Monday, February 28, 2011


I've been catching up on my reading pile (some new, some old), and something is nagging in the back of my head because of it. I read a total of four books this past month, all YA. Here's the most important bit;

I don't remember the main character of any of them. NONE of the main characters stuck with me, or in my head. If you asked me to sit down and describe them, I could give you vague details about the color of their hair or eyes, but that's it.

This is bad.

I'll admit it right now - my memory is less than stellar. My short term is confined to what I ate, and my long term is busy remembering who I've queried or not, but the space where I keep literary main characters is flawless. Spotless. Excelsior. A good/even somewhat decent main character will stick in my mind because I have that knack. (Nevermind math, I remember the direly IMPORTANT stuff; IMAGINARY PEOPLE).

But these past four books, I don't remember their MC at all. This means one of two things;

1. On all four books, I just wasn't paying attention enough. (Not likely.)

2. The MC's just really blow.

'Blow' is a subjective term, and when I use it my age becomes evident - too young to drink, but old enough to have read a lot of books. I'm a product of the Power Rangers and Sailor Moon era, for those who know their decades of TV.

So these MC's blow. When I say that, I mean they were one or all or a mixture of the following;

1. Were merely a vessel for the plot to work out of

2. Had no defining characteristic traits, or traits that were muddy, undefined, or otherwise altered to fit into the story

3. They were blatant Mary Sues thinly disguised by attempts to NOT be a Mary Sue and therefore rendered even MORE Sue-ish.

4. All four MCs were girls, and this means that they also might have been 'living' through their love interest. The author, at times, made their relationship the most important thing in the book, and as such the MC suffered character loss for it.

5. The MC was a repugnant, idealized, 2D, or inaccurate representation of the modern teenage female.

6. The MC and her 'voice' were simply a amplification device for the author to express their own stands on things, such as divorce, materialism (which apparently many of the MCs approved of), and stereotypes (ironically, if the MC points out that she 'doesn't get stereotypes', this is often an indication that the author is trying to make her NOT look like one, but it has the exact reverse effect).

7. The MC was racist, and described everyone who wasn't white as 'creepy' or 'disgusting'.

8. The author frequently seemed to forget who's head they were supposed to narrating out of - theirs or their MC's.

You can see why I didn't name names. :P I'm just entirely appalled by the state of YA MC heroines at this point. Dear industry, can you still recognize a truly 'strong' female MC and publish her? Is the YA industry still being written for young adults, and not older adults who enjoy YA? The last MC I enjoyed was in Jackson Pearce's Sisters Red, and that was when I read it over a year ago. Since then, I have yet to read a female MC that I enjoy and would like to know in real life if she was real.

I may come off as picky, but if I can't remember even one decently built character detail about your MC, something is wrong.

C'mon writer friends! Shake it up for us, your loyal readers. We're RAPIDLY losing interest in your silly Buffy-clone MCs. ;)

Note: This is not to say my own characters are perfect. They actually kinda fall into a lot of those catergories I mentioned above. XD I'm working hard to perfect them.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sometimes a writer just needs to putz around.

Whew. WHEW. Children, it has been a long time.

Meaning, of course, I haven't written an entry in like...four days. Terrible. I can feel the lack draining me mentally! I can also feel my abilities of sarcasm slipping away as we SPEAK.

Today I'm going to talk about improving. Ooh, scary, I know. Tres scary. Scarier than the first time you watched The Shining and didn't know what happened at all until it happened and you went OH GOD IS THAT AN AXE.

Writing a whole new book definetly helps me improve as a writer, personally, but its sometimes hard to try new things or throw in a new curve in an prolonged work like an entire book. You generally start out with an idea and style in mind and then run with it to keep consistent. By the end of the book you might've improved a bit, and that's great!

For me, real improvement comes during writing short stories. I write articles for a living and stories for pleasure (right now, anyway, but one day-!!) and sometimes I just get burned out on writing in general, which is where short stories come in.

It's important that you write what you love. If you wanna write that goddamn Buffy fanfiction, you write it. If you wanna write a haiku about your love for smoked gouda (I LOVE SMOKED GOUDA!!!!!!) then write it! The pace and tone might surprise you. I've been making little drabbles and liking them a lot. There's no pressure to make a great book that will grab agent attention, live up to expectation, and then sell like hotcakes. There's no angsting of 'is this the right genre', or if the character is 'believable' or 'unique' enough.

It's hard to remember why we love writing in the first place, and it can get lost in the little details and the desire to publish. I'm reminded of why I first started writing when I take a breather and write little blurbs free of restrictions or worry.

Sometimes I think of writers like conducters of orchestras - meting out what tone should be louder and which should be softer, and keeping the beat overall, and the feel of the piece is communicated through every tiny movement of your hands. It's our job to weave the sounds together in a way that transmits many different feelings.

Which explains why I stand up and motion wildly in the air when writing sometimes, right?


(not really.)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Don't you ever delete, damn it.

The journey is the important bit, right? Not the destination.

That's what they say, anyway. It's 100% freaking true.

For writing, and becoming a writer, the road ends only with death. We might take breaks from it, we might rage at it a bit and have a spat, but we are writers because writing is our life - which means writing only ends when our life does. Our journey might have milestones - like getting an agent, getting published, winning awards etc - but the journey never ends. We can always get better. We improve with every word and every day.

What I like most about blogs, and writer blogs specfically, is I get to follow the journey. From the celebration of completing a first chapter, all the way up to announcing a publishing deal. It's exciting, endearing. It's watching history in motion.

I know a lot of authors have this change they go through once they get an agent - their blogs might diminish, or they might start a whole new one. They might delete the chronicles of their journey, and that's horrendous!

If nothing else, keep the chronicles up for those of us working our way up from the bottom - they inspire us more than you know. They give us hope, fire, drive, and determination. Sometimes they keep us hanging on longer than our own willpower allows. Even if the entries are a bit raw, or disorganized, that's okay. Improvement does not happen overnight - and that's what deleting your past tribulations makes it seem like.

There's a certain beauty in watching growth firsthand!

I love this journey. It hurts, but that's okay. We're all in it together, all being hurt and helped together. I wouldn't be able to do this if I was alone. I'm not.

Thank you.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I declare this the Week of Amazing. (And literary monsters!)

This week has been made of win. Allow me to explain.

First, fellow lovely AWers Chanelle and Lindsey got 'The Call'! Two awesome writers repped by two awesome agents! Congrats ladies!

Secondly, I'M MAKING FIG-CHOCOLATE CAKE. (This is the most important part, obviously.) The fig tree in our yard has made a few fruits! I don't like raw figs, but baking with them is divine. They do for baking what mushrooms do for cooking - absorb flavor and eek it out in bits as the heat gets to it.

Fig-cream is DELICIOUS. I could eat cartons of the stuff. I make my own with heavy cream, figs, cinnamon, and vanilla. Whip it all together until it forms stiff peaks. Oh gosh, I'm drooling a little just thinking about it. Still haven't ridden that bike yet. :'D

Thirdly, I can't stop listening to this on repeat. For hours. It's just gibberish...but it's Hypnotizing?

As I'm writing this new WIP, I realized something! My favorite part of writing, more than building characters, more than world-building, more than plot-creation, is making the monsters.

Monsters are more commonly referred to as 'antagonists'. Antagonist, in the classic sense, is a bad guy. Someone who pushes AGAINST the fabric of normalcy, messes it up, has plans for it, wants to control it, whatever. The cut-and-dry antagonist is just evil for the sake of being evil. It could be a group of people, an empress, otherworldly demons, a crazy police officer (looking at you, Stephen King), or the devil himself (Looking at you again, King. :D).

I like crafting my monsters. I like giving them more heart than the average bad guy. The average bad guy who's bad just for the sake of it is what we're warned against as writers. Swell writers know a bad guy isn't simply bad - they have just as many layers as the protagonists. We strive to craft multi-layered cakes of black that we can call THE BAD GUY with pride. Our monsters are just as precious to us as our characters.

Maybe not. Maybe a monster who rapes and pillages isn't loved by the author who crafted him. Maybe it's hard to love that monster because of the despicable things they do, but you might come to love them in your own way. You know that in the end they'll still get speared through the heart with a falling beam, but you love their death equally. It is because they die that you love them. You love their story, whether it sickens you or not. Maybe moreso.

I was taught the most dangerous monsters are the agents of chaos. The ones who have no morals, no qualms, no connections to this world, and no regret. They can do anything, anywhere, to anyone, without a single logical reason. That is the monster king. They impose no limits on themselves, and you impose no limits on them.

But at least you can predict unpredictability.

To me, the scarier monsters are the calculated ones. The ones who have a goal.

I always give my monsters a reason. They aren't always the black cake. They are the gray cake, too. The in-between. Good and evil are relative. I think in my books I have this facsination with survival. I send this message that survival trumps 'good' and 'evil'. Survival has no morals, no limits. Everyone is just trying to live in the best way they can. My monsters are trying to survive too, and they're better-armed, better-built, and just a bit more ruthless than the average person.

Sometimes concepts for monsters are born when I'm just talking with people. I was doing a paper for Psych 101 a year ago, and I found myself on a part of the textbook that talked about people that were cut off from their emotions, as in physically incapable of feeling anything. I asked myself; what would take the place of emotion? The person would be made of all memories, and no emotion. Survival would take first importance. Clinical curiosity, too. Maybe the person would even try to blend in with other people by imitating their facial expressions or speech patterns, just so they wouldn't be harrassed or treated suspiciously all the time. If you took away those emotions, what would that person be?

The answer; an organic machine as nature intended. It's purpose; procreate as much as it can before it dies.

Then I thought what a race of these 'organic machines' would be like. Things just progressed from there, until I got a whole story based around them. I made their exact opposites, too; people with no memories but all emotion. They are conflicted, internally tortured and confused, and full of rage that devolves and corrodes to eventual insanity.

Monsters: Best Made By Questioning Everything. How do you come up with yours?

I hope everything is going well for you wonderful people. I wish I could send you all a piece of this cake. :3

Also, I read another very astute article that said 'Only readers have the luxury of reviewing, not writers'. It had some good points I couldn't refute! So you might notice my blog has gotten a little shorter and a little less negative-reviewy. I mourn the death of my self-expression a little, but I'm sure this'll be a good thing.

Also, the parentals have hijacked Facebook. I don't know whether to cry or....weep and dramatically melt into the floor.