I’m trying to the best of my ability to finish Worlds Apart Chapter 2 before I work on Consequences. My goal is to have both of them done this month, and my extra goal on top of that is to finish Mutual Benefits’ edited version (.pdf and ePub) for my $5 Patreon followers. The positive feedback to the ending of Mutual Benefits has kept me going.
I was actually quite surprised that the reception has been so positive. There were a few grumblings, especially from people that feel as though a lack of direct closure or a definite ending means that the ending is bad. These people aren’t wrong (they’re also not right; it’s subjective). But on a whole, people liked the story, liked the final chapter, and liked what happened to the characters. It warmed my heart, and I was glad to see people actually attached to the characters I wrote. Above all, that will always give me the most joy as a writer.
So to help assist with the closure, let’s finish the Q&A. I took questions asked here, direct questions from emails, and questions asked or implied from comments on other websites.
Q: Why do you not like ending stories clearly?
Whether or not I succeed, I’ve always gone into writing these stories with the goal of simulating reality, particularly emotionally. One can look at my stories’ events and say, “Well, this isn’t realistic at all!” They’d likely be correct. But the dialogue, uncertainty, and emotions of my characters are real, relatable, and attempt to create their own personality. Love my work or hate it, that’s the core strength of my work.
The whole story of Mutual Benefits worked its way up to Morgan and Quinn breaking up. They got together in the first place under the storm cloud of underlying tension. To have them definitely stay apart would be a complete downer and didn’t feel right, and yet, having them perfectly reconcile a chapter later would have been… dumb. The whole story worked its way up to their breakup, everything up to Chapter 19. Would it really have been satisfying to have them get back together with no issue in the space of a single chapter? I already feel like chapters 19-20 went a little too consequence-free.
Long story short, I ended the story ambiguously because in real life, these things are ambiguous. To this day I’m in a situation with someone where we broke up still having feelings for each other, and still hang out and even kiss, but we both feel we can’t be in a relationship anymore. That ambiguity, in this case, is human. Definite endings are so frequently too unrealistic for my taste.
Q: Is there going to be a sequel?
I’m not planning on one. I’ll admit, the dynamic of “going to different colleges” is actually a really cool premise for a story, but unless this kind of support keeps continuing, I’m at the very least shelving their story for a while. Oftentimes people want more, then realize they just didn’t want the first story to end when they do get a sequel and it’s just too different.
Don’t believe me? Talk to me after Consequences is finished.
Q: Would you say Morgan and Quinn end up staying together long term in college?
I think I’ve said before that I write these stories as if I’m a spectator to my own imagination, writing down what I witness instead of consciously choosing for events to happen. In this way, I can only speculate, if that makes sense. Quinn and Morgan are less like creations of mine and more like friends I saw from afar. I feel like Quinn and Morgan never got fully back together and eventually moved on romantically, but always remained closer than friends and kept that special bond with each other.
Q: How satisfied were you with the story, were there any areas you wish you wrote more about?
I definitely feel like I wouldn’t have been able to continue the story for much longer. A large part of me wishes Lexi got a bigger character arc, although Lexi is definitely the kind of high schooler that’s allergic to growing and changing. Some people wish Crystal got more of a spotlight, but truth be told, I was okay with her limited involvement. Sometimes in life you connect less with one member of the group.
I guess on a whole I’m satisfied. I’ll always feel like I could do better, though.
Q: What was the point of making Milo trans? His gender wasn’t a central theme to the story.
The same reason I made the other characters cisgendered. It’s just who they were and how it happened. I don’t think including trans kids to have a trans kid is very kind. People are more than one aspect of their identity. Milo can exist in this story without his genitals being a core component of the story. He doesn’t need to be fetishized to be important – it seems obvious to say that, but some readers have never seen a trans person in their lives so it’s important to note that this is a normal occurrence in life for a lot of people.
Q: Don’t you think it was in poor taste to deadname Milo during the story?
Ultimately, yes it was. It always is. That said, there are tradeoffs to writing about high schoolers. It’s why you weren’t always proud of Quinn and everything he did. High schoolers, and people who are as mature as high schoolers, like to go for the thing that hurts people most when they have fights. I also wanted to highlight how under attack some people’s identities are on the daily. If I wrote about high schoolers seriously upset at a trans character, it would be dishonest of me to portray them taking the high road about it. The uncomfortable truth is, they wouldn’t. A lot of fully grown adults still have problems showing this level of decency.
Q: You are now in your late twenties, why are you still writing about high school?
A lot of these stories were conceived shortly after I attended high school, and the lack of maturity in the characters are a core component of the story. A lot of these stories I have in my head wouldn’t work in a non-high school environment.
Also, for the record, it’s fun to reminisce about high school in erotic stories. High school was a very important time to a lot of people, and a time of a lot of hormones. Plus, not everyone went to college, so high school is the most universally known location for a hormone-laden story. I write stories not to fantasize about high schoolers, but to fantasize about what could have been when we were in high school.
Q: Being More Social had teachers and school events be parts of the story, but Mutual Benefits barely had any school in it. Why?
Being More Social’s central theme was that Adam was, as the name implies, finally getting a social life thanks to school. The central theme for Mutual Benefits was that school as an institution had socially failed Quinn and this was the belated social awakening he had at the hands not of school, but of his classmates themselves. Being More Social had more to do with where Adam was, and Mutual Benefits had more to to with who Quinn hung out with.
Q: Where did the inspiration for Mutual Benefits come from?
In my twelfth grade year, I was assigned to tutor for the most popular girl in school. We’d go to the local library, she would talk more about life than class, and then we’d go home and she’d pay me (in money, of course). Sometimes she would drive her friends around, and often when she did, she would loudly talk about how sexually starved she was to her friend with me in the backseat as if I didn’t exist. I never propositioned her, but I always thought about what would happen if I did.
Visually, the others were based on people in her friend group, but I never knew them well enough to know their personalities. Their personalities were based on what I knew of the popular girls I was friends with.
Quinn was based on a friend I had in high school, right down to sharing a room with his twin. I also worked with a Chinese-American friend of mine in writing the story and he helped a lot with keeping my depiction of Quinn’s life accurate, including when not to be stereotypical and when being stereotypical was an ideal thing to do.
Q: What are you going to miss the most from finishing this story and not writing any more?
While there were outbursts and there was, to put it simply, Taylor, I’m going to miss characters being communicating and healthy with one another. Nicole, for example, is a fun character, but she’s very “high school.” Morgan was cool in a crisis and blunt, and I’ll miss her the most, I think.
I’ll also miss the freedom of scenes being completely dominated by who’s in them. I like conversation-heavy scenes, and I was at my most free when scenes weren’t about events as much as conversations. Still, it’s onto new stories from here. Let’s see what happens with them.
Thank you very much for all of your questions! I’m glad you all liked, or at least cared about, the story. If you’re reading this and still have some questions, I’ll be happy to answer them in the comments below. I’ll talk to you all next week.