Peep Show

by | December 24, 2013 | General | 6 comments

by Kathleen Bradean

When I realized I had the Christmas Eve slot, I tried to think of a suitably festive entry that would, I don’t know, make writer’s hearts glow like twinkle lights on the tree in Rockefeller Plaza or something like that. I’d love to give every writer that rush of joy that comes when a story reveals itself. Maybe an hour of writing as gleeful as puddle-splashing used to be back when we weren’t stodgy enough to care about wet shoes.

Not going to happen.

I tried. I really did. I’m not cut out for O Henry’s Gift of the Magi style holiday stories. Or Dickens A Christmas Carol. Or Jean Shepherd’s A Christmas Story (you probably know the movie better than his books. May I suggest Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories, and Other Disasters). Or even David Sedaris’ SantaLand Diaries. Every thought turned from glowing, welcoming candles in windows to the Little Match Girl freezing to death while she hallucinates. Okay, not that big of a downer, but if I wrote a Christmas story, it would probably be as melancholy as Judy Garland singing Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.

The problem is that writing that story would demand that I tap into a rather bleak moment in my life. You know how there are method actors? I’m a method writer. I cry my eyes out when I write sad scenes. (You have no idea how hard it is to admit that) A scene that takes a reader half an hour to go through may take my weeks to write, and during that time I stay immersed in the emotions I’m trying to capture so I can experience the physical part as well as the feelings, and it’s exhausting. It’s difficult enough to do for characters who exist only in my imagination, but at least I can walk away from it if I need to. If I’m pulled too deeply into it, I can shake it off. I’m not sure it would be that simple if I delved back into something that was very real.

Plus, oh lord, can you imagine the humiliation from pouring your soul out like that across the page? I’d be running an emotional peep show for voyeurs to examine like a frog opened on a dissection board. Would it be even worse if I exposed my guts like that and it bored readers? Oh my god. People walk past pain every day and ignore it. Would it be like being a little match girl, but striking my matches for the crowd while the indifferent world passes by?

Oh, now I’m just being histrionic.  But I think this is where we talk about fear. Writers who are fearless say things frightened writers don’t. They dare to dig deep into those things that make you squirm. They sit in the booth and bare their soul to anyone who plunks in a quarter. Writing erotica is a fearless thing, but it’s not nearly as hard as writing raw, naked truth about yourself. I’m not sure I’m that fearless. It hurts too much. Or maybe this is where we talk about suffering for art.

Maybe one day I’ll work up the courage to talk about how when I was three my parents begged me not to tell my older sisters there was no Santa because it would ruin their Christmas. I never believed in magic. I’m simply not wired that way. But then there was that year when I was in my twenties when we were so very, very poor. My daughter was three, and I wished so hard that Santa might be real, just for one night, so that when we woke Christmas morning, there might be a tree, lights, and a gift for my little girl. And how, for the first time in my life, I actually woke Christmas morning and peeked into the living room to see if Santa had visited, because I needed it that much. And of course I felt like an idiot for being disappointed, because I always knew there was no hope. Strike the match, and watch the flame die.

Great – now I’ve depressed the hell out of you. Merry Christmas indeed. I knew I should have trotted out a glowing tree in soft focus, with a fire crackling merrily across the room, and put a cup of wassail in your hand.

Kathleen Bradean

Kathleen Bradean’s stories can be found in The Best Women’s Erotica 2007, Haunted Hearths, Garden of the Perverse, The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica 6, and She’s On Top in print. Clean Sheets and The Erotica Readers and Writer’s Association websites have also featured her stories. Writing as Jay Lygon, her stories can be found in Inside Him, Blue Collar Taste Tests, Toy Box: Floggers, and the novels Chaos Magic, Love Runes, and Personal Demons. Read more about Kathleen Bradean at:


  1. Lisabet Sarai

    You haven't depressed me, Kathleen. You've shown a light on why I love your writing so much. A "method writer". Makes sense.

    Holiday hugs to you.

    • Kathleen Bradean

      Flattery will get you a wry smile from me, but deep down, I'll be happy for days. Thank you.

  2. Jean Roberta

    Same from me, Kathleen. And even though "The Little Match Girl" has a debatably sad ending (debatable because she gets to join her beloved grandmother in heaven), no one could deny that it has been widely read.

    • Kathleen Bradean

      I wonder what it's like to be widely read. It's hard enough to let editors see my work. I mean, I want readers. I just don't want to know about them, if that makes sense.

  3. Donna

    Yes, so much in this post to treasure as a writer. First of all, the elevator blurb for "The Little Match Girl" who "freezes to death while she hallucinates." Spot on–and yes, depressing, yet it's reminded me of what storytelling has become but also what it can be. I'm not so sure that many writers these days are particularly courageous. Mainstream storytelling has its "safe" ways of being serious and deep–bring on the pedophilia, alcoholism, dysfunctional families, suicide, and you don't really have to go any deeper into human emotions. In movies it's dismemberment and wild orc battles and you don't have to write a story that gets the blood racing for any more complex reason. People do this because it is indeed HARD to open yourself up emotionally and dare to speak the truth rather than just try to give 'em what they want and skip off to the bank.

    And then you finish with that very moving paragraph about wanting to believe in Santa Claus in a very painful time. Surely that is the origin of the magical intercessor in a time of darkness–our need to hope. Thanks for daring to do that.

  4. Kathleen Bradean

    Donna – you always make me feel deeper and sager than I am. Thank you!

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