Writing for My Reader

 

A Fitting PlaceIn writing A Fitting Place, my goal has always been a book that would be considered literary fiction, a high quality novel with richly developed characters that would reflect key elements of the human condition.

As I get closer and closer to the final draft, however, I ask myself the very question Richard Sutton posed last week: how do I make sure it resonates with my audience?

I am at the leading edge of the baby boomers, writing a novel about “mid-life coming-of-age.”  Ideally, I am writing for three generations of readers, both male and female.  I am writing for my own generation, assuming that my protagonist, Lindsey Chandler, will echo the experiences many of us had in our 40’s.  I am writing for Generation X, in their 40’s now, hoping to provide encouragement to those in the throes of mid-life crises.  I am writing for the Millennial Generation, with an eye to offering a bit of insight into the challenges they will face as they age.

But how do I talk about the love affair between two women?  My generation made sexual freedom a key part of the social fabric, but that freedom was commonly seen to apply to male-female relationships, rather than to same-sex relationships.  

And when people did talk about such relationships, they did so using labels—gay, queer, butch, dyke, bi-sexual—that had powerful positive or negative connotations depending on where you stood.  Many of the women of my generation who had sexual encounters or love affairs with a woman did not talk about it, as the term “lesbian” had less to do with sexual orientation or preference and more to do with militant feminism. 

The Millennials seem to look at sexuality much differently.  Many abjure the labels that define sexuality, viewing it as fluid, akin to the spectrum of sexual types described by Alfred Kinsey (in 1948).  His classification ranged from exclusively heterosexual to exclusively homosexual, with “un-labeled” gradations in between, depending on an individual’s preference for one or both types of sexuality. 

sexual-fluidityIn a remarkable 2008 book, Sexual Fluidity, based on a decade of longitudinal research on women, Dr. Lisa Diamond proposed the increasingly accepted theory that sexual attraction, particularly for women, is based more on personal and emotional attraction than on gender, and is often unrelated to sexual or gender identity.

A key theme in my novel is, in fact, sexual fluidity as defined by Diamond.  While the second draft of my novel was done before I read her book, the final version is much influenced by the clarity of her thinking.

But thinking more clearly about sexual fluidity does not change the fact that I instinctively write using the language I learned in my youth.  For A Fitting Place to reach the audiences I want, I need to rely heavily on Richard Sutton’s “reader on my shoulder.” 

What are the topics you find hard to talk about or write because the language doesn’t meet your needs?

 

To learn more about Lisa Diamond, click on the book.