Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Stereotypes aren't all bad. No, really, hear me out. What I mean is that stereotypes are actually archetypes: a kind of mental shorthand for identifying characters and their purposes. And they've been around ever since some clever Ancient Greek said, "You know, rather than me telling you what happened, why don't I show you? Pretend I'm Alcibiades and this tree is Clytemnestra."
That was a helluva day in Athens, I'm telling you.
Where stereotypes become dangerous is when they package a value judgement with gender, ethnicity, sexuality or nationality. It's when a stereotype prevents you from seeing the individual. And those are the stereotypes that need to be challenged, and guess whose job that is?
Yep, it's ours.
And isn't that great news?
Your mission for the week: find a stereotype. Invert the hell out of it.
Saturday, February 25, 2012
1. I wish the housework fairy would visit my place. There’s enough dog hair on my floor to knit another Labrador. You know, if I could knit. And I think I’ve already established my lack of domestic skills.
2. I wish I got more writing done. And I wish the writing I got done was better. Everything this week feels like meh.
3. I wish I could figure out what it is about those cooking shows that people like. If I want to watch TV, I’ll watch TV. If I want to cook, I’ll cook. What I don’t want is to spend an hour of my life watching someone else cook, and there not be any food for me to eat at the end of it. Don’t taunt me with your Roast Quail Ravioli with Portobello Mushrooms and Sage Butter when I’ll be having toast.
(Seriously, that exists. The recipe is here.)
(Toast also exists. I trust you don't need the recipe.)
4. I wish the state government elections were already over. I’m sick of their ads, their front pages, and the sheer amount of pamphlets that are getting shoved in my letter box. My letter box is a delicate ecosystem. I don’t want my letter box gecko crushed.
5. I wish I could remember why I’d ordered two pairs of flippers off the internet last week when I was sleep-deprived after night work. One pair seems reasonable for a biped like myself. Two seems excessive.
6. I wish I could go rally driving with OK Go.
What are you wishing for this week?
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
How do you name your characters?
I used to worry about the naming of characters a lot. Hmm, do I really want my character to be called something that is Old German for Wolf’s Helm? What is a helm, anyway, and why would a wolf wear one? Does a helm have buckles? Wouldn’t they be difficult to manage without opposable thumbs? Then it occurred to me that I shouldn’t be naming my characters according to what I, their writer, or their god, if you will (and please do), thought would match their personality, or aspirations, or character arc. It only matters what my fictional character’s fictional parents would fictionally think.
Still with me?
If Hagert Dragonsbane, the hairy troll-slayer of Hwilfrstöll, had a firstborn son then of course he would call that son something that means Wolf’s Helm, or Victorious in Battle, or Bloodthirsty Scourge of the Saxons. But here’s the thing: so might Gerald Smith, manger of a grocery wholesale business in suburban Brisbane, just because he kind of likes the sound of the name, it goes well with Smith, and it was his grandfather’s. It doesn’t mean he expects the kid to grow up to become a rampaging Viking.
Names don't define us.
I am wary of naming characters after their personality traits, because when you look down at a red wrinkly screamy weirdy baby, you don’t think, Oh, look, I’ll call her Serena. Or, he can’t lift his head yet, but I’m sure he’ll destroy all his enemies. Casimir it is! Babies don’t have personality traits. Anything you call them is wishful thinking at best, and hopelessly misguided at worst.
My middle name means industrious. My mother is still laughing about that.
People don’t match their names, not in real life. In real life, your neurosurgeon might be called Candii and your stripper might be called Audrey. The guy who mows your lawn (not your husband, that other guy) might be called Fabian. And the guy you trust to do your taxes? Billy Bob. Why the hell not?
There are no rules about names in the real world. It should be the same in fiction.
How do you name your characters?
A random name generator? A baby names site? The phone book?
Share your tips here.
Friday, February 17, 2012
So, tonight when I was plugging in my laptop at work, in the deep dark cavity of power cords and hard drives and things that make buzzing noises, I suddenly had visions of my weeping co-workers saying over their tissues: “At least she died trying to do what she loved.”
And that’s not good enough.
If I’m electrocuted at work, I want it to be actually writing, not talking about writing or thinking about writing, which is what I’ve done lately, or even writing about writing, which is kind of what this blog is.It’s time to actually get to the writing.
I know. Revolutionary, hey?
I’m not the sort of person who believes I’m being held back by my innate fear of success -- I believe what’s holding me back is my innate all-encompassing laziness combined with my well-honed procrastinator’s “Meh, I’ll do it later” attitude -- but whatever it is, it’s time to look it in the face.
And then punch it in the face.
That may be the sleep-deprivation talking.
In other news, Rebecca Kiel has given me a Smart Cookie Award.
I am going to pass it onto these people:
I am going to pass it onto these people:
Francesca from Zap's Lobster Tank.
Misty from Nothing Cannot Happen Today. If you haven’t read Cornerstone yet, what are you waiting for?
Lesann from Lesann Berry.
Madeline from My Capricious Existence.
Lyla from Lyla Writes Lyla Writes.
I’m also supposed to tell you something interesting, and I’ve decided to make it
cookie biscuit related.
During the First World War, when the soldiers of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps were fighting overseas, their families wanted to send them food that would survive the weeks-long journey without spoiling or crumbling. So here is the recipe for ANZAC biscuits:
1 cup of rolled oats
¾ cup of sugar
4 oz butter
1 tablespoon golden syrup (rumour has it you can use treacle at a pinch)
1 cup of plain flour
¾ cup of desiccated coconut
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon baking/bicarb soda
Method: Place dry ingredients in a bowl. Melt butter in saucepan with syrup and water, add soda, and then add to mixed dry ingredients. Roll in balls and flatten with a fork. Bake in a moderate over (180 Celsius, 350 Fahrenheit), for about 12 minutes, until golden brown.
They should look something like this:
They should look something like this:
Given that I consider my oven purely decorative, don’t hold your breath for any more recipes.
What are you cooking up this week, either in the kitchen or in front of your computer?
Monday, February 13, 2012
Etymology is the study of the history and origin of words.
Entomology is the study of bugs.
Therefore, etyentomology is the study of words about bugs.
I love words.
(I don't love bugs. I don't hate them, but if I was on first name terms with one he probably wouldn't be on my Christmas card list...You know, unless he sent one first, and I was guilted into reciprocating.)
Anyway, I love words.
I love this:
And I love this:
And even though it's Monday, I kind of love today as well.
What is making you happy today?
Thursday, February 9, 2012
Do you know the best thing about being a writer?
Nothing that happens in your life is redundant.
Boring queue? That’s imagination time. That’s description time. That’s figuring-out-how-to-write-a-scene-set-in-a-boring-queue time.
Boring job? That’s even better. That way, when you’re planning your next exciting plot point, choreographing that awesome fight scene, or wondering if you really need that supporting character, your boss is paying for it.
Other people waste hours on the internet looking up useless stuff. Nothing you look at is useless. Everything is research.
I’m not sure how I got started on my internet investigation of Spiritualism in the 1920s, but three hours later I was wondering if I could whip up some ectoplasm with eggwhites and cheesecloth. And oh yes, there are the bare bones of a story in the back of my mind.
Because everything counts.
Nothing is pointless. Nothing is meaningless. Everything we experience can be recycled into fiction.
We’re not scavengers. We’re bowerbirds. We make treasure out of the things that other people throw away -- moments, memories, and conversations that trail off into the air. We salvage those, reshape them.
What do you like best about being a writer?
Sunday, February 5, 2012
I love YA fiction. Always have, and always will. But what I don’t like is True Love in YA fiction. Whether that mysterious cute guy at school turns out to be a vampire, an angel, a prince or - gasp!- an ordinary boy, I’ll tell you one thing for certain: the guy you fall in love with when you’re sixteen is not the love of your life.
Disclaimer: I don’t know, maybe he is. Maybe you and he will grow up in exactly the same direction and want exactly the same things. It could happen. It’s just that it probably won’t. The reason they call it first love is that there is usually a second. At least.
Think back to the boy/girl you loved when you were sixteen. If you were still together, would you be visiting them in prison? Or the drug rehab unit? Or the drug rehab unit in prison? Or was that just my high school boyfriend?
Disclaimer: I don’t know that for sure, but I feel like I can safely malign him here because I don’t think he reads this blog. I don’t think he can read.
I don’t hate romance in YA. I don’t even hate love. I hate True Love. I hate “omigod-you-complete-me-you-are-my-soul-and-my-destiny-and-we-will-be-together-until-we-die” obsessive kind of love. My point, which I promise I have, is that you spend enough time in your teenage years searching for yourself. You shouldn’t be wasting your valuable time searching for anyone else as well.
If, after you save the world / expose the conspiracy / fight the bad guys / kill all the humans, if after all of that you and your boy/girl are still standing shoulder to shoulder, then maybe that’s a beginning of something new. (I think The Hunger Games did this well, BTW. I think Twilight didn’t.) But chances are that somewhere along the way when you were saving the world / exposing the conspiracy / fighting the bad guys / killing all the humans, you grew up a bit. You changed, and change is good. Change is necessary.
Love is not an ever-fixed mark, despite what Shakespeare said. What the hell would he know? He ditched his wife and ran off to London to hang around with boys who wore tights. And isn't the world a better place for it?
This isn’t just hindsight, I don't think. I was this cynical at sixteen as well. Could I picture myself with my high school boyfriend five years from then? I couldn’t picture myself with him by the weekend.
Forever ever is a long time when you’re sixteen.
True love in YA. Are you too cynical to buy it?