Mary Sue, what are you? or why the concept of Sue is sexist »
Looks like this essay was needed, so I went ahead and did it. Not sure I said everything I wanted to say, but I tried.
So, there’s this girl. She’s tragically orphaned and richer than anyone on the planet. Every guy she meets falls in love with her, but in…
To the anon who prompted: “A widow reflects on her husband’s death that occurred 25 years ago. A death she was responsible for” — I may have gotten a little carried away. Regardless, I hope you enjoy.
She thought about him every day. She’d be lying if she said she didn’t.
It wasn’t really something she could forget… the sound, the sight, the smell of him. She’d be damned if the rotting stench of his body didn’t nearly give her away.
But it was all worth it. She’d do it over again if she had to.
They met in the summer of ’62, at her daddy’s car repair shop. She was sixteen then, tall and leggy and pale, with white-blonde hair she had styled after pictures she’d seen of Marilyn Monroe in those glossy fashion magazines.
She’d had a red bandana in her hair, and her half-unbuttoned floral blouse was tucked into tiny high-waisted shorts—an outfit daddy definitely didn’t approve of, but then again, daddy didn’t approve of most of her outfits to begin with.
In fact, that was why she was at the shop that day, because she was grounded; daddy had to work, and mommy was dead. She couldn’t be trusted to stay at home alone and keep out of trouble.
That was where Tommy came in, the new hire for that summer; fifteen, skinny and impossibly tall for his age. He had tousled chestnut hair and shy, brown eyes.
She liked him immediately.
A ‘strong female character’
DOES NOT NECESSARILY MEAN
- a character who is physically strong
- a character who is mentally strong
- a character who is emotionally strong
- a character who makes her own choices, even if they’re mistakes
- a character whose point of view is explored at least briefly
- a character who is the hero of her own story whether she knows it or not
And that’s just a strong character, really.
Describing Characters Through ‘Showing’
Describing characters can be a little bit of a ‘telling’ minefield. While you are almost certainly going to end up with some ‘told’ description of a character, try to keep it to a minimum, ‘showing’ things about their appearance through action and dialogue instead.
Instead of ‘She was short’, use ‘She clambered onto the chair, her legs dangling several inches above the floor’
Instead of ‘He was tall’, use ‘He ducked under the doorway’
Instead of ‘He was a smoker’, use ‘He shook my hand, his yellowed fingers leaving the scent of cigarettes on mine’
Instead of ‘She had bad teeth’, use ‘She laughed, instinctively covering her open mouth with her hand’
So you see how a lot of information can be shown to your readers rather than simply told to them.
And remember that your readers have imaginations, imaginations that they enjoy using. Let them fill in the gaps - don’t give them a detailed head to toe description laying out mole and strand of hair.
Whenever I start writing a dark/dramatic/tragic scene (just something really bad, like maybe a murder), the most important question I always ask myself is:
How can I make it even worse for my characters?
☛ In the depths of the Ocean beneath Australia is where this love story takes place. A successful photographer found a true, alive and breathing mermaid sitting by the sea, and from that moment his newest project had started. He took pictures, he wrote texts. Poems, even. Until he finally gave into his own conscience, and approached the creature. She took his hand and dragged him below the surface, where no living soul could find him. She showed him her world, sang to him about the wonders they could share if for once she were not to be alone. She let him photograph her, for it made him happy. He let her kiss him, for it made them both happy. But when the time came for them to rise and gasp for air, he wanted to take it all with him. The mermaid he fell in love with, and the story he now had to show to the world. Outraged that he still wanted the praise, she gave him two choices. The man could only keep one of the following: either the love in her heart, or the pictures he’d taken.
Human Being (drabble)
I am infinite and infinitesimal.
I am a human being.
I am made of light and darkness, of the greatest highs and lowest lows, a walking extremity, a beautiful normality.
I am a human being.
I love and I hate, I smile and I cry, I hope and I despair, I scream and I sing, and without me, nothing would be the same. I am a dust particle in the great expanse of the universe, yet right here, in the now, I am a stitch in the pattern. When I was added, I changed the paradigm. Without me, nothing would be the same.
I am a human being.
I am a miracle of evolution. Aren’t I wonderful?
Because I am.
A human being.
One reason that people have artist’s block is that they do not respect the law of dormancy in nature. Trees don’t produce fruit all year long, constantly. They have a point where they go dormant. And when you are in a dormant period creatively, if you can arrange your life to do the technical tasks that don’t take creativity, you are essentially preparing for the spring when it will all blossom again.
Marshall Vandruff, one of the best teachers I have ever had, on artist’s block. Said during a webinar done on Visualarium to advertise his upcoming online course on animal anatomy (source links to webinar) (via pale-afternoon)
Book of Life (drabble)
I am the protagonist of my story and as such, I can be whoever I desire to be.
I have a past, but if you envelop me and tuck me into your life, not despite my mistakes, sins and transgressions, but together with them and for my own self, just as you see me standing before you, I will take the Book of My Life into my hands.
I will swiftly flip through the parchment pages, ancient and dusty with things that do not matter anymore, to show them to you, to remember for one final time, then say goodbye to them . It is time for this farewell and I am happy to do it; not only for you, but for myself. I can not write the future on these crumbling pages, with ink that’s already half dried.
I will set these old pages on fire, chapter after chapter, page after page, dusty particle after dusty particle. Together, we will watch the cinders of my past swirl into the air. I will purchase a new book with empty pages, still fresh with the smell of newness. I will borrow your pen and write the first sentence of my new life onto the white first page. It will contain you, and so will the other sentences after it.
And then, I will kiss you.
(Based on this picture.)
1. Don’t think that being published will make you happy. It will for four weeks, if you are lucky. Then it’s the same old fucking shit.
2. Hemingway was fucking wrong. You shouldn’t write drunk. (See my third novel for details.)
3. Hemingway was also right. ‘The first draft of everything is shit.’
4. Never ask a publisher or agent what they are looking for. The best ones, if they are honest, don’t have a fucking clue, because the best books are the ones that seemingly come from nowhere.
5. In five years time the semi-colon is going to be nothing more than a fucking wink.
6. In five years time every fucking person on Twitter will be a writer.
7. Ignore the fucking snobs. Write that space zombie sex opera. Just give it some fucking soul.
8. If it’s not worth fucking reading, it’s not worth fucking writing. If it doesn’t make people laugh or cry or blow their fucking minds then why bother?
9. Don’t be the next Stephen King or the next Zadie Smith or the next Neil Gaiman or the next Jonathan Safran fucking Foer. Be the next fucking you.
10. Stories are fucking easy. PLOT OF EVERY BOOK EVER: Someone is looking for something. COMMERCIAL VERSION: They find it. LITERARY VERSION: They don’t find it. (That’s fucking it.)
11. No-one knows anything. Especially fucking me. Except:
12. Don’t kill off the fucking dog.
13. Oh, yeah, and lastly: write whatever you fucking want.
Matt Haig, “Some Fucking Writing Tips” (via tobiasfunkey)
Screw writing “strong” women. Write interesting women. Write well-rounded women. Write complicated women. Write a woman who kicks ass, write a woman who cowers in a corner. Write a woman who’s desperate for a husband. Write a woman who doesn’t need a man. Write women who cry, women who rant, women who are shy, women who don’t take no shit, women who need validation and women who don’t care what anybody thinks. THEY ARE ALL OKAY, and all those things could exist in THE SAME WOMAN. Women shouldn’t be valued because we are strong, or kick-ass, but because we are people. So don’t focus on writing characters who are strong. Write characters who are people.
the stained map in the backseat of the car, an accident waiting to happen, Ecstasy on a Saturday night, the yellow hands of a sunrise that’s come too early. She is warm caramel coffee on a lazy morning, the scrapbooks you made as a child, the thing you dream about on a lightning-bug summer evening. She is the sea-salt chill that slithers off the ocean, she is the wind that cards through your hair when the windows are down. She is happy-go-lucky and hard determination and soft sympathy all rolled into one.
She is beautifully, brokenly, excellently flawed.
And you wouldn’t have her any other way.
Caged Bird (my writing)
He caged a beautiful bird, but he is not happy.
She doesn’t move and remains perched on her downy bed, staring through the barred window into the distance, her eyes glazed over, empty, almost dead-looking.
She barely eats. Sometimes she nips at the food he brings her and takes a sip of water, and he is forced to watch her fade away. Tentativelly, he sits down beside her every day and he sees she would love to run away from his presence, but she is not strong enough anymore. He begs her with words, with sad eyes, to speak to him, but she doesn’t open her mouth and looks right past him, always through the window. When he steps in front of the window to make her look at him, she disappoints him with her cold ability to look right through him, so he removes himself, defeated. He is half tempted to hide the wretched glass screen from her by nailing wood planks across it, but then he would hate himself more than she ever did him.
She has not spoken to him for so long that he fears forgetting her voice and it tears him apart at night. It claws through him as he makes her breakfast, it torments him when he rakes his brain to invent new ways to please her and it has him burst into tears as he takes away the untouched dinner.
His bird only has one wish: to be free of her gilded cage. But he cannot grant it. If he lets her fly away, he will die, all alone and broken and without her. He cannot bear the thought of living without her only a few steps away. If he keeps her, they will at least die together and although she is past the point of hating him, for she feels nothing anymore now, he can see her every day and that is all he wants.
So he keeps her. He brings her food every day, hoping she will start eating normally again and grow stronger, for him. He watches her, his beautiful bird, and smiles because she is his, after all. He is her keeper, such a thrilling notion, and if she ever looks at him again, or speaks a word, even if it is soaked with the venom of hatred, it will be all for him. He wants to be her entire world.
It is that thought, hopeful and nigh utopian, that helps him remain patient. He has time and nothing else to interest him but her, so he waits.
He is good at waiting.