This story taught me something – people are still offended by non-typical gender roles, especially homosexual couplings written by straight men.
Skins clocks in at over 54000 words, and is a gross-out horror with some creepy psychological elements. A famous actor is accused of murder, but the body of the victim is not found. His manager is then also killed, and his assistant takes over the management role. The actor, meanwhile, is being harrassed by an obnoxious police officer, while his psychiatrist tries to work out what the hell is going on. The psychiatrist and the new manager start a relationship (that’s the gay bit) while the cop continues to make life hell for everyone. Some one else is killed, and then things start happening involving the skins of the dead, and it all gets yucky and messy. But the psychiatrist and manager save the day.
I thought I’d done really well with this. I talked to a gay friend and she sat down and helped me with the relationship stuff. She also told me not to put in a sex scene. And the descriptions of death I thought were quite vivid – they are gross, but that fitted the story I was going for.
I sent it out. Two form rejections. Then I sent it off a third time (to an agent based in Sydney). I quote:
“I was offended by your presumption that you, a heterosexual male, could write about a lesbian relationship. It is demeaning and offensive. Some would say a man like you writing about such things is a sign of something far deeper. I would appreciate it if I never received anything from you again.”
Now, I can understand if she was upset about my over-use of the ellipsis, or if the writing was crap (it’s poor, but not crap), or if the story was awful (I like to think it’s not). But because I included some one of a different sexual orientation to my own in the main character situation? I picked that because of the fact I discovered a good friend of mine was gay and so the psychiatrist is actually based, in part at least, on her.
So what I am about to ask is if there are any gay people out there who could read the whole story (and remember, it is designed to be gory) and tell me what I did wrong and how I could make it better. I thought I did okay, but apparently I am just offensive.
The scratches were long, three of them, running parallel to one another from one side of the window all the way across to the other. She had not remembered seeing those marks there when she had pout the cardboard up, so where had they come from? She must have missed them last time…
She reached a hand out and touched the cold glass, running her finger down from top to bottom.
The scratches were on the outside.
So what had made them, out there, and so perfectly formed?
What if Ryan…?
What if Ryan what? her mind taunted. Had she really been going to ask herself what if he had been right, not delusional? Really? The first pounding of one of her headaches started to flare up in the back of her skull.
But she took a step forward, allowing her cheek to press against the icy window pane as she peered at the surrounding building.
The shape came out of nowhere, flashing into her vision like a ghost out of a dream.
Gina stifled a scream with a fist rammed into her mouth as she stumbled backwards.
The flapping wings of the large, dark crow settled precariously on the window ledge for a brief moment before the bird flew off to better protection from the weather, and Gina finally allowed herself a chance to relax a little, even laughing at herself.
She shook her head. Ryan’s talk and her dread of hospitals had all got to her, she reasoned. She decided to leave the cardboard on the floor for the cleaner, but she would tell them on the way out what she had done. She just wanted to get out of this building as soon as possible…
She gathered all her and Ryan’s belongings and started for the door. As she reached it she paused and turned.
The shadow in the corner of the window moved as she gazed at it.
Dark, round… and then gone.
Probably another bird.
Just another bird…
With a round head…
And a hand…
And she turned and ran…
Rejection total: 95 + 3 = 98