Brutus and Binky : Mouthpiece Mayhem
Nicole Kimberling is a wonderful friend of LYLBTB, so I was beyond thrilled when she asked if we would host Brutus and Binky ~ that dynamic duo who help Nicole highlight various do’s and don’ts in writing! This post has them illustrating the importance of authors not force feeding their opinions onto a captive audience : their readers. 🙂
Thanks for sharing, Nicole! ❤
by Nicole Kimberling
It’s not unusual for an author’s worldview to enter into a story. In fact, I would suggest that every novel written could be said to be an argument for the worldview held by the writer.
Authors who believe in the power of love write stories where love heals all wounds and triumphs over all obstacles. Other authors, with more pessimistic frames of mind write tragic histories of doomed characters struggling against insurmountable odds, only to be crushed flat by the capricious hand of fate. Neither type of author has to really try to imbue her words with meaning. The takeaway is in the actions and resolution of the story—the larger mechanics of the narrative.
But every now and then an author comes along who wants, for whatever reason, to promote a specific, premeditated message. This is nothing new. Way back in Aesop’s day the proto-novelists of Greece tried to get their personal criticisms across in fables like The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Medieval writers penned morality plays to encourage Tudor-era theater-goers to lead a godly life.
In our modern era the clever author seeking to impart a specific message arranges a tale that advances her own personal agenda by demonstrating that her philosophy is true. The reader never knows that she has experienced another person’s point of view.
Less clever authors resort to stuffing words in the mouth of poor souls like Binky in the most inappropriate of times.
“I understand that you feel frustrated by a class system that systematically disenfranchises you,” Binky said to the mugger. “But please understand that I am sympathetic to your plight.”
The mugger blinked, “Are you messing with me?”
“Not at all,” Binky replied. “All my life I have understood that poverty and lack of opportunity lead to crime.”
“Just give me your fucking wallet.”
Binky retrieved his wallet and thrust it into the mugger’s outstretched hand. “Take it. Take more! I owe it as a reparation for the income my white male privilege has taken from you.”
Or sometimes she uses both Binky and Brutus to mount a heavy-handed non-argument disguised as a conversation as in this instance:
“Are we really right to use pseudo-violence to heighten our sexual arousal?” Brutus asked. “Aren’t we just perpetuating rape fantasy this way?”
Binky didn’t immediately answer. Then Brutus remembered he was wearing a ball gag. Gently he removed it.
“I don’t know,” Binky replied, when at last he could. “But I suppose it’s true that we could be avoiding intimacy by narrowing our roles and relatedness to each other into pornographic stereotypes that accentuate otherness and ritualized interdependency while simultaneously avoiding viewing the other as fully human.”
“The Dom in this situation can have no weakness therefore lacks access to the comfort that all humans need, while the sub confers all agency to the Dom, undermining acceptance of responsibility crucial to achieving adult autonomy.” Binky shifted in his leather shackles.
“Right,” Brutus said, “It makes your dick hard though, doesn’t it?”
“Okay then, suck it, Binky!”
Not exactly subtle or enjoyable to read, is it?
So how does an author with something to say manage to get her point across without literally jamming an argument into the already full mouth of Binky? Here are a few simple tips.
1… I mentioned this before, but arranging the story to prove one’s point works much better than simply having characters assert various arguments over the breakfast table. For example, if an author very much wants to stress that she believes that socialized medicine is crucial to the functioning of society, then she writes a story where a character who lacks access to medical treatment dies unnecessarily. The pain and grief of the surviving characters then demonstrates the point more eloquently than any series of stagey talking points ever could.
2… Make a concerted effort to explore as many aspects of the argument as you can. If the subject being debated in the novel is capital punishment, demonstrate why each character feels the way they do and give them each a valid reason for their beliefs. Allow this clash to be played out in real time in the story, where the protagonist makes a decision to take action based on his beliefs that brings him into conflict with another character.
3… Use internal monologue to explore a character’s thoughts about a subject, rather than external dialogue: As Binky stared into the face of the mugger, he felt his anger and affront soften into pity. How old was this kid? Twelve? Why was he on the street at night anyway? Certainly, no one must be caring or providing for him. The realization didn’t ease Binky’s fear, but did allow his breathing to slow long enough for him to say, “Here, take my money. You need it more than I do.”
If you do decide to have characters directly debate a point, incorporate all the elements above and try to show as much as possible. Let’s join Captain Brutus and Dr. Binky on Space Station Omega ……….
Brutus looked down at Binky. Laid out on his bed, cuffed to the headboard, the young doctor was everything Brutus could have wished for in every masturbatory fantasy he’d entertained during his long deployment chasing the Zantari through deep space. If he wished he could have Binky any way he chose. Nothing could stop him. And the young doctor would be too humiliated to tell any one what had happened if he went to far.
And yet now that he had Binky there, naked, in his power—even flushed with arousal Brutus felt as though he failed.
He didn’t want to make Binky simply want him. He wanted Binky to love him—genuinely for himself.
Brutus unlocked one side the cuffs and sat down heavily on the bedside. He didn’t look at Binky.
“You should go,” Brutus said.
“Is this part of it?” Binky asked, plainly bewildered. The cuffs still hung from one wrist. “The slave play? I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.”
Brutus shook his head. “Playtime’s over. Go back to the infirmary.”
“But it didn’t even start,” Binky slid over to sit next to him. He ducked his head to get beneath Brutus. His face showed nothing but concern. “I thought you said this is what you wanted.”
“I did,” Brutus said. He dropped his face into his hands. How could he be saying this? After everything he’d said to Binky, how could he admit that he’d come back from his mission too messed up to fuck? That the stagey handcuffs and fantastical expectations scared the hell out of him now that he’d been prisoner of the Zantari?
He’d lost his edge, he decided. He might as well cut off his own balls and join a convent.
Binky finished removing the handcuffs and laid a hand on Brutus’s shoulder. He said, “Have you even eaten anything yet?”
Brutus shook his head, unable to answer aloud.
“Have you slept?” Binky asked.
“Only a little on the transport. I was–” Brutus broke off as his voice faltered. “I was excited to get home.”
“Oh, Captain…” Binky wrapped his arms around him. Brutus leaned into the doctor’s grip with embarrassing need. After a time, Binky drew back and said, “You lie down here. I’ll come back with some dinner.”
So hopefully I’ve shown that it’s not necessary to build a little soapbox to get one’s point across. Humanizing an issue by having the characters experience the conflict will go a lot farther without hitting readers over the head until they get a propaganda concussion.
Because when author starts doing that, the readers will naturally duck and run.
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About the Author :
Nicole Kimberling lives in Bellingham, Washington with her wife, Dawn Kimberling, two bad cats as well as a wide and diverse variety of invasive and noxious weeds. Her first novel, Turnskin, won the Lambda Literary Award for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. She is also the author of the Bellingham Mysteries. More information is at: www.nicolekimberling.com
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