Kay: Writing Authenticity, not Gender Swapping

The all-female cast of the “Ghostbusters” reboot. From left: Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, and Kate McKinnon. (Hopper Stone/Columbia Pictures, Sony via AP, File)

Just recently I finished a fantasy story in which the protagonist was a female warrior. It didn’t really grab me. The heroine seemed to slash and burn her way through the opposition without much worry, and while consequences resulted, they were plot points rather than shifts in her character development and emotional outlook.

Guy in a skirt, I thought, and moved on.

But lately I’ve noticed that there’s been public discussion of this phenomenon—that is, the “gender swapping” effect. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints – From the Headlines

I’m guessing this is a great time to be a news reporter or journalist.  Every day seems to bring a slew of new stories to follow and report on.  The challenge is not finding a news topic, but rather deciding which of the many things happening during the course of the day to choose.

This past week, of course, the news was all about the storms battering the Atlantic.   Now we’ve moved on to clean-up efforts and our tumultuous political environment.  I’ve been so distracted by the evening news I didn’t even notice that football season had started!

After bingeing on the news for the last week-and-a-half after my news-free vacation in Scotland, I’m ready for to dial things back a bit.  Now that I’ve finished today’s New York Times crossword and caught up on the day’s headlines, it’s time to turn off the news and focus on something else.  I’m thinking a little Random Word Improv will be just the thing to get me into a more creative frame of mind.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Kay: On the Road with Journey Novels

A view of Highgate Cemetery

Today I’m in London, visiting Jilly, and we will go (or have gone) to Highgate Cemetery, a place I’ve always wanted to see. George Eliot is buried here, as well as Christina Rossetti, Radclyffe Hall, Douglas Adams (author of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), Karl Marx, George Michael, and 170,000 other famous and not-so-famous people.

I’ll be gone for more than three weeks—after I leave here, I go to Italy where I’ll meet up with another friend in Bologna and then take a bus trip around the country. I’m looking forward to it all—brainstorming with Jilly in addition to doing fun stuff—and then seeing the high spots of Italy, a country I’ve never been to.

I think travel is good for people. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Vulnerable Characters

You remember Achilles, right? He had that “heel” problem.

I read two books this past weekend (it seemed much more appealing than cleaning the garage).  One was a keeper and the other probably not; one had a historical setting and the other was contemporary; but both had something in common:  a realistically vulnerable hero.

First off was Lori Foster’s Under Pressure, book 1 in her Body Armour series.  It was one of the freebies from the recent writing conference and, since I’d read and enjoyed her books before, I figured it would be a relaxing way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Though I’m pretty sure I’m not the target reader for this particular series, there were a couple of elements that I thought worked really well.  The first was the chemistry between the hero and heroine.  It can be difficult to capture instant (or very quick) attraction between characters, but in brief brushstrokes the author did just that.  The story features a resourceful heroine (Cat), a hunky bodyguard hero (Leese), and a nefarious Bad Guy threat.

As the story opens Continue reading

Elizabeth: Disability Depictions

Looking for your weekly dose of Writing Sprints?  Head on over to our Wednesday post for this week’s words and resulting stories.  There’s still plenty of time to play along.

As Michille mentioned in her post yesterday, the annual RWA conference is fast approaching.   In going through the proposed schedule of workshops this afternoon I was amused to see that the session about “Optimizing Writers Conferences” is being offered on Friday afternoon – more than half-way through the conference.  Somehow that seems less than optimal.

Every year the conference seems to have several sessions focused on a particular theme or topic.  At the first conference I went to it was “self-publishing” (that was quite a while ago).  Other years have addressed forensics, the military, and crime-scene processing.    The last conference I was at had a number of sessions talking about how to increase diversity in writing – both from the stand point of diverse characterizations and attracting diverse writers – a topic that is still being talked about and worked on in the writing community.

There appear to be several new topics on the schedule this year and one workshop that caught my eye was “Creating Authentic Characters with Disabilities.” Continue reading

Elizabeth: You’re Wrong!

As I mentioned in last Wednesday’s post, work on my current manuscript that I am supposed to be buffing and polishing in preparation for pitching at RWA Nationals has been derailed by a new story idea that is refusing to patiently wait its turn in the pending idea file.

Part of the allure – other than the “fun of discovery” vs. the “hard work of wrestling a story into shape” – is that it combines two of my current passions:  story and politics.

The heroine, a reporter, wants to cover the new big, shiny exciting story, but instead gets sent to the middle of nowhere to cover a political campaign that she has no interest in.  She and the hero, the under-dog politician battling to unseat an entrenched incumbent, couldn’t be more different.  City vs. country.  Democrat vs. Republican.  Vegan vs. hunter/fisherman.  If I was writing a mystery, one of them would likely wind up as a chalk-outline.  Fortunately, this is romance, so there will be a happily-ever-after if I have to lock them in a room until they can reach common ground.  (Note to self:  find room to lock characters in.) Continue reading

Nancy: The Most Important Question You’ll Ask Your Characters

We writers ask our characters a lot of questions. Who are you? What do you want? How will you get it? What are you willing to suffer, sacrifice, and change to reach your goal? If and when you reach it, are you sure that’s the thing you really want, after all?

These are all important questions. They are fundamental to building believable characters. But they aren’t enough to get to the heart of your story. To do that, you have to ask your characters why? Not just once or twice or even three times, but over and over again. Ask it until there is nothing more to uncover, until it seems your characters have nothing left to say. And then ask it one more time.

The importance of the question ‘why’ is a core concept of Lisa Cron’s Story Genius approach to writing. It makes sense. Of course we want to know why our characters do what they do. One way to learn why our characters want and do and react the way they do is to add whys throughout our development process. So what do you want? is followed by why do you want that?. How will you get it? is followed by why is that the path you’ll take?. Etc., etc. Ad infinitum.

And when should you stop asking why? Continue reading