Terry Pratchett and Questioning Gender roles in Fantasy Literature

I’ve been listening to Terry Pratchett’s The Slip of the Keyboard at work recently; it’s basically a collection of essays about his life, writing and his struggles with Alzheimer’s.

pi7KxKpdTIn one of his essays, he mentions how women are portrayed in fantasy. If there is a witch, she is generally evil and crouches around like an old hag, spitting curses at everyone. If she is beautiful, she is seductive, using her sexuality as a means to an end. (I think many Disney villains can be used as an example here: Ursula, Wicked Step Mother, Malificent, etc.)

Gandalf-2On the opposite scale are the Wizards, who are male, wise, and that mentor that most protagonists seek out in times of great peril. Think Gandolf in Lord of the Rings, or Ged in A Wizard of Earthsea.

I guess my question is: Why is this so?

One of my own stories has a witch as its main villain, and I inadvertently made her beautiful, seductive and evil. I did this without thought, yet I’m wondering if this isn’t the time to mix it up a bit? Isn’t it time we had an evil wizard? Or a kind, yet sexy witch, who is not evil?

(J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books don’t really count in this musing, I suppose. As plenty of her witches are very nice, beautiful intelligent people. And Voldemort, a.k.a most evil wizard, ever.)

One thing I love about Terry Pratchett’s writing is that he doesn’t write characters that are predictable. Everyone (of the characters I’ve read so far) are unique and one of a kind. They don’t fit a basic formula, and they aren’t comfortable, which is completely fine. By comfortable, I mean you don’t always know what you can expect from them: one minute they might be performing an act of heroism, the next, you might question their sanity a bit.11751426_10203753735158590_4103356951849478425_n

The point: Terry Pratchett creates real characters that don’t fit into the formula of basic hero and that’s fine. (He also made the point that not all best-selling fantasy books are the best written either.)

This is something I agree with. But I guess what gets me is this whole idea of how women are portrayed in Fantasy. If she is a witch in some stories, why do we assume she is evil?

Do we automatically assign gender roles to specific aspects of fantasy? Do we like when witches are evil? Is the old hag expected to bring bad news? Or is this what we’ve just seen time after time, and so, we use examples of literature before us and think: ‘this the way it’s supposed to be.’

Or, if these gender roles are missing in the novel, does that automatically make it more unique than others? Just a thought.

What do you guys think? Any examples you can think of?

Funky Dreams, Inspiration and Writing

This week is a week of inspiration for me…and another inspiration is dreams. I get a lot of inspiration from dreams, as they are basically stories that the brain invents all by itself while you are sleeping.

44432_girl_sleep_lgThis morning I woke up at 4am with the knowledge that I had the best dream EVER, and despite me writing down as much as I could, it still seemed like a whole lot of nothing. I could barely remember anything.

All I do remember is that I was at a friend’s house staying the night, I made out with one of my girlfriends, (we have been watching a lot of Orange is the New Black lately), we sang a song, there was food and candles lit, I went somewhere with my boyfriend. I was working out on an exercise machine, doing pull ups. Then the dream switches to me being on a slide with my friends, we were poling on a raft through a river of dead bodies, then there was this waterfall drop, I was too scared to go so I jumped off the raft to the side.

dower2_0121205Just as I’m about to go down the shoot, some arms and legs emerge from a grate and a man appears with a gun and a bunch of soggy money clutched in his hand, he tries to shoot me and the dream changes again…I remember a story within a story, a love story I eventually tell to someone and my amazing heroics. (Apparently I could control water.) I remember a large grassy hill and a yellow mansion on the hill. I remember writing names on a mirror in pink paint or lipstick; someone scoffing and saying they definitely weren’t the best couple ever. I remember I dreamed up a night’s worth of actions in two hours.

Although I couldn’t remember everything, what IS clear is the emotions. I felt hopeful, triumphant, amazing and invincible. Like justice was really served or true love really triumphed in the end. I felt strong and confident and young. My heart was warm, and fuzzy, I was the happiest and the most excited about life that I have been in a while.

If I had a dream about my ex-boyfriend, I wouldn’t be warm and fuzzy. No, emotions like regret and longing sometimes resurface. But it is funny how sometimes a story has the ability to influence your emotions, changes the way you feel.

That’s what I want to do someday: I want to make someone feel happy because a character is happy, I want a reader to rejoice in their triumphs. I want to write something that changes a person’s perceptive about certain things. Words are powerful. I want to shape them, make them my own and be one of the triumphant ones.

Anyway, that’s enough from me…What are your goals and inspirations? Ever have a story that was inspired about a crazy dream of yours? I’d like to hear it!

Happy Writing people!

 

 

 

 

Don’t Wake Up the Sleep-walker!

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sunset at Pine cradle lake, PA

I’ve been working on a story/writing for the better part of 2 hours, mostly because I am bored and mostly because I am procrastinating doing laundry – but the reason I decided to post was this: I just realized something.

There is a big difference between writing a story, and immersing yourself in that story. Sometimes you write on the page, but you never become involved. There’s a difference between staying in the present world that you are writing, and emerging into that world, where the sights, scents and conversation is what is around you – not the hum of the fan next to your computer screen, or the traffic outside, or the typing of your hands wandering across your keyboard.

Immerse yourself into that world fellow writers. Become one with the scents, the sounds, the people. It is jarring to come back from such a world sometimes, but if this is what needs to be done, then, hey, I’m all for it.

Now, what was I doing again?

Ah, being a writer really is a lonely thing sometimes. Only we see the world that we are writing and it is sometimes hard to explain to others why they can’t interrupt that thought process.

I compare it to waking up a sleep-walker. Don’t wake up the sleep-walker! It’s all disorienting and confusing. That’s why I always tell my boyfriend: don’t interrupt me when I’m in the middle of writing, its like waking me up from a deep sleep, yanking me away from a world prematurely. (And believe me he’s done it a couple of times, grumble, grumble).

Let the writer wake up in her own time. Ah, but anyway I digress.

Become one with the story…don’t be afraid to dive in! That’s all.

Happy Writing!  And to those that are experiencing warmer weather (finally): Big Smiles! Summer is finally here!

 

What Game of Thrones can teach creative writers about hidden context

Source: HBO;  Margaery and Cersei walk together.

We saw it a few nights ago in the latest episode of Game of Thrones, in First of His Name. Margaery and Cersei are standing side by side, both staring out at the new King Tommen talking about King Joffrey, about the new king, about whether or not Margaery still wants to be queen. Talking about everything else than what is truly on their minds.

Game of Thrones, or more specifically, Game of Throne’s characters, presents a fine example of the importance of hidden context for creative writers.

In context:  Margaery and Cersei are having a conversation, they are talking about the troubles on hand: a recent death, a new queen and what they should do now. Margaery, is polite, beguiling, charming. She knows how to twist words to her favor, to ask a question, yet answer it in the same sentence. Meanwhile, Cersei’s words are clipped, sometimes barbed. The things she says are meant to shock, to entice some reaction from the person next to her, to try to make the person she is having a conversation with, uncomfortable.

Out of context: The tension between the two. The fact that they aren’t looking at each other. The pauses between words. The politeness. Margaery wants the throne and is doing what she can to get it. Cersei doesn’t like Margaery, but knows she must play nice and make small talk, or in Cersei’s case, idle threats. Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.

While the two, strong, beautiful women are making conversation, most of what goes on between them is what they don’t say. The glances, the gestures, the false smiles. Cersei says it best with a glance, a frown, or a twitch of her eye.

And all the while, there is tension.

You hear it time and time again, from a lot of creative writers, or teachers of the craft. There must be tension. Without tension of some kind there is no story, no problem or obstacle to overcome.

If two characters are having a conversation, and everything is happy, perfect, agreeable, there is no reason for the conversation and as such, there is no story.

That’s why it is so important to create great detail in your stories. Sensory details. Describe the scene and character and conversation in detail.

With detail you will create the tension, and in that tension is what isn’t being said – the hidden context. Which is sometimes the most important thing of all.

What are your favorite stories or TV Shows? Who are your favorite characters in them? And what does it teach you about writing or story telling?

Thoughts below if you’ve got ’em!

 

 

Part 2: Confessions – I am a child of the 90s, and yes, I hate my job

Part 2: Confessions was supposed to be about facing my Writer’s Fear, but this rant is very much-needed so hold onto your hats people. If you missed Part 1: Confessions, Struggling with Writers Fear you can read it here.

working manIt’s no joke, the majority of middle class Americans are probably in the same boat – working day in and day out, struggling to make rent and hating the 8 to 5 job that pays the bills but keeps them locked to the grindstone. No freedom to do what you want, when you want and where you want.

It’s work all day for little pay. It’s time clocks, and meetings and little vacation days. It’s cramming in a few texts during 15 minute breaks. It’s knowing that the boss-man is always watching, waiting with that memo that doesn’t make sense.

It’s managers that get promoted when they don’t know a daaamn thing. It’s – not who you know, it’s who you blow.

It’s “The Office.”

It’s…politics.

Several weeks ago, I moved to a new town, packed my bags, said goodbye to the folks and grabbed an easy 8 to 5 job that is now slowly eating my brains out. (Note to self, remember to apply for new jobs a bit sooner next time.)

At any rate, its amazing how dysfunctional some companies are. Where people get treated like numbers and the company gets away with it. How ridiculous the rules of attendance are, of break times, of self-importance. When did it get to be like that?

When did I become of a peon in the great big world of the machine? I don’t remember signing up for that.

clip art handsI am a child of the 90’s. I was told to follow your heart, follow your dreams, go to school for what you what. Well…if this is where a Liberal Arts degree in English Literature gets you, I feel gypped.

Today I got told by a girl barley in her twenties that I didn’t know anything. And that jolted me to a stop. I’m sorry? You don’t know anything about me, much less what I know and don’t know. At any rate, it pissed me off.
I’m a twenty-five year old college graduate, who works hard for nothing, and The Writer in me is ready to stand up and pay attention. I don’t deserve to be anyone’s bitch, much less the company that I work for.

I’ve decided it’s time to be honest, and its time to be honest with myself. I want to write for a living. I want to find the freedom in my job, and in myself to work hard and do what I love to do day in and day out. With no fear.

Maybe the ridiculous of this company is pushing me in the right direction – I am soo very close to just quitting my job and starting to write for a living.

If I were honest with my self, I would admit that I am wasting my time being responsible for once. Sometimes you have to be a little reckless to follow your dreams. I mean, who ever said that getting what you want was easy?

I have to remember that it’s not my job that defines me, it’s who I am and what I chose to do with my time here on earth that makes me who I am.

And it is my time to be honest with myself.

tampaI thought that I would make April a month of Confession Posts. Mostly Writing related, but this rant caught up with me tonight and needed to be let out. I know that there a lot of college graduates out there and people my age who feel the same. And we need to be heard and to support each other.

Look forward to Part 3 Confessions: How to Beat Writer’s Fear in a few weeks!

Any thoughts? Ideas? Rants of your own that need to be heard? Comment below! Writing is freedom! Let’s take advantage of it!

Part 1 Confessions: Struggling with Writer’s Fear

Something that I’ve been avoiding writing about for awhile now…

And that is about Fear…or, most importantly, about MY FEAR.

A writer’s fear. Yikes. A crippling phobia that leads to self doubt, blank pages and writer’s block. I am so worried about whether or not my writing will be good or not, and I don’t get anything written.

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If you all remember, back in August, I purchased Writer’s Market 2014 with much excitement and enthusiasm, all with the intention of moving myself forward on the path of freelancing and writing as a way to make a living.

I thumped the gigantic book on my desk and then stared at it apprehensively for a few minutes. (No lie.) With a deep breath, I managed to page through the first few pages, and then I pushed it aside, opened up Pandora and started listening to something soothing. Query letters? Submissions? Deadlines? Limits?

Words that didn’t seem intimidating before were suddenly hitting me in the face. Where was my inhaler again? Where was this all coming from?

So, I thought. And I thought some more.

All these questions buzzed through my head: How do I make the submission process, editing and proof-reading work for me? What are my goals? Do I have any? What will bring me satisfaction? What do I want to write and where do I want to send it to?

Wait a minute, self. Slooww down.

I need to keep constantly reminding myself: everyone has their own way of dealing with something. As writers, we should remember that each of us has our own style and that can be applied in all that we do. No one is the same, embrace it!

Also the most important thing right now: Write, Write, Write!  (<<<Something that I will keep reminding myself no matter what! How am I to succeed if I don’t try?)

In the next few days, I will be doing some of my own research to help counteract this weight on my shoulders, and on my chest. I will succeed as a writer. I just have to have the courage to face my own fears!

No April Fool’s jokes for me today, too much to do! Stay tuned for Part 2: My ways to Counteract Writer’s Fear!

Laundry, a menial chore – a nice journaling opportunity!

Moved to a new place in the last few months, and the building we are living in doesn’t have laundry on site, so every week or so I must make that dreaded trip to the laundromat. I hate doing laundry, and I hate laundromats, but the last time I brought my journal along and it gave me this somewhat amusing (if a bit depressing) journal entry:

ZZZZZ

3/5/14

I hate the sound of a laundromat. The way everyone’s laundry bumps up and down and goes every which-way, it makes me feel like there’s a hovercraft nearby, the rinsing and the swooshing, the quick, jagged vibrating of a laundry load full of jeans. The heavy slosh of an empty washer only half-full, only half used.

The dryer doors that fly open in mid-spin on a whim, flinging out their contents…be free undies…be free towels…be free…

Then there is the final rinse, the final spin, the heavy drone of a washer that bids you to keep waiting, groans and shudders, waiting….waiting…wait. One final spin, a heavy moan and then it shudders. It’s done.

How disturbing that washing clothes sounds like sex on paper, but it’s not like that at all.

Doing laundry is not sexy. It is the un-sexed, the final hangnail, the equivalent of having a migraine with a piercing light shining down on you.

It is like finding a stain on your favorite t-shirt, drumming your steering wheel in long lines of traffic, a fly buzzing in your ear, diarrhea, a sink full of dirty dishes, an open wound, the stink and the squelch of feet stuck in cold mud.

It is that raw, open feeling of words not said, of empty spaces, of regrets that come flying back in crowds of laughing, boisterous people. It’s like realizing you’ve forgotten something very important, and that dread of forgotten assignments…a pop-quiz, a failed class, the feeling of social paranoia. It is that trapped, dizzying realization that no one is coming to rescue you – life really comes with disappointments, heart ache and hurts.

And no one is going to rescue you from the overwhelming joyless feeling of living sometimes. Sometimes, all you can do is feel lost in the hullabaloo of it. Sometimes all you can do is look around hopelessly at the blank, wide-eyed, too-beautiful people and hope that they won’t notice that you might smell like prey to their eyes, that you might be that one person that might make this second of their lives a little more entertaining.

But ah, I digress – laundry. That menial chore that reminds you that there are other hopeless people in the world around you. You may think that you smell like roses most of the time, but in the end of it…eventually, all your clothes smell like shit. And that’s enough to bring dread to anyone.

Yeah, I really hate laundry. One day, when I’m rich and famous, I’ll hire someone to do it for me. But for now, it keeps me with the realization, and reminds me that no one is perfect – myself included.

Inspiration in the dead of winter – the beauty of old things

It’s snowing here in upstate New York, (which isn’t surprising) and I’m ringing in the new year slightly hung over, but with a positive spirit. This is going to be the year that I’m going to get published! Doesn’t matter what, and doesn’t matter where or when, I will see my name in print in some form of publication and that’s that!

And despite the cold, the winter reminds me that a writer can find beauty in the most stagnant things. I often chaff at being cooped up inside and whine about the air that bites and dries the skin, but some days the sun does come out and you see the snow, white against the trees…

1513858_10152133881965610_108019176_nYou notice the blue of a frozen lake or pond…find the joy in a bit of gurgling water in a creek…and you wonder why it always sounds louder when icicles are dripping nearby, as if the rest of the frozen woods are holding their breath…

1533876_10152133824645610_873393832_nThe sun came out the other day and I was able to go out walking and took these pictures. In the ravine next to my house, there is an old junkyard. And where there is an old junkyard, you will find old things:

1557651_10152133814770610_1412887091_n 1520772_10152133810520610_400098364_n1526651_10152133864400610_841668839_nLike the hood off a 1950 green Buick that my father says he remembers having as a child.

I was inspired by an article I saw that showed the beauty of abandoned places, how old things feel haunting, have a sense of mystery, a story of their own to tell.

1525469_10152133868015610_1987141748_nWalking in the woods, I often find inspiration in the beauty around me, the sights, the sounds, the fresh air and blue sky. (This might also be why I love fantasy novels so much.) But inspiration is all around us – even in the dead of winter! You just have to open your eyes and see it!

What inspires you? Share something if you got it! Any New Years resolutions anyone?

What’s up buttercup? Copywriting?! Freelancing?!

Just got a notification that informed me that a year ago, I joined the wonderful world of WordPress!

Although I don’t have the thousands of admiring followers I would love to have, I’ve been thinking about the other benefits that blogging has done for me over the year:

  • Firstly, I’ve learned about blogging. Everyone has their own voice. And although I am still developing my own and learning as I go, I’ve learned it is very important to keep your posts to the point and accessible to everyone.
  • Don’t ramble if it’s not necessary and remember that everyone has the attention span of a peanut – it’s not very big.
  • Attract those readers with pictures, catchy phrases and good quality writing. Make them excited about what you’re writing, get personal with your readers.
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Me! Aww…

Essentially you are selling yourself to your readers and that’s another thing I’ve learned over the year:

  • How important it is to market yourself as a writer.

It’s important to sell yourself to your readers as much as it is to make your writing readable. Show this through your writing – through your posts, through your confidence, your ability to be versatile in your writing. Write what you know of course, but don’t be afraid to stretch the boundaries – to learn as you go.

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I might be preaching a bit here, but it’s something that I struggle with A LOT and I’d like to take this time to remind myself and anyone else who cares to listen:

Along the way, Don’t be afraid of failure.

Just don’t. It doesn’t do you any good and makes you procrastinate and not get the things done that you need to get done.

And on that note, it’s time to get to the point of this post:

I’ve decided to expand my writing knowledge and try my hand at Copywriting and Freelancing. It’s been something I’ve been thinking about for a while now and for some reason this time I feel serious about it. Going to order my copy of The 2014 Writer’s Market now!

I’m not sure what will come of it, but maybe I’ll get a part-time writing gig!  🙂

Happy writing people!

PS: More posts to come on this new venture of mine – it might change the focus of how this blog started out, but I’ve decided to treat every new journey as a learning experience. There is always room to grow!

Saturday Morning Food Post

Saturday Morning yummyness of the day:

0216131132Strawberry-Vanilla pancakes garnished with whipped topping and sliced strawberries; with a side of fried egg with melted sharp cheddar cheese on top.

It’s important that writers have other creative hobbies, and I’ve decided making good food is mine!

What’s yours?