Tag Archive: writing


There seems to be, yet again, someone bashing anyone who reads YA but especially targeting those considered to be “outside” of the acceptable age range for the genre. Setting aside the fact, for a moment, that I believe any reading should be encouraged and that we, as individual people with individual interests, shouldn’t judge what someone else finds interesting or life altering for them, the fact that this blog is so self-serving and judgmental as to bring words like “shame” and “embarrassment” into the conversation loses sight of the argument.

Does this make me heartless? Or does it make me a grown-up?

An article that would have the above statement anywhere in it has, already, devolved into a subjective, limiting, and uninteresting conversation about “what it means to be a grown-up,” and “let me tell you how I am better than you by making you feel ashamed about something.” Sounds like high school politics to me.

These are the books that could plausibly be said to be replacing literary fiction in the lives of their adult readers. And that’s a shame.

That has kept me bashful about expressing my own fuddy-duddy opinion: Adults should feel embarrassed about reading literature written for children.

The issue of shame is an interesting one, when it comes to reading and writing in general. Who decides what is shameful? Who decides what should create embarrassment, create a negative emotion centered around societal rules and impositions, on an individual who is reading? According to this article, reading should be some sort of societal movement, a groupthink reality in which we “should” read a certain quality of writing, a certain type of book. Good “literature,” noting, of course, that the article seems to believe only the white, Western ideals of literature are worth noting, are the only ones worth spending any amount of time pursuing.

There are a number of response pieces to the above article, here about Millennials and here about feminism. Looking at these, I feel as if this is a song and dance that has happened so many times.

As a writer, I feel somewhat constrained by the idea of needing to write something that is “adult” or “grown up,” because I feel that no one goes and says “I must read a mature book that others will agree is worth reading.” It’s a little too English Lit major for me (I was an English Lit major, fyi). Why? Why does it matter how I decide to tell my story?

The difficulty with fighting back against this opposition is the very fact that these arguments use words like “shame” and “adult.” The vehicle itself is devalued, therefore any arguments come from a place where you must first justify the entire genre before you can speak to its merits. The context of the historical novels that these articles often cite aren’t discussed, such as how the general population accepted these books when they were first produced, and there is this nostalgic “in my day” quality to everything these articles say.

One of the points that the first article makes is that great literature, such as Jane Austen’s novels, are of great value than YA literature today. Here’s a little quote from Wikipedia on that very subject:

Jane Austen‘s purpose never was to write historical or social novels, nor to provide a balanced and objective picture of late 18th century England. Her stories—considered as “comic”, because of their happy endings—all take place in the society she knew, that of a small rural gentry family, rather well-off though without fortune, around the 19th century.

Interesting, isn’t it? These novels don’t always set out to “define an age.” Not to mention, the “unsatisfying ends being adult” that the first article alludes to goes in direct opposition of Jane Austen’s novels which, for the time, all ended with spectacularly happy endings. Love, wealth, prospects, property…all ends well in Jane Austen novels. This is just one example, but my point is that one can disseminate all of these instances.

YA novels offer a platform to discuss difficult topics of the day. A substantial chunk of the population is reading YA novels, so what better way to create a societal conversation about these works? Not to read them is to blind oneself to the conversation entirely.

Advertisements

Why Women Love Fairytales

A while back I had a few long conversations with friends about the White Knight Syndrome and the weirdly high expectations women have about getting guys. I saw it reflected in all kinds of books, where so much of the YA books especially, are so concentrated on the romantic relationships between the main character and whatever male love interests they are always chasing.

From what I’ve seen, it appears that there is a formula to all of this: Women feel as if they have to be in a state of despair before prince charming shows up. Prince charming “fixes” the problem by rescuing the woman (thus taking any need to save herself out of the equation) and then they live happily ever after. That’s why so many stories end when the couple finally gets together. However, there comes a time when the female character has “fixed” herself (read: saved herself and found some self esteem lying around) and then prince charming is suddenly shown for what he is: a two-dimensional love interest. His whole point was the fix the girl/rescue her, right?

That’s how it should go anyway, at least the way I see it. When a woman (or man) attracts a “rescuer” type when they are at their lowest point, you do have to wonder about the sort of person they would attract. Twilight, as always, the easiest punching bag, offers a great example. Bella Swan is “clumsy,” not too smart, not too dumb, average in every way we can see except that she seems to lack any sort of motivation or energy to determine her own future. She attracts someone who wants to fix her life for her, give her direction when she has none, and take away all of her issues for her. It’s no wonder they both have no personalities to speak of. In fact, I would even suggest that when Bella suddenly becomes a vampire, Edward’s role becomes obselete and he becomes some sort of sex-giving robot for Bella at night (summarizing a great deal here but that’s essentially what happens).

In real life, it looks like this:

1) Prince charming shows up, expecting to be needed, princess is in despair, they click because they feed what the other needs

2) Woman grows confident in relationship (because she has a man who validates her value), woman starts having her own life

3) Prince charming no longer feels needed, keeps trying to rescue someone who doesn’t need rescuing anymore

4) Couple clashes

5) Couple breaks up

6) Woman thinks that she must despair before prince charming shows up again

This is, of course, a generalization of a trend I see so obviously not meant to apply to every couple everywhere ever. It’s just…one of those trends that makes me cringe.

This trend also tends to exclude all kinds of other relationships that are not romantic, which you can read about here in this fantastic post about platonic love. You can also read a bit more about this from the man’s perspective and how having poor boundaries and low self esteem can lead to problems with both sexes (read everything by Dr. Nerdlove, he is made of awesome).

I have a very good friend who writes about YA literature (as well as other genres) as a regular blogger. As such, I sometimes get lazy and simply think “What she said! That’s what I think.” Sometimes, it’s good to be a cheerleader for those who speak up and say what they feel about a subject–adding a “I completely agree with this” blog seems silly sometimes when people like this are so eloquent about it.

But when I read her blog about some NYTimes book review jerk who downplays an entire genre (YA lit) simply because it is “marketed to children and teens,” I go a little cross-eyed and rethink my stance on not commenting about some of these subjects. Others have already weighed in on his being a rather biased prick about certain books, so I won’t go into all the reasons he’s wrong, but I will say this: whatever you may think of a particular genre, be it YA lit, romance, mystery, memoirs, or whatever it may be, it’s never cool to insult the genre and its readers. Just because it isn’t your cup of tea doesn’t mean you need to insult those who love it.

Now, on to more constructive commentary on this subject. It has always fascinated me that people dismiss entire genres based on (if they’re good readers) a couple of books they’ve read that disappointed them in this genre or (not very good readers) what they’ve heard about that genre. I cringe to admit that I was one of those “I hate romance because the idea of focusing a whole story on love is stupid” readers; same thing happened with mystery.

When I realized that I really had no clue what I was talking about, I started reading books in different genres, just to get a feel for it. Do I like romance novels? Not so much, but now I can safely point to a number of books that I’ve read in the genre, say which ones I liked and didn’t like, and why. I’ve found, on the other hand, that I love mystery novels and I never would have unless I tried a wide range of them.

My point is: you can’t bitch about a genre or a series or a book or an author unless you’ve actually read their stuff. Also take into account that one book may not be indicative of an entire group. So don’t knock it till you’ve tried it, and don’t ruin it for the rest of us who love it.

I’m not saying reviewers or bloggers or critics shouldn’t give an honest evaluation of a work. But seriously? YA lit is for babies who don’t want to grow up? Way to alienate an entire reader base, dude.

Hi everyone,

It’s been a while since I wrote anything in this blog. A friend of mine sent me this fascinating link entitled Five Geek Social Fallacies and I thought I’d share it here since I found it informative and interesting. I’ve been guilty of all of them and of course, thinking of them got me thinking of other things, namely the way that the Internet acts like a magnifying glass for emotions and explosions, and the need for human interaction sometimes.

As a writer and editor, I spend a lot of time behind a computer monitor. I have online communities I’m a part of, and a lot of friends in different states and countries. I’ve recently experienced some Internet drama that feels epic while it happens but then feels stupid when related to someone else verbally. Sometimes, despite or because of a strong Internet community, it is doubly important to get out of the computer and into reality. Talking to people face-to-face, or even on the phone or through Skype is just as important as the work itself, sometimes. It’s easy for me, for example, to lose perspective sometimes and I think that that contributes to instances like the ones in the link above.

Interestingly, this link also reveals a lot about the Millennial generation, in the way that I see it. The tolerance, definitely, and also the socialization process. Online bullying also relates to this, since it’s far easier to pick fights and descend to all new lows when you can’t see the other person’s face. Communities do tend to self-police, but sometimes this is not a good thing. “Fans” can become rabid and attack people who they think threat the community, and those who are ostracized tend not to be ignored, but attacked.

While this behavior is not something to boast about, I can find a bit of patience for people who are teenagers who do these things. However, when I see people my own age or older creating some of these issues, I really have to wonder what they’re like in real life, to think that their behavior online is somehow acceptable.

Epenthesis-Episode 014: Villains

Funny thing is, I just finished making the villain for my story a couple days ago and I got an email last night to talk about it! It’s weird when these things happen.

Hope everyone is having an awesome NaNoWriMo if you’re participating!

Epenthesis-Episode 013: Believable Characters

Summary: Talking about Murdering Your Darlings, creating believable flaws, and how you can avoid making Mary Sues. I also talk about Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville series and how to use unexpected contradictions to surprise the reader.

I’m thinking of writing a text blog tomorrow to give me a little break from podcasting. Or maybe a video blog! Would you guys like to see me making faces while I talk about writing?

 

 

Sorry for the lack of a podcast so far this week, guys! I’ve been pretty busy getting some things organized for work but I did want to make a book recommendation for character exploring and development.

I find that the best advice usually comes from unexpected places. I was doing an acting workshop when it was suggested that we read Audition by Michael Shurtleff to use as a lens for studying our roles. The section on relationships is especially powerful for me, as it helps me better understand how to handle my own characters.

To give you a taste for it, the book suggests that actors (in an audition setting) should move beyond the obvious motivation in a scene. While it may be tempting to make a shy character lower their head, avoid eye contact, play with their hands, and generally avoid human contact, it is a cliche at this point. It doesn’t add to the character and leaves the actor (or writer in this case) much room to go anywhere. The book suggests to dream big, to allow the character to desire opposites at the same time.

There is an example in the book of a meeting between a man and his new stepmother, who is his own age. The director asks for their motivation, and each actor says that they are “discovering” that they are attracted to each other. The director suggests that they push harder, that the characters be madly in love with each other from that very first moment, the reason being that it gives the actor a lot more to work with. And then you have a powerful opposite that is simultaneously true: for the stepson, the desire not to hurt his father outweighs (in the first scene anyway) his desire for his new stepmother; and the stepmother’s reminding herself that she JUST married the man’s father counters her own desire for him.

The powerful opposites make for a far richer performance (and written scene) than an obvious reaction.

It reminds me of a common problem writers have with beginnings. I’ve heard several times that whatever you’ve got written down, you should cut the first three paragraphs and then begin the story there. The first part is useless information. It isn’t a strong beginning. I think this is part of that concept, that two characters are already in love when they meet rather than “discovering” one another.

So that’s one interesting thing I got from the book but there are plenty of other lessons. Definitely check it out, I’m rereading it right now and loving it.

Epenthesis-Episode 012: Working Outline

Where I talk about working outlines, why I hated Stephenie Meyer’s New Moon, and how watching movies like Stranger Than Fiction can help you structure your scenes. It was really fun to do and I had no idea it was going to be the longest one yet! I apparently have a lot to say when it comes to outlines. It’ll definitely come in handy when November 1st rolls around for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

I believe I mentioned that this episode would be on another topic but I decided that this is what I wanted to talk about today. I’ll get into some of my pre-planned stuff on Friday. :) have a great day till then!

Epenthesis-Episode 011: Filling the Void

Update on this dreary, rainy Monday! Just got back from the National Publicity Summit in NYC, had a great time, but now  I’m sick so you may get to hear my sexy sick voice in the next episode. This one’s a follow up to my blog A Relationship is Like a Character where I talk about the void and character motivation. Until next time!

And thus rounds out the last of the Dialogue series of podcasts:

Part 1: Episode 008: Dialogue

Part 2: Episode 009: Dialogue Tags

Today’s episode:

Epenthesis-Episode 010: Action Around Dialogue

Today’s episode was fun to record since I got so excited talking about it. Dialogue is a great tool, but the action around dialogue really brings a scene together. It’s important to know that your dialogue and your actions create two very different effects, and together are like harmonies that can make a scene really shine.

I’ll be in NYC this week but I’m hoping to have my episodes post while I’m gone.

Next Wednesday’s Episode: Episode 011: Filling the Void

Have a wonderful Monday :)

%d bloggers like this: