I discovered a critical flaw in my writing today...! Over the last several years, I have largely written things that are meant to accompany images. As a result, I've not practiced writing much about setting. I don't have to talk about the weather or the way a tree looks or how many desks are in the room because the background art already does that for me. The bits of fanfiction I've done have been mostly character studies, too. They focused in on conversations or short happenings in one room--and the room didn't matter.
Today I sat down to work on the next Tremolo chapter and I realized I had to describe a cavern. Not just any cavern, but one that had been dug out of the earth with magic. I tried to visualize it and then describe what I saw in my head. As I went on, though, I couldn't seem to find the right words to describe it. Re-reading what I'd written, the text could have just as easily described an auditorium. There wasn't enough luscious detail. And in my head, the image kept changing. Were the ceilings jagged rock or smooth and painted over? It would change from one minute to the next and since I was writing on my Freewrite, I couldn't exactly change my mind on the page.
Gah. I ultimately got through it with the help of my friend Sarah, who asked me a lot of questions about the space until I was able to better refine it in my head. I then used those descriptions to find photos that matched what I was going for. It's still difficult finding the right words, but it's definitely something I want to work on by reading a lot more. I've been reading more urban fantasy lately which is great and all, but there's not a lot of interesting setting descriptions. I know what a city looks like, what skyscrapers look like. But those aren't the settings I'm writing right now, so it's not a huge help. I definitely have to do some concentrated practice for this in the coming weeks.
To change subjects, I was playing through more of Irresistable Mistakes yesterday and was caught off-guard by a certain development. The heroine basically struggles with trying to relate to her boyfriend, who had a tragic past. She doesn't want to pity him. He's not a negative person because of his experiences, either. He's quite positive most of the time, which makes it harder. She doesn't know how to broach the subject sometimes and is worried about accidentally offending him or reminding him of something sad. Around the same time, she learns that he has some "extreme" kinks and because she's inexperienced with sex, she decides that he must be unhappy with her performance. And if she can't relate to him emotionally, she'll try to relate to him sexually. She tells him "Do whatever you want to do to me." Of course, he's not happy about her forcing herself. Not at all. Hurt, he lashes out and goes on to say "Do you think I want sex so badly that I'd make you uncomfortable to get it?"
I feel like...this is a very understated, but important development, especially considering that it's a Japanese otome game. I've consumed so much media where sex is portrayed as this magical cure for all relationship ills. Is the couple having an argument? Well, throw them in the sack together and they'll work it out in the morning! Having trouble communicating their feelings? Forget words, show how you feel with sex! This scene, however, turned that idea on its head completely. The love interest flat-out says that sex is not going to magically solve their emotional issues. It takes some time, but they eventually work out their issues...by talking and being honest with each other. It made me really happy to see this be a main point in the route. It's refreshing!
Sex can be an important part of relationships, yes. But it shouldn't be the be-all end-all. Portraying it as such in romantic media can be so harmful. First of all, there's the sense that asexual people get from this stuff: that they are broken because they don't feel the same way about something "so important". Overall, it can reinforce awful societal norms about sex being a goal, an endgame, when it's just one communication method among many. And it isn't some magical cure that helps you gloss over relationship issues.
This route is definitely a step in the right direction and I hope that this is a theme that comes up more often in modern media and pop culture. It's definitely something I want to explore more in my own writing, too! There's so much nuance in human relationships, no wonder I have trouble focusing on describing something so comparatively static as scenery...