The nightmare is always about standing in front of class naked. I had that nightmare as a kid. I have it still as a teacher. Why do I so fear having everyone see what I most don’t want them to see about me, and all of them really don’t want to see… especially if they have any ghost of an idea what that might actually look like in real life? I would make an extremely poor nudist. People would go blind. Honestly.
And yet, I find myself writing about naked people far more often than is comfortable. Why? What’s the matter with me that the topic keeps coming up in my silly little fiction stories? Why was it a part of my boyhood fixations that just won’t go away? I am not a pornography writer, er, I mean erotic fiction writer, like some of the indie novelists I have met online. I don’t actually even read that crap. And yet, I seem to find the word “penis” used somewhere in every work of fiction that I have so far completed. That doesn’t seem natural, does it? Most of the instances in my fiction are not about adult people having sex. They are instead about kid-people being caught au natural and deeply embarrassed. They are about unwanted and unexpected revelations of what we most want to conceal about ourselves. “No, Miss, I don’t have one of those. And I never go to the bathroom, either.”
So why do I keep pulling the metaphorical privacy curtain away? Because naked is funny. Revealing the awkwardness and bare foolishness of our inner selves is what comedy is really all about.
Mark Twain once said, “Clothes make the man… naked people have little or no influence in society.” This is a very wise saying that is probably entirely true, and is only mentioned here so that I can quote Mark Twain and pretend that, for a moment at least, I have grown suddenly and comically profound. But I do think that clothes are the person we construct on the outside of ourselves to influence others and convince them of the lie that we are actually in control of anything at all in our goofy lives. Under the clothes is more nearly the truth. We do not choose what we look like. Our birthday suit leaves no room to make any kind of impression other than, “what a silly-looking blob of naked pink fat that one is!” And this is why I will at some point in a story strip my characters naked and reveal things about them that they would really rather hide.
Of course, you may have realized about the previous purple-faced paragraph that I am speaking at least partly metaphorically when I say I “strip my characters naked and reveal things about them that they would really rather hide.” It is the person inside that you are trying to reveal, not necessarily the naked person. It is probably inappropriate to dwell too much on nakedness when you write primarily for younger readers, even if you have pretensions of writing Mark-Twain-like literary quality kids’ lit the way I allegedly do. Can you write a book like the Diaries of Adam and Eve in this day and age? Probably not. After all, it has naked people in it!
This topic comes up because of my first completed novel (not yet published) called Superchicken. In that story, the main character, a seventh grader pictured in this week’s paffooney, is asked to be a guest on a camping trip by a pretty young girl who owes him a big favor. But when she tells him it’s a naturist camp, he thinks that means they study nature and do back-to-nature stuff like making a fire with sticks. Needless to say, he is surprised to learn that her very liberal parents are allowing her to invite him to a campground full of naked people. Naked is funny. But the book will invariably get me into trouble and called a pervert repeatedly. But should I avoid trying to publish it because of that? I think… heck, I could make a lot of money with that kind of controversy.