Part of what brings us together as humans is that we celebrate anniversaries. Cats, of course, have no patience for keeping a calendar. To this day, Big Cat has no idea why every year on June first (Big Cat does NOT know that it’s June first) his Human-Mom serves up a big platter of rainbow trout.
And it’s too bad that they’re in the dark. They’d totally participate if they could. Little Cat, for one, loves a good riot. But Little Cat seems to have run away again. It’ll be okay. Every time he does, he comes back with stories about going to the Big City (which, for him, is Orlando) and visiting a cathouse. Little Cat thinks a “cathouse” is a pet store or animal shelter where you can go and visit with cats, or adopt one. Please, nobody break the truth to him. It’s gone on too long, and there’d just be no way to tell him gently. He likes to think of himself as sophisticated, and this would devastate him.
Anyway. We were talking about Pride Month.
Big Cat, Little Cat
What Does your Fictional (or Non-Fictional) Calendar Look Like?
Pride Month brings up an interesting question. When you write about a fictional or non-fictional world, you are necessarily making it simpler than the world we live in. How many events do you put on the calendar? And what events lie behind those events? In short, does the world you write about have a Pride Month, or the equivalent?
And if the world you write about (fictional or non-fictional) does, in fact, have such a celebration, what are its roots? Did it begin as a riot?
Okay. Let’s say it began as a riot. What were they rioting against? In this case, it was police crackdowns.
Okay, but why were the police suddenly cracking down? In this case, because Mayor Robert F. Wagner wanted queer culture to be invisible during the 1964-65 World’s Fair. And why did the World’s Fair take place in New York City? If it hadn’t, would we still have the Pride Parades where and when we do? You see how eventually, it’s turtles all the way down?
How to Depict Messy Events in Clean Prose
Obviously you can’t write about everything from every perspective. So we focus on themes. The ’64 World’s Fair was entitled “Peace through Understanding.” Which makes it a little bit ironic that the way in which they prepared the way was through crackdowns on the city’s most marginalized communities. And that the whole thing occurred over the backdrop of the already-simmering civil rights struggles.
It is an unfortunate truth that, as a rule, good writing is writing that feels clean. And writing that feels clean usually gets that way by presenting as streamlined a narrative as possible. And the easiest things to cut are the pieces that involve marginalized populations. It’s so tempting to make those cuts.
Because ultimately, you are cutting the actual actors out of your history. The actual people your history affects. What you’re left with is something that’s clean; but not true. And if it’s not true, then it’s not good storytelling. You could clean up your calendar just as easily by crossing out all of those pesky showers and meals.
Writing and the Calendar
So. When you write a sufficinetly long essay or story, do you plan out a calendar? Do you imagine what days will be important to your story? And what the historical significance of those days is? how much of that planning makes it into the text of your work?
Three identical panels, side by side. In each, a big orange cat with orange stripes smiles down at a small grey cat with grey stripes.
Big Cat: Hey, Little Cat! Any plans for Pride Month?
Little Cat: I do! I came up with this idea! It’s like a Pride Parade! But indoors. With the lights dimmed. On the couch. Watching Queer as Folk reruns.
Big Cat: Hang on…
Big Cat: I thought you said it was like a parade.
Little Cat: Yeah. I’m really excited. There’ll be snacks.