Tag Archives: characters

#MondayBlogs Do You ‘Take’ Your Characters With You When You’re In The Outside World?

15 Jun

Intro:

As an author, I spend a lot of my free time on the computer. In fact, between my editing job and my writing time, I spend almost ALL my time on my computer. But you still have to get off the laptop sometimes and explore the world. This is what our guest blogger is discussing today. Author Marcia Carrington talks about how important it is to seek inspiration outside of the computer-sphere. If you’re an author, tell us about stepping away from your work and what that means to you. But first and foremost, let’s welcome Marcia!

Do You ‘Take’ Your Characters With You When You’re In The Outside World? By Marcia Carrington

This is something that I often do whenever I’m not at home, that is, I could be at the mall, waiting at a doctor’s surgery, in line at the supermarket, or at some other such place. I often find that my mind wanders to either characters from stories I’m presently writing or stories that I propose to write and a concept has been gnawing away at me. What will happen to these characters? In which direction should I take them? Would this be a good idea for a story? These are the kinds of questions that pose themselves when I’m out and about.

Maple leaves in Autumn provided by Marcia

Maple leaves in Autumn provided by Marcia

To be honest, I never take any kind of computer with me whenever I’m out of the home, as I find that my mind can wander freer outside, and there are many inspirations that can be experienced. The people you meet, the things you do, the places you go, could all trigger ideas and concepts that you never thought possible, or help you to take a story in another direction.

There is also another associated benefit to leaving the home sphere and going outside into the world. I have found in the past that when I am in the throes of writing and the ideas are becoming stagnant or non-existent in my mind, staying inside can be detrimental. Leaving the home, and going outside into the world, brings a freshness, a change to the mind and body that can definitely assist with writing.

Bio:

Marcia Carrington writes about the human condition, exploring what makes people tick, but in an upbeat and optimistic tone. She is an interested observer of popular culture, and fan of cinema from all eras and countries, especially from the 1930-1970s. Marcia is a long-time soap opera viewer, watching daytime, and night time serials from a very young age.

Marcia is also a food connoisseur, with a particular love of chocolate, and coffee. The morning coffee has always been a staple for Marcia, and something which she cannot do without. There is just something about the fresh aroma of coffee early in the morning, and anytime for that fact, which proves irresistible to her.

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Want to be a guest blogger? I would love to have you on! I am accepting original posts that focus on reading and writing. A picture and a bio are encouraged. You do not have to be published. If you qualify, please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com.

~SAT

#SATurday Author Goals

6 Jun

#SATurday Author Goals

About a week ago, my publisher—Clean Teen Publishing—went to Book Expo of America (#BEA15) to share our novels with the world. Awesome, right? I almost jumped out of my computer chair at the sight (and I rarely leave that chair, considering I’m a writer ::wink::) After that, I basically stalked their LIVE pictures all afternoon and wished I were there . . . which brings me to what I want to talk about.

Author goals.

Everyone discusses word count for the day or hopeful release dates. Sometimes, I even see a confession of wanting to hit the New York Times bestseller list, of dreaming up a day that their novel is a movie, but I haven’t seen a lot of variety in author goals. Main one? Get popular. It’s generally worded differently, of course, but that’s what I generally see, and I want to take a moment to clarify how much I don’t think that’s wrong. (I don’t.) I just wish I saw different types of goals discussed. I don’t know about you all, but I wonder about my author goals a lot. I know I want to be able to travel more. In fact, by next summer, I hope I am packing up and hitting the road with boxes of books in my truck (or on a plane or train or whatever I’m on). I have a set goal for UtopYA, but I also would like to make it to more events than one. That’s currently my biggest goal. (And that specific goal gets bigger for me.)

Here is Clean Teen Publishing at BEA15!

Here is Clean Teen Publishing at BEA15!

Why do I want to travel as an author more?

Well, I mainly want to have the opportunity to meet more readers face to face. I want to shake their hand, hug them, take an Instagram photo with them, sign their book, give them a cookie, etc. Anything really. This is about to get crazy, and it’s a little embarrassing to admit, but I think one of my biggest dreams is traveling as an author but always meeting a random reader (out of a lottery of readers in that city) for coffee. This means that if I meet my goal of traveling more by next summer, you should look out, because I am going to meet SOMEONE for coffee. That is a promise.

This is a goal of mine, and it might seem silly or outlandish or that I’m dreaming too wildly, but traveling is in my bones. I grew up on the road. I travel anyway. I just want to incorporate that part of my life into my writing life, and I want to take it as an opportunity to thank those who have supported me along the road of life. (See what I did there? God, I love cheesy metaphors.)

Sure, a lot of authors want to hit those bestseller lists or have movies made out of their books, but I don’t think those are on my goals. (Not that I’d complain if it happened.) But I think most of my goals revolve around giving out more gifts to readers and meeting more readers (and meeting more writers). I dream of flying to Australia to meet one of my super fans who’s begged me to come out there. I dream of flying my readers out to a major Comic Con they’ve been wanting to go to. I dream of involving readers in my writing process. (And in fact, I think a beta reading opportunity might be coming up soon, so look out for that.) I dream of meeting them, and I think it’s because I am a reader—just as much as I am a writer—and meeting my favorite authors are some of the highlights of my life. Traveling more might help that happen!

This isn’t a promise or manifesto by any means. I’m just a girl with a dream, trying to make it happen every day, and talking about it out of curiosity more than anything else (and a tad bit of embarrassment ::blush::).

My other author goals include sitting on a panel at a literary festival, attending a Comic Con as an author, collaborating on a novel (specifically like Holly Black did with Cassandra Clare, when your characters appear in one another’s novels but don’t’ necessarily affect the story, not the actual collaboration novel they did), teaching a writer seminar for young writers, and seeing a book translated into another language. (The other language dream stems from the fact that I love languages, and I have a deep appreciate for language, especially after studying Italian in college at a fluent level.) And . . . I probably have so many more but those are the ones that came to mind today.

What are your author goals? And if you’re not a writer, what are your reading goals? (For instance, I want to meet Meg Cabot and Ally Carter. I want to meet them SO bad.) Let’s talk about your goals!

~SAT

We’re coming up on one year since Take Me Tomorrow released, but this YA dystopian novel was only available for a few months. Recently, I’ve received a lot of messages about how to get ahold of a copy, and now you can!

By donating to www.ShannonAThompson.com, you will receive an eBook as well as a permanent website slot on the donations page. All the proceeds will go toward book events later this year and next year, so we can finally meet in person. (Think UtopYA.) Once you donate, you can expect an email from shannonathompson@aol.com within 24 hours!

Thank you for your continuous support,
~SAT

Donate & more information on donating

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#WW Writer Problems 1–5

22 Apr

#WW Writer Problems 1–5

If you’re on my Facebook, then you will be familiar with today’s content. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been sharing little cards that I make called Writer Problems. I only have a few out, but I decided that I wanted to share them on here too. So today was born, and hopefully, more days like today will follow. Basically, I’ll be sharing 5 cards at a time and explaining where the inspiration came from (because there are too many hilarious stories that go on behind the scenes of these), and I think many writers can probably relate to my writer problems.

Adding this information since I received an email requesting it: I highly encourage you all to share these photos if you want! Never be afraid to take anything from my website. In fact, I love it! But please give credit to one of my websites. If you want to use these photos, for instance, please don’t crop my website name out. Thank you!

Writer Problems #1

No matter how many times I press SAVE, I still think I’ll lose the entire document when I close it (even though I use a flash drive).

1

I’m currently working on…well…so many projects. Like most authors. But I have a problem. I’m a very neurotic person – very superstitious, very particular, and I have my rituals and my fears and they practically control my life. ::takes big breath:: So, one of my OCD issues is closing documents. I can’t. Whenever I am working on something – like a novel – I seriously struggle to close the twenty documents I have up at all. Even though I also save every five minutes, which is a problem in itself, I say a little prayer before I ever close anything. On top of that, I’ve been known to reopen everything after I close it just to check. And then I save it anything. And I might open it again. It’s exhausting.

Writer Problems #2

Eureka! I have a new idea! Now if I could only finish my other ten ideas… 

2

This goes back to my first problem. I never read one book at a time, and I never write one book at a time. I’m constantly working on different projects at the same time, so it isn’t rare for another project to sneak its way into my schedule. I’ve found that it’s both a blessing and a curse. My biggest issue is picking which novel to write next.

Writer Problems #3

Strangers catching you staring at them because they look like your characters.

3

Oh, goodness. On top of being neurotic, I’m always rather awkward, and one of those things that I tend to do (which often gets me in trouble) is staring at people. A lot. Even if people don’t look like my characters, I’ve found myself staring at someone that I WISH was one of my characters. You would think that I would get better at hiding my stalking eyes, but…I haven’t. I just stare. Creepily from my corner. Taking notes.

Writer Problems #4

Having nightmares about your novel during writing, editing, publishing, and after publication.

#4

It’s sort of like having the classic dream of showing up at school in your underwear. It happens – even though you’re no longer in school – and I find it’s even more frustrating when you’re out of school and have dreams like that. I have dreams of never finishing novels that are already finished. I have dreams of being called the shittiest author of all time. (But I think Honest Trailers already gave that to someone…) I have dreams of characters never coming out and talking to me again. Ah! I could go on and on about all the dreams I have revolving around books, but my heartbeat is racing.

Writer Problems #5

Hearing a song that inspired a novel…and now all you want to do it WRITE.

5

This particular card had a funny backstory to it, but I first have to explain how I make these. Basically, I pay attention to my everyday life, and when something reminds me of a writer problem I have, I create these. So, I might not even be going through what is on the card, but I will be going through something similar. For instance, in this case, I was doing the dishes, accompanied by my handy iPod mini – it’s green – and I Follow Rivers by Lykke Li came on. For those of you who listened to the 8tracks soundtrack for Take Me Tomorrow, you will know that this song heavily influenced my writing time, so just hearing it, made me want to go work on that trilogy. I struggled to continue washing the dishes, and it reminded me of times I’ve been out in public at an event and heard a song like this, which made it difficult to even concentrate at all. Writing consumes you.

Have any of these writer problems affected you? Have any funny stories to accompany them? Share below! And let me know if you want me to continue these cards and stories in the future. If you like them, be sure to follow me on Facebook because that is where I share them first.

~SAT

Writing Tips: Character Profiles

12 Jul

Lots of announcements today before I share my thoughts on creating character profiles:

ShannonAThompson.com hit 17,000 followers! This is truly amazing, and I cannot believe that we’re continuing to grow. I started this little blog without any expectations, but if I had started it with expectations – I’m positive you have surpassed even my wildest dreams. Thank you for your continued support!

Other than that, I partook in an interview with Lit Chic. You can read what I think the hardest part about writing is, but I also have a shout out for all of my readers :D So click here to read the entire interview.

And if you are just now checking in and you’re curious about The Timely Death Trilogy, you’re in luck:

Hines and Bigham’s Literary Tryst reviewed Seconds Before Sunrise (book 2) – Mindy says, “If you are a Young Adult fan and love a book that can make you feel like you are part of the story and part of a different world you have to read this trilogy. I know I love it!” But I have to share her favorite part of book 2. This excerpt happens when Eric is talking to his guard about Jessica and deciding if he should tell her the truth.

“I don’t know how she’d take all of this at once, especially without proof.”

“So, transform in front of her.”

“And give her a heart attack?” I couldn’t imagine her reaction. “No, thank you.”

“At most, she’d faint.”

Read her favorite romantic moment as well as the entire review by clicking here.

If you haven’t read book 1, My Library in the Making reviewed Minutes Before Sunset this week, stating, “One of the top reasons why I enjoyed this book was all the conspiracies.” But you can read the full review, including her favorite quote and favorite scene by clicking here.

Hope you check out Minutes Before Sunset and Seconds Before Sunrise! Your growing support is the ink in my typewriter. Without you, my words would be invisible.

Now, onto today’s post (thank you for sticking with me!)

Writing Tips: Character Profiles 

A few weeks ago, I wrote The Beginning of my Writing Process, in which I revealed many details about how I first start off creating a novel. In the comments, I found a fantastic question about building character profiles, so today – this post is dedicated to Taking on a World of Words. I’ll be discussing three key elements I focus on when building a character profile – something I do BEFORE I write a novel – and I will be using Sophia Gray, the protagonist of my upcoming novel, Take Me Tomorrow, as an example. If you are interested in reading my dystopian book, please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com for an ARC.

1. The Basics

I suggest covering these first when taking down notes because you don’t want to overwhelm yourself by trying to cover a vast amount of complicated information first. So – even though I know the complicated stuff first – I always begin taking my notes with the basics. This includes a small physical description, strong personality traits, and background. This is sort of like taking your driver’s license and adding your personality to it. If you like using pictures for inspiration, then grab some from Pinterest, and build from there. (And never be afraid to change things as long as you take note and edit it in your final draft.) Here’s an example of something you might come up with:

SEG

I don’t normally create photos such as that, but I wanted to show what can be done. Below you’ll find some information from my notes about Take Me Tomorrow. (I had to cut a lot of it to avoid spoilers, but this shows my organization process)

“Sophia (16) Sophia Elizabeth Gray

Physical: always wears her mother’s necklace, curly, brown hair, barely 5 foot, three small scars on her neck from Lily’s black cat, Saga. But she also has scars on her arms and legs from the forest.

Personality: loves running, close relationship with her father and Lyn, a stubborn heart. Prefers sweaters and jeans over dresses and heels.

Background: Born in Albany Region, moved to Topeka Region when she was seven, currently lives with her father, Lyn, and Falo.”

2. Timelines

Create a past, present, and future timelines. This is where things begin to get complicated, but don’t fret. Start simple – with everything you know – and make sure nothing contradicts anything else. From there, I would suggest figuring out things you don’t know (when did your protagonist meet their best friend?) Don’t forget: if you write it on your timeline that doesn’t mean you have to write it in the book, but it is safe to know everything and anything you can think of. I would even go as far as saying you should create separate timelines for each character while also creating one large timeline that shows overlaps between characters. Below is a VERY small example of Sophia’s past timeline. This includes the top five major events that happen before the novel ever takes place.

timeline3. Cover Everything 

I mean it. I know it sounds like a lot of work – and it is – but it will save you a lot of trouble in the end.  I create so many maps it’s ridiculous. I even have a “height’s map” which shows what characters would look like standing next to one another. Another example of a character map I had for Take Me Tomorrow is a map with every character’s home (past and present), and routes that they took from home to school to work (basically, anywhere they walked.)

Basically, you can never have too many notes. If you want to graph out the neighbor’s life who is never mentioned, then do it. In fact, you know the years that I picture Take Me Tomorrow to be in, but the actual years are never mentioned in the novel. Most of all, have fun! Never forget to have fun.

~SAT

goodr

Censoring Myself in the Publishing World

10 Jul

Fantasy is More Fun is giving away tons of prizes to celebrate their one-year anniversary. Check out the raffle by clicking here, be sure to join, and you might win ten novels! Minutes Before Sunset is included!

Censoring Myself in the Publishing World

It’s hard to be yourself in an art industry – as strange as that sounds.

Correction: It’s hard for me to be %100 myself 24/7 in the publishing industry. Perhaps this a fact of life – not just something in the publishing industry – but I have found myself censoring myself about my lifestyle because I’m afraid that I will lose readers if they don’t agree with me. (Personally, I don’t see why we have to agree about everything, but this still happens.) This happens in and outside the publishing world, but I wanted to share the topics I struggle with as an author in order to help other authors talk about their personal troubles. I also hope to take my first step at being %100 honest without fear of reader rejection.

So here is a list of things I have been afraid to mention before:

Books I Dislike and Like:

This isn’t about if they are good or not. I am a firm believer in the fact that books can both be good and be disliked. My personal example of this is Divergent. I just could not get into it. I could not wrap my mind around a society the forces you to be only ONE thing, and the color scheme seemed too simple for such a complex topic. I also felt like it had a lot of religious undertones that made me very uncomfortable. That being said, I still think Veronica Roth is a fantastic writer. I can see a variety of reasons to love it. I can appreciate her prose. On the opposite spectrum, I enjoyed Twilight. There. I said it. Granted, I was 14 when I read it, so it was also marketed to girls my age at the time. I actually remember buying Twilight after a friend told me about it and being reluctant only to go back the very next day to buy the second book that had just released. It wasn’t until much later that I considered the themes in it – when others saw it as abusive, I saw it as just a story – just entertainment. Either way, it still makes me really sad when readers hate on other readers, so that’s why I think I censor myself about my personal book tastes. I don’t want a fan to think I’m attacking their favorite book, because I understand how personal a book can mean to a reader, how much joy and heartbreak can come when a reader loses themselves in a story and how destructive it can feel when others try to tear it to pieces.

I smoke hookah and I drink:

I’m 23, so both of these acts are legal for me, but I try not to mention this about myself because my readers are primarily young adults, and I don’t want to encourage them to do either of the things. As a contradiction, my next novel, Take Me Tomorrow, deals with a lot of themes about drugs in society, including the youth. The sad fact is that many young adults find themselves involved with drugs. This a reality. But my biggest fear is someone telling me their kid blamed me for trying hookah or trying a drink. Here’s another ugly truth: my mother died from a drug overdose. They were legal painkillers prescribed to her. So I know the deadly consequences that can derive from drug use, legal or not. Perhaps – because of my various experiences – I am sensitive to how people perceive me in regards to the drugs in my upcoming novel. Who knows? When I’m asked in interviews “Where do you write?” I find myself struggling to answer honestly, “In a local hookah house.” Because I don’t want other kids to smoke because I smoke occasionally. I know it’s bad for you. I understand this. I am only afraid readers will somehow think I am saying it’s good for you when I’m not.

From Post Advertising

From Post Advertising

Depression associated with publishing:

It happens. I have days where I struggle – just like any person in any industry – but there seems to be a strange stigma associated with artists. If we complain, we aren’t grateful. If we complain, we are selfish because there are so many writers who wish they were published. But can’t we be honest? Can’t we say it’s hard? Can’t we feel sad sometimes, too?

Characters I’ve based off of people:

I don’t directly and purposely try to base my characters off of people in my life, but – as time passes – I can see strong correlations. Still, I am terrified of admitting to my relationships (friends or not) with these people because many of these people are no longer in my life. It feels rude. It feels selfish. Maybe I’ll get over it. Maybe I won’t. But sometimes – when I realize this – I miss them. I miss the characters that were once my closest friends. And I have struggled to even make friends. Since I moved around a lot as a child, friends didn’t last very long. We always moved. But losing friends when I still lived in the same area was an extremely difficult part of my teenage years. I didn’t have to deal with it until I was 15 – and it was hard. Really hard. I couldn’t comprehend how someone I confided in could turn their back on me (or how I managed to turn my back on others.) So when those characters clear up, it can be confusing and unreal and strange, so it’s much easier to deny the possibility that my characters might – in fact – be them.

Certain scenes:

When I was younger, it was easier to be true to the story. I didn’t care what readers thought of a controversial scene, but now I find myself changing them or cutting them out completely – mainly because I or people I have met have gone through many of these trials and I don’t want to stigmatize the victims. I don’t want to hurt them. I don’t want to trigger something.

My personal life:

So you know I have a cat. You know I live in Kansas. You know that I work for AEC Stellar as an author and an employee. You know I lost my mother at a young age and my college roommate. But you don’t know how much I mentally struggle to believe that I created a relatable female character because I struggle to relate to females in general (which I think stems from the fact that I was mainly raised by my father and brother, therefore feeling more comfortable around males.) I’m also more comfortable writing as a male, and when readers ask me about it, I get really uncomfortable about it, because I don’t even know why. To clarify, I’m not uncomfortable with the fact that I enjoy writing as a boy; I get uncomfortable when someone tries to make sense of it, like there has to be a reason for it. I – on the other hand – just want to accept it for what it is. The only other topic I would like to clarify on is that I am not just a “cat person.” I grew up with dogs, and I love and miss my husky, Shadow. (So much so that Argos in Take Me Tomorrow is based off of him.) He was in my life for 15 years. If I had a yard and the proper time and money for a puppy, I would get one. But I don’t. So I have my cat, Bogart, and I love him very much. But I love cats and dogs and pretty much every animal on the planet.

There are ugly parts of everyone’s life and art, but – even though it is common – it is hard to confess to those darker moments. That being said, confessing to those thoughts can help others who struggle with truths they avoid. I like to believe that my “ugly” parts aren’t ugly at all. I am human. That’s what makes us artists.

Feel free to share those things you avoid mentioning below! It’s quite a freeing moment, and I’m glad to share my struggles here, especially if it helps other artists come out with their struggles!

~SAT

I Am Not My Characters

2 Jul

First, I would like to thank Honya’s Bookshelf for nominating ShannonAThompson.com for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. I posted about it on my author Facebook, but here were the three blogs I nominated – A Writer’s Life, EBook Bum, Books are Delicious – and I would love for you all to check them out.

July is here, and I’m beginning this sizzling hot month with a topic that I often get heated about. (Not angry. Just passionate.) As a reader, writer, and employee of a publisher, I see all sides of this topic, but the most common misconception I see is writers believe in whatever the characters or story expresses. I am here to disprove this.

I’ve actually mentioned it before in my article The Top Ten Seriously Awkward Conversations I’ve Had When People Hear I’m A Writer, but here’s the small quote about that:

“7. Why are you pro/con (insert controversial political or religious topic here)?

I’m sorry – what? Just because my character carries a gun on his right hip or gets an abortion or believes God isn’t real, doesn’t mean that I do these things, let alone believe in them. In fact, I don’t have a lot in common with many of my characters.”

When I started publishing, I was really young and naïve. I never even considered someone judging my personal life off of my work, but – to my horror – this happened. (And “horror” is an appropriate word.)

My first novel that I published was November Snow. A lot of characters – mainly young children – die. (It says this on the back of the book. Just saying.) And for some reason, shocked readers seemed to look at me a little different the next day. I even had a teacher ask me if I needed to talk to someone in a concerned tone I will never forget.

To me, this was so surprising because I felt like they looked at me as if the violent world was a reflection of some deep and dark complexity inside my teenage soul, but – in reality – I was just writing a story about discrimination, violence against the innocent, and oppression.

The reason I’m so passionate about this topic – that authors are NOT their fictional stories – is because I felt as if the meaning of my novel disappeared under the concerned wave of my reading peers.

Before you think, “Oh. That was only because you were 16 and in high school.” Here’s a few example from my latest work. (Spoiler Alert for Seconds Before Sunrise. If you want to skip the spoilers, please go to the next bolded line.)

In Seconds Before Sunrise, Jessica goes out with her friends. She drinks. The reader sees her have a few beers and a shot of vodka, but she does mention that she drank more than that in the next chapter. However, I am now being asked if I am such a lightweight. (Because apparently all of us brunettes are lightweights.) I’ve also been asked if I like beer (no) and vodka (yes. Only Grey Goose. What can I say? I’m half-French.)

…sigh…

Just because Jessica Taylor goes to a bar underage with her friends does not mean I go to the bar with my friends underage, that I ever went to a bar underage, or that I’m encouraging kids to get into bars underage. First of all, I’m not underage, and second, I don’t have any friends. If I’m going to the bar, I’m taking my characters with me. (And probably a notepad so I can write interesting stuff down about interesting people who will probably become interesting characters in my next interesting novel.)

Now, if I had to be honest, sure, there are some things I might have in common with my characters. But I have lots of things in common with a lot of people. That doesn’t mean we are the same person. Same thing with characters. One of the biggest questions I’m asked about The Timely Death Trilogy has to do with the physical description of Jessica Taylor in Minutes Before Sunset and how I look.

I get it. Jessica has blue eyes and curly, brown hair. I can see why people might think that’s why she looks a certain way. But there are millions of people with curly, brown hair and blue eyes. And she also has a double identity. As a shade, she has straight, black hair, so she doesn’t always have curly, brown hair. In another point, I picture her hair to be much darker than mine and a lot more maintained. It’s also curlier. She also has blue eyes. Mine are gray – they are technically called “moonlit.” (Awesome.) And she has purple eyes when she’s a shade. When I turn into a shade – wait. I don’t. I don’t transform into a mystical being at night, and if I did, I surely wouldn’t admit to it.

But I try to avoid describing my protagonists in extravagant details, especially since it is written in first POV, because I want my readers to be able to put themselves in their shoes. I don’t want readers to think they are supposed to be in MY shoes instead. And my next novel, Take Me Tomorrow, is told from one perspective, Sophia Gray. She loves her elkhound-husky, Argos, but she hates cats. She absolutely despises cats. If you’ve been following me for a while, then, you already know that I don’t. I’m a cat lady. But here’s a venn diagram – Take Me Tomorrow style – to show difference and similarities.

tmtrefer

Just because a character does/thinks/feels something does not mean that it is a reflection of the author. It’s not some subconscious, multi-personality Matrix. It’s not deep-rooted secrets or twisted desires surfacing under the tip of our almost-empty pens. Sure, it could be that way for some (or even many authors) but not all of us are basing our novels and characters off of our real lives. The art is just art. It’s a story. And that can be a pretty deep and complex experience without the author’s personal life being involved.

I am not my characters, but more importantly – my characters are not me. They are complex and meaningful and questioning and confusing and lovely in their own way, and that’s what makes books so amazing. If I were the protagonist in all of my novels, you wouldn’t be shown a world with clairvoyant drugs or paranormal shades. You would read about me sitting around with my cat. And I think we all know what we would rather read. :]

Sit back and enjoy the read! And if you’ve ever experienced someone thinking you are what you write, please share below! 

~SAT

 

Genders Aren’t Defining Features: Why I’m Tired of Seeing Female Characters Described as Weak and Male Characters Hardly Being Discussed at all.

14 Jun

First, thank you so much for supporting the eBook release of Seconds Before Sunrise on June 12. I wanted to remind everyone that you can get my latest novel for only $0.99 on Smashwords by using the code – BW58C – but you can also go to Amazon and various websites.

Secondly, thank you to Jonas Lee for showcasing me on his website.

And lastly, I have a disclaimer: Today is obviously going to be a heavy discussion. I am not going to pretend that I could cover every little detail that I wish I could discuss. I couldn’t. Not even close. And I was quite sad to see the amount of information I had to delete just to have a reasonable blog post instead of a practice dissertation. That being said, I do plan on sharing more in the future if you would like me to continue this conversation, but I want this to be a positive place on the internet to discuss this topic. From the research I share below, I know how this topic can become highly sensitive very fast. Bullying, stereotyping, name-calling, and other spiteful comments will not be tolerated. I would also like to apologize to those who do not define themselves as male or female. Instead of discussing specifics, I will be discussing the beginning of my research and how the most popular results reflected my frustrations with judgment in literature.

Love,

SAT

Oh, no. I pulled out the gender card. I’m going to be one of those hardcore feminists – (whatever that word actually means ::sarcasm::) – and yes, I will be ranting about the stigmas of today’s world. Watch as people come running, some with popcorn, others with absolute disdain.

What else is new?

It’s a sad fact that I even struggled to write this piece. I’ve been working on it on-and-off for weeks now, wondering what was appropriate, how best to word it, and where to begin, but I should’ve been asking myself one thing: why censor myself at all?

The publishing industry isn’t new to this conversation, so I’m not going to bother with specific character examples. No matter what kind of reader you are, I am sure you’ve heard the debates over various female protagonists being “weak-minded” or “submissive” or “incapable.” In contrast – yes – there are conversations about male leads, but I do not believe they are nearly as judgmental as the discussions that go on and on about female leads.

What’s my proof?

Since I cannot go on forever, I found these two lists:

Yep. The stats for judging females are tripled, if not more, compared to their male counterparts, and that is only one set of lists on Goodreads alone. Even more unfortunate is how much these conversations continue through the depths of the chaotic Internet waves, never-ending, always judging.

Before I continue, I want to clarify that I am not blaming any specific person for this trend. I am not attacking men. I am not attacking women. I am not attacking any of the participants on voting lists or the writers of the articles I am about to share. I simply want to discuss how we – as readers – are judging women in novels more harshly when we shouldn’t be judging any gender at all.

I decided to start where most Internet addicts go – Google – and I knew I wanted to focus on how male and female leads in literature are judged, so I read a few articles here and there when I kept coming across something along these lines: “Author A should be ashamed for creating a character like this for girl’s (or boy’s) to look up to.”

Every discussion generally came back to the author, including an author’s history, religion, or other personal information. As an author myself, this disturbed me because I am adamant that authors are NOT their characters. Yes, some use real-life inspiration but that does not mean that the author intends for a young girl or boy to look up to a fictional character so much that they start repeating their actions. It’s important for readers to separate themselves from characters. (Ouch. I know.) I love characters, too. Some characters I’ve read have helped me through many difficult times in my life, and they will always be close to my heart, but I wouldn’t dress in a green dress to fight demons and fall in love with my enemy just because Serena does that in Daughters of the Moon. And I doubt Lynne Ewing wanted my 12-year-old self to sneak out of the house to fight paranormal crime anymore than my parents did. I am not saying you cannot look up to characters. You definitely can. But there’s a difference in looking up to a character and allowing a fiction world to dictate your decisions in reality.

But I’m moving on from that—(I could talk about that all night)—I want to talk about the next piece of research I did.

What does it mean to be a “good” male or female character?

mint-male-symbol-hiThis is when I returned to handy-dandy Google. I’m about to share the results that bothered me, but I need to take a moment to clarify that this isn’t going to be about how to write that character that will never be judged.

A)   Every character will always be judged

B)   The results are what I’m focusing on because they show how we focus our judgment in gender roles.

Here are pre-typed suggestion results:

When I Googled “How to write a good male character”

  • Pre-Typed Results: How to write a good male dating profile came up first. (Followed by social media profile, THEN character, and then a personal ad)

When I Googled “How to write a good female character”

  • Pre-Typed Results: How to write a good female protagonist came up first. (Followed by female lead, villain, and THEN dating profile.)

It seems we are more nervous writing about a female character than a male character in literature. We’re also curious about villains and leads. But these did not show up in the top four for males.

As frustrating as this was, I continued to Google anyway. I wanted to see the articles. I wanted more insight. I wanted to see what authors “should” be doing and what readers think, so here are the top articles I found: (these articles are informative and amazing pieces. My point is NOT against them, but how we view writing female and male characters in general.)

I Googled “How to write a good male character” These are the first articles that pop up:

Here’s something you should know about me. I HATE the words masculine and feminine. Perhaps because I have constantly been told that I’m a rather masculine girl, “one of the boys”, part of the gang, a “cool” girl. This generally happens because I drive a manual, collect knives, and have seen more dead animals than I would care to admit. I hate makeup, and I wear combat boots every day. I’m used to it. Whatever. What I hate is that these things are “masculine” – that if I do it, I am “masculine” – but so are female characters. In fact, I was reading an article that told female writers to stop having their female characters driving sticks, because it is a lazy attempt to get her to seem deep.

What the actual hell.

red-basic-female-symbol-hiFirst of all, driving a manual isn’t deep. (I should know. I drive one.) It’s learning how to press an extra pedal and move the gears around. Second of all, whether a female is driving a stick or a male is driving a stick, it shouldn’t be seen as masculine or feminine or a blatant attempt to break some weird social stigma we deal with every day. Third of all…UGH. In this belief, there is no winning with female characters. You lose if you use stereotypes and you lose if you don’t because you’re seen as purposely trying to stray away from “realistic” expectations. (This is also where I would like to point out that there are many articles complaining about the various dystopian novels and their female leads being so capable with weapons… I don’t even live in “dystopia” and I have weapons. Try me.)

In case you want the other results, here are the top three articles I found when I Googled “How to write a good female character”

  • How to Write a Main Female Character: this article actually begins stating that female characters are the most complex characters, but I have an argument. We need to stop thinking of women as more complex than men. We’re human. We’re all complex. And a good character – no matter the gender – will be complex.
  • Overcoming Object Love: How to Write Female Leads Who Are People: The title sounds horrible, but the writer does tackle another issue: female characters being treated as “objects, objectives, or incentives.” But it’s terribly sad that we live in a world where we have to CLARIFY that woman are people, too, so female characters should reflect that. I definitely did not see anything close to this on the male results.
  • On Writing Strong (Female) Characters: Again, nothing against the articles. I just dream of a day where articles are based on writing strong characters without focusing on what gender they are.

Just a quick summary: when I research male characters, the results were directed on how women can write them as masculine, and when I searched female characters, I was exposed to objectification. Both of the results revealed gender stereotypes I disdain – both in society and in literature. This isn’t just an article about how we need to stop judging female characters. We need to stop stereotyping male characters, too. But here is my main question:

Can we please stop judging all of our characters based on their genders?

When we do this, we are teaching young readers that they won’t be safe – not even in fiction. That might seem extreme to some, but let’s look at the widely popular complaint: “That female character was weak because of x, y, and z.”

A weakness should never be based on the expectations of a gender, but I would even go so far as to say that we need to stop calling characters weak in general. One (wo)man’s weakness is another (wo)man’s strength, and sometimes, they are the same thing. That is the complexity in literature. That is the complexity of life. And gender shouldn’t devalue the moral ambiguity displayed in various novels in a world filled with so many genres and eclectic tastes. The physical description should be the last thing we mention.

Genders do not define us. They shouldn’t define our characters either. 

~SAT

men-women-holding-hands-hi

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