Happy Sunday! Today we’re joined by the multi-talented Lyralen Kaye who has, among other things, a novella called Priest Kid that she’s here to share with us. Literally. Starting today, she’s making it available for FREE on Amazon.com. Click on the link and get your copy today!
Getting feedback on my writing has…well, it’s always been a thing for me. I mean, a thing. So a week ago, staring into my laptop screen, trying not to get obsessed with my new haircut when I should be looking at the very lipsticked femme in the bigger frame, the thing started vibrating in the air like a laser cloud. And I’m like uh-oh. My stomach knotted with tension. My eyes narrowed. I secretly started saying ohhmm in my mind. “Just listen”—that’s what they train you to do in creative writing programs, and I have two degrees in writing.
Ohhmm. I’m listening. I’m fucking listening.
The woman speaking is talking about the screenplay version of my novella, Priest Kid (which I love…I know I’m not supposed to say that about my own work, but I do love it…so much that it’s a play, screenplay and novella at last count) is an incredibly credentialed, truly brilliant straight writer of tv shows. She’s talking about The Kids Are Alright as a template of comparison for my work. And because I’m trying to just listen, I grip the edge of the couch instead of saying that I deeply hate that movie, especially because a long-term lesbian sleeps with a man for no good reason (unless she just can’t live without the you-know-what, and who the hell can’t live without that?). The brilliant and VERY straight tv writer says that event raised the stakes of the movie and made it work. And you know, she’s right. Within the existing screenplay structure in Hollywood, in which you must put the family in danger of dissolution to get to a big enough climax, that is. No movie would be interesting if the family changed in more subtle and complex ways that might actually say something about the nature of family. (I hate The Kids Are Alright so much! I hate everything it says about lesbian life, I hate its humor, I hate its homophobia and I hate that the actresses playing lesbians have no chemistry. Shoot me. I hate it!) (And for Christsakes, start casting lesbians as lesbians.)
I should add that this woman was right about the technical aspects of my screenplay. She told me that it was a great story, that she had no suggestions about character, dialogue, or the writing…but that I either needed to raise the stakes in the screenplay or I should keep the story as it is and turn it into television rather than film.
I believe she is correct about all that. I’m saying this to be fair, and because it’s true. And I still hate The Kids Are Alright and never want to write anything like it.
Plus, if I make the changes she suggests and write it as television it will be a much less queer show, with a much less queer vision. So I’M NOT DOING THAT!
I’m a person who starts businesses whenever she gets pissed off. Seriously. It’s often not a good idea, but it is what I do.
So here I am, in Toronto, away from Trump (don’t get me started), and I’ve somehow ended up teaching queer writing workshops to queer writers. I’m teaching one tonight, as a matter of fact. What I’m doing in this particular workshop is queering the hero’s journey so that LGBTQ writers can consider how to best represent their experiences in the world. Because here’s the problem with The Kids Are Alright…and with The Danish Girl: the stories use the monomyth of the hero’s journey, which is taken from the heteronormative experience of white men. In every story, the hero goes on a quest, descends into darkness and battles, has a decisive victory, and brings a boon back to the world. (Usually they don’t die in the process, but they can.)
When I think about last month’s writing workshop, going around the circle saying names, preferred pronouns, and writing interests, I see the faces of the writers—the older gay men with their craggy faces, the gender queer pink-haired, blue-haired, pierced people, the femme women with long hair and earrings, the butch women in their men’s t-shirts—and I know there were at least 20 genders in that room…one for every person. Being queer is the ability to step out of heteronormative and question the assumptive meaning inherent in the straight world view. We don’t have a single quest in our lives. We come out. And then, maybe, we redefine our gender. And we face prejudice—sometimes daily. Our hero’s journey has a completely different arc.
Think of it this way: a queer kiss doesn’t mean the same thing as a straight kiss. We lean in, and we’re either coming out, seeking ourselves for the first time, or we’re taking another step in a journey to love and self-acceptance…maybe we’re easing into a deeper expression of gender that’s changing this kiss. Maybe the kiss is a reclaiming of our sexuality from violence. And we’re either in private or in public—and being public means potential danger.
Queer people don’t live the traditional hero’s journey. For trans people in particular, the struggle to realize who they really are is often ongoing, as is the battle with prejudice and danger. For lesbians, there is often a need to separate from the feminine in order to redefine what gender means, and then an ongoing integration of masculine and feminine as we play with gender expression. Maybe we’re fluid. Maybe we’re non-conforming. We quest, and then we quest again.
I’m a femme tomboy who brings a radical queer vision to life. I’m married to a gender non-conforming non-binary partner who I love (and who drives me crazy). And so my stories reflect this, not just in content, but in form. Priest Kid is about a newly out bi-sexual daughter of an Episcopal Priest, who is struggling to reconcile falling in love with a polyamorous lover when what she wants more than anything is to come first. I’m very interested in questioning the nature of her desire. I’m interested in looking at love as plural—so the Episcopal priest is, in her own way, just as plural in the way she loves as is the gender queer polyamorous lover. There is a struggle that the bi-sexual daughter enters, but that struggle follows the path to epiphany rather than only a crescendo climax and a resolution that wraps the story up tight. (Besides, I’d like to come first. All the time. Why doesn’t the world catch on to this?) (Did I mention that I’m an actress?)
Feedback. Tonight I’m helping queer writers to think about structure, about delving into story. I’ll inevitably give them a response to their work. Mind you, we’re not working with the rigid structure of the screenplay, but I think the question of form is still valid. After all, we all look at the world through the lens of the stories we know, the stories our culture presents to us as meaning. So as I talk about story tonight, I will talk as much about breaking with existing structures as about learning what they are. Think hero’s journey. Whatever darkness queer people have to battle, whatever gift that battle returns, it’s got to be, in part, a vision of a freer world than the binary mainstream. That is the ultimate gift, really. I’m queer. I’m not like you, so I give you a new way of thinking. I give you the possibility of reinventing your life, because I am constantly reinventing mine.
In other words, I’m pissed off. So my business tonight is encouraging other queer people to rebel in the way they tell their stories.
It’s a living.
It’s also a life.
Her second screenplay, Run from Fire, was a finalist for the Half the World Literati Award.
You can read the Black List review of Run from Fire here: