Can we please retire the term “strong female character” in 2016? Why do we still need two different qualifiers to anticipate people’s assumptions that a character will be male unless otherwise stated, and if that character is female, she will be weak unless otherwise stated? Rey and Jessica Jones and Furiosa are not “strong female characters”. They are just “characters”.
Reading is important, but when all your thoughts belong to other people, you will find yourself without anything original to say. Read less, think more, write most.
Art is not about being right. It’s about being you.
We have the capacity to feel every emotion available to the human consciousness, but we will never be able to write about them without feeling them first. We need to let go and allow ourselves to feel strong, complicated, and frightening things before we can give those emotions to others through our written words.
Welcome back to our End-of-Year Reading List experiment. Everyone have their lists? Let’s get on with part 2. It is quite simple.
END-OF-YEAR READING LIST [PART 2]:
Go down your list. Underline all the books by female authors. Circle all the books by minority authors. Put a star next to all the books by LGBTQ authors. How marked up is your list?
If your list was covered in marks, congratulations – you’re one of the few. To the rest of us (and I’ve been guilty of this too) we need to wake up to the fact that there is a beautifully diverse literary world that exists in the shadows, outside the mainstream market. It’s harder to find, so many people don’t bother, but it is integral to the continued vitality of literature that we realize that everyone has a story which is not only interesting but also indispensable.
My New Year challenge to you: Make 2016 a year of expanding horizons. Get a few more marks on next year’s Reading List. It will make you a better writer and a better person.
In the spirit of all the end-of-year lists that people make over the holidays, let’s do a list-making exercise/social experiment. I’ll post part one of this exercise today and part two of this exercise tomorrow.
END-OF-YEAR READING LIST [PART 1]:
Make a list of your top ten favorite authors of 2015. Not the ones you tell people to be impressive (because who hasn’t thrown Hemmingway or Mailer or Rand into their list just to live up to Serious Writer status?) List the real ones you read and sit back with and take a minute to appreciate because they’re just that damn good? Be completely honest, whether it’s Shel Silverstein or Jane Austen. Write them down.
When writing characters, remember to consider not only their personalities but their psychological development. Not every character has to fit a completely different temperament profile. It is possible to have two extroverted optimists in the same story and keep them unique by homing in on where they are in life: make Character A young, naive, and dreamy and make Character B wise, determined, and practical.
This would be a good exercise. Pick three or four personality descriptors and apply them to two characters. Focus on differentiating them based on how their age/culture/class/history has influenced their psychological development.
A Hard Fact: The average American buys seventeen books a year. In 2013, a projected 304,912 new (traditional print) books were published. This means that the average American is NOT reading approximately 304,895 books every year.
A Hard Question: What is going to make your book one of the annual seventeen? How will you make your product stand out in such a saturated marketplace?
I laugh at the people who don’t know I’m scribbling their quirks and eccentricities down on my napkin. They have become but fodder for my insatiable imagination. This is the price people pay for being interesting in my general vicinity.
Ever wonder why are there so many genres of music but not of books? Basic business. The Book Industry Study Group has compiled a list of numbers called BISAC codes, which all published books must be filed under. This makes it easier to market, sell, and stock books based on these categories. And while BISAC codes are always expanding, it is still sad that literary art has to be so confined by the practicality of an old business model. Personally, I’d love to see what a book genre entitled “shimmer pop” or “chilltronica” read like.
You can check out the current BISAC list for Fiction here.