Why I Decided Not to Tackle the Strip-Club Metaphor (and Writer Unboxed Redirect)

You’ve heard the expression lady-balls, otherwise known as gonads or ovaries? The rebel in me adores the term.

I bring this up because I own a pair. At least that’s what was said of me when I put up my latest post on Writer Unboxed.

The subject was deconstructing micro-tension, which happens to be Donald Maass’ area of expertise. I suppose that’s akin to going to Albert Einstein’s blog, putting up a rudimentary post on relativity, then asking not to be eviscerated by the scientific community. Contains the potential for blogging suicide, yes?

Ah. But there are good reasons why I wasn’t (overly) concerned:

  • I’ve attended several of Don’s workshops and been fortunate enough to share a few meals with him. That exposure’s been enough to convince me that he’s a teacher to the bone, and not the ruler-knuckle-rapping kind, either. If I blew it, I had no doubt he’d gently correct my failings while amplifying the bits which were correct. (If not for my sake, then for the audience’s.) No surprise that prediction turned out to be accurate.
  • I’m not sure if people can appreciate the work which goes into keeping an open, online group both educationally oriented and non-punitive, but that credit belongs to Therese Walsh, WU’s co-founder and editor-in-chief. She sets high standards and ensures we all live up to them, asking nothing of us she isn’t prepared to model. Accordingly, I knew I faced a gentle readership.
  • Lastly, I chose not to go with the strip club analogy. This wasn’t out of priggishness or fear, mind you. I still think the metaphor works. What is micro-tension if not the slow reveal of answers to the questions we’ve paid good money to lust after? (In the case of naked dancers, the audience is held in a state of suspense, asking questions like: Will the collars and cuffs match? How does she get those tassels to rotate in different directions, anyway?)

Cabaret Burlesque 2

By EKSTASY (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

In the end, I feared getting sidetracked into a discussion on morality so I chose to go with option two, a deconstruction of one of the tensest “scenes” of my thirteen-year medical practice. Could it teach me how to create a line-by-line suspenseful read in my fiction? I’ll let you judge for yourself. Deconstructing Micro-Tension. Hope you can join us.


14 thoughts on “Why I Decided Not to Tackle the Strip-Club Metaphor (and Writer Unboxed Redirect)

  1. Hi Jan, I absolutely loved your blog! I posted it with the tag: I really, really recommend reading this blog – and I meant it. You’re a wonderful writer and I look forward to more thoroughly engaging blogs from you.

    1. I apologize for the slow response, samknovels. Things got a little crazy yesterday. Now that life is back to normal, though, I wanted to say you are too kind. Thank you so much for the encouragement!

  2. You knocked it outta the park, Boss. And without the dazzling tassels! (Really, they can make them spin in different directions? Haven’t been to the ballet in years, since the lumber days, but that sounds intriguing. 😉 )

  3. The true test: it led to a good discussion. Phew!

    The thing is: microtension needs to be discussed. Harped on. Studied. Taught. Refined over and over. It is the heart of a good read. It is not a basic storytelling skill; it is advanced master class level. But it is a dividing barrier between good enough and good.

    You’re not supposed to start a novel with three chapters of infodump, a dream, or an alarm clock going off and the character’s day starting. BUT if you know how to keep the tension going all the time, you can start with an alarm clock going off, switch to remembering a dream, and then do three chapters of infodump – and readers will follow you down to the stream, happily imprinted on the story.

    I know this is what I’m aiming for. Readers will tell if I’m achieving it. When readers tell you they read far past what they had planned to read, you start believing.

    1. It was a great discussion, wasn’t it, Alicia? Thank you so much for your part in it. (BTW, I tried to request your templates, but I see my email is still stick in my outbox. If you see this note before I figure out the tech problem, would appreciate a copy. Thanks!)

      And yes, the intentionless-read is the goal of most writers, I think. May we write one some day.

  4. Not only did you show great lady-balls, Jan, you came out swinging. I’m glad you didn’t use the stripper analogy, because quite frankly nothing beats that tense story about your patient you shared. What I enjoyed about the example you use was that it shows how you can create tension in anything – absolutely anything – by connecting directly to the narrator. I always look forward to your WU posts. In fact, did you know that you post on McKee’s negation of the negation was what kick-started my work on my present WIP? Every month I feel like you give me a little something extra. You have an excellent contribution to WU and the writing community in general.

    1. John, you have been an incredible boost to my confidence and ego. Thank you for your kind words!

      I’m delighted that negation of the negation post bore such fruit. Really couldn’t think of a higher compliment than that I’ve been of some use.

      While we’re on the subject, you’ve read or seen Gone Girl, yes? (Your comments led me to believe you had.) Isn’t that an excellent example of the negation of the negation? (Hatred disguised as love.) Perhaps one reason why it resonates.

      1. It’s a two-way street, Jan. May it continue. 🙂
        I haven’t read Gone Girl, but I saw the movie and that line I quoted on WU was one line from the movie I figured must have been from the book and wherever it was placed a line like that conveys so much depth behind the narrator emotionally. I mean, that’s original – a gun for Valentines Day. Who would have thought of that? (Hopefully, not too many people.) But oh the layers!
        Never thought about Gone Girl from the negation of the negation standpoint, but wow now that you mention it, what an excellent perspective!

        1. The movie was quite true to the book, probably because Flynn wrote the screenplay herself, but it’s worth a read to see how a novelist can work with unreliable narrators, a point-of-view character whose first chapter arrives late, etc. She’s freakishly talented.

          Are you coming to the UnCon, John? crosses fingers

          1. That’s a great recommendation, Jan, and not the first one I’ve heard for this novel. I expect to make my way to its pages soon.

            No UnCon for me this year. It is quite a distance for me to travel and funds are tight. Oh, how I wish I could come though! Fingers crossed, this is the first of many annual WU events, and whether at UnCon or not, we’ll meet at a conference soon. (If you ever are in the western part of Canada for a conference event let me know about it – I’m always on the hunt for good conferences that are a car ride away.)

  5. Hi, everyone. I intended to have a leisurely day to reply to your comments, but it’s not quite working out that way. Will be back tomorrow when things settle down. I’m sorry for the delay!

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