Writing Meme: Day 8- Favorite Genre

8. What’s your favorite genre to write? To read?

Literary horror or psychological horror!  As my character, Anne says of her penchant for reading shudder novels,  “It’s a lot of fun to be frightened.”

That’s what I hope to do.  I don’t consider what I write to be truly horror.   That’s the terrible, depressing things on the news.   I want to give my readers the fun kind of chills.   And yes, I imagine wrapped up in an afghan, or snuggled under the bedcovers, unable to sleep, partly from fright, and partly because they must find out what that shadow in the corner is…

That said, I also love  writing noir (blame that one on a classic film obsession), and writing magical realism.  As one fascinated by dreams, I love exploring the inner and the outer worlds and how they blend together as one.

As for reading- I’m eclectic as you can get.  Okay, you won’t find category romance or westerns on my bookcase, but you will find everything from Shakespeare to the Brontes to Bradbury to Wilkie Collins Shirley Jackson to Iris Murdoch to Terry Pratchett to Agatha Christie to George R.R. Martin to Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.  There are so many great stories and writers out there, I could never limit myself to one genre.

What about you?

Victorian Women And Their “Toys”

Matthew Sweet states in his book, Inventing the Victorians:  “William Acton’s The Functions and Disorders of the Reproductive Organs (1857)- in which he famously remarked that ‘ That majority of women are not very much troubled by sexual feeling of any kind’- is frequently cited as the defining slogan of Victorian attitudes to female sexuality…..Sources concurring with Acton, however, are rather less easy to find than those arguing against exactly the opposite- that women’s erotic appetites were strong, and that sexual abstinence could harm the health of the female subject….Selective quotations from her (Sara Stickney Ellis) occupy a similarly prominanent position in the discussions of the domestic lives of  nineenth century women.  Selective quotations from her didactic writing has launched a thousand critiques of the power of Victorian patriachy, yet such studies rarely acknowledge that allusions of her work in more mainstream literature- in the works of  Wilkie Collins and Geraldine Jewsbury, for example- are invariably dismissive.  How do we know that using Ellis or Acton as keys to the nineteenth-century mindset is not like using Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus or The Surrendered Wife to explain the complexity of our own?  Why should we assme that the Victorians’ self-help books and sex manuals were any less silly, flaky or ephemeral  than those that fill today’s bookshops?”

Indeed.

For one example, one only needs to look at female hysteria, which was a widely diagnosed malady in the nineteenth century.  An 1859 report stated that over a quarter of the female population suffered from it, and a seventy-five page catalog of symptoms was published.  These included everything from headaches, nervousness, fainting spells, and stomach pains to depression  and ill-behavior.  

  A popular remedy was administered by doctors in which they massaged their female clients in their office until the women reached orgasm.  One physician, Dr. Swift, traveled extensively, and kindly made house calls.  These pelvic massages proved incredibly beneficial; however, they also proved time consuming for the doctors. George Taylor rectified that by inventing the first steam-powered vibrator in 1869.  In 1883, Dr. J. M. Granville  invented the first electromechanical vibrator.  This mechanical device proved so effective and popular that after the turn of the century it was marketed  as a home appliance for women.

Nowadays, it is believed that female hysteria was an incorrectly diagnosed medical condition.  Rather, it is assumed, most of the women probably suffered from anxiety disorders. 

Regardless of the underlying cause, it is clear that the 19th century medical community, despite any nonsense pop writers like Acton might have claimed, understood full-well the needs of women to be sexually satisfied for both their physical and mental health.

Writing: Sinful Adverbs

In recent years, adverbs (words used to modify verbs) have fallen into great disfavor.  Adverb opponents insist they indicate weak writing.  Go to any writing forum critique board and you’ll see any and all adverbs swatted away like mosquitoes.

I’m going to be heretical and declare,  “There’s not a darn thing wrong with adverbs.”

If adverbs in themselves indicate weak writing than many of our most critically acclaimed and beloved authors including Dickens, the Bronte Sisters, Wilkie Collins, Thomas Hardy, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Melville, Steinbeck, and Austen sure fooled a lot of people.

It is the overuse of them that indicates weak writing.

It often takes a writer a long time to learn less is more.  Precision is key.

A sure-sign of an amateur writer are pages cluttered with adverbs.   Uncertain of their writing ability,  they fear they must spell out everything.   None of their characters simply speak, stand, walk, cry, or laugh.

“He ran quickly”

“She screamed loudly”

“She whispered softly”

“John noticeably cringed as the woman on stage sang horribly.”

Avoid adverbs that are redundant and clutter the sentence at all costs.

Imagine a little girl receiving a toy doll.   She smiles.  That is it. You would not write, “She smiled, happily.”  The fact she smiled already showed she was happy.

So when is it okay to use adverbs?

Here is a quote from John Gardner: “Wilson rocks slowly and conscientiously—a startling word that makes the scene spring to life (adverbs are either the dullest tools or the sharpest in the novelist’s toolbox).”

And here is an example from Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White : “I wound my way down slowly over the Heath, enjoying the divine stillness of the scene, and admiring the soft alternations of light and shade as they followed each other over the broken ground on every side of me.”

One may argue the word, “slowly” is not necessary.   Yes, the sentence is clear without it.  However, it also does not clutter the sentence.   Rather than being redundant, it adds a certain nuance.   So in this example, the choice of whether or not to use, “slowly” is a stylistic one.

Think of adverbs as spice.   Carefully placed they add a certain tone and color.   Too much and they overtake the main flavor of the dish.