If it doesn’t work…

Hey, everyone. I had this lengthy and elaborate post concerning the YA fantasy I’m working on, but I find this gif sums it up better.

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So now that I have cleared the board, I’m ready to fill it with newer and better things. I’ve spent the past few days writing up its history before transitioning to the outline. And let me tell you, I’ve never been more fucking excited about this idea since its inception back in 2005. Every other iteration is utter garbage. But it’s garbage I had to write in order to get to where I am right now.

I’m also convinced this surge of creativity means I’ll be employed very soon. I’m only ever this inspired when work is involved. So may this be a peek into things to come!

Who’s on third?

As I mentioned in my last post, I am making every effort to return to my writing. As I sat back and reflected on the draft I’d recently read, I came to a startling conclusion: it was not the first book in this fantasy series. It was the third. What I considered the first was in fact, its sequel. It’s one of those epiphanies that is less EUREKA! and more well, shit.

The good news is I have an older draft on hand, written back in 2009, which will make for an excellent start as I return to this world. The draft’s original purpose was to flesh out important historical events that continue to affect the world in the present day. It only recently occurred to me that I have a whole cast of characters who are ready for their day in the sun, so to speak. Why not tell their story from beginning to end, rather than inserted into the narrative at key moments? This might have worked if they were just names on a page. Yes, I’ve pulled names out of thin air whenever I introduced Important Historical Figure into the mix. Sometimes I think this happens more often than we realize. Or maybe it’s just me being lazy/in a rush to finish a draft. Anyway.

There’s another reason for me to write this story as opposed to the other one I’d labored over for so long. The heart of the plot lies in the forbidden love aspect. Super tripey, sure, but I have a fondness for this stuff. It works better in one version as opposed to the other. I’m also planning on tweaking the world a bit to make it less cliche. Cliches are, as we all know, a veritable death sentence for any piece of writing. Here’s to regaining my focus and my drive. I really enjoy this world I’ve created.

 

Preparing for November

Turns out my focus for this year’s NaNoWriMo project has shifted to the sequel to my YA fantasy. This was spurned on in part of the writing contest I entered, and the thought, Well, I think I might want to close this story out. It’s only been needing it for years. To prepare for it, I turned my focus to organizing the high speed train collision I call an outline into something more legible.

It's dangerous to go alone. Here, take this rough outline.

It’s dangerous to go alone. Here, take this rough outline.

Even in its current format, I know the narrative is going to involve multiple POVs. Its predecessor certainly did. A story like this needs to be laid out that way. It’s not like Harry Potter, where the reader finds out about key things from Harry being someplace he shouldn’t be. I almost let one person’s opinion sway me about the inclusion of a set of scenes that took the story focus off the main characters. One of the things that turned me off from A Game of Thrones was the chapters devoted to characters I didn’t care for. But all those scenes served a purpose, even if I didn’t care what they involved. It’s the same with my own writing. I reinserted the scene and moved on. I need to stop treating other people’s opinions as gospel, especially since it was just ONE person. Now, if I had multiple readers who shared similar thoughts, then that’s the time to re-examine a scene.

The outline also revealed that the character arcs for my leads will be a little different from the first book. I left them both in a state of uncertainty that stays with them for most of the plot for the second one. I also discovered two antagonists experience redemption arcs. Can we say character development? Can we also say unexpected? Yes, we can. I love that even after all these years, characters continue to impress me. They count on me to be their representative to readers. I owe it to them to make sure they get the best. Even if it sometimes forces me to rethink subplots. But then, writing wouldn’t be half as rewarding if everything went according to plan.

Speaking of plans, outlining for the second half of Mermaid’s Courage has also resumed now that Sven and I agreed on a happy ending. I thought I would be upset over the ending change. Couldn’t be further from the truth. The story is supposed to bundle everything I love about romance into one package, which just so happens to include happily ever after. Oh, I don’t make it easy to get there. But the journey’s resolution is sure to resonate with readers. I don’t always need to capitalize on grief to earn a piece of immortality. Plus I can give them their seaside cottage and six kids because dammit, they deserve it.

I approach NaNo with great anticipation. Last year broke the lose-win-lose-win curse that’s been hanging over me since 2009. 2013 was especially refreshing since I won on a completely original idea rather than a rehash of an existing one. 2014 might drop me into familiar territory, but every word I type will be new. Bring on November!

 

Abusive relationships ≠ romance

I usually don’t like to drag out the soapbox for things, especially when it comes to sharing thoughts online, but this is an issue that needs to be addressed.

Most of you know I’m working on a super sappy and tender, albeit tragic, romance for my July Camp NaNoWriMo project. While I am reveling in using every romantic cliche known to the genre, the one thing I am not is a misconception that plagues some popular titles nowadays. If you’re thinking my answer has to do with the subject title, you’d be right.

The 50 Shades trailer recently dropped (no, I will not link it here- Google is your friend in this regard), and already it’s gotten more views than anything else. People are just clamoring all over themselves to see their favorite couple fuck each other senseless on the big screen. Oh, and it’s set for February 14th, 2015. Let me rephrase: a movie, glorifying not a healthy or even correct representation of bondage, but one about abuse, is opening on Valentine’s Day. A day generally reserved to show appreciation for a loved on. A romantic holiday, if you will. The key word here is romantic. That shit that happens in 50 Shades? That’s not romance.

Oh, they want you to believe it is. They shove the series next to Harlequin titles. The characters are in lOOOooooove! She gave him her virginiteeeeeee He wants to make loooOOOoooove to her. All that stuff is part and parcel of romance!

Yeah, it is. I’ve read and written plenty of romances to know that’s the case. But it’s not for this particular title. And we need to stop trying to sell it as one.

I get it. The whole book is one, big sexually charged fantasy. I’m not talking about the sex in this book, or the kinky stuff. That’s a separate issue, one that I know has been addressed- repeatedly- by the insulted parties. I’m focusing on the false romance. Think about it: little old plain girl with low self-esteem suddenly finds herself whisked away by some drop dead gorgeous guy. What woman WOULDN’T want that? It’s the stuff romance novels are made of, right? Wrong.

Take Phantom of the Opera, for instance: Erik is obsessed with Christine, and he does all he can do make her love him. How? By lying to her. By taking advantage of her innocence. Most versions show Christine leaving with Raoul, but Susan Kay’s take showed that theirs was a true love that couldn’t be broken. Christine goes back to Erik and (spoilers) gets pregnant with his son that she passes off as Raoul’s. She perpetuates the lie. To make things worse, Raoul starts to see that Charles isn’t his, but he says nothing. You could argue he was weary from the situation, and accepting was the price he paid for peace. To me, that isn’t a healthy relationship. Raoul should have gotten out of that mess when he had the chance.

As a kid, I thought Erik was the better man for Christine. I mean, he so obviously loved her and would do anything for her. That’s good, right? That’s what people do in relationships. Now that I’m older, I see this so-called true love for what it is. I can excuse Susan Kay’s version because Erik demonstrates actual remorse for what he’s doing. That doesn’t excuse his behavior, mind you. But when compared to the “literary hero” (seriously, that’s how Christian Grey is described in the novels) in 50 Shades, Erik is a damn saint. Grey offers no remorse, no apologies. Just strict adherence to command. And woe if any of his tenants are broken. Ladies, this isn’t the man of your dreams. The man of your dreams loves you for who you are, warts and all. He won’t do anything to change you, or force you to be something you’re not. And he certainly will not try to control you. If you think that’s love, you need your head examined.

3s6nk8

 

 

 

 

Horse of a different color

I want to take the time to discuss writing ethnic characters. It’s the general consensus that all forms of media are dominated by primarily white characters. While I can’t offer explanations as to why that is, I can at least give my stance on it.

I’m a white girl. I grew up in lower middle class working family in a New Jersey town of about 25K. I had white friends, I had Spanish friends, I had African American friends, I had Asian friends. I’m not prejudice. There are so many rich cultures out there, and I love learning about them. But when it came time for me to decide on the ethnicity for my written characters, I admit that I went with primarily white. I never thought it was strange or that I was ignoring people. It was what came naturally to me (and the whole ‘write what you know’, while a bit more flexible now, might as well have been scripture in the early days). A lot of the books, movies, comics and games I absorbed while growing up also favored whites over any other colors. Looking back now, I can understand the definite lack of representation. Lots of media today is rich with colorful characters. The Walking Dead, for example. There’s no overt stereotypes going on in that show (I don’t consider Merle’s attitude toward non-whites stereotyped because he’s from the South; it’s just the way it is in the world he grew up in) Everyone looks, talks and acts normal. It’s refreshing. My fave character, Michonne, is awesome. She could be rainbow colored and it wouldn’t matter to me. I love characters for their personality, not their skin color.

I’ve never been against writing ethnic characters. However, the biggest problem I faced was portraying them accurately. Rather than rely on common misconceptions, it just seemed easier to omit their inclusion. This brings me to my character, Evelyn from Lifeline. From the moment I created her, I knew she was going to be African American. There was no ifs, ands or buts about it. While I’ve given her the physical aspects of Angela Bassett (fun fact- her middle name is Evelyn XD), Evelyn’s personality is largely inspired by an African American woman I worked with some years ago. Her name was Sonya, and she was great. Hilarious, smart, dedicated, driven, and a loving mother. She took absolutely no shit. She also suffered a great tragedy when her older son died from sepsis. When we were working together, she was still going through the malpractice suit. She used to tell me how she hated having to tell the story over and over in court. I don’t know what happened to her after I left the job, but I’m keeping her spirit alive in Evelyn. I even named Evelyn’s youngest son after Sonya’s boy.

Evelyn isn’t alone, either. For Renegade, my character, Autumn, is half Navajo Indian. A lead male character from an unfinished romance is half Egyptian, and a practicing Muslim. Variety is the spice of life.

In closing, I’d like to remind my fellow writers that we shouldn’t be afraid of including ethnic characters, so long as it’s done properly. The last thing a writer wants to do is piss off a particular demographic for poor/stereotyped representation. So remember: your Jewish character doesn’t need to be a penny pinching miser, your Asian character doesn’t have to be a crappy driver, your African American character doesn’t need to speak Ebonics, your Arabic character doesn’t have to be a terrorist, and your white character doesn’t have to be a beer-guzzling, trailer trash, bigoted asshole. We all have the same chances of being a generous soul and a hard-hearted son of a bitch.