Emotional Intelligence (A Cuil Contemplation)

Part of my intense annoyance with films is because I’m aromantic. The sappy stuff that normally excites everyone else bores me if it doesn’t confuse me. But a large part of that annoyance stems from a much deeper, more insidious issue. I notice it because I’m already a sinister weirdo (by sinister I mean left-handed; look it up). My brain works differently and I have no idea if anyone else even cares about this when it comes to storytelling but: WHERE IS THE COMMUNICATION?

It should be no surprise to you that I studied psychology and philosophy (Brain and Mind studies covers, like, everything you’d ever want to know about humans). Combine that with the shitty people who wanted me to keep it a secret that they treated me shittily and my desire for openness and honesty in all matters (except when it results in something hilarious. Then I’m twice the jackass I normally am) and you have yourself a person who is utterly annoyed by unnecessary miscommunication. How many plots would be resolved in minutes if the people just simply talked to one another? Is making everyone in the fictional universes socially inept the only way people know how to build conflict and tell a good story?

There’s very little talk about safe sex, or healthy communication, or emotional maturity to model oneself on. Instead we often get abusive, creepy, or simply horribly inefficient interactions. People are watching and reading and listening to all of this, daydreaming about having their significant others read their minds to know everything they want and need. Some people really seem to believe that all of the game-playing, noble suffering, and missed connections are a normal part of life and relationships (ever been in a counselor’s office? Or on the internet in general?).

Even if people realize that most of the movie interactions are malarkey, what do they have to compare it to? Even well-written sprawling and epic tales suffer from the main character turning stupid or moody whenever they see the girl they like. Maybe it truly is difficult for romantic people to sort through the chemically-induced high to communicate effectively. I don’t know.

All I know is that if I want my characters to be realistic, they have to be more than cardboard cutouts saying all of the same things or falling in love in exactly the same way. There are so many fascinating dimensions to people, emotions, and interactions. There are so many things people can do together besides make goo-goo eyes. Neurodiversity is an actual thing. So is aromanticism. Maybe making characters too realistic makes them unrelatable but that’s why I also make them ridiculous and usually not human. Um, more to the point, though, I love getting into people’s mental makeup. This means getting to the roots of their emotions, their assumptions, and their personalities in a totally Socratic way.

This does mean there tends to be more dialogue (both internal and external) between my characters and other characters or even just within their own minds. Our values, our philosophies and deepest beliefs are what make us who we are, and there are as many ways of thinking as there are human beings. Many of my characters can indeed read one another’s minds and yet they still must actually speak to each other. Thoughts aren’t simply made of words; they can be pictures, music, smells, gigantic interlocking networks of concepts. I really don’t think creative work gives enough credit to what brains do. Writers are all about making someone “smart” by having them know a lot of facts or having them be able to fix machinery or technology “like really, really good” but there are almost no emotionally intelligent (or emotionally honest) people represented anywhere on TV or in books (except if they’re sociopaths using it against someone).

We don’t get to see healthy discussions about what people actually want, we don’t get to see what informed and enthusiastic consent looks like, we don’t get to see people resolving their issues in ways that makes sense. Instead we’re treated to people behaving like toddlers who have never interacted with another human being. There’s no explanation for this; there’s no reason given for why these people can’t communicate effectively. It’s simply a plot device, thrown in to make the story more interesting. Really, characters have it bad in the media-they seem to be overwhelmingly used as plot devices. My characters should be happy that I let them fully develop while I torture them.

Anyway, for me, my characters are the story. They are what moves it. They are what the worlds revolve around. Instead of being blindly swept along by Fate, they are active participants in creating the worlds they live in, even if they fail to change it. It’s very hard for me to write flat characters. Nearly everyone I write is a dynamic character. That does leave me much less time to write about the intricate designs in the corner of the bottom right-hand back side of the couch seated in front of the dust-darkened window that let in just the tiniest sliver of refreshing and wholesome sunshine – but honestly I really don’t mind that. Most of my descriptions are of internal design and motivation and much of my writing involves discussion and communication. If elaborate descriptions are present, it’s because the character actually notices them (some of them are tactile junkies or have reactions suspiciously similar to Stendhal’s syndrome).

People may hate all of that talking and reflecting. They want to know about that damned spot on the corner of that couch because damnit, their imaginations are just empty and need to be filled. But what does that say about them? Are people really more interested in seeing 2-dimensional people with no capacity to handle or sort through their emotions be used as fodder for vastly beautiful worlds at the expense of exploring people who have depth and rich inner worlds that actually affect the worlds they live in? Maybe because I  walk around with a literal vision of the entire cuilverse floating and changing and growing in my head I can’t understand why people don’t need to be…qualitatively different in creative works.

Maybe that’s just how art works. I mean, there are stereotypes and tropes for a reason. Maybe I’m too much of a rebel and that’s why no one will ever like me. Maybe left-handers really are weirdos. Maybe seeing multiple kinds of communication and neurodiversity aren’t that important to a lot of people. I just know it matters to me. I compare and contrast communication problems and solutions, I experiment with perspectives by throwing philosophically-opposed people together to follow their thoughts to their logical conclusions (note: they have a foundational opposition and are not simply oppositional on the surface or for plot purposes), I especially love writing about people whose minds work differently.

Hm, you know what; I think I just figured out what my problem is. I’m just a huge fucking nerd. A huge noetisexual nerd.

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5 thoughts on “Emotional Intelligence (A Cuil Contemplation)

  1. I am so excited for the idea to get more books published and share them with you 🙂 Like I said already, I really needed to see this post- I was worrying if there was too much talk with Mandisa, Jinny, and Chitra in “Mandisa’s Gender Vacation.” This morning, re-reading this, I was also lead to think on scene from book three where I actually have The Queen and Chitra talk openly about the fact that she likes him, but doesn’t love him yet, certainly not in the way that Mandisa (10 years with him) and Jinny (15-ish years as a friend, even if less time in a BDSM relationship).

    I know that in my writing, I probably do more description of things, rooms, etc than you do, but I like to think that I’m aiming for a middle way. Because I both want the physical and the internal landscapes.

    But yes, emotional intelligence. That’s one of those things that i struggle with in most other media- things aren’t discussed openly. I’m constantly analyzing things- I know I get from some of my author friends of color “Just write! Just worrying.” ‘Cause I do go overboard. That said, sometimes i think we do need the extreme opposites to showcase the problems of assumptions. For me often enough in writing that becomes about gender; I have a character for my November project that is a parent, has an intersex body, and I’m not sure what hir genitals look like. Since this will be erotic like much of a writing, that could be seen as a problem. But I’m taking it as a challenge.

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    1. Super awesome! And the thing to note is that some of my characters, most notably Jean Claude, do indeed write about their surroundings and are highly descriptive of them. Several do it in different ways: for instance, Mark Blue senses things in vastly different ways to anyone else. Writing as each character reveals what they themselves tend to focus on. And in the BTS, everyone is fairly young for a lot of it, but as the story goes into the later books you start to see the language change.

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      1. I was going to say 😀 Where I’m reading, Mark Blue is just stating to really open up and show himself. I haven’t gotten to Jean Claude yet . It has been fun with the BTS crew as they reflect on their ages, especially how in earth years or Saturean years or another measure makes them one age 😀 So many things affect noticing though; I know I’m struggling with my teen who has forgotten how to tell “Mom’s working” and is constantly interrupting. Mind, she’s 17.5 so it’s rare that it’s like a toddler who doesn’t know any better or whose needs simply need a parent right then.

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      2. Mark Blue goes through the most notable transformation. There are the books about his time growing up, which are written extremely simplistically. You start to get a better feel for him in the BTS. And then in other series he has more room to explore his different sides, the way he experiences time, and by the time he gets to Aftermath he’s changed significantly and is veeeeeerrrrryyy philosophical, theoretical, and meta.

        Jean Claude tickles me so much. He pays attention to all the little details most authors love. I think you’ll like him, too.

        And rofl, relativity is hilarious! By the end, it’s impossible to tell how old anyone is.

        Hee hee! That’s adorable!

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