In many writing manuals or blogs, you hear about writers who begin their days with silent meditation in their quiet study and then write all morning. You hear about the writers who have set aside evenings for their studious and solitary creation because they work best at night. Ah, the peaceful bliss of a writing life. Except, for a lot of us, these scenarios are just as unrealistic as the single young writer living in their own Manhattan studio apartment in every romantic comedy ever.
Most writers I know work at least two jobs, sunup to sundown, and many are full-time students as well. Most writers I know don’t have studies, or even a quiet desk or armchair, or live with so many people that it’s never quiet or meditative. Most writers I know can’t devote the time they work best to writing, because they need to cook their dinner or do research for a paper or commute for an hour on a crowded bus or take care of their children or maybe just sleep because they’re just too damn tired.
I’m not making excuses for us normal, everyday writers. I’m not saying we have the right to not create or to be less industrious. Quite the opposite, I’m saying we need to be more industrious, more creative, and not get discouraged when it isn’t glamorous or convenient or even very fun. We aren’t very romantic or very spiritual or very quiet. But as long as we remember to keep writing, we’ll be okay.
“Everyone” is not an acceptable category when talking about anticipated audience. “Everyone” does not exist in the publishing world, which revolves around small, tightly focused groups dramatically separated from one another by marketing plans and sales pitches. If you say “everyone” will enjoy your novel, chances are you haven’t thought clearly enough about who you are writing for.
Hints for creating a strong female character based on Hollywood’s standards:
__ Have her beat up a man within the first 20 pages. The closer you make the beating to her introduction, the stronger a female character she will be. In the best case scenario, she enters the story already karate kicking. Bonus points if she knows science-y stuff.
__ Avoid femininity in favor of a sexual militant look. This sexual militant look must be effortless and accidental, because strong female characters are too strong to put time into their appearance. That would mean they were shallow or weak. (Except for that one scene where she wears the slinky dress and we realize she’s human… or at least a viable sexual partner.)
__ Give her a generous amount of dialogue relating to her independence and autonomy. This is to make sure that people understand she is a strong female character. If possible, throw in some jabs at the male characters and their maleness, because the best way to eradicate the objectification of one gender is to objectify another gender.
__ Emotional scarring is a a must. Emotional or mental damage is a good way to explain her lack of soft, feminine values, especially if this damage relates back in some way to a man. This adds complexity, making the strength of your female character actually a flaw that needs to be fixed (probably by the hero).
__ Keep her alone on her pedestal of perfect strong female character-ness. While male characters can be surrounded by buddies without losing integrity, it is best if your strong female character is a lone wolf. Too many strong female characters may push the story into “Feminist” territory, and no one wants that. (The one exception to this rule is if you have another strong female character and they are in conflict with one another. Everyone likes cat fights.)
Sometimes you have to do something other than write. Bake cookies, go for a walk, scrub the bathroom, play an instrument, sew up a hole in an old pair of jeans. Clear your head and don’t think about words. Play hard to get. It’ll get the Muse’s attention…
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.
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 helpful graphic I put together, based on my entry from yesterday. Of course, this is my own opinion, based on years spent reading all four categories and experiencing the impact they had on my own writing: