… or when I read “Two Birds with One Stone” at the writers’ group.
In this earlier blog post, I posted my story, Two Birds with One Stone, that wrote for a writers’ prompt for the Round Hill Writers’ Group. If you haven’t read it, please read it now; you’ll understand the rest of this post much better.
At the time that the writing prompt was set, I was brainstorming my next novel, tentatively entitled Freedom’s Fires. In it, one of my characters participates in the Goth lifestyle, so I had to do research for it. I decided to kill two birds with one stone (pun intended) and make a character in the short story dress like a Goth. I figured I’d do the research once and use it twice.
So far, so good. I wrote the story, revised it, and printed it. I was set.
At the meeting, I’m sitting across from the group’s organizer, Bobbi. After several minutes of back and forth, we get to the point where people are ready to read their stories. She looks to me and says, “Go ahead.”
Now here’s part of the problem, the minor part as you’ll come to see. I don’t care to read aloud. I don’t do well dramatizing a story reading aloud. Added to that is that I’m a shy person.
So, I start to read. I’m to the first scene break, and a couple of facts hit me all at once. I’m the only male present. The other couple of guys who typically show, hadn’t. That means that everyone else present are women. Not just women, but mostly middle-aged and older women. And, I’m ready to read about bras and tops.
My mouth goes dry. Not just dry, I’m talking arid. My tongue is sticking to the roof of my mouth and my teeth. And I feel my tops of my ears burning. I get to the line, “What’s the big idea with the bra and the top,” and it really strikes me what my content is and who my audience is.
I feel my face flushing now. I stop reading and attempt to apologize for what’s coming up. And I start reading again. So, I’m reading phrases like “being on display,” “the top doesn’t cover the bra,” and “necklace that flirted with the low cut top” to these women. It’s a nightmare!
Now the story is PG. There’s no description of nudity or foul language, but I know that these women are thinking that I like thinking about this. And I’m fairly new to the group at this point. I’ve been kinda quiet. This is how a reputation starts.
I managed to get through it without bursting blood vessels on my face, but it was touch and go. As you can see in the story, the description of the outfit and Meaghan’s discomfort directly supported the plot. But the takeaway of this story is: know your audience. I assumed another guy or two would be there and I didn’t worry my story’s content. When that didn’t happen, I ended up being very uncomfortable.
To be fair, the group didn’t seem to be offended at all, and the comments on the story were positive. Well that’s good, it still wasn’t the most comfortable social situation. And every since, there’s always been at least one other guy at the meetings. A recent one had more men than women (6 to 5). This was an example of Murphy’s Law. He and I tangle on a regular basis.