The Big List Of Small Dogs
What's a small dog? Well, it's Miriam's term; let's let her explain:
Miriam: It's a little annoying thing in a story that yaps at you and bites your ankles. Not a huge complaint but a tenacious one.
So we're not talking totally worthless characterization (that's a big, snarling mastiff with its teeth in your thigh) and we're not talking lots of typos (that's more like an ant infestation). We're talking about those little things that just... yip and drool and drive you nuts. The thing about small dogs is, however, that some people like them. So, they're not necessarily bad in every case. Although, well... Anyway.
Note: Yup, I've written lots of these myself. Most of us have. And some things that are small dogs in the hands of most writers can be perfectly fine when somebody else gets her hands on them. And sometimes something is written once, and the first ten or so times you read it, it doesn't bother you. And then suddenly it's everywhere and you just want to tear your hair out. (As Anne says, "Breed the pedigree variety, and suddenly puppy mills spring up.")
Oversexed Small Dogs:
- Safe-sex warnings in the author's notes. 'These guys are screwing around without a condom, but Don't Try This At Home, Kids!' Fantasy's fantasy -- write whatever you want. But don't try to have it both ways.
- T-shirts, oxfords, and jeans being torn asunder. Fabric tears really easily in slash-land. Have you ever tried to actually rip a T-shirt? I have a friend who had a fantasy of having her clothes ripped off, and after a couple of humiliating failures, her boyfriend had to ask her to get the scissors and snip threads all up and down the seams so that he'd be able to rip the shirt without hauling her around the room in it. By which point her interest in the whole thing was pretty much lost. But I digress.
- Kid Stuff. One guy tries to pull a T-shirt off the other guy; the other guy "obediently holds his arms over his head." And suddenly in my mind's eye he becomes three years old.
- He smelled (or tasted) like Food A and Food B and something else that was just him. "Underneath the tang of raspberries, tahini, and motor oil, there was the essential taste of Methos."
- Sensitivity, sexually speaking. "He's so responsive!"
Resonant: Unlike most men, this one actually enjoys sexual pleasure!
Livia: Yeah, yeah... 'so responsive, as opposed to my last lover Ed who just sort of twitched occasionally. And Shirley, who was like "eh" every now and then.'
Miriam: I'd like to see, 'He's so unresponsive when we have sex. It's so exciting. I've always fantasized about necrophilia!'
- Searing kiss, searing touch. Ouch.
Sandy: If somebody seared me with their touch, I'd smack 'em.
Resonant: Then we broke out the aloe vera gel.
Miriam: Oooh. Hurt/comfort!
- He arched under... whomever.
Destina: I know, for example, that Blair is lithe and limber -- nay, that he was probably a medal-winning gymnast in a previous life -- but this always makes me think of someone about to do a spider walk across the gym mats.
- Nipple sensitivity. Sexy as it may be to imagine introducing a guy to some marvelous new source of pleasure, it's my opinion that if one of his previous girlfriends and/or boyfriends hasn't been there first, then he's way underage.
- Nubs, buds, and pebbles. Budding nubs. Pebbly buds.
Livia: I can write everything but the sexy bits on the computer at school.
Resonant: You should use code words.
Livia: I bet a lot of people do that, only they forget to decode it, because that's the only excuse for 'nubs.' I hate 'nubs.'
- Latch on, used with reference to nipples. Sorry, I breastfed; the image this brings up is not sexy. (I've even seen the word 'teethe' used as a verb for what somebody was doing to somebody else's nipples, which is even worse.)
- Achingly hard nipples. Doesn't really sound that pleasant when you think about it.
- Oral ministrations. This phrase sounds sexy to somebody? I don't get it. But I see the phrase a lot.
- Tongue leaving a glistening trail. To be fair, I've only seen this once. But: Yuck. Slugs. Yuck.
- 'A hand on his head, but not pushing or guiding.'
Resonant: Sure, OK, we want to know that he's not the kind of Neanderthal who'd grab somebody's head and push... but hey? Show, don't tell, anybody?
- Tonguing the slit. Lots of writers like to write blowjob scenes with lots of attention paid to 'the slit' -- I've tried that on two guys IRL, and asked a bunch of my male online acquaintances, and the consensus is: 'That shit hurts!'
- Crying Bitter Tears?
Brighid: I often, in the more explicit fiction, see the phrase 'weeping erection' or some such variation. I know that connotatively it can mean leaking clear fluid, of any sort, but denotatively, for me, weeping is a term associated with either a) the lachrymal glands or b) exudate (pus, serum, etc.) from a wound or infection. So when I read about a 'weeping erection,' I think, oooooooh, don't touch that without gloves. Get some antibiotics.
- And Still More References to Bodily Fluids And Other Stuff:
Destina: 'Glistening with pre-cum' has reached the end of its effectiveness for me. Also 'asshole' used in a sex scene -- I've got no problem when it's used as a swear word, but it makes me wince during descriptions of loveplay. And my favorite, 'Uuuunnnnnnnngggghhhhhh...' as a description of noise made during orgasm just tosses me right out of the story with a thud.
- Rampant. What is this, sex or heraldry? However, I mentioned this one night on IRC and it inspired the following little dip into insanity:
Livia: When I hear the word 'rampant' I think of 'rampage.' Like, Godzilla on a rampage. Like there should be loud crashing sound effects.
Resonant: Ooh, Livia, you've just made that word bearable for me.
Livia: That makes it better? [laughs]
Resonant: Well, before it was just dumb and thoughtless. Now, though, it has burning buildings and overturned buses.
Ces: 'Grrr....me want sex...' [smashes train off rails] 'Rarrrr...'
Livia: [badly dubbed dialogue] 'Run! Run! The rampant erection will destroy us all!'
- Raging Hard-on. Maybe it's literally raging. Mumbling little curses to itself.
Livia: 'Grrrrrrr!' 'What was that?' 'Oh, don't mind my raging hard-on.'
- Stories that make a big deal out of penis size. Some people must find this really sexy, or it wouldn't be in so many stories. To me it's in the same category as 'cum' with a 'u' -- it breaks that fragile barrier between 'fiction that has sex in it' and 'lookit this, Beavis, some guys is humpin'!'
- Penis-naming. I wonder if folks think other body parts need names, too? 'These are my lips, James and James Junior.'
- Touched for the very first time.
Lucy: Men calling themselves 'virgins' just because they haven't been penetrated. I mean, come ON.
- Take me. Especially when followed by 'Make me yours.' Or worse... 'You mean...?' accompanied by a wide-eyed look of astonishment and awe. Yes, bozo, he means anal sex.
- 1, 2, 3... GO! At this point, the stretching prior to anal sex has been fetishized to the point of being dull, or perhaps some authors feel they have to include the info as if it's some sort of safety tip. I end up thinking... is this sex, or a proctology exam? (Note also that the recent Joy of Gay Sex recommended not using more than one finger, and definitely not using a scissoring motion, which might create tears. More than you wanted to know? Oh well.) In other news, Miriam, Resonant, and Beth have even composed an ode to this topic:
Miriam: One finger. two finger. Red finger. Blue finger. Yadda yadda.
Resonant: Would you do it with your friend?
Resonant: Would you do it in the end?
Beth: (X-Files) Would you do it with a Fox? Would you both use uncut cocks?
Beth: Touch it, touch it, you will see...
Beth: Use the lube and 'one, two, three!'
Resonant: Dr. Seuss's Guide to Anal Sex.
- Esoteric food uses.
Lucy: Weird lubricants, especially of the food variety. I'm sorry, buttered anus just doesn't do it for me.
- Are you sure?
Anne: Often said well into the sex scene, after we've had to read about the preparation for anal sex for the seventeen-hundredth time. 'Are you sure, Methos?' 'No, Duncan, I've changed my mind.'
- Do you really want to make me cry?
Ces: And it's always, 'I don't want to hurt you.' I mean, how about the reliable standby -- if he winces or screams, you're hurting him...
- Simultaneous orgasms. Okay, I'm not offended by every single simultaneous orgasm I've ever read, but I am offended by the fact that ninety percent of the orgasms I've read about in slash stories have been simultaneous. This smacks of 'hey, I don't want to write that awkward moment when one guy is soaring to the heavens on a wave of pleasure so intense he nearly blacks out, while the other is still saying, 'Yeah, baby, please, please.''
- Um, ick.
Julad: Can I just mention checking for blood after? Makes me ill.
- Sticky Stuff.
Miriam: I'm tired of the notion that sperm is like superglue or something.
- Bruising. How easily these guys bruise! I'm the palest of the pale, and I've never ever gotten fingertip bruises!
Random Small Dogs
- Fashion report no. 1. About one story in three seems to give us some report of how good a job the guy's clothes are doing at hiding his erection.
Miriam: Go Canada for thinking of erection covering in their [Mountie] uniform design.
- The Wheelchair Thing. So, one of the guys ends up in the hospital. Surprise, surprise. However, I would love to be surprised by the fact that no one makes a big deal out of being wheeled out of the place in a wheelchair. I mean, c'mon. This has been done to death.
- He was so turned on he couldn't think straight. Ha ha. 'Straight' was the last way he could think right now. And other such puns on 'straight' (at least the obvious kind).
- Guess I'm fucked now. (Answer: 'Not yet. But you will be.' Or: 'No, I'm not; that's just the problem.')
- Keeping Secrets.
Anne: If one more story mentions how one of the boys is a 'secret' or a 'closet' hedonist I'm gonna smack someone.
- Lead on MacDuff. I could live without anyone ever using this phrase again in any fiction, slash or otherwise. And I could also live without some other character saying "You know, actually, it's 'Lay on MacDuff.'"
- His very male, very straight [roommate, partner, boss, assassin ...] If the emotional exposition got any clumsier, it would be 'Me want him. Him not want me. Me very sad.'
- I loooooovvveeee you. Repeated 'I love you's? Maybe we could put in a limit of twice per story, and any more than that is just ... I don't know ... like trying to dance the same slow dance over and over. Note: If you want to see a small dog go to heaven, read Francesca's I Love You.
- Let's take this party upstairs, let's take this party home.
Ces: That party. That fucking party. Why the fuck can't they take this party somewhere really unusual? Or just party where the fuck they are?
- Songfic in general makes me slightly insane.
Rachel: If you want the boys to say something to each other, have them say it, not put 'the perfect song' on the tape deck and then sit around twiddling their thumbs waiting for their partner to declare undying love.
- Completely inappropriate songs in songfic. Fraser has never heard of Macy Gray. Ray Kowalski thinks Sarah McLachlan needs to get laid. Hey, I'll be the first to admit that I think Melissa Etheridge's latest is perfect for Jim. But Jim doesn't listen to Melissa Etheridge!
Livia: You'd think all the songs of the world had been wiped out except for, like, one girl named Tiffany's mix tape. (Note: The 'Tiffany' quote makes more sense if it's referring to the fandom-specific small dog of Jedi and Starfleet officers only using 90s top-forty radio hits to express their love.)
- Guys doing sexy things with food or drink as a method of flirting. I feel as if my ankles are being gnawed on every time I read about a guy licking the rim of a beer bottle.
- It's a guy thing.
Miriam: Stories that presume that men are so different -- because women are so light and small and light and fragile and light.
- Stuttering. I can usually handle it when a character cries (so long as the description doesn't suddenly make me think of a four-year-old or a puppy), but I hate it when they're so overcome with emotion that they start stuttering.
- Overused canon quirks. (Fraser rubbing his eyebrow when nervous, Ray K. saying 'I suck') and writers just use the hell out of it instead of bothering to develop their own gestures and phrases. Instant Characterization.
Ces: We don't have that in The Sentinel, man, do we? Like totally not!
- Heated satin, single crystal tears. Excessive poetry in describing body parts and bodily functions. There's a Porn-to-Purple continuum at work here, with 'throbbing man-meat' at one end of it and 'the heat at his center' at the other, and I tend to giggle when people get too far out to either extreme. (One that drives Anne insane is 'tight, hot channel.')
- Milking a conflict. I recognize that perfect communication and perfect honesty would result in the end of all narrative on the face of the earth. However, I can't stand a story that gets ten pages of conflict out of something that could have been resolved in two seconds of conversation.
- Parents as matchmakers. I don't want my parents thinking about who I'm having sex with. (This dog is especially yappy in Due South, where Fraser's dead father is often right there in the room.)
Fandom-specific Small Dogs: The Sentinel
- Blair getting assaulted in the police academy showers.
Merry: Well, you know, that's all they actually have at the academy. One big classroom where Blair outsmarts everybody and then the bathrooms where they rape him for it.
- 'Don't use all the hot water!' Jim and Blair's water heater only has about a two-gallon capacity.
- But what does it mean?
Ces: 'This isn't a one time thing for me, Chief.'
- You'll find that shelved under 'S.'
Anna: Jim is always cataloging Blair -- his tastes, his scents, etc. Jim Ellison. Librarian of the senses.
- Modish Jim and Blair. Jim goes into Sentinel mode, Blair goes into guide mode. Mode, mode, mode, mode, mode!
- Jim's sensitive penis. Jim gets actual, physical, observeable chafing on his penis from things like rubbing against the sheets. Not just 'he's sensitive so it hurts,' but 'the next day it's all red and uncomfortable-looking.'
Miriam: Imagine Blair saying, 'Imagine a dial labelled 'Penis.' Turn the dial down.'
Resonant: 'Wouldn't a lever be a better visual metaphor, Chief?'
- Precious what?
Beth: Calling Blair's hair 'precious locks.'
Fandom-specific Small Dogs: Due South
- 13-year-old-Schoolgirl!Ray. Ray Vecchio is so inexperienced with men (or so traumatized by being raped/molested as a kid) that he turns all hesitant and coy. 'Can I ... can I see it?' Ptah.
- Ray Kowalski has Something Wrong With His Brain. He was dropped on the head as a child. He had a stroke. Anything but that he's a smart guy who's never bothered to improve his vocabulary.
- Ray K. is worried about being scrawny. Or Fraser is telling him that he's not scrawny. Or he needs reassurance that he's not ugly. In my book, Ray K. does not move like a guy who lacks confidence in his own attractiveness.
- Or... worse yet... Ray K is not actually scrawny at all, but has a body full of muscles that you somehow can't see when he has his clothes on!
- Fetish-level fascination with Fraser's foreskin.
- Fraser, the Lush.
Resonant: Fraser doesn't drink. Except when it's convenient for the writer to have Fraser drink. In which case the writer will remind us that Fraser doesn't drink, and then give us the reason why Fraser's, um, drinking.
- Enough with Kissing the Scar, Folks. Um, I think that says it all.
- Shy, Virginal Fraser. Anyone who thinks Fraser is shy and virginal should watch Victoria's Secret. Over and over. See Fraser. See that beneath that shell-like Mountie exterior is a lusty, sexy man who knows just what he's doing.
- Fraser's Irresistible Appeal.
Miriam: I'm getting a small dog about the sentences: 'Fraser was totally straight. He blushed every time a woman looked at him, but most of the time, he didn't even notice. He was totally oblivious to his effect on women. Not to mention his effect on Ray.'
- Fraser as blushing boy.
Miriam: I thought Fraser blushing was cute, at first. But after the hundreth story, I'm starting to think poor Benton has a circulation problem. Well, I kind of understand the appeal. It's the flipside of Fraser's acres of pale, creamy, perfect, snow-white skin.
Livia: Just once, I wanna see 'pasty' in a story about Fraser.
© Resonant and Anne 1999, with contributions from Miriam, Livia, Sandy, Destina, Ces, Brighid, Lucy, Julad, Rachel, and Merry.