The Novel Road by Bren Kyveli

Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.

-E. L. Doctorow

I have been working on my first novel for a year now, but if I’m being honest I’ve not been serious about it. It’s always just something I work on when I don’t have anything else and even then only half assed. I guess subconsciously I put it so far up on a pedestal that it sort of became this magical, unobtainable glass ceiling that only “real authors” were allowed to achieve. Continue reading

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(un)Suprising Feminist Writing

I am a feminist. I make no bones about it.

This is reflected in my characters and storylines. Mina loves clothes AND hitting people, but more importantly, nobody finds that odd. Conversely, Rick and Sam are bad ass demon hunters who are also super caring, homey people. Sam does almost all the cooking, and Rick is, in universe, a calming, soothing presence. And, more importantly, nobody comments on these behaviors negatively.

On the other side, neither does anybody look down on the non-action characters, male or female. Jeff is a non-action oriented, male hero. He’s the cleric (if we want to get really geeky, and I usually do.), and is well respected by the monster hunting community.

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One of my big beefs, as a feminist, is the fact that male villains are almost inevitably rapists. Look, I know the stats on sexual assault, and I’m not saying that we should ban rape and sexual assault in media.

On the other hand, can we not also admit that making almost every villain a rapist is lazy writing? 1, it short-changes men and their emotional depth (as usual), but 2, it reduces rape and sexual assault to the mundane. A paltry banality that every captured female character “must” suffer.

And I realize that this is a fairly heavy topic for me, so let me explain where it’s coming from.

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I’m working on my novels these days. It’s a series, and I have this former couple, Edie and Randal.  She broke up with him and took a vow of abstinence. In Book One, Randal was pretty much the bad guy, sullen and uncooperative, usually ruining whatever team building Edie managed to do.

The books begin knowing that they broke up nearly a year before, but not what lead up to it. Now in Book Two, I’m getting into it. So to sum up, he’s angry, and she’s trying very hard to ignore it, because they work together, and if people think there is a chance she’ll break her vow of abstinence, they will kill Randal. Which she doesn’t want. Because his jerkass tendencies aside, he’s still important to her. It leads to this exchange:

“What happened the night Edie was invested?” Miguel asked.

The memory of Edie’s tear-streaked face as she ordered him out of her rooms haunted him for a moment. “Ask your sister,” Randal responded, unable to do anything but snarl and glare.

“I’m asking you.” Miguel’s rock-hard  tone demanded obedience.

“I’m not sure which version Edie prefers these days.” It was a cheap shot. But the truth would likely end in his exile, if not his death. Edie was keeping her mouth shut, and he’d do the same.

While reading this passage out loud to my husband, he stated that I needed to change it, because it sounded “rapey.”

Now, both of us know exactly what happened that night, and it was not rape. But to my husband, the implied sexual violence of the image combined with slightly ambiguous wording would damage my attempt to redeem Randal in this book.

My (feminist) argument for keeping this particular wording is that people shouldn’t jump to rape when reading this. Randal’s a jerk in the first book, but at no point do I ever, remotely  hint that Edie is afraid of him, or that he was ever, ever violent towards her in any manner.

The idea that our immediate assumption as readers would not be that a young man got in a fight with his girlfriend, said something that made her cry, and she told him to leave, is an insult to men. And it really is infuriating.

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As a feminist, I’m ready for men to have relationships with women that show depth and nuance. I’m ready for men in stories to engage with women on levels beyond the physical, be it romantic or violent.

Yes, Randal shoulders the role of antagonist for most of the first book. That shouldn’t mean that people automatically jump to rapist, but we do. It’s so universal that it’s a running gag on series about movie cliches.

As a feminist, I know I need to write more complicated men. Because keeping my men simple and one dimensional also limits my women. It reduces their interactions with male characters to shallow stereotypes.

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We need to challenge the idea of men as oversexed, under emotional, perpetual children that women must ‘tame’.

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This is not attractive… to most people. I swear I’m not trying to kink-shame here.

It’s not about conceiving a universe without sexual assault, or putting women above men. It’s about conceiving a male antagonist who doesn’t default to rapist. It’s about letting men and women interact with the richness and complexities of real people, good and bad.

In short, I’m a feminist writer, and I refuse to short change any of my characters based on gender.

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Kate Whitaker writes for fun and profit from the woods of the Olympic Penninsula. You can most likely find her sitting at her kitchen table yelling at kids as she tries to figure out a new way to kill made up monsters. She has a newsletter and a comic.

 

 

 

 

I did it! by Cayenne Michaels

I actually did it!

And I think it’s taken me almost up to now to realize it.

A couple of weeks ago I packed up my whole house. Well, technically the brick building is still standing, but I stashed all our belongings into the spare guest room and basement. Then I jumped on a plane to move halfway across the world. To study literature. Continue reading

Writing a Book is Easy.

Or at least it seems easy in comparison to the tasks we’re faced the-endwith once we type ‘The End’.

 

If you’re an author or have friends who are authors, you know exactly what I mean.

thOnce the story is written, everything else you need to get that baby out into the world makes the time spent on your laptop, legal pad or typewriter (remember those?) look like a cakewalk.

If you decide to publish traditionally, you’ll have to make sure your manuscript it correctly formatted down to the exact font, spacing, margins, etc. There are strict guidelines that you’ll need to adhere to. Not to mention querying publishers, waiting for replies and dealing with rejections. Continue reading

Hidden treasures by Cayenne Michaels

Let’s talk about inspiration.

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Where does it come from? Is it stored inside of us and stirred awake when we encounter something in our everyday life that brings out this hidden treasure we never knew we carried?

Or, is it handed to us, as a gift, by someone or something that has you or me are the perfect person to see its true potential?

Elizabeth Gilbert says:

The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.

Have you found any yet? Please…share them with us in the comments field. As writers I think we all know how to appreciate them. We know how precious these discoveries are. Continue reading

No Alphas Here by Polly J. Brown

Beta readers have been on my mind a lot lately.

Over the past month, I’ve been polishing up my manuscript, reviewing critique comments and suggestions, and fixing plot holes or inconsistencies. My goal is to send it to beta readers in the next few months before I begin the querying process.  I’ve also been a beta reader this month and plan on committing to a few more beta reads over the summer. So when my turn for a blog post came around, choosing a topic was easy.

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What is a Beta reader?

A beta reader is an individual who reads a finished story (poem, novel) before the work is queried or self-published.  The Beta provides feedback to the author on elements such as the plot, characters, writing style, and sometimes spelling and grammar. Continue reading

The Dos and Don’ts of Opening Lines and Paragraphs by Lizzie Hermanson

This week I began re-write #476 of my opening scene – at least that’s how it feels and we’ve all been there! So I began researching what makes a good first line. How do we grab the reader so that they want to read the next page and the one after that? Continue reading

The Sad Reality of Editing by Nikki Belaire

There’s an icon on my laptop that mocks me. Incessant in its blinking, a pencil scrolling across an open book as if the words can’t move from the head to the hand fast enough. Yet, once I stop typing, the scrolling ceases too. Even worse, when the graphic pauses, a red X covers the pencil. A damning reminder that I’m not writing. Not meeting my deadline. Not finishing my book. I hate that button. Continue reading

Subtext Versus On The Nose Dialogue

I recently received some feedback on my story pointing out I have too much on the nose dialogue. It’s a problem I’m aware of, but struggle to put right, so decided on a little more research.

What is on-the-nose dialogue? It’s when a character says exactly what they mean and reveal his/her exact emotions. The result can be flat and lacking in depth. The reader is deprived of opportunity to interpret the underlying meaning and to be more actively engaged in the story.

As an example. My main character, Leo, finds a stray dog outside his office and his personal assistant says:

‘I bet you keep that dog.’

‘Definitely. She’s a great dog,’ Leo replies.

Here, both characters are laying their cards on the table and the dialogue feels stilted and boring, without emotion. The solution is to use subtext; the unspoken meaning beneath the words. In life people rarely say what they mean for many reasons. Maybe we don’t know how we feel, or believe it to be true at the time. Perhaps, admitting how we really feel will leave us open and vulnerable in some way.

Back to Leo and his dog, here’s take two. I have him asking the PA to try and find the dog a good home with a large garden.

‘Like yours,’ the PA asks, one eyebrow raised.

‘I’m not keeping her,’ Leo responds immediately.

At no point in the story does anyone tell Leo he’s going to keep the dog, and he continues to deny he wants to. But hopefully it’s clear that everyone, including the reader, know where the dog will end up.

In her book, Subtext: What Lies Beneath, Linda Sager likens on the nose dialogue to “the tip of the ice berg, but the subtext is everything underneath.”

Leo’s continual refusal to admit he wants to keep the dog, hints at other issues simmering beneath the surface. He lost his parents and sister in a car accident aged 16. He doesn’t want any more attachments in his life because he’s worried about losing them too.

So this was my attempt at using subtext, and I didn’t make a conscious effort, it just happened. In writing, some things seem to happen instinctively. The problem comes when it isn’t instinctive. Further on in the story, nearly all my emotional moments feature on the nose dialogue which I don’t seem able to put right. I kept hoping there might be a place for it at the end of a romance story, as surely to be together, the hero and heroine must both express how they really feel.

But then I remember the movie Jerry Maguire. When Tom Cruise returns to get the girl, instead of ‘I love you, I’ll take you back,’ Renee Zellwegger responds with ‘You had me at hello,’ now one of the top 100 movie quotes.

In his blog post,  9 Steps To Writing Dialogue With Rich Subtext, writer/director, Charles Harris, suggests creating two random characters “and give them something they mustn’t mention. Say, two prisoners are waiting to be hanged. They talk of anything but that – the weather, their last meal, a mouse in the cell. See how every word, every pause, can be filled with unspoken meaning.”

He also says to practise.”Subtext is a muscle, like any other writing skill. You develop it by working it.”

So, for me, it’s back to the drawing board….