My post about why we should think about including furries in our fiction drew a lot of comments after it went up. I got a *lot* of people Twitter-bombing me about why I was wrong! A lot of the feedback was useful, and I’m grateful for it. It offered up a new perspective on the issue that I hadn’t thought about. FuzzWolf, one of the owners of FurPlanet, thought that “furry” was a meta-genre instead of a sub-genre, and that it can be applied to a lot of different genres to tweak it a bit. It works sort of like the “-punk” tag, I suppose, where an additional set of sensibilities can be applied. Steampunk, cyberpunk, emopunk and the like. I actually like that idea; it ‘justifies’ furry as an aesthetic choice that doesn’t need any further explanation. Do we ever really justify the steampunk or cyberpunk aesthetic? The setting usually informs the characters, but it could hardly be called necessary. There’s an awful lot of science-fiction and fantasy tropes that exist simply because we like them. And that’s just fine.
However, I would encourage us to look at our preferences and try to determine what they say about us. I still say that a choice that is “purely” aesthetic — whether it’s putting a key on top of an umbrella or giving your protagonist twitchy ears and a tail — tells us something about the author and his ideals. It’s still a kind of communication to your audience, and I think it pays to be aware of it, to strip away the bits you don’t mean or don’t want and accentuate the bits you really want someone to pay attention to. Our sense of aesthetics, believe it or not, is another tool that we can learn to use as writers to great effect. To write as well as we possibly could, I think it’s important to pay attention to every aspect of our craft.
I know I sound anal about this, and I apologize for that. But here’s what I believe. As communicators, we have the potential for tremendous power. Through writing we can manipulate the emotions of our audience, which often acts as a back-door to manipulating the thoughts of our audiences. If you can get someone to not only consider a different point of view, but also convince them to imagine the emotional experience of another point of view, you can force them to explore ideas and realities they never would have considered otherwise. That’s powerful stuff, and I think that’s what we as writers are basically trying to do. Even on the most basic level. When we’re writing the most basic porn material, we’re still saying “I find this extremely arousing, let me show you how and why.”
It’s a very cool experience, to agree to take that journey with someone. It’s like letting someone in to your home, your innermost sanctum, and showing them the most precious things you own. You want to connect with someone, and you want the other person to have a great time doing so.
The best way to do this kind of writing, I believe, is through understanding your intentions and determining the best way to carry them out. In order to write well, to really communicate whatever it is you’re trying to say, you have to understand what you’re saying and why you want to say it. You also have to understand how people are likely to listen to what you say and determine what conclusions they draw from it. I don’t think it’s enough to simply say what you want to say, exactly the way you want to say it. You have to have some consideration for the effect of your words. Otherwise, what’s the point of communicating at all?
For most of us within the fandom, there exists a sort-of shorthand. We don’t really need to know why furries exist in the universe of a given fiction — we already share the aesthetic of the author. He knows furries are cool, we do too, we can move on with that understanding. But it enhances the story significantly, I feel, if the author sits down with an understanding of why he thinks furries are cool. It gives him several new ways of telling the story better, of being clearer and better evoking the emotions you want. If you want someone to actually experience something as an anthropomorphic fox, knowing exactly what to focus on makes it easier to do a great job with it. Just moving forward with the shared reality that furries are cool is good enough. But why not try to make the story great? What can we do to make good enough even better?
I think it’s important to approach life the same way. We tend to forget this, but our lives — like our writing — is essentially a series of choices. Everything we do is a choice, and as the days pile up we start to do these things automatically. But what if we took a moment to figure out why we say the things we do, or why we eat when or what we do? What do we learn about ourselves from that? What happens if we take pieces of our lives and really looked at them?
Even when the knowledge of ourselves causes us pain (we eat because we feel sad, and we feel sad because we feel powerless, etc.), that knowledge gives us the power to understand our intentions and do something to change them. Instead of eating when we feel powerless, why not address the situation where we feel our power is being removed, for example? What else can we do in response to that situation? I think if we look at our lives — and our writing — with a curious, critical eye, we can discover so many things that we’ve forgotten we have control over.
One of the reasons I’d like to see more writers taking a look at the question of using furries in fiction is because it almost always results in a better knowledge of self. And when we have that, we have the tools we need to improve ourselves and our writing along with it.
Hopefully I’ve explained myself a little better this time. What do you think? I’m pretty sure a lot of folks will think I’m full of shit or needlessly overcomplicating this. Am I? Tell me how!