Wednesday, March 25, 2015

It Shouldn't be This Way.

This is the part where I get upset and rant about things, followed by the part where I try to fix them myself.

I found this post over at Literary Reflections thanks to someone's retweet.  It's all about books (mostly YA) where there's at least one female character who's definitely or ambiguously other than straight.  It's a depressingly short list.  Yes, I know it's not an exhaustive list, but still.

I would like to know what the fuck is going on here.  It's 2015.  I know characters' sexuality isn't always relevant to a story, but why is it still so damn rare to see LGBT+ characters in fiction?  Any fiction?  In other words, why do I even have reason to rant about this?

I know there's not one specific reason, and I'm not looking for one, but . . . gah.  And I know the world isn't as accepting of all things LGBT+ as I'd like it to be, but I'm not going to get into that here.  It just bugs the hell out of me that so many people can conceive of easy interplanetary travel, impossibly dramatic interpersonal relations, bizarre magical creatures, worlds that are incredibly different from Earth, so on and so forth, but the idea that not everyone has to be straight is either beyond them or never occurs to them.

I don't get it.  I just don't.

Speaking from my own experience, I know readers can accept a character's sexuality, even if it changes over the course of the story.  In an online series I wrote many years ago, one of the characters dates a guy and a girl at different points.  I got some questions about it, but no hate, no complaints, no threats to stop reading the series if I "made [the character] gay".  So why is this a big deal?  Why doesn't this happen more often?

Part of why I don't get this is that I've known people across the entire Kinsey scale spectrum.  (An old friend from college is asexual, and she thought it was hilarious when I said she's where Kinsey divided by zero.)  So the idea that fiction should be populated entirely by straight people makes no sense to me.

So I figured, the best way to work on this problem is to practice what I preach.

I've talked before about how I want to have three plots ready to write before I start writing another book.  As of this past Sunday, I have the second one nearly ready; I've got it in a state I can consider finished and just need to let it sit for a while so I can go over it later.  The first plot I finished with this goal in mind, the new Shiloh & Alexi story, is ready and has been for quite a while.

To be completely honest, I always knew I'd be writing the S&A book first.  I don't think I'd fool anyone if I said otherwise, least of all myself.  ^_^

I know that I can't change the world alone, let alone change what other people write and who they put in their stories.  But if I can (finally) get Shiloh & Alexi's story out there, then at least I can be a good example.  I really like the idea of someone looking for a fantasy novel with two heroines who are also a couple, and finding my work that way.  No, this isn't the only reason I want to write this book and get it out there - all the usual reasons still apply, and how - but I think it's a good one.

No idea when I'll start; I still have another book to plot, and I won't announce it when I start writing anyway.  But wish me luck.  I want this to work more than anything else.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Will They, Won't They, Whatever.

I'm plotting.  This is kind of a constant for me, and also a great answer when someone asks me what I'm doing, because most people don't expect that response.

Plotting character interactions is, for me, one of the more difficult parts of creating a story.  Characters grow and change over the course of plotting, and even more so during the actual writing, so no matter what I start off thinking they're going to do, there's always the chance that they'll do something else.  This usually happens right in the middle of a sentence that I swore I knew how it ended when I started writing it.

Ever stared at the page and asked someone "Why are you running toward the dragon, you're supposed to be running away?"  Yeah, it's like that.

This gets worse when I think two characters will end up getting together over the course of the story.  I think we've all read or watched a romance that only happens because the writer said so, where everything seems awkward and forced and it's hard to imagine these characters actually getting together, let alone staying together.  This gets even worse when it's the last chapter/episode/five minutes, and whoever's in charge just wants to end the thing with a kiss and a happy couple.

Hands up if you can name at least one book, movie, TV show, or anything else where you've seen this happen.  No, I can't see you, but I doubt I'm alone in this.

When I was putting together the ragtag crew of characters for this story, I thought two of them might end up romantically involved, because it fit their personalities, and it could be awesome.  But it was also the first time I'd written these people, and they're not only from vastly different backgrounds, they're from entirely different worlds.  They're not even the same species, though both are sentient humanoids (sort of, one's literally only half humanoid).  So I had my doubts.

I don't think that every story needs romance.  There's always room for it, but it's not essential.  And the last thing I want to do is force two characters to get together.

One of the downsides to being a plotter is needing to know what's going to happen in order to write a story.  I'm always open to change, but I have to know how things end.  This includes character arcs.  So, what could I do about this might-be romance?

It turned out to be easier than I thought.  I wrote up as much as I could about these characters in my notes, and plotted their interactions with all that in mind.  I let them bounce off of each other, considered how they'd react to all the things that get in their way over the course of the journey, and waited to see if the events and their conversations and all the little differences between the two of them would bring them closer together.

Will it?  I'm not saying.  I have to write the damn thing first, and I think I've made it clear already how much things could change before the story ends.  But I know how I think it's going to go.  And that's enough for me to get started.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Questions from Cait.

Bit of something different this time around.  Cait Spivey is a fellow writer who I met a while back at; she was one of my critique partners for THE ACCIDENTAL WARLOCK.  She did an entry last month involving eleven random questions and eleven random facts, then instead of tagging people to answer her questions, opened it up to whoever wanted to participate.

It sounds like fun, so I'm doing the same.  Let's start with the questions:

1. What author is inspiring you right now?
   I don't think I can pick just one, so I'll go with two whose recent books filled me with new ideas about storytelling and characters.  First is Brandon Sanderson, whose Firefight showed me that there are always new and interesting ways to throw plot and character twists at your readers.  Second is Jim C. Hines, whose Unbound did the same and reminded me that unusual relationships between characters are the start of something interesting, not the end.

2. How has your writing changed since you started? As in, has your style or focus shifted from what you originally set out to or thought you’d write?
   It's changed quite a lot, and nobody's more thankful for that than me.  O_o  All my early work was epic fantasy.  Everything was medieval in setting, world-saving in scope, and utterly heroic in character.  It wasn't until I started reading more widely that I started to realize there was more to fantasy literature than "hero on quest", and that things are more interesting when the heroes aren't bastions of incorruptible pure pureness.

3. What do you do to overcome doubt or insecurity?
   There are times I can't, and I just go to bed hating myself and thinking that I'm doomed to failure.  (Anyone who reads this blog regularly has seen those entries.)  Most of the time, I just tell myself to keep working, and that anything that's going wrong, I can fix, but I have to get the words down first.  It's not easy, and sometimes I don't believe myself.  But it gets my ass in the chair, which is the first step.

4. What do you do to celebrate accomplishments big and small?
   When I have an accomplishment worth celebrating, I'll let you know.  -_-  Most of the time, when I finish something, I'm wracked with doubt about it and/or just glad it's done so I never have to look at it or think about it again.  So, yeah, there's nothing to celebrate.

5. Favorite writing beverage?
   I don't drink while writing, as it slows me down.  Same with eating, usually.  But I take a shot of something alcoholic before writing or plotting.  Coconut rum or Baileys are two of my favorite pre-work drinks.  I edit completely sober, accompanied by large glasses of water. 

6. Dreamcast: who would play the main character in the movie version of your novel?
   I don't have a current novel, but let me think.  If we go by the plan I have for the new Shiloh & Alexi book, then...  I have no idea.  I'm sure Hollywood has no shortage of early-twenties pale blonde women for Shiloh, though finding one who's nearly six feet tall and can play a magic geek might be difficult.  And Alexi's supposed to look Indian or Arabian, so who knows who they'd get for that part.  Alexi has some particular mannerisms and ways of speaking, so it would take someone special to match what's in my head.  All I know is that any movie rights contract I sign damn well better include a provision to keep Alexi's part from being whitewashed.  Hmmph.

7. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve researched for a manuscript?
   Recently?  Snake sex.  Wholly unrelated to the previous question, I assure you.

8. Who is your favorite Doctor? (You know what kind of Doctor I mean.)
   I've never watched a single episode of Doctor Who.  I'm a completionist when it comes to entertainment, and that show's been around for fifty years; surely you can see why I haven't started watching it.  Please don't shoot.

9. How do you prioritize your to-be-read pile?
   I look at the pile and decide what I want to read next.  :P  It really is that simple.  Though if the pile contains sequels to books I already own, I'll usually read those first, after re-reading the previous book in the series.  To make sure I remember everything, y'know.

10. If you could go on a swanky writers’ retreat, where would it be? (Mountains? Tropical island? Historic city?)
   Hmm.  I'd want to be in a place with as few distractions as possible, so somewhere off in the mountains sounds like the best choice.

11. Would you rather live in a post-apocalyptic anarchic world a la The Walking Dead, or work for the Alliance (Firefly–but you knew that of course)?
   Going to have to say work for the Alliance, because I'd be zombie walker food before the first day was over in the first option.  >_<  I find post-apocalypse kind of interesting, but I damn sure wouldn't want to live in one.

Eleven Random Facts about me:
1. I graduated with a BA in English from the University of California, Santa Barbara.  I made very sure to graduate in four years because my parents said that was all they were paying for.
2. I have a ridiculous love of raisins and buy them in five-pound boxes.
3. When I was young, I wanted to grow up to design video games, and even drew up all kinds of plans for several different games.  I've never forgotten them, despite my best efforts.
4. I can't stand coffee - I just don't get how something that smells so good can taste so vile.  I've been told this will get me a lot of weird looks now that I'm in Washington.
5. I have a real love for non-standard relationships in fiction, and will always cheer for anything other than the typical "boy meets girl and they end up together" stuff.  This is why, nearly three months later, I'm still geeking out over the end of "Legend of Korra".
6. I didn't get my driver's license until I was 19, and didn't own a car until I was almost 30.
7. My absolute favorite band in all the world is Garbage.  I've seen them in concert twice and am really hoping they come through Seattle whenever they next tour.  Their music is consistently awesome, and they have an insane amount of energy in their performances.
8. I've been training myself to be as observant as possible since I was 13 years old, as I figured it would help me with my writing.  Twenty-two years later, I've learned that there is an amazing amount of stuff people simply don't notice.  I've had to learn not to ask people, "You didn't see that?"
9. I've only ever dyed my hair for cosplay purposes.  Twice I've dyed it black to go as Professor Snape, and there was a brief and unfortunate time when I dyed it blonde (more like yellow).  Fortunately, it was short then, so growing it out didn't take too long.
10. I once got hit by a car on Friday the 13th.
11. I have one tattoo.  It's the rose symbol from the anime "Revolutionary Girl Utena", and it's on my upper back.  The series has been a huge influence on my life and way of thinking and writing, so I decided it was fitting to wear a piece of it on myself forever.

And that's it.  There was part of Cait's entry where she offered more questions for people to answer, but it's late and I'm tired and I can't think of eleven things worth asking.  :P  Hope y'all found this interesting enough to read this far.

Next week: Will they?  Won't they?  Should they?  WTF?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

IWSG: Change Everything.

Three weeks ago, I made a call that changed my life.

I'm not exaggerating or being metaphorical here.  That call was what got me the apartment I'm now sitting in.  That call led me to driving over 1400 miles across six states, a three-day journey that took a lot out of me.  I forcibly pulled myself out of my old life and into something that I hope will be better.

Granted, I'm writing this while sitting on a chair made out of a pillow, two lamp boxes, and the boxed-up keyboard that stopped functioning the morning before I moved, but nothing's perfect.

The point of this is that sometimes it's necessary to make massive changes.  As I said last entry, I wasn't happy in Albuquerque, and it was time to move on.  I've been here for a few hours' short of three days, which is too little time for me to say whether or not this was a good idea, as things have been crazy and I'm still getting used to everything.  (The way they name and number streets here is weird as hell, for one thing.)  And my stuff hasn't arrived yet, hence the improvised chair.

But I hope, once the dust settles, this will turn out to be one of the best things I could have done for myself.

I think it's clear how this relates to writing.  I know I've gotten stuck on the same ideas over and over again; I've blogged about it before.  Sometimes those ideas are really hard to shake, especially when you still like them despite how many times you've tried to make them work and seen it all come crashing down.  There's a reason I wrote three different versions of a story, all with the same title, and plotted at least three or four other versions of that same story.

I would really like to think that, somehow, there's a way to make everything work, that there's no such thing as a story that can't be told.  But when you hit that wall, the only thing to do is figure out why the wall's there.  And most of the time, if not always, that means something has to change.

No, I'm not saying you should move across the country just because a story's not working out.  :P  And I don't yet know if moving will help make me a better writer.  But I know that doing the same thing over and over isn't going to make anything better.

So, are you stuck on something?  Figure out what needs to change.  Is the main character too old, too young, the wrong gender?  Does the antagonist need a larger role, a better motivation, a morality pet?  Is the setting keeping you from getting to the heart of the story?  Have you spent upwards of seventeen thousand words describing food?

It's all words.  Finding the right words isn't always easy, but there are always other words.  And that means we, as writers, can always find new words if the old ones don't work.  Even if that means changing every single one.