor”. Some term it “euthanasia”.

This column has been about relationships from the beginning, but not too often do I deal with relationships with family, friends, and oneself.

Making the decision to die on one’s own terms and in a time one determines is anathema to many.

Sometimes the objection is on religious grounds: no one but God should determine your entry or exit from this world.

Sometimes there is this vague sense of unease: it’s just not right to kill yourself, no matter what the label du jour is.

Others are concerned that the “do no harm” and pledge not to kill that doctors subscribe to will blur the lines of what a physician is. Once they cross that line, where might the brakes be on this train?

But for the people in favor of what the Hemlock Society (and other groups and individuals) has been promoting and supporting for decades, the right-to-die, this is an acceptable risk. The Hemlock Society makes sure folks have access to information about the right-to-die and they try to change legislation to permit physician-assisted suicide.

Currently, there are five states where one can establish a six-month residency and let a physician assist your passing, if you meet the criteria for terminal illness. Washington, Oregon, and Vermont passed laws allowing death with dignity. In two states, Montana and New Mexico, the court ruled the state cannot interfere.

Of course, the term “suicide” has so much baggage that even supporters like I seek alternative wording. Having a physician supply medications to ease your transition is NOT the same as the association the word “suicide” has. This decision doesn’t come from a place of hurt and depression like suicide. Rather, being able to determine the time of death, and planning for it, puts one in control of emotions and actions.

I prefer the term Death with Dignity. After all, if I am terminal with some disease and two, seventy, a hundred doctors (pick your number) agree that I am terminal, why don’t I have the right to go on my own terms? Leave this life while I still have energy and my good spirits?

In the circumstance of no hope of recovery, why should I drain my family emotionally and financially? Why can’t I choose to spend quality of life time with them instead of them sitting watch me waste away in pain? What purpose does that serve? Isn’t it a selfish thing to do?

I love hospice service. When my mother-in-law had reached the end of her life, following her specifications for no heroic measures, no artificial life extension, hospice provided her with medications so she was comfortable. She had water swabs we used regularly, but no food. Because hospice could not have a physician-assisted passing, they provided no nourishment but substantial quantities of drugs. In essence, she starved to death. And that’s better? She was going to die, so why not ease the way for her? Now, that is not what she wanted. She was a tough lady who hung on for a while. But that should have been an option for her to reject.

My choice would be different than hers. My ideal death would be at a time of my choosing, without family or friends indicted for “killing” me, having tidied up the pieces of my life that needed it, time with each child and my husband separately, and then slip into another part of the cycle of life. Why does my dog deserve that more than I?

I’m glad New Mexico is my neighbor. I thought I was going to have to travel to Washington or Oregon for death with dignity. It’s great to know that Albuquerque is so close by.

And you? What end of life would you choose, if you could?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Plotter vs Pantser: A Specious Distinction

Winner of the NaNoWriMo Novel-to-Write-in-November Contest:
Potluck, book three in the “Dinner is Served” series, won the readers’ contest for which book Sharon Arthur Moore will write for National Novel Writing Month. Wahoo! The publisher will be delighted that this one won’t take as long to get to her as book two has!

As a long-time literacy educator in the regular classroom, with “rotten readers”, as a school district administrator, and as a professor preparing future teachers over a thirty-nine year career, one issue brought my blood to the boiling point faster than any other.

Some of you may remember “The Reading Wars” in which vociferous arguments dominated the educational landscape for years. At issue: “whole language” vs. “phonics”. It was a specious argument largely dominated by people who had never taught a child to read. People who didn’t understand that phonics and whole language methodology were on different metrics. An apples and oranges thing.

I won’t go into it more than to say the current good-spirited debate around whether ‘tis better to plot or fly by the seat of the pants is another false dichotomy. And I’m getting a little tired of the debate.

At least with this particular argument you have folks on the same metric. The difference is on a continuum this time, so it’s a fairer debate.

Still. Really? This is worth the energy to argue? Certainly no one should expect to change someone else’s mind. So why so defensive that YOURS is the right way to write a novel? Each side surely sounds defensive.

Here’s the deal. How much prep goes into writing a novel is the author’s choice. Period. There is no one best way to write a novel. Not yours. Not theirs. If there were the one best way, we would have found it and everyone would be doing it.

Now I would argue that it is only a matter of degree of planning. Not whether there should be none or maxed out planning. The most avid pantsers I know started with an idea, a scene, a character, something and then wondered how that might play out. They may not have written it on note cards to pin to a board in chronological order, but they don’t sit down each day and say, “Gee, what will I write today? Hmm. I wonder.”

Nope. The brain, that miraculous organ, works even while you are not. Those synapses are synapping. You may not think you’re a plotter, but your brain is working, working, working.

And plotters! Stop being so holier than thou, shoving a million file cards and character interviews into others’ faces to prove you are better prepared to write than they are. If you aren’t open to the discovery your characters put out there and run with it, you aren’t much of a novelist. Each of us should find surprises that pop up even after extensive plotting, and those deserve exploration.

Where do I come down in the debate? Yes.

I have written two books I plotted up the wazoo. I have written two books where a character totally took over the book (Streetwalker is one), and I felt like the character wrote the book not I. Then, too, I have written books with some plotting and some pantsing, sort of that middle ground.

It is not at all a matter of which is better, plotting or pantsing. Rather it is a matter of what the author has to do to comfortably sustain 75K words (or whatever) to finish the damn book. You do what you gotta do. And ain’t nobody, no way, no how got the right to say your way is the wrong way. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Completing a Novel

I find that most people know what a story is until they sit down to write one.   
Flannery O’Connor

This post is kinda related to the previous one. Has it happened to you? You have a great premise. Novel (Ha!). Unique. Unknown to the known world. Yeah, right.

How quickly can this great idea devolve into the mundane? Been done? Ordinary? Prosaic?

Pretty fast.

There’s something about sustaining a great idea across 75-90,000 words that is daunting. It makes 90% of us who start writing a book, quit. 90%. Don’t you think that’s high? Someone in some workshop tossed the number out. I have no idea how anyone could know that, much less check it out. Still. You know it’s a lot of folks.

Let’s say the number is less. I know that I personally have started about three dozen books. Seven are completed. So my personal percent is roughly 20% finished. That doesn’t mean, by the way, that I quit 80%. Some I have, but I just delayed the re-start for others.

I’ll get back to them.
After I finish the new one I just jotted down an idea for.

Here’s my new idea—I volunteer at our community library, so it occurred to me last Monday that I could have my heroine volunteer at a retirement community library. This curmudgeonly fellow starts coming in on her shift. She tries to help him find books, but he is difficult, bordering on rude. But they get together in the end after she shows him the power of unconditional love. Sweet mature lovers romance, yes?

Or maybe I should write the historical fiction that goes back to the first novel I attempted in high school. This story explores the relationship of Virginia Dare (first white child in the Colonies) and Pocohantas, supposed savior of Captain John Smith and wife of a Virginia planter. My story premise is that Virginia Dare survived and was reared by Indians, eventually being sold to Powhatan, father of Pocohantas. She lived with and took care of baby Pocohantas thus engendering her regard for the invading British. This can explain how Pocohantas knew the English language.

So, I may start one of them. Or not. Maybe they’ll join the others in the incubator I call “computer files.”

Oh, but I forgot to tell you! The very next novel I write, the one I have to complete in 30 days in November, is my NaNoWriMo novel. Hie yourself on over to Write on Sisters and vote for my November writing project by commenting on the post.