Tag Archives: heroines

#WW Help! My Female Character Is Flat

14 Sep

I’m guilty! Oh, so guilty.

While writing my latest manuscript for my publisher, I hit a snag 38,000 words in, and could not—for the life of me—figure out what was wrong with it. Then, I realized what happened.

My female protagonist was flat.

Allow me to back track for a little bit.

I never used to have this problem. When I first set out to write books, I honestly feel like I was a better writer than I am now. At least, in regards to the first draft. I would simply let my work be what it needed to be. Now, I’m bombarded with so many rules and expectations (some awesome, some not-so-awesome) that I end up worrying about what I should be writing instead of worrying about what my book actually is, who my characters truly are, and how things will happen naturally.

Example? Well, let’s go back to where I started. My flat female character. Why was she flat? Because she wasn’t flawed. So, why wasn’t she flawed? Because I was afraid. I kept thinking about all the things readers want (and don’t want) a female character to be. Tough but not too tough. Girly but not too girly. A good friend, a completely independent lover, a strong-minded leader, a determined dreamer, and someone who never faints from total exhaustion from all that perfect-ness.

I take issue with too much expectation, especially in young adult fiction where characters are coming of age and still trying to figure out who they are, what they want, and how they’re going to achieve it. But I get it. I do. As a reader myself, I know readers are harder on female characters, because the world is harder on females in general. I have my moments, too! It’s ingrained into us, after all. But I hadn’t realized how much it was affecting books until my paranormal romance trilogy released last year. Spoiler warning now, I was shocked that my male protagonist could take a two-ton car, throw a hissy fit, and crash it at 100 mph without so much as a blink of judgment, while my female character was called all kinds of nasty names because she went underage drinking with her friends and got into some trouble. Personally, I think his choice was much more destructive considering how he could’ve killed someone else—or an entire car full of innocent people—while her reckless decision really only put herself in danger. (And she was with friends she should’ve been able to trust.) All that aside, though, only one of them was judged. And she was judged harshly. (Shameless plug: I’m talking about Seconds Before Sunrise.)

As much as I wish I could say this didn’t affect me, I think it did.

Now, when I approach my female characters, I’m hesitant to let them make any mistakes at all. I’m afraid to let them cry (because they’ll be deemed whiny), but I never hesitate to let my male characters cry (because when they cry, they are somehow seen as deep and approachable and need to be comforted).

It’s extremely frustrating, because I am also a female, and I know these judgments extend far beyond the pages of my books. It’s also why I fight my own fears to keep my female characters round. In a world that is constantly trying to flatten female characters, I will fight to keep them round. I will even fight myself—my own misconceptions and…well, flaws.

Before, I held myself back, and therefore, I held my female character back, and I apologize for that.

She is not someone I should hold back. She is strong and weak and happy and sad. She’s dealing with trauma and dreaming about the future and falling in and out of what she thinks might be love (but she isn’t sure), and she is reckless for all kinds of reasons. She also cares deeply about those around her…and sometimes she forgets to care about herself, too. But she will do her best and she will make mistakes, and the combination of both is what matters, because that is who she is.

I will not worry whether or not readers will hate or love or judge her, because she is her, and that is who she is supposed to be. And this is her story to tell, not mine.

~SAT

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#MondayBlogs What It’s Like To Co-Author With Your Mother

4 Apr

Intro:

Recently, I had a blast working with young adult author Bronte Huskins and her mother, Sarah Newton. Together, they wrote the novel, Never Mind My Thigh Gap, a story about a young girl joining a model competition to overcome her insecurities while finding friends along the way. (I love this novel, by the way.) When they offered to write an article about their co-authorship, I invited them on here immediately. I hope you’ll enjoy their story as much as I do.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in guest articles are those of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect my own. To show authenticity of the featured writer, articles are posted as provided (a.k.a. I do not edit them). However, the format may have changed.

What It’s Like To Co-Author With Your Mother by Bronte Huskins

The question, “So, what was it like to work with your mum?” gets asked a lot, with the expectation of the answer being, “It was very challenging” or, “It was so difficult and at times I wanted to rip her head off!” But the answer, the real answer, couldn’t be more opposite. Writing a novel with my mum taught me a lot about my writing and actually made me a better writer.

Working with my mum on a novel we are both passionate about was actually a really enjoyable experience. There was never a time where I got so frustrated that I had plotted how I would kill her in her sleep that night. Of course it was hard work; writing a novel is certainly the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, but I think that having my mum there writing it with me actually helped keep my sanity in check. She understood my frustration when the characters were being a bit too moany and cried with me as we wrote the ending. It’s an experience I’m glad I could share with her.

0 (1)The one thing I was surprised about was how much I learnt from co-authoring Never Mind My Thigh Gap. My mum showed me what my strengths and weaknesses were and how to play with them and use them to my best advantage. She taught me that I was great at characterisation, conversation and description, but not so good with the nitty gritty, in-between stuff, which she turned out to be good at. She made me a better writer and we just worked together as co-authors.

We managed to get a rhythm going pretty early on in the process; I wrote the main text and my mum would edit it and write Oscar’s point of view. This involved a lot of sending the book backwards and forwards, and doing it again we realised that it would’ve been a whole lot easier just to send my mum the whole thing once I had written the first draft. We know that now but despite this, I wouldn’t change a thing. It was a learning experience and was a real bonding experience. I can’t imagine writing a novel without her anymore.

My tips on co-authoring with or without your mother.

Start with a plan

The main tip I would give to anyone who co-authors is come up with a plan of action beforehand. Writing this novel could’ve easily turned into a disaster, but we planned the outline of the story before actually writing it. Even though the story did change as we went on, having the first outline was extremely helpful.

Learn to compromise

I would also advise that you learn how to compromise; the trouble with co-authoring is that it’s not just your book, you have to share your baby with someone else. Whilst it does take some of the pressure off, it does also mean that you have to combine your ideas with someone else, and not all of them make the cut.

Be honest

First with yourself and then with the other person. Often the other person may say or do something that you instantly have a negative reaction to. Stop first and think about what they are saying, could it be true, even if a little bit? I remember once my mum saying I use too many words and my first reaction was to scream at her, but she was right – I do and when I got over myself and listened to her, the book was better. Also I felt completely at ease being honest with her and not hurting her feelings. I never held anything back as I didn’t want there to be any tension between us.

Know your strengths

Part of this process helped us both get really clear what our strengths are. I am very good at character development and speech, my mum showing the reader what is happening and the emotional impact of the story. When we realised what we were both great at, it allowed us to settle in to our respective parts.

I know it’s not for everyone, but I found and still find co-authoring with my mum a great experience.

Bio:

0 (1) (1)I am an 18-year-old student at Bath Spa University currently studying Creative Writing and Publishing. My first book ” Never Mind my Thigh Gap” is based on my own experience of entering a model competition to get over my body image issues. I write about ordinary, everyday heroines who are more likely to don a new lipstick than a suit of armour. I want my heroines to be real and relatable, acting like a teenager does in real life; unsure, scatty and indecisive.  With my writing I want to inspire young girls who feel they don’t fit into society’s norm to be comforted by the down-to-earth related characters in our books and realise, in their own way they are heroines too.

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

~SAT

Feminism in YA: Knives and Candy

20 Jan

First, I would like to thank Dahlia Adler for inspiring me to write this post via her article What We Aren’t Talking About When We Talk About Feminism in YA.

Feminism is an important, vital part of my identity, but it’s also one of the scariest words in my life. Why? Well, I have a confession: I’m a bad feminist. I’m afraid to admit I’m a feminist on the Internet. I have no issues with this in RL (a.k.a. real life). In fact, I practically never stop talking about Feminism to my friends and family, but it’s not in any of my Internet bios, and despite reading Feminist conversations on Twitter (and all over the Internet), I mainly nod my head and shout at my computer…but I NEVER say anything on the Internet. I stay silent.

Why?

Because I’m scared.

I’m scared of the retaliation, of the sexual harassment many of these outspoken folks receive, and of the constant berating that happens for months afterward. In real life, I can walk away, but the Internet is forever.

Today’s the day I stop being afraid and I start being brave.

I am a Feminist.

What does that mean?

It means I want equality for both women and men. I shouldn’t have to expand any more than that, but the arguments and stigmas out there cause a lot of problems in many aspects of our culture and lives. That being said, this is a blog about writing and reading, so I want to focus on Feminism in YA, just as Dahlia did. Please check out her article. She tackles important topics, like female characters in STEM-related fields (science, technology, engineering and math) and sports that show how dedicated girls can be. Friendships between girls, relationships between a girl and her mother, and asexual females are also underrepresented, and one of the biggest trends is giving female characters masculine traits to make them heroes…instead of heroines.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with a girl swinging a sword or kicking ass. In fact, that’s pretty awesome, too. But when that same character cries or has a romantic moment, many readers reject the character because she’s suddenly not “heroic” anymore. This idea is really damaging to female characters. It’s the idea that heroines need to be 1-D in order to be respected or believable.

As a reader, I saw this happen with Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas. I LOVED this book. It centered on a female assassin, and she is a tough fighter. That being said, she has also been imprisoned for a couple years leading up to the story, and this recent past makes her a bit weaker than her usual norm. She even throws up a couple of times, and she gets involved with some light romance. Many readers found this combination unbelievable or too girly. “She liked candy! Why would an assassin like candy?”

Maybe because she likes candy? Why do female characters have to solely be one thing? Why can’t they kick ass and like candy? Men like candy too. In fact, I mainly bake cookies for my roommate and my father—both men. I’m not even a fan of chocolate. I’m more of a salty snacks sort of a person. But that’s beside the point…

As a woman, I have many aspects to my personality, both feminine traits and masculine traits. (In the traditional sense.)

I have a knife collection, yet I teared up at that viral raccoon video where he lost his cotton candy in the puddle of water.

As a teen, I got into a lot of physical fights (with girls and boys), but I also cried if someone happened to hug me at the right time. (Not proud of the fighting. Just a truth.)

I drove a stick and shot guns, but I also squealed anytime I saw anything fluffy. (I still do.) I worked in a sports bar…and as a nanny.

I own tennis shoes and heels. I played sports throughout my schooling—basketball, track, and tennis—but I also loved school dances. My favorite activity was running through the woods with my dog and practicing with my throwing knives or with my bow and arrow. (Hello, Katniss. What can I say? I grew up in the Midwest.) Afterward, my husky would be my pillow, and I’d lie down in the forest to read a cheesy romance novel.

I can wield a knife in one hand and eat candy in another.

If I was a YA character, I'm not sure I'd be "believable" (Most of these were taken when I was a teen.)

If I was a YA character, I’m not sure I’d be “believable” P.S. Half of these photos were taken in my teenage years.

My life doesn’t make me any less of a believable person. So why are the characters unbelievable?

It’s an important question to ask in regards to female characters.

A female character—as well as a male character—does not have to be only one way in order to be believable. People have numerous aspects that make up their personality, and they react differently to many types of situations because they are also human.

So, next time your female assassin eats candy or falls in love, maybe we shouldn’t criticize.

Maybe we should talk about how awesome that is.

~SAT

Author in a Coffee Shop, Episode 3 happens this Friday at 7 p.m. (CDT) on Twitter via @AuthorSAT. What is Author in a Coffee Shop? Exactly how it sounds! I sit in a coffee shop, people watch, and tweet out my writer thoughts. I also talk to you. 😉

Come get your books signed on February 13, from 1-3 PM! I’ll be one of several featured authors at a Barnes & Noble Valentine’s Day Romance Author Event in Wichita, Kansas at Bradley Fair. I’d love to see you! If you haven’t started The Timely Death Trilogy, don’t worry. Minutes Before Sunset, book 1, is free!

Minutes Before Sunset, book 1:

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Seconds Before Sunrisebook 2:

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Death Before Daylightbook 3:

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You can even read The Timely Death Trilogy on your new Kindle Fire!

Clean Teen Publishing is giving one away. Enter here.

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