Tag Archives: writing believable characters

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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#MondayBlogs: Writing Relatable Teens

16 Feb

Intro:

What better way to start off the week than with a great guest post from YA author, Ava Bloomfield? Writing is a complicated journey, but with Ava’s help, everyone can create believable teen characters. Feel free to share your tips in the comments below!

Writing Relatable Teens

Nobody wants to grow up. We learned that in Peter Pan. So how does an adult write a relatable YA character? How does anyone write a relatable character?

It’s a subjective thing; we all know that. It’s impossible to wholly judge a character for their realism while we go about our particular lives, with our particular experiences, in our particular way. It fits that novel writing is such a personal process, in that context; our characters are born from us after all.

AvaSo what makes Charlie from The Perks of Being a Wallflower just as ‘relatable’ as, say, Bella Swan from Twilight?

Some argue those two aren’t remotely comparable. Some would say they’re too different; one is ‘deep’ and one is…well, Bella Swan. It’s all subjective anyway, so how do you guarantee you’ll write a Charlie and not a Bella?

The answer is simply that it depends on the journey, not the character itself. We can relate to almost anything if the underlying themes ring true to its audience.

While Charlie is coming of age, Bella is experience her first love. Or infatuation. Whatever you call it, there are inferences to be drawn. Just because Perks examines abuse and mental health issues doesn’t mean that Twilight’s love story is a vacuous waste of time by comparison. Didn’t Jane tell an unconventional love story with Mr Rochester in Jane Eyre?

Granted, Meyer doesn’t hold a candle to Charlotte Bronte.

But when we put the calibre of any particular writer aside, it’s easy to see that there’s room for any variation on topic. It’s how the writer weaves their message through a character that makes them believable, relatable.

Characters in YA aren’t just reflections of ourselves, or unfathomable things we just dreamed up one day. They’re extensions of ourselves. Teen characters are ghosts of our past, holding hands with today. In my experience, the whole process of writing about a young character is as familiar as it is daunting. We set out to write about a ‘real’ teenager, with battles to face, and through their development we thread together the fragments of our experience.

That ‘thread’ I’m talking about is a sensation that never leaves us. It’s the sensation of being on the cusp of adulthood, unprepared; plunged utterly defenseless into the wolf-pit that is the world. And it’s that thread that binds the YA writer with their characters and entwines them; it’s a natural occurrence. It’s necessary. It’s our link with our former selves, however near or far that is.

But therein lays the opportunity for disaster. By the logic of what I’ve just described, writing YA characters would be purely therapeutic. We’d confront our demons and wrap things up neatly in the end. We’d snuff out conflict in a way we never could in the real world, because we’ve walked that path before. And that’s not realistic at all.

Teen characters have to be monumental screw-ups in one fashion or another. They’re the lessons we wish we’d learned, failing all over again. There’s nothing palatable about success without sacrifice, is there? It’s as true for the protagonist as it is for the writer.

To write an authentic teenager, we give away the depths of what makes us who we are today. It’s not slaying the demon that wins the battle for any YA character; it’s the metamorphosis they experience on their journey. It’s the awareness that they aren’t the same person they were before.

And you, the writer, will have experienced it with them.

Charlie from Perks wasn’t the same come the end. Bella from Twilight wasn’t the same either. It’s all in the journey. It’s in the believability of their transformation.

The reader will experience that metamorphosis and evolve. The writer connects with its reader by way of character. Within that thread of experience, binding it all, is a common vein we share.

Isn’t that why we read YA, after all? It’s more than just an escape, and it’s certainly more than nostalgia. It’s a way of holding hands. It’s a way of saying, ‘I hear you’ that transcends any other medium.

Writing a relatable teen character is like shouting your deepest secrets into the void and waiting for them to echo back to you. Just know you’re not the only one listening out for it.

Bio:

Ava Bloomfield lives by the sea with her partner Matt and their Scottish Terrier, Sputnik. When she’s not busy with her day job as a transcriber, Ava can be found rummaging in charity shops for hidden treasure, mooching about in her local library, or writing her next novel.

Ava writes stand alone books about angsty teenagers. Check out: Honest, All Girls Cry, Leap and Beyond on Goodreads.

Ways of chumming up to Ava: TwitterBlog.

Alternatively, send her a psychic message over the cosmos. She’s not quite tuned into it yet, but she’s certain it’ll happen any day now.

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. If you qualify, please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com.

~SAT

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