Tag Archives: adonis

Adonis made the top ten percent of the BlueCat Screenplay Competition!

They’ve finally begun the rounds of judging for the BlueCat Screenwriting Competition, and I am delighted to announce that Adonis, the screenplay I wrote with Bernie, has made the top ten percent of Features for 2015!

image

I am so happy about this. I had been feeling pretty good when we got our initial feedback from the contest, and I felt like it gave us a really good direction for the edit. The version produced for this one was the one that we would be judged on, and I felt it was very strong.

Though this was the last possible version to submit, BlueCat actually offers a second round of feedback on it, which I’d been meaning to write about here but hadn’t gotten around to. Bernie and I felt like our first reader grasped the script really well, giving us both astute positives and valid, useful critiques, so we asked to have them look at our next draft as well, but unfortunately they were not available. That made me nervous, as we had addressed their criticisms specifically. But our replacement seemed to get the piece as well! It’s such an encouragement to see that people with film industry training and perspective can get behind a piece as challenging as this one.

“This is both a period drama with a dynamic twist of fantasy and a powerful love story with considerable erotic frisson. It is set in the era of the Roman Empire – but a version where women are in charge. The screen direction on p.4 lays it out very clearly “Everywhere one looks is the grip of matriarchy; every slave master, every owner of property, every magistrate or enforcer of the law. Wherever there is position of power or authority, it is filled by a woman.” There is no question as to which is the second sex. This storytelling device allows the writers to take a fresh approach to somewhat tired material (a gladiatorial contest) and ask some pointed questions about a civilization that resorts to bread and circuses to keep dissatisfaction contained. It also paves the way for some deliciously bawdy inverted sexism (e.g. Orestea’s line on p.22 “he would make Vesta dampen her hearth” or Tamar’s reference to “Aphrodite’s saddle. The cradle of a horsewoman’s pleasure” on p.24). This inversion of the usual sexual hierarchy is very thought provoking. It causes the audience to rethink attitudes to both historical cultures and our representation of them. If a male general were to have a relationship with a female slave in the way Diana connects with Aidan, it would seem like a well-worn trope. However, switching their genders causes us to think more deeply about the power dynamics in such relationships, as opposed to taking the sexual chemistry for granted. The writing comes from a place of authority regarding such contests, and describes the protocol and the weapons used (e.g. Aquila’s gladii on p.19) with confidence, making it easy to believe in the world on the page. While Aidan/Adonis wins fans in the arena (and Diana’s heart), his sister Morna is sowing the seeds of rebellion. One of the most powerful elements of the screenplay is the slow, almost unnoticed rise of the crippled girl. By the time Aidan faces Aquila for the final battle, his sister has almost as much at stake as he does. Although it’s really no surprise that Aidan manages to strike the triumphal blow on p.95, the screenplay frames it as an unexpected win, triggering the revolution that Morna has so carefully put in place. However, the real victory comes with Diana and Aidan’s kiss on p.107, capping off their romance.”

I like a lot about this, but I think the best and most important line is “It causes the audience to rethink attitudes to both historical cultures and our representation of them.” This is the main theme of the story, drawing attention to gendered epic tropes by changing the customary gender roles, so I am delighted to see such understanding of it. He also liked the meat of the story (Aidan’s progress through the games, the romance between Aidan and Diana, and Morna’s sowing rebellion) as well as the trappings, such as our “deliciously bawdy inverted sexism.” I love those bits myself, so I’m glad they were noticed. I also love that he bought into the ship, considering “the real victory” to be Aidan and Diana’s kiss.

And now for the negatives:

“It seems you may be missing a major trick by making Morna and Aidan siblings rather than lovers. It would certainly add urgency to the entire story if Aidan was devoted to Morna, forced to fake fealty to Diana, and then torn between the two women, whom he loves for different reasons. Have you considered a painful (and therefore conflict generating) love triangle, with the slaves lying about the true nature of their relationship in order to stay together, similar to the one in DAYS OF HEAVEN? Although the writing is generally clear and eloquent, it may be a little long-winded and formal in places. Screenplays demand economy of language. Try to keep screen directions more concise. Describe visual beats in as simple a manner as possible, withholding comment or judgment, and describing only what can be seen within the scene. Try to avoid lengthy, dense blocks of description such as the one describing Morna’s ride around the city on p.45. Break it down into a series of specific beats, possibly a montage or sequence of shots. Aim for short, snappy paragraphs of screen directions less than three lines in length. When proofreading your screenplay, check for formatting errors such as character names becoming separated from dialogue over a page break, or scene headings separated from screen directions. Screenplay software should prevent this from happening. Also check for the occasional typo (such as “you sent me for” instead of “you sent for me” on p.60). When a screenplay has this level of overall polish, odd mistakes are all the more glaring.”

On one hand, most of this criticism is TRIVIAL. He doesn’t like how my screenwriting software (which yes, I did use, but it’s just a bad iPad port of a program called Celtx) sometimes separated the sluglines for names and scenes. A tiny thing I can fix manually in a minute. He thinks my scene descriptions were a bit too long and formal– yeah, they might be a little bit, it’s a problem I’ve had in the past, though I’m not exactly sure what “formal” means in this context. It’s actually a pretty good sign when you only get dinged on nitpicky technical things; it means there are minimal substantive things to criticize!

On the other hand, the only real thing he mentions made my eyes pop out of my head– he thinks we were “missing a major trick” by making Aidan and Morna brother and sister, as opposed to lovers. WHA-WHA-WHAT? I can’t even CONCEIVE of that. How would it even work? It kills SO MANY THINGS about the point of our story. In this schema, would he be with Diana and Morna at the same time? We’re supposed to like this guy– wouldn’t he come off as a major cad, boning the powerful person who can do things for him when he has someone looking out for him at home? A huge plot point is that up until he meets Diana, he’s never had the wherewithal to work on moving past his trauma– if he already has a lover, the power of him finally taking all that on so that he can be with Diana is destroyed. And also– a LOVE TRIANGLE? Ugh, that is SO played out.

Bernie was less bothered by it– he thinks the guy was just thinking out loud about what he might have done if he were writing it (in which case, I say “Why does it need to be mention in his response to OUR WORK?”). Bernie says that while it isn’t right for the story we’re actually telling, he could see it working if it were an urequited thing, like Morna loved Aidan from afar and never pursued him due to his trauma, adding an extra layer of tragedy to how she worked to protect and save him even though he loves another. But I am much more moved by the idea that Aidan and Morna are FAMILY, all the family they have, and that is a bond that can never be severed. I think there’s a lot of feeling that the only really powerful motivating force is romantic-sexual love, and I not only disagree with that notion, I want to depict how other kinds of love can be just as powerful.

Perhaps you’ll disagree with me, and I have no proof either way, but while I got the sense that the first reader was a woman, I would guess that this second was a man. If so, that’s actually possibly a good thing, as I think the hardest sell on a story like this is men. But the suggestion about making Morna Aidan’s lover rather than his sister is what clinched it for me. I think that represents a somewhat more typically masculine way to interpret a character like Aidan. I think the idea of having two women after him is sort of a way to “man him back up.” Bernie thinks I’m reading too deeply into it, but that’s what I think.

Regardless, this reader liked it enough that we made it into the top ten percent. Maybe Bernie’s right and it was just musing. I’m not sure what the process is, but I would guess that each reader has to care enough about the script to argue for its inclusions to all the other readers who didn’t see it, and if that’s the case, our guy pulled for us. And I’m really happy about it.

I don’t know if we’ll go any farther in this contest. I really hope so, though I probably shouldn’t get my hopes up. But I’m so proud of this piece, and I believe in it so much. Special thank you goes to, in no particular order, Jenn Giorno, Matt Kamm, Shannon Moore, Ben Federlin, Tegan Kehoe, Charlotte Oswald, Sam LeVangie, Caitlin Partridge, Frances Kimpel, Eboracum Richter-Dahl, and anyone else I’m sorry to be forgetting, who read the script and gave us such amazing and useful responses. You guys did so much to make it as good as it turned out to be.


Bechdel-ing my work

I made myself a promise that anything I wrote longer than than ten minutes was going to pass the Bechdel Test. It is not a very high bar to include at least two female characters who talk to each other about the point of the story/something besides a man, so I am determined to do it. I have succeeded since I instituted this rule, which includes all Mrs. Hawking stories, Mrs. Loring, The Tailor at Loring’s End, Puzzle House Blues, and Adonis. Heh, Adonis only has one speaking male character period, a fact with which I am extremely pleased.

For the record, I do not believe that the presence/lack thereof of female characters in storytelling is a reliable indicator of whether the piece evidences a feminist or sexist worldview. I think you can usually tell through observation whether a story exists in a universe where women are viewed as complete people. I have seen plenty of stories with female characters that do not meet that metric, and even some with all male characters that do. I’ve written some of the latter, specifically in the standalone scene or ten-minute form, so I seriously hope that comes through.

But do not mistake me. There are ENOUGH all-male, or too-many-male, casts out there at this point that I think it’s almost uniformly preferable to make an effort to include more women. I know sometimes you imagine a piece a certain way and it needs to be that way; I’ve been there, I get it. I respect authorial vision probably more than most other Angry Media Critic Feminists. But I also believe that so-called “authorial vision” is sometimes influenced by our prejudices more than we realize. We are all socialized to see Straight White Men as our default center of the story, and sometimes the stories for other people don’t spring to our minds because we just don’t see them as having stories worth telling. That is something all artists need to make an effort to GET OVER. And sometimes getting over it means consciously deciding to make a character a woman (or some other figure underrepresented in fiction) in order to start changing our ingrained assumptions.

I thought of this because it occurred to me that my Cabin Pressure fan ficton that I’ve been noodling on may technically pass, but only on a technicality. It’s challenging in this case because what of what I’ve chosen to write about– someone else’s cast of four main characters, only one of whom is a woman, those characters specifically talking about romance, the setting is self-contained where the only other characters present are a horrible nasty couple that is fighting with each other. Even if those two female characters talk to each other, it’s tough to not make the subject in that context a man. So I do understand that sometimes it’s not as easy as it should be. But I don’t want this to be my first piece of substantial length (a runtime of about thirty minutes) to fail since I made my vow. So I am going to make sure it passes legitimately before it’s finished.

As we write the Adonis sequels, I figure we’ll probably EVENTUALLY have to include another speaking male character. If we do, I kind of want to make them fail the reverse Bechdel Test. If there has to be more than one male character, they won’t talk to each other, and if they do, it won’t be about something besides a woman. 😝


“Have you thought beyond all this?”

Banged out a scene for possible use in one of the Adonis sequels. It’s very rough and not well phrased, but I just wrote it to explore an idea I may want to establish. This would serve as groundwork and foreshadowing. Bernie disagrees with me on this one, but I think I can bring him around.

I like when I can actually explore an idea for a story by writing actual text for it. Especially when I can make it part of the subtext of a scene that’s ostensibly about something else.

“Have You Thought Beyond All This?”

Aidan watches Morna as she works, bent intensely over her desk.

AIDAN: Callisto’s soldiers have returned, they’re waiting for orders.

MORNA: Good. That’s good. I will come to them when the reconnaissance returns.

She rubs her eyes tiredly.

AIDAN: Have you thought beyond all this? To when it’s finally over?

MORNA: It’s hard to see that far.

AIDAN: I can’t stop thinking of it. When the fighting’s done. When we can… build lives finally. Is that foolish?

MORNA: Aidan. Everything I’ve done in this has been to see that you can have the life you wanted.

AIDAN: Do you never hope for it?

MORNA: Hope for what?

AIDAN: A life for yourself, Morna. Love, a home and family? Children?

Morna laughs bitterly.

MORNA: I don’t think marriage is for me.

AIDAN: Why not?

MORNA: After seeing what the lusts of women did to you all those years, I don’t believe I could ever bear to visit it on anyone.

Aidan winces.

AIDAN: Morna. It doesn’t have to be that way.

MORNA: I know. But I will never forget it.

AIDAN: I hope one day we’re able to move past this. All of this.

Pause.

AIDAN: Don’t you?

Morna pushes back her long blonde hair.

MORNA: I have a war to win, Aidan. I can think of nothing else.


A moving and humbling message

So this weekend has been full of surprises for me. I will speak about each on them in turn soon, but I’ve been meaning to post about this since I got it the other day, so I’ll start with that.

I got a message in the inbox of my Tumblr. I was confused at first because it showed up in my messages but didn’t look like an Ask; in fact, it had my username banner on it even though it wasn’t a post made by me. A little research into how Tumblr works suggests that it was a Submission made anonymously. Apparently that’s how anonymous submissions show up in your box. When I actually read it, I was kind of blown away. I will not reproduce it in its entirety, but I will show you the first paragraph:

“Hey. So I don’t know how to say this any other way so I’m sending you this anonymously so I can just say it. I read your Adonis script. I read you were cool with other people reading your stuff so I did. First of all it’s really good. You probably already know that. But I wanted to tell you that it meant alot to me how you portrayed Aiden as a straight male rape victim who got assaulted by a woman. Cause I’m one too.”

I really want to talk about this, as I’m really feeling overwhelmed at the idea that somebody could have that response to something I wrote. I do want to respect this person’s feelings and privacy, as this person sent this to me anonymously in a private forum. It suggests they don’t want everyone to see it. I am not quoting any more than this– much as I’d like to share it with people, that’s probably not appropriate. But maybe it’s not too far to say in general terms that the writer described an experience of sexual assault, and how reading our screenplay was the first time he’d seen any situation even vaguely like his represented in storytelling, and that was meaningful to him.

I want to talk about it because I’m really moved. It’s a really important part of the script that we represent Aidan as a rape survivor in an emotionally honest way. Somebody who actually experienced something along the lines of what he experienced was touched by it in a significant way. It felt genuine and affecting to somebody who understood better than I do what it feels like to be in that situation. That’s amazing for me.

I also feel really sad for this person. As good as I feel that I reached him in this way, I feel bad that he has this wound such that he could be reached. I can’t begin to guess who this is– clearly he wants it that way –but I can’t help but be curious. Especially since I thought I knew all the straight guys who’d read the script, and I’m not sure how this person would have gotten a hold of it. It does seem to be somebody I know, given that they’re concerned about their anonymity and know that I have a Tumblr. I really should leave it at that and not press any further– again, clearly they want their privacy to be respected, and I don’t want to be an asshole even though I’m curious –but it makes me sad to think I have a friend or even an acquaintance that had such a terrible thing happen to them.

Anyway, this was pretty mind-blowing for me. And it makes me more certain than ever that we’re ON TO SOMETHING with this script.


Musing on muses, part 1

Artists have a long tradition of drawing inspiration for their art from various muses, and the more I think about it, the more I realize I do as well. The traditional artist-muse relationships tends to be a man being inspired by a woman, but I have always been prone to drawing creative energy from people, particularly men, that stirred something in me because of their awesomeness of some variety.

Those who know me well, or have known me for a long time, may be aware of how deeply my imagination was captured by Draco, the dragon character from the movie Dragonheart, my all-time favorite film. My love beyond reason and sense for this character strongly shaped my vision of heroism and goodness, which in turn has very deeply influenced how I write heroic fiction and drama. When I fell for Bernie, his particular brand of honesty, decency, and fortitude found itself creeping into my work in the same way. And it isn’t even always men for me. crearespero’s awesomeness, for example— the way she looks, her acting talent, her dreaminess, her athleticism —has made her a frequent muse of mine, from her playing Hamlet in my production to the visual model she provided for how I see Mrs. Hawking. Hell, I even cast her to PLAY a muse, when she was Andromeda in To Think of Nothing. A recent example for me was the case of Adonis, it was inspired by Chris Evans in the most classic way possible– his extreme beauty motivated me to make a piece of art. I feel like this is not something that people think that women do, or at least nobody pays attention to when they do, but it’s definitely part of how I practice my art.

People in general have a tendency to ascribe meaning to those things they find beautiful, be it a flower, a mountain, a piece of architecture, or a person. It’s often something as simple as the very well-documented phenomenon of how we tend to expect a good-looking person to be nicer and smarter than their more ordinary-looking counterparts. I know that I’m prone to it, both in the more mundane and the more poetical ways.

In Adonis, I went kind of meta with this. I know this phenomenon contributed to the existence of the story. But it’s in both the subtext AND the text as well. A major theme is the examination of what comes of what comes of somebody’s gaze interpreting another person— what it drives the gazer to do, and the effect it has on the gazed-upon. But more than that, some of the characters are ACTIVELY endeavoring to manipulate this in order to affect how people act. The story is about how they can raise a revolution of peasants and slaves to overthrow the most powerful empire in the world. In order to accomplish this, Aidan’s sister Morna, the mastermind behind it all, is working to position Aidan as a source of inspiration for the populace— if he can capture their imagination as this beautiful, heroic figurehead for the rebellion, their belief in him could translate to belief in the cause.

This is going to be an even more major theme in the next part of the story—particularly what a hard role it can be to play. I started picking at that notion in this scene I wrote for 31P31D. Aidan has very few positive associations with his status as the object of gaze, which makes it difficult for him to take this “muse” position on. This will also give a source of conflict for Diana and Morna, as it’s Morna’s idea, and Diana finds it to be making unfair, mercenary use of Aidan when it’s so hard on him. By contrast, Morna sees their situation as desperate enough that they no choice but to utilize this effect he seems to have, when they have so few other resources to accomplish their herculean task. I think it’s a very interesting issue to explore, especially since I’ve seen what an effect it’s had on me.

Someday, if all my dreams come true, I can imagine myself on the set of the film with my muse about to play the character I wrote for him. And I will probably weird him out as badly as Stephenie Meyer weirded out Robert Pattinson when she met him on the set of Twilight. But I’m okay with that, because then I’ll know I’ve made it. 😉

In part 2, I’ll talk about how things have inspired and influenced me so deeply I never even realized they were working on me. 🙂


Encouraging feedback on Adonis from BlueCat Screenwriting Contest!

This past month I submitted Adonis to BlueCat, one of the more significant screenwriting competitions, which before they judge gives you feedback on your script. I nervously opened what they sent me about Adonis, and I was pleased to find it encouraging!

"What did you like about this script?

The opening of the script is incredibly effective. Without ever going into any unnecessary explanation, we see from the very opening that this is an interesting subversion of the usual gladiatorial epic. There are so many stories of the hardened soldier who is made to see how the other half lives when he falls in love—and then to go native as a result (“Avatar” also immediately springs to mind); that this gender flip seems so obvious and clever, it’s almost hard to believe no one else has done it before.

The scene in which Aidan is forcibly held down and raped by a group of Roman soldiers is quite chilling; it also really effectively demonstrates what many men are unable to grasp about sexual assault. By envisioning a world in which women had dominance over men, the film acts as a sort of subtle feminist corrective to ancient history, and perhaps it will force men to see the historical patterns of subjugation have existed since the days of Rome.

The script hinges on the basis of its characters, and it succeeds based on the fact that they are each given their own legitimate grievances and motivations. Diana's need to maintain the status quo makes perfect sense within the context of her character’s position as a general, as does Aidan's need to see the system changed, because he is a slave.

The script never tries to make its characters “right” or “wrong” however; Aiden’s arguments with his sister Morna over which is preferable: to live as a slave, or to die seeking freedom, have a real emotional complexity and weight, precisely because neither is wrong; it depends solely on one’s vantage point.

The most emotionally affecting parts of the script then, are watching Aiden's confusion at Diana's behavior. He cannot understand that she wants him to love her, as he has only ever lived in a world where he has been someone's property. This is the kind of story line that we are so often used to seeing in many gladiatorial films, but the gender reversal brings it into sharp relief; again it's the sort of thing, where it is strange to watch men being stripped of their agency–and it is only then we realize that the script is making a very salient point about the treatment of women throughout history."

This makes me feel good about it because this person GOT it. They got the point of the script, the flipping of the gender conventions to make a feminist point about behavior– and of storytelling –down through history. They even seemed to think it was something new and never before been done! The point of Aidan's assault came across, and had the desired creeping effect. They bought the characters and found their relationships and interactions compelling, which are the heart of the movie.

I can't tell you how glad I am of this. It's proof of concept that our ideas READ, and that there exist people outside our little sphere who are able to read them. An actual reader, trained in the studio process of evaluating scripts, got the point of our transgressive film! That is huge!

"What do you think needs work?

While there is something to be said for the element of surprise, the fact that we never see more of Morna's plan coming together, almost makes the uprising feel less impactful than it could be. If we could see her passing the messages back-and-forth, or even more moments of Brigin helping her discuss the plans, I feel that the beat would land better.

And given the importance of Morna's belief in rallying the slaves to seek their own freedom, it seems a little strange that we never see her recruiting the other slaves, nor do we ever see them discussing their options. It would be intriguing, and the theme of freedom versus slavery could be taken further, if there was dissension among the ranks, and some did not want to fight. Aiden may be a symbol among the slaves, but this does not make him the stand in for all slaves, or all the plebians of Roman society.

And all though the successful uprising certainly does not mean they have won, something feels incomplete in the ending. Yes, we know that the greatest fight is to come, but it would be nice, if we could focus on their successes just a bit more, before we fade to black."

This is good criticism, though. It's useful, doable, and on-point with the rest of the film. That's the best kind. Basically the reader wanted to see more of the mechanics of Morna building the revolution so they could believe in its existence more. That was something that was challening for us the first time around, so I can understand it still needing more to come across. We can definitely add more with a little effort. And the last part, wanting a little more character presence in their victory at the end, is a very easy fix.

It's possible to edit and resubmit before the final judging. Bernie and I definitely think we will do that. The fact that an actual respectable screenwriting organization responded so positively gives us hope that this script has a prayer of getting somewhere in the real world.


Sex in my writing

I don’t write about sex much. I don’t know if those of you who have read much of my work have noticed that, but I tend not to deal with it very often. To be frank, I think there’s something approaching a prudishness in a lot of my writing— not a lot of exploration of sexuality, not much drug use, few truly crude behaviors. I don’t even like my characters too swear too much. A lot of it’s just taste. I think dialogue’s more interesting when people don’t swear all the time, I’m a bit put off by human grossness. Those are just things I am not all that interested in exploring in my writing.

But I get a bit funny when it comes to writing about sex and sexuality. I have no DISTASTE for it the way I do with that other stuff. I feel like it’s an interesting and important part of most characters, something that could really add drama and dimension and intensity to stories. I can talk about sex with friends in person. But for some reason– maybe it’s an immaturity, a silly hangup –I get nervous, even embarrassed, when I trying to write about it.

I have a weird impulse to worry, “What would my parents think if they saw this?” Which is stupid, for several reasons— not least of which because I only have one parent anymore —a silly thing for an adult to be concerned over. I also worry that the way I try to depict it won’t work the way I intend it to. Like somebody will read it and think I’m a freak for thinking that’s how you depict sexuality and eroticism. “What the hell was that?” “It was supposed to be sexy.” “That’s not sexy. That’s weird. And you’re weird.”

I ran into that challenge with Bernie and my Adonis screenplay. I don’t think sexuality ever played a bigger part in my work than in this story. A major theme is flipping the typical hetero power dynamic, and a big goal for that was to write a romantic relationship with a slowly growing sexual dimension to it that people would actually find hot. And with my nervousness that was challenging. It was made worse for the fact that I was using a lot of things I personally find hot to accomplish it. My muse for much of the project was Chris Evans, given my extreme attraction to him with the Captain America presentation— blond, smooth, and huge with muscle. So writing my lead character Aidan, the titular Adonis, to be played by him was a starting point. And naturally when I was looking for ways to express my characters’ attraction to him, I referenced how I experienced my own.

Sex is personal and idiosyncratic. Even when there’s nothing really wrong with how you relate to or experience sex, it’s not always something you want everybody to know about. People might not get it if it’s too different from their own way. This made me feel particularly vulnerable— like, what if you thought I was a weirdo for things that were actually representative of me? Or what if I just didn’t get the job done as an artist depicting sexiness and it came off as clunky and awkward and now you knew way more about me than you wanted to for your trouble? A lot of the time I would feel shy as I was writing and then sort of pull back from the depiction for fear that if I got too specific, or too detailed, or too whatever, it would just be uncomfortable rather than sexy or furthering to the story. Or what if you read too much into a lot of the ways in which sexuality plays out in the story, particularly the problematic ones, and got uncomfortable because you suspected those things were representative of me? That one was particularly worrisome to me. You might find something a little disturbing in the fact that the man I modeled to be my physical ideal I wrote to be a multiple sexual trauma victim, which in certain instances plays out onscreen. I want that to be a circumstance driving the emotional arc of my story, not to come off like the author’s weird rape kink.

The truth is, if you care, what I mostly drew from myself for the various depictions of sexuality in Adonis is how I experience intense physical attraction. In this story I wanted to both celebrate and elevate the female gaze, as well as highlight the dangers of investing too much power into the mere concept of gaze. When it came to the former, I tried to depict the way I feel awe of extreme beauty, the somewhat fallacious but poetic attribution of some great deeper meaning to that beauty, the indulgent, rhapsodic cherishing of each quality in turn. When it came to the latter, I worked in the threat of that attraction to push out rational thought, the tipping over from appreciation into objectification, and the encroachment of a possessiveness that comes from the impulse to self-aggrandizement. Female gaze is my pet feminist issue, so I’ve given a lot of thought to deconstructing it, particularly how it expresses in myself. I joked a lot about how awesome it was to be able to claim looking at hot photos of Chris Evans as research. But I am being a hundred percent serious when I say that when I felt blocked, experiencing what my attraction to him felt like would help me figure out the right words to embody such a reaction for the story. I flatter myself that I think it gave the exploration of female gaze some real power.

It can be scary to put too much of yourself into your art. When people criticize it or don’t like it, it feels like a personal attack. But oftentimes that personal element can make something more complete, genuine, or powerful. So you have to be willing to open yourself up to that vulnerability. I hope it improved my work here, though it was definitely not an easy thing to do.


The naming gymnastics I went through for Adonis

In Adonis, there’s a name scheme going on that’s even more complicated than what I usually do. Adonis is not the name of any character in the story; rather, it’s kind of a title, perhaps most analagous to a stage name, for one of my two leads. I chose it for two reasons, as I mentioned yesterday— it’s a cultural touchstone for a beautiful young man, and because I always felt what happened to him in “Venus and Adonis” was a depiction of rape.

I named my female lead Diana first. I chose it because of the obvious connotations, the Roman name of the goddess of the hunt, alluding to her martial nature. Also I like the sound of it; the sound of names is often even more important to me than the meaning, as people will have to say them over and over.

My male lead– the titular “Adonis” –I knew needed a Celtic name because of the background I gave him, so I looked up some options online. There are a number of Celtic names I have a fondness for and briefly considered; Taran was a frontrunner, or possibly Galen, until in my searching I came upon Aidan. Not only was its meaning referring to a sun personification a nice counterpart to the moon connections of Diana, the spellings are anagrams of each other. That moon-sun dichotomy also tied in nicely to the secondary epithets Aidan is assigned, "Apollo" and "golden god" in reference to his beauty and his blond hair.

A lot of this just worked out this way, but I did do even more work than usual to keep the themes unified in the naming.


The myth of Adonis

I am working away furiously on my new film script Adonis, set in a matriarchal alternate history Ancient Rome. It’s a hard road, but it’s coming, and I’m really starting to believe in this project. I need to get it finished so it can be read on the last Sunday of the month.

I have so many thoughts about this story, about the process of putting it together. I can’t spare the time to write them all down now, because I need to hit that deadline. But it’s challenging and at times even wringing. But I think it will be worth it in the end.

I gave this piece its title because the myth of Adonis always stuck in my mind. I’m not sure why. Perhaps because it was one of the rare touchstones in our culture referring to a beautiful man. I wasn’t always as invested in the beauty of men as I am now, but since becoming so, the character has stood out even more for me.

Trigger warning: sexual assault

I read Shakespeare’s version, the poem Venus and Adonis, when I was sixteen or so. The goddess is so taken by his beauty that she cannot hold off from pursuing him, even in the face of his disinterest. In fact, she basically harasses him until he gives in. I’ve never seen anybody else take away what I did from the poem. But even since then, I’ve never been able to stop from asking the question that occurred to me from my very first reading of it– “How was that not depicting a rape?” I guess that was inspirational, in part, for this piece– or at least, for where to take the idea when I started developing it.

I wonder what Shakespeare’s intention was. If he meant to depict a rape. More likely, I bet he meant to depict a man who was basically bullied into sexual activity he didn’t actually want, but had no concept that for a man that could be rape. I’ve been reading a lot of male survivor narratives in order to write this movie, so I can treat it with accuracy and respect, and it’s actually very common for men who have been assaulted by women to describe with the definition of rape and never actually think to use the word– because they don’t realize it could apply.

My story doesn’t have that problem. My story calls it what it is. I am doing my best to deal with it in a respectful and meaningful way. I guess I never could let go of how much it bothered me that nobody ever seemed to acknowledge what happened in that poem. Hopefully I’ll do better now.