Uh-Oh, It’s Another Rant on How NOT to Write Female Characters!

Oh, yeah, I’m going there…again. And this is nearly kismet-level timing with Marquessa over at The Next Chapter who just published a writing challenge post about Pet Peeves. Check it out, and all of her other posts, too!

While her article covers three pet peeves, I’m only ranting about one of my biggest because you see, I’m really–I mean really–trying to read this book right now and the deeper I get into it, the less and less I like the Female MC. I’m not going to name the book or author here – and I don’t want this taken as a bad review, I’m only going to be focusing on using the Female Protagonist as an example for identical or similar issues I’ve seen in countless books for the same reasons.

I’ll note that it is written in the 1st Person POV. It’s very rare that I run across this problem with 3rd Person POV. I think it’s more commonly a character development issue that arises when trying to write from the inside of a character’s head. Especially, if the personality traits either weren’t fully fleshed out by the writer ahead of time or they’re just too unfamiliar with those traits to successfully narrate through them.

But I can’t help noticing that when a Female Protagonist written in the 1st Person goes into defensive mode, she automatically drops like 10 degrees in maturity level and never regains it.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that it’s definitely a skill, and one that I do not possess. If I wrote in 1st Person, all of my characters would sound exactly the same.

Typically, I know within the first 2-3 pages if I like or dislike a protagonist no matter the POV it’s written in. However, 1st person can be a little sneakier. They can lure you in, get you hooked on the story, then start seriously disappointing you. And that’s exactly what’s happened in this case.

The story hooked me from the start with a powerful opening, the storyline has continued to intrigue me, and all of the other characters are engaging and well-written. And through the first few chapters I was totally on the Female MC’s sidelines with my pom-poms. So, what happened?

She met the Male MC. Suddenly, my confident, independent, mid-20’s, entrepreneurial heroine with a shadowed history and razor sharp instincts had reverted to a naïve, prideful, and often flaky 12-year-old, who doesn’t have an instinct to save her life and trusts everyone who smiles at her.

Uh…WTF? A minute ago she was a badass and now I want unfriend her on Facebook.

Not only that, but a 20-anything-year-old in a present-day story setting has never been alive before the invention of cellphones and all of the modern technology that we are keenly aware of thanks to TV, pop culture, media, and our own love for it – yet she questions how the Male MC could possibly know that she’s not where she’s supposed to be? It’s called GPS Tracking, you [insert bad name here] – it’s on EVERY PHONE. And worse – yep, it gets worse – he told her beforehand. I’m not kidding. He straight up told her that all of her devices are being monitored.

Did she think he was talking about someone else monitoring them? How would he know that if he wasn’t also monitoring them? Yet she’s so confused about how he could possibly know–and this is a prime example of the things that can go wrong that we’re not always aware of because we (as the writer) have all of the information that the readers don’t. In the next chapter, I learned that the Male MC has a hacker monitoring the ATC (Air Traffic Control) and that specific flight. So, the writer was trying to allude to this much grander, more elaborate way in which the Female MC’s every move is being tracked, but without readers having that piece of information combined with their common knowledge of GPS Tracking, this “allusion” has only succeeded in making the Female MC look dumb.

As the stakes are raised and more incidents are stacked in the mounting pile of CONCRETE EVIDENCE labeled “All the ways these bad guys have tried to kidnap or kill you” – the more the Female MC argues with the Male MC about how HE’S being paranoid and that “so-and-so” can’t possibly be a threat (“so-and-so” being someone she’s known less than 48 hours). And she repeatedly asks why she can’t just go back to her old life and alias (a name she already KNOWS the enemy has) in her previous town? (Where her apartment complex was just burned down and 2 of her 3 neighbors were killed and some mysterious guy claiming to be from her insurance company is asking the owner how to reach her even though all insurance companies have their client’s contact information already)….

Okay, I need a breather {Deep breath} – You probably do, too, so I’m going to end the main rant here and move on. Thanks for letting me vent, lol!

How Does This Happen?


Simple: With good intentions.

I’d really like to highlight this problem in a way that all of you aspiring and published writers might find useful, rather than just as constructive criticism. To me, this rampant issue with female characters is a genuine concern because it robs the readers of really great stories, which in turn robs the writers of all their hard work.

Every time I see this sudden invasion of the body-snatchers change happen with a Female Protagonist, it’s because the writer is trying (and failing) to make her appear “strong” and not easily “cowed” by an overbearing/Alpha/dominant man.

And that’s evidenced by everything I mentioned above PLUS the fact that all of her moments of defiance are immediately emphasized by her thoughts of how she’s “not going to back down,” and the next time the Male MC’s POV happens, he will also think about how those ‘stubborn’ ‘fiery’ qualities are so attractive and that her strength turns him on.

For 1) you shouldn’t need these little infomercial blasts to try and “sell” the image you’re aiming to convey of your characters, they should be nailing that image in the readers’ minds through their actions, inner monologue, and dialogue. But these little ‘supporting’ clusters all shouting the same message are painfully obvious, rather than happening within the organic flow of the story.

For 2) she’s not “strong,” if she’s a danger to herself and others. Her stubborn inability to face the truth of the situation has already resulted in 3 innocent deaths and 176 plane passengers nearly dying in an emergency crash landing, where many sustained injuries that required hospitalization. That’s not being a strong woman, and men who find that kind of toxic pride attractive – well, they deserve each other.

Unfortunately, this Female MC is so determined to keep her rose-colored glasses on that every time she thinks about a past incident that correlates with everything she’s recently learned, she brushes it off as impossibly connected to her current situation of danger. I would expect that with the first memory, and maybe even the second, but when you’ve got a distinct pattern of break-ins and signs of stalking that span a full decade and your Female lead is still dismissing it as nothing; there’s something seriously wrong.

And that is not foreshadowing, by the way. If you want your readers to have information without it yet being revealed to or pieced together by your protagonist, then do a scene in the Villain’s POV. Otherwise, the whole dismissal bit as a way to relay info to the readers just makes your character look stupid.

Your women DO NOT have to resort to immature, naïve, and self-destructive, stubborn behavior that may or may not put others in harms way just to “stand up” to a domineering Male MC.

Believe it or not, your strong, independent, mature, female leads can endure the overwhelming conflict between her physical attraction, her instinctual warnings, and her common sense, without losing brain cells in the process. She can still be smart, keep the man at arm’s length while she’s connecting dots and maintain enough of her wits not to constantly put herself in jeopardy just to prove how “independent” she is.

Because, let me tell you, all she’s actually proving is that she’d get herself killed within 5 minutes without the man’s help. What kind of message is that sending to your readers? Why is she suddenly so incapable of surviving without a man when she’s already made it 26 years without him?

Wouldn’t it be better to show them as equally matched forces who eventually have to stop clashing and work together to solve the problem, rather than immediately reducing your strong, female lead into the “damsel in distress” slot and calling it a day? And I’m all for the damsel trope when it’s due to outside forces beyond their control – not caused by their own denial –repeatedly.

Remember: You can build tension and conflict without compromising the core integrity of your characters’ personalities.

And that goes for all genders and all romantic coupling scenarios. A character is a character; they all follow the same rules and guidelines when it comes to fleshing them out.

Okay, everyone I’m ending here. I could pick things apart even further, but I would honestly rather have you takeaway the parts that resonate, help, or make a positive impact in your writing journey than continue sharing my frustration over a book I’m CHOOSING to read (I take full responsibility).

In short, please pay close attention to those negative personality disintegrations that can occur when your female protagonist is suddenly introduced to new upheavals, or that one person that triggers all of their defenses and hormones simultaneously. Yes, they’re going to make mistakes, that makes them real, but they have to learn from them. Characters should be growing with the story; maturing, resolving their inner-demons, not backsliding so fast it makes Benjamin Button’s head spin!

❤ Is it just me or does it feel like a Monday? I’m getting a definite Monday vibe here.

Dear Emoticon Gods,

Please create an emoji that specifically flips off Mondays.

Thank you.

#TacoTuesday

tacoshells

Disclaimer: This post has absolutely nothing to do with food – sorry foodies!

Welcome to a new kind of blog hop, engineered by moi for anyone who wants to join in. This is for fun, creativity, mostly cuz-we-can and designed to work for both readers and writers!

Objective: Every Tuesday I will introduce a new ‘ingredient’ until we have the biggest and best tacos in town. The only things you need are your own WIPs, published works &/or favorite books you’ve read. Answer as a writer, a reader or both, it’s completely up to you. There are no rules against using a different manuscript for each week’s writer answer, but please make sure to tag them with the story’s title so your followers know which books to look out for!

Here we go…

Writers Menu

Taco Shell/Wrap: Share a moment when a supporting character played a part in keeping your protagonist held together, even if it’s in memory.

“The problem is the whole in so deep already, though,” Reyna admitted, once she’d caught her breath. “I mean, he’s everywhere! He even knows my boss, for crying aloud. There’s no place in my life where he’s not already involved.”

Serena paused and softened, giving her a sympathetic look. “You mean like me and Maddy?” she pointed out. “Do you think it was any easier for us? You’re my best friend and his sister. We all grew up together, our parents used to barbecue together. We went to the same schools, the same family outings. Even if we went out separately, the other turned up there or was friends with those who were there. Do you know how long it took for me to get up the nerve just to admit to myself how I felt about him?”

Reyna opened her mouth, then closed it. She’d never thought of it that way before, but Serena was absolutely right. Madison had already been such a huge part of every part of Serena’s life, just like Corbyn was turning out to be in Reyna’s.

“The hardest part was getting past the fear that I would lose everything I loved, everything I’d known, if we didn’t work out. You, your parents,” Serena continued. “At the very least, that nothing would ever be the same again.”

“How did you do it?” Reyna asked quietly, desperate for any kind of wisdom her friend could bestow.

“I just did,” Serena shrugged. “I knew that if I didn’t try, if I didn’t give him or myself that chance, I would regret it for the rest of my life…”

~ Hearthstone Alpha (The Úlfrinn series, #1)

Readers Menu

Taco Shell/Wrap: Which book have you read with a memorable supporting character, and why did you like them?

itbiotc-front-coverMargo from In The Best Interest of The Child, by Felicia Denise. I loved every moment she was on the page, because her character came across with such a genuinely supportive personality. Even though Olivia hadn’t let her in all the way with her traumatic past, Margo was still there for her, without hesitation or judgment. She brought laughter, a shoulder to cry on, advice and even a good ‘shove’ in the right direction whenever Olivia needed it. I really hope we get to see more of her in the second book. (hint-hint!) 😉

This probably goes without saying…but

IF YOU’RE READING THIS, CONSIDER YOURSELF TAGGED!!

 

If you do participate, please remember to leave a ping-back in the comments below, so I can read your post. Happy Tuesday Muses!

You Name It!

Your Next Bad A__ CharacterCharacter names are the topic of today’s post, for both readers and writers, so jump right in! The other day, I was given the option to check out yet another free book and being the cover whore that I am, I couldn’t pass it up. I skipped the blurb and went right for the “Look Inside” feature. I made it through a good portion of the beginning, before I was even given the young woman’s name.

It was my mom’s name. 😐

Not a popular girl’s name in this day and age, especially for an 18 year old – but there it was. Glaring at me. I instantly started picturing my mom in what I knew to be an Erotic Romance novel and hit the back-button so fast my mouse filed an L&I claim.

As a Reader

I understand that this awkward situation depends largely on your genre of choice. I read a variety, but mostly Erotic Romance. So, there are definite names that will immediately turn me off to a book. Main Characters who have the same name as:

  • Any of my parents (I have 4)
  • My Kids
  • One of my ex’s that I cannot stand
  • A real life arch-nemesis – though I love it when they’re the antagonist!
  • And, depending on the circumstances, my nieces and nephews

That’s a lot of names when you think about it. Which, is why I usually feel fortunate and grateful that writers can be so creative with names!

Both of my kids have uncommon names. It’s very rare that I pick up a book and see my oldest son’s name. I have never seen my youngest son’s name used… as a first name… so it doesn’t have the same ‘scarred for life’ affect.

The rest of my family all have more common names. In the case of one niece and nephew, though, their names are sooooooooooo ridiculously common, that I know a dozen other people by their names and for some reason that makes it a non-issue. It’s like I have mental blockers for them, rather than the names, themselves. (Yeah, I’m a little weird).

More often than not, it’s that one ex-boyfriend situation that I run up against. I can’t even stomach seeing his name in print, let alone spend 1 to 300 pages reading it over and over again, picturing him in my mind, instead of the character I’m supposed to be seeing. A hero with his name is the last guy I’d ever root for, no matter what amazing qualities he supposedly has.

Just. Ain’t. Happening.

I’m probably missing out on some really great stories, but it’s not worth the nausea. Am I alone in this? Are you able to overlook these situations?

As a Writer

When I started writing in my teen years, I used names I wished I had, or that I could see myself naming my kids one day. Now that I have kids, I know better – especially with the kind of books I read and write! o_O

Typically, there are 3 different ways my characters can get their names:

1) It just comes to me and it fits. It might even come to me before the actual plot.

2) I get an idea for a story, and as I sketch that out a little more the character names start coming to me, usually as I imagine them be spoken aloud in dialogue. Actually, some of my ideas begin as dialogue, but that’s a whole other post!

3) The character is from another country and I research names until I find a combination that I like or feels the most fitting. I also do this with foreign sub-characters. Sometimes, it’s just their surname, because their first name has already made itself known.

With my Dark Day Isle series, Tessa’s first name came to me easily, then I had to wait for her last name, but I had to research to find Felix’s whole name.

The name Felix, itself, has been around long enough to have a very wide reach. However, in these modern times, it’s more commonly found in and around the kingdom of Luxembourg. My character happens to hail from Metz, which is nearby and politically linked to Luxembourg. I was excited when I came across the name during my research, and knew I’d found the perfect fit. Yes, I love Felix the Cat, too – stop aging us, gaw! 😀

While there’s no rule against using any name you want, it can be really useful to run a deeper search into a country’s various regions, for they each have their own unique traditional and modern list of names. Just searching for “French boy names” never would’ve given me Felix as an option. It only takes a few extra minutes of research, if you’re looking for something more authentic.

Of course, I’ve had characters whose names came to me first and only afterward revealed that they were of a certain heritage. For example: The main male character in my upcoming novel, Hearthstone Alpha (June 1st!) is Corbyn Bruschard. I didn’t choose his name – he did. I think I gave him a duck face, but he was 100% set on it and since he’s presumably ‘the boss’, I was in no position to argue. [insert exaggerated eye roll here].

Bruschard doesn’t even exist in Google’s world. At least not that I have found. Corbyn and his, ahem–pack–of guys, are Scandinavian, so I apologize profusely if Corbyn Bruschard is like the exact opposite of anything viking – you can take it up with the boss. Personally, I’d just let it go… I’ve met his cranky side. 🐺

Readers: Have you ever found yourself unable to read a book–no matter how enticing the blurb–simply because of one of the character’s names?

Writers: How do you come up with your character names? Is it different for each book? Do you have names before anything else, or do you have to flesh your characters out a bit first before their names come to you?

♥Book Blast of “Skin Deep” by Trista Jaszczak!♥

SKIN DEEP - BANNER

Skin Deep - CoverTitle: Skin Deep

Author: Trista Jaszczak

Genre: BDSM/Erotica

Release Date: July 31, 2015

Print Length: 241 pages

ASIN: B00Z1I5006

Cover Artist: Shoutlines Designs

 

WLK synopsis

WARNING: This story contains female submission, a Daddy Dom/babygirl relationship, hot oral sex scenes, and the beginning of an erotic BDSM lifestyle. This is intended for mature (18+) audiences only.

Lola’s top priority in life has always been her tattoo parlor, Skin Deep and for years all she has wanted was for it to succeed. But when two of her employees decide to venture to bigger cities for a change of pace she is devastated and finding replacements proves to be both difficult and stressful. When she does hire River Hawthorne she knows that there is something different about him and whatever it is, she finds it attractive. What she doesn’t know is what River is about to do to her…Or just how much time she’ll spend on her knees for him.

Book Links

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25483605.Skin_Deep

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1UaP6Tk

 

WLK excerpt

River’s POV

You want to have a seat with me in the back? Have lunch together?”

She takes a moment to think about it and finally nods. She follows me from her office to the break room. I can tell that she’s been thinking. If she’s anything like me, she’s thinking about last night. Only I’m willing to bet she’s wondering what she did wrong, why she did what she did, and what she is going to do now. I want to tell her that she didn’t do anything wrong. But to feed her the cliché line of “it’s not you, it’s me” seems like a whole lot of bullshit at this point. I could easily man up and just tell her…but then I risk not only being fired but losing her altogether. Makes me hate being so fucked up. She looks at me with sad eyes as she has a seat at the table.

I pull out a chair across from her and begin sitting our food and drinks on the table. I look up at her with my eyes and catch her staring. She quickly looks away and purses her lips. It doesn’t seem to be sitting well with her either. I’m reducing her to nothing more than a fucking one night stand. What a dick move. I open a straw and place it in one of the thirty-two ounce cups and push it over to her. “Have a drink.”

Her cheeks fill with color and she takes the cup, bringing the straw to her lips. She has a quick sip and looks away from me and down to her right. She can barely look at me. Not like I can blame her. She presses her lips around the straw for a moment and I catch her eyes again. She hurries to look away as she sets the cup on the table. I start pulling her food from the bag. A bacon cheeseburger and a large order of fries from Pepper’s Bar and Grill just down the street. “Hungry?”

She finally looks at me and gives me a little nod. “Starved, actually.”

Then you shouldn’t have told me that you didn’t want anything,” I say. “You have to eat.” I begin unwrapping her burger and place it front of her. She looks up at me confused as I sit down and grab my own burger and fries.

I’m just trying to keep the shop running,” she explains. “I have to work your schedules around all the appointments you have all while making sure someone can be out front in case we have walk-ins.”

Understandable, but you can’t just not eat. It’s not good for you.” I say, diverting my attention to my burger. I look up slightly and see that she is chewing quietly but seems to refuse to look at me as she reaches for her cup and has a drink of pop.

Sometimes I just forget.”

Well,” I start, “you shouldn’t. It’s not healthy.”

She gives me a silent nod as she still looks to my left.

Something interesting over there?” I ask, wiping my mouth with a napkin.

Her mouth drops and her eyes move to meet mine. “I’m sorry…I just…” Her voice trails and she looks up at me with the saddest blue eyes I’ve ever seen in my life.

Lola, this doesn’t have to be awkward,” I tell her. “Things happened really fast last night. I never wanted to make things like this…I just…see I have this thing…” I stop my words and watch as her mouth drops.

Oh, my fucking God.” Her blue eyes go from sad to angry quickly as she pushes her food away.

I shake my head. “No, that’s not what I meant, see, I just…there’s this thing about me.” Out with it, dude. Tell her. Tell her now. Tell her what you are. I look down at her burger that has no more than two bites taken out. “You should eat some more. Two bites will not help you. I know it’s not exactly healthy, but it’s something.”

Do you have a fucking girlfriend?” She snaps in a loud whisper, leaning across the table.

I shake my head furiously. “No! I wouldn’t do that!”

Some disease?”

This one just makes me laugh as I sit back and shake my head. I lean back in my chair and shake my head. “No, I don’t have some STD that I didn’t tell you about.”

Then what?”

You should sit back, calm down, and eat your fucking food, Lola.” I tell her.

Then what?! Just tell me?! What thing do you have?!” She looks directly into my eyes. She’s worried, she’s scared, and she’s a mess. I can see that all in her eyes. She pouts slightly and gets up. “It was fun…really, it was great. I hope you like your job here.”

I love my job,” I tell her, being completely honest. “I fucking love it. Which is why I don’t want to lose it.”

She pouts again, this time crossing her arms and nodding as she starts to walk away.

Lola, sit down, now,” I command her.

She turns to look at me, shocked at my order. Her mouth drops and her arms slowly fall to her sides.

Sit down and eat, now.” I order.

She reaches for the chair and pulls it out slowly. She looks at me, pouts, and finally has a seat, taking a bite of her burger. I look away and smirk slightly. All I can think to myself is good girl.

 

WLK Author Bio

 

T-Jaz-July2015

Trista Jaszczak (jazz-ick) is the author of the Believe series (reinterpreted fairy tales), and upcoming relaunches, Loverboy, What Lies Inside and the Darkness Falls series. She is an Air Force spouse and mother to two mischievous and rambunctious little girls. She is originally from Hamilton, Ohio but calls home where ever the Air Force sends her. She currently resides in Anchorage, Alaska where she finds endless inspiration in the pure Alaskan wilderness. When she isn’t writing, she spends her time with her family in the vast Alaskan outdoors, plucking away at her old guitar or working on self-improvement in the gym. She loves the outdoors, the moon, old movies and music.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorTristaJaszczak/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/authortrista
Tumblr: http://naughtyeroticaauthor.tumblr.com/
Website/Blog: https://naughtyauthornicetrista.wordpress.com/
Amazon: http://amzn.to/1eE3wLu

presented by:

WLK Book Promotions

Rape and Incest and Ogres, Oh My!

SleepingBeauty

image source: http://www.swide.com

Alright, here’s a long one for you lovely thinkers to contemplate over the weekend and I know it’s like beating a dead horse, but I can’t help myself!  With a show of hands, how many of you know the true origins of your favorite fairytale?  I’m just kidding, I can’t really see your hands. You can put them down now.  Nothing about the title of today’s post is a laughing matter, by any means, but did you know that they play a major role in your favorite princess’s tale?

Warning: We’re about to enter geek-mode, strap in and grab your fanny survival packs.

The Grimm… er, grim…fact is that our beloved Deutschland brothers took quite a bit of creative license when they set out to ‘collect’ the oral legends.  Maybe some of you already know this, and that’s great! That means you might have a select fable of your own that gave you a moment’s pause upon reading the original version, right?  I know, I do!

Dornröschen or Little Brier-Rose was hardly the first version of the Sleeping Beauty tale.  In fact, it wasn’t even the only Sleeping Beauty themed story the Grimm’s ever told.  There was another one tilted The Glass Coffin, where a cursed princess is freed by a tailor, and then they set out to release her entire kingdom from enchantment – only the antagonist is a traveling male magician and not a malevolent fairy.  When Disney got a hold of this story, he pawned the glass coffin off onto Snow White.  Poor girl, she can never catch a break.

Has anyone ever heard of Charles Perrault?  Please, don’t raise your hand.  In 1697, two-hundred years before the Brothers Grimm published their book, Monsieur Perrault published his own collection, which included The Sleeping Beauty or The Sleeping Beauty in The Wood… only, you know, in French.  The stories didn’t differ that much, except that in this earlier version, the prince never got the chance to kiss his princess, before she just woke up.

Actually, there isn’t a single Sleeping Beauty story, where “True Love’s Kiss” exists at all.  Grimm and Perrault’s version simply places the prince in the right place at the right time – the exact moment the 100 year sleeping curse is over.  Talk about falling for a guy for his promptness!  The Magic of Love was definitely a Disney gimmick and it worked like a charm… yeah, I could totally play on these words all day, but I won’t, because…

SleepingBeauty2

image source: the-dark-side-of-fairytales.tumblr.com

You’re still wondering what any of this has to do with rape, incest and ogres?  I’ll tell ya.  Before Monsieur Perrault, there was an even earlier version of Sleeping Beauty written by a guy named Giambattista Basile (^5 to anyone who can pronounce it) titled Sun, Moon and Talia, ca. 1634 and according to Wikipedia, there’s a Sleeping Beauty theme in a part of the Perceforest (a collection of romantic prose spanning six volumes published between 1330-1344), where the “prince” rapes the princess in question while she’s still sleeping.  Call it ‘unconscious intercourse’ all you want, dude, it’s rape.

In Mr. Basile’s version, Talia doesn’t wake up, but gives birth to twins (sun & moon) who upon searching for nourishment, sucks the poisoned flax from mom’s finger, thus waking her.  It has nothing to do with love or a 100 year deadline.  In fact, though Mr. I’m Too Sexy For Conscious Sex is so taken by the sleeping beauty, he forgets all about her when he returns to his kingdom, marries someone else, and then ‘suddenly’ remembers her and begins having an extramarital affair with her behind his wife’s back – who…drum roll, please…happens to come from a line of Ogres.

The ogre theme was carried over in Perrault’s version, only the woman in question was the Prince’s mother, instead.  Both she-ogre’s attempt to have the princess and her child(ren) murdered and fixed as dinner she then happily feeds to her cheating/secretive husband/son… ugh, you get the point: Ogres bad!

Poor Brier-Rose/Talia/Dawn whatever the hell her name is, isn’t the only unfortunate princess.  There are countless “Cinderella” stories that covers the highly taboo subjects of incest and domestic violence, where the princess was lusted after by her own father and then upon meeting the ‘prince’ while disguised as a servant, is repeatedly abused until he discovers that she’s the mysterious princess that he’s been dancing with at the ball.  Nice guy.  Yeah, I’d totally pick him over everyone else.

In conclusion, there isn’t a single one of our beloved fairytales that began as the enchanting, romantic story we grew up reading/watching thanks to Mr. Disney.  About the only one he copied nearly to a T was Belle et la Bête (Beauty and The Beast) written by Marie Leprince de Beaumont in 1756, yet the Grimm Brother’s didn’t base their tale from this version at all.  Go figure.

p.s. I could get really geeky on you, and go all of the way back to the Old Norse Sagas to point out the similarities between Sleeping Beauty and Brunhilde… but I’ll be nice and save that for another day. 🙂

Friendly challenge: Find an older/original version of your favorite fairytale and write a post about the differences between it and what you’ve always thought it to be.  Which version do you prefer? Which parts are better than others?  Which parts shocked you the most? Make sure to leave a pingback in the comments below for your post, I’d love to read it!  Have a great weekend everyone!

A Fear of Reading?

Have you ever stopped reading a book, because you were afraid of what was going to happen next?

I can’t recall if I’ve ever experienced this situation before. I started reading this book (won’t name names. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone else) awhile ago and can’t seem to bring myself to pick it back up again. The crux: It’s not only my favorite genre [erotic romance. Surprise!] It’s by one of my all-time favorite authors!

The dilemma I’m having is that I fear the protagonist is on a downward spiral into ultimate ruin. A total train-wreck of self-destruction that I simply can’t bear to witness. Have you ever been too empathetic to watch one of your beloved characters crumble?  Do you feel embarrassed for them when they embarrass themselves?  (I do that mostly with movie characters, ha-ha!)

In truth, there’s a lingering mystery surrounding the main character’s misadventure that’s alluring and will probably tempt me back into the book, but it seems I’m using whatever excuse I can to put it further and further off into the future. I have this problem with not being able to not finish a book once I’ve started it – even if it’s a really bad book (again, I won’t name names).

That isn’t the case in this situation, of course. The writing, as always with this particular author, is phenomenal, the characters are intriguing, the scenery perfectly detailed, etc, etc, etc. I know, “just pull up your big girl panties and read the book, already!” I’m getting there. Eventually.

Until then, what books are you enjoying over the Holidays?  Any recommendations?

Lost Signal

writers-block-motivational-poster1

Today’s NaBloPoMo prompt feels like a recurring theme for me lately, so I’ve decided to break the questions apart in order to inspect them each as personally and honestly as I can:

Have you ever had extended writers’ block?

What writer hasn’t?  Okay, I know that’s not making it personal.  So, the answer is yes.  Painfully, uncontrollably, frustratingly, yes.  Unfortunately, my creativity seems to be on vacation far more frequently than it’s at work and the length of the former always outlasts the length of the latter.  In fact, I’ve been experiencing a bout of writer’s block for the last week or so. Which leads us to the next part of the question…

How long did it last?

Months.  Literally months upon months.  Those are the worst times.  When I’m lucky, it will only last a few weeks or less.  Sadly, I’m typically not that lucky, but I have been attempting to correct that issue by applying those ‘tools’ others advise to use or claim to work for them.  I’ve even gone so far as having my kids choose words for me to use in some way on my blog, whether it be in a poem or short story, anything to try and kick-start that inspiration back into working order again.  So, now we’re left with the last part of this question…

What did you do to break out of it, and do you have tips for other bloggers?

The best way to explain my version of hell writer’s block is that it’s like the cell tower to my creativity goes down, causing the signal to my brain to completely drop.  Not only do I lose my ability to connect words together into a decent sentence, I lose my drive to.  My desire to.  I will sit and stare at my computer screen like a brainless zombie, absolutely no activity going on upstairs.  No sparks firing through the old lobes to assist in my dilemma.

I’m still trying to figure out how to ‘break’ out of it, as it were.  In all honesty, I generally just have to wait it out.  Wait for that invisible crew to get the cell tower back up and running again.  Inspiration will come slowly or in one, powerful burst.  I guess it just depends on that blasted signal.  As such, I don’t really have any tips for other bloggers, only a few things I do to try and put a rush on the process:

♠ Read.  I will use my writing downtime as an excuse to get caught up on my reading, because I’m always behind on it. Sometimes, I get lucky, and reading will cause inspiring ideas about my own books to start forming in my mind.  When I can’t wait to finish a book in order to start applying those ideas to my own, I know I’m in a good place.

Blog Daily.  Even when I’m not participating in NaBloPoMo, I still try to blog every single day.  Even if it’s just to complain about having writer’s block, at least I’m writing something!

♣ Take Advantage.  Rather than stressing about not being able to write, I use the time off to get caught up on other things I enjoy (or that desperately need my attention, like housework!) I hang out with friends, get my holiday lists together, read that mail that’s been piling up in the ‘it can wait’ bin…   If you have other hobbies, like painting, drawing, needlework, etc., then try to relax into one of those.  Who knows, maybe those other things will help inspire you faster than staring at the cursor blinking on your story’s document like a ticking time bomb mocking your every attempt to think coherently.

Or if you’re a gamer, like me, you might even enjoy turning the old PS3 on and blowing stuff up to work some of those frustrations out in a non-destructive manner.  Plus, it’s just plain fun and writing is work.  Life can’t be all work and no play, even creatively.

Get Your Read On

Reading2

The Daily guru’s are calling today’s Prompt “The Great Divide.”  Codswallop!  There’s no division in reading, that’s arithmetic – which I loathe like the dentist’s chair!  Just for that, I’m ‘dividing’ your two-part question!

When reading for fun, do you usually choose fiction or non-fiction?

Both.  I’ll normally choose fiction when I want to be entertained, get lost in another’s creative imaginings.  But…

When I’m extremely interested in something, I will read everything about that subject I can get my hands on! I find that equally as fun and/or fulfilling.  Not to mention, like most writers, I want my books and characters to stand out, so I research in order to try to find different ways to tell the same ol’ tales.

Now, have I ever found manuals/text books/articles/etc. that I’m ‘required’ to read fun?  Pfft, no!  Most people (aside from Literary students) don’t enjoy the things they’re forced to read, whether it’s for work or school.  My eyes cross, the words blur and my comprehension level drops to subzero.

Reading1

Do you have an idea why you prefer one over the other?

Uh, hmm….  Well, I guess I started out reading fiction as a child, then progressed to researching.  I spent several years looking for the real Dracula, reading everything I could find on Vlad Dracul III, Prince of Wallachia, aka Vlad Tepes “The Impaler,” while simultaneously researching Ancient Egypt.  Mostly, I think I was driven by the idea of ‘discovering’ the answers to long-standing mysteries. (That was all pre-internet, too, when we used this funny building called a Library!)  In the interim I was breaking up the tedium with fiction books like Magic’s Pawn by Mercedes Lackey, Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice or The Secret Circle by L.J. Smith.  I saw one as learning and one as relaxing. I know now that that was a wrong assumption.

I will always prefer Fiction because I enjoy reading and writing fiction.  “Read what you write” – oh, I do!  And despite what some people believe, you truly do learn how to write by reading the things you enjoy most.  You learn how to structure sentences and hone your ability to discern styles.  You also expand your vocabulary – a lot!  Just, please, do not tell my kids that they’re learning or I’ll never get them to read again! 😉

I will always prefer Non-Fiction in the form of research, real-world topics that interest me, and genealogy.  “Truth is stranger than fiction” – boy, ain’t that the truth!  I never knew just how much, until I started doing my own family research.  I’ve even shared some of those stories with you all here.

As far as the great divide goes, I say “Read and let read!”  No matter what you prefer or why, reading is a vital tool for entertainment, inspiration and knowledge that everyone should have the right to enjoy.  I don’t really see a point in arguing over which is better, but I suppose if you have nothing better to do, then by all means…

Reading3

…I have far too many books to read, subjects to research and manuscripts to write, myself.  Am I alone?  Let’s find out:

  1. Fictional Facts | From Balderdash To Epiphany
  2. Boring | Gut Honest Faith
  3. Daily Prompt: The Great Divide | VexingPoint
  4. A Song A Day Keeps The Sadness Away #34 | Life Confusions
  5. Non Fiction Is Not Boring, I Repeat – Not Boring | Really Just Words
  6. Daughter Of The Ganges – Asha Miro | Our Gorgeous Chaos
  7. Timeless Pleasure | My Daily Minefield
  8. Fiction or Non-Fiction…it’s all the same | Ryan Erickson Writing
  9. What’s Ur Poison? | Ripples N Reflections
  10. Fiction! | Just Writing!
  11. The Great Divide: Philosophical Non-Fiction | Rubber Tyres –> Smooth Rides
  12. On Writing | Risingrave28
  13. Adventures Neverending | Mojowritin’
  14. The Great Divide | tnkerr – Writing Prompts and Practice
  15. (NO)N FICTION! | The Undaunted Blue Madness Of My Life
  16. 50/50 split | Designer Sophisticate
  17. No Divide Here | Prairie Views
  18. The Great Divide: Fiction Or Non-Fiction | Awake & Dreaming
  19. Hail Fiction…daily prompt | Saya…D Poet…
  20. The Great Divide, really?? | perferviddreams
  21. The Great Debate | Passion through Poetry
  22. Of Fact or of Fiction | The Lark’s Roost
  23. Why Else? | you ain’t special
  24. Fact or Fiction | A Day In The Life
  25. The Great Divide | A Little Fluff
  26. Longest Reading Queue, Purely For Fun | TyroCharm
  27. I love reading | Life as sirli
  28. News Blues | Lifelessons – a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown
  29. Fact or Fiction | Seeking An Enriching Life
  30. My Fiction: functionally non-fiction | A Nameless Space
  31. This is How I Read! | Sweat, Tears and Digital Ink
  32. Stranger Than Fiction | Ginger Musings
  33. Fiction or Non-Fiction? | My Creative Writing Log
  34. Fiction For Me | Tony’s Texts
  35. It’s Not the Genre That Matters | ROUND THE WORD
  36. Fun but not Facts | Takeshi’s Flight
  37. Fiction Rules | Musings of a Soul Eclectic
  38. Fact – Stranger than Fiction? | agonyandecstacy
  39. Give me Fiction or Give Me Facts | Monkebus
  40. Fiction vs. Non-Fiction? Seriously? | I’m a Writer, Yes I Am
  41. The Great Divide | A Penny For Her Thoughts
  42. Fact or Fiction | Rideo, Ergo Supero
  43. Fiction or Non-Fiction | My Simple Life
  44. Faeries and Fiction | A Teenage (Poet’s) Life
  45. This isn’t Real is it? | The Daily Blabber
  46. NO GREAT DIVIDE | SERENDIPITY
  47. JUST READ | jk109
  48. LOST | A lot from Lydia
  49. “Who am I?” – a bookworm’s introspection | Writer’s Abode
  50. The Great Divide – let’s upload a book | Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss
  51. What Happens to Me | Flowers and Breezes
  52. The Great Divide | Raven Haired Girl
  53. ~Daily Prompt~ The Great Divide | My Book Self
  54. The Bibliophile in me… | Berryduchess
  55. The (non existing) Great Divide | Estelea’s Blog
  56. I will carry your dreams.. | The Wandering Poet
  57. Does it Matter? | joatmon14
  58. The Great Divide | Vintage 1956
  59. The Great Divide | Amanda Ho’s Blog
  60. Non-Fiction Is My Bag | From Slacker To Scribe
  61. No Frictions in Fictions? | Hardethaewoh’s Blog
  62. Choosing Sides – The Great Divide | Thoughts of a crooked mind
  63. I’m more like Archie… | djgarcia94
  64. How To Tell Fact from Fiction – Five Tips | Emotional Fitness
  65. Reeding is Gud! | The Brie’s Knees
  66. Fiction Baby! | Giving Thought
  67. THE GREAT DIVIDE | stream of consciousness
  68. Daily Prompt – The Great Divide | RobertMcQ
  69. Post A Day: Fact or Fiction? | Corinthia Lynne
  70. Over the other one | Pigeon’s Blood Ruby
  71. Escape From Reality | The Sunny Narrative.
  72. The Great Divide | Daniel Gregson
  73. The Great Divide | Life, Lyrics and Lemoncake
  74. Fact or Not-Fact | The Gad About Town
  75. For non-fiction we have real life | Camembert & Chocolate
  76. Page Turners | Thoughts From the Front
  77. the great divide | crystal blue persuasion
  78. Being Fictional! | All Things Cute and Beautiful
  79. Fiction or Nonfiction? | Words from the heart
  80. The Best President That Never Was | This Blog Needs A Title
  81. The Written Word | Day to Spade
  82. Fantastic Flights | Barryjack’s Place
  83. The Big “What If?” | A Just Man Is Hard to Find
  84. I read what I read | Willow’s Corner
  85. I ♥ Grammer | wtf Am I On About Now?
  86. Fun of the Fiction | Halfway Amazing
  87. to Fiction or Not to Fiction? | brian writing
  88. The Great Divide | INSPIRING MAX

Dr. Author / Ms. Reader

dr-jekyll-and-mr-hyde1Are you like Jekyll & Hyde when it comes to reading and writing?  Are you far more critical of another’s book than you are of your own, or do you find that you’re overly hard on yourself?

What’s your favorite part of a book?  Do you rush forward, skip over the details to the dialogue or vice versa?  Do you savor each page knowing it will make getting to the meat of the story all the sweeter or do you read so fast you barely absorb the trivial in order to get to the hot and steamy sex scenes??  (I know, right!)

It’s difficult, as a writer, to find any kind of niche these days in a world full of so much competition.  I know what does it for me as a reader, and I wonder if that’s why I write the way I do.  I write the way I wish all of the disappointing books I’ve ever read had been written.  But could that lead to over-compensating?  Inundating my own books with things I felt lacking in others, and thus creating too much rubbish for my own readers to wade through?

I’m not sure.  I find myself quite aware while I write, of how the pages would be judged by myself, as a reader – but not all readers are the same and I guess that’s what makes being a writer so great.  If all readers were the same, than no one would be published except for that one author that got it right the first time and all of their copy-cats.  So, as I’m plugging away at my keyboard, a mere puppet on the strings of my characters – my reader-self is sitting in the director’s chair ready to yell “CUT” without warning.

Too much detail is boooooorrring.  Seriously, I will skip it even in some of my favorite author’s books. If the various shades of the Bougainvillea in the early morning dew isn’t moving me forward along the story’s path, I don’t care how it freaking smells – especially if I just spent three pages reading about the rest of the damn pointless garden.

Not enough detail leaves me wondering where I am and what my surroundings are supposed to look like.  I feel like I’m floating in limbo – and one of my biggest pet peeves is when characters are having a conversation in the car in one sentence and in the next they’re in a cafe eating crepes without the writer telling me that we even left the freeway.  Hey, I’m all for beam me up Scotty teleportation but I need to know that’s what we’re doing here!

Another thing is that I’m kind of a stickler for certain descriptive details.  Don’t have me imagining the hot, dreamy hunk-a-muffin with blue eyes for half of the story and then tell me they’re green or gray or brown or whatever on page 60.  How can you not know the color of your own character’s eyes, dear author?  Only you can picture your characters far more clearly than you could ever hope to describe them, so I just don’t understand how this mistake happens – but I’ve seen it happen.  I even went back to the beginning of the book to make sure I wasn’t crazy – turns out, that’s still debatable – but not about the blue eyes!  I don’t want to read a book that makes me question my own memory and then wonder about yours.  It’s distracting.

That’s an area I find myself in a state of paranoia over when it comes to my own writing.  I keep an abundance of notes, and if it’s a series I’m working on, I will keep the first book open on my task bar as a point of reference while working on the second or third.  Not for eye colors, though, that’s just mind boggling when it comes to a main character.

So, these are just some of the small things that have, over the years as an avid reader and as an e-book reviewer, stuck in my mind while I’m writing.  I’d like to think that gives my books a little something different, maybe nothing as spectacular as an actual niche, but a little boost to whomever my readers end up being.  I’d like my books to be the whole package.  The whole shebang.  The whole kit-n-caboodle.  The whole nine yards… This is an example of over exemplifying and like redundancies, should be avoided at all costs…

Never mind, I’m broke!

I like the whole wrapped in a bow, completely superb from beginning to end kind of books (like you didn’t see that coming).  A book that paints the scene with good details, where the dialogue is enthralling and the plot has some action, some humor, plenty of hot and steamy sex – or at least a fair amount of sensual undertones, overtones, everywheretones – and most importantly – strong, believable characters.  Unless described as having the emotional depth of a Vulcan, characters should have ‘normal enough’ reactions to things.  If you find yourself thinking “there is no way any sane, rational person would have reacted that way” it implies that up to that point, you were led to believe that the character was sane and rational.  I’m not saying insane, irrational characters shouldn’t exist, but if they are whack jobs, make sure the reader knows that before you have them smiling and inviting Michael Meyers in for a cup of tea, k?  K.

Another preference when it comes to characters, is that they stay true to who they are throughout the entire story.  Their core personality, sense of morals, that kind of thing, should remain intact.  Even if they grow in maturity, actual age or from that stupid tempting bottle labeled “drink me” – a character can’t go from being a sociopath to Mother Theresa in 150 pages, unless the entire plot of your book centers around the marvel of a new kind of brain surgery in the year 3154 that cures all mental health issues.  Or a magic portal always works, too. It’s in the “If all else fails” box in the corner next to the shelf of clichés under the sign that reads 1001 misused words.

Some things, as a writer, though, you may never want to change even when you hear others criticize or complain about it.  Stephen King states how much he dislikes the use of dialogue attributes in his book On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft.  I happen to like dialogue attributes both in reading and in writing.  I’m sorry, but I can’t stand the constant use of the word ‘said,’ it drives me crazy.  My eye literally gets all twitchy when I’m writing or editing and I see said, answered or asked too frequently – and I don’t feel that clarifying a character’s reaction or emotional state in dialogue is career suicide, even though I understand Mr. King’s reasoning.  I mean, come on, which would you prefer?

“Mine!” He growled lowly.

– or –

“Mine!” He said.

Sorry, Mr. King.  As much as I respect your advice, I would choose option one, hands down, every time.