We’re losing all our Strong Female Characters to Trinity Syndrome… By Tasha Robinson

Here is a great checklist for making genuine ‘strong female characters’, taken from this interesting article by Tasha Robinson (follow on twitter @TashaRobinson). While I think Mrs Robinson comes too down hard on some movies with male protagonists, for not elevating the other females involved, I think she makes some excellent points on how to make really inspiring female characters in our own fiction.

Find Mrs. Robinson’s full article here:

http://thedissolve.com/features/exposition/618-were-losing-all-our-strong-female-characters-to-tr/

Here’s the ‘Strong female character’ checklist:

 

  1. After being introduced, does your Strong Female Character then fail to do anything fundamentally significant to the outcome of the plot? Anything at all?
  2. If she does accomplish something plot-significant, is it primarily getting raped, beaten, or killed to motivate a male hero? Or deciding to have sex with/not have sex with/agreeing to date/deciding to break up with a male hero? Or nagging a male hero into growing up, or nagging him to stop being so heroic? Basically, does she only exist to service the male hero’s needs, development, or motivations?
  3. Could your Strong Female Character be seamlessly replaced with a floor lamp with some useful information written on it to help a male hero?
  4. Is a fundamental point of your plot that your Strong Female Character is the strongest, smartest, meanest, toughest, or most experienced character in the story—until the protagonist arrives?
  5. …or worse, does he enter the story as a bumbling f***-up, but spend the whole movie rapidly evolving past her, while she stays entirely static, and even cheers him on? Does your Strong Female Character exist primarily so the protagonist can impress her?
  6. It’s nice if she’s hyper-cool, but does she only start off that way so a male hero will look even cooler by comparison when he rescues or surpasses her?
  7. Is she so strong and capable that she’s never needed rescuing before now, but once the plot kicks into gear, she’s suddenly captured or threatened by the villain, and needs the hero’s intervention? Is breaking down her pride a fundamental part of the story?
  8. Does she disappear entirely for the second half/third act of the film, for any reason other than because she’s doing something significant to the plot (besides being a hostage, or dying)?

 

Review of ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2′; or ‘How to Make Your Preschooler Cry’.

Going into ‘How to Train your Dragon 2’ I was nervous. The bar had been set so high by the first film, and the first trailer that came out had such a massive spoiler that I refused to watch any more trailers until I saw the movie. It turned out to be rather difficult to avoid the barrage of marketing, but I did the best I could.

This Father’s day we finally went; my wife, six year old son, my four year old daughter and I. Now let me stop here and make sure everyone knows that this movie is rated PG, and for a good reason. I have many good things to say about this movie, but had I known how emotional and intense it was I would not have taken my four year old! More on that later. Seriously parents, if you have preschoolers, or even sensitive children, look into the movie (or read the rest of this review). You may want to wait to watch it, or at least prepare them somehow.

Despite being emotional enough to almost make me cry (not to mention my poor daughter), I really enjoyed the movie. As much as any sequel, it lived up to its predecessor in its meaningful plot centered on relationships, discovering who you are, and growing up. Near the end the action may have gotten in the way of those points a smidge, but then, I needed the emotional break by that point.

*Here be SPOILERS!*

My two favorite things about the first movie were the dragons, and the rare and touching father-son dynamic that played out. HTTYD2 focused hard on these two aspects and I think that that is why I liked it so much.

The sequel introduced multiple new dragons, and each was interesting and colorful. I will admit that I never cared for the protruding bug-eyes most of the dragon have (the biologist in my cringes), but I can forgive that since I have seen that it stems from the drawing style of the original concept art. The Bewilderbeast was an impressive addition, I loved the tusks and the ice breath, but something about the flat face, and in particular the small teeth didn’t sit quite right with me. Toothless’s changes were a nice touch that brought you back to the wonder of the first movie when we first met the impressive black creature. Although, (yes I’m being picky) how could the dragon not have known that his dorsal spikes could split and flap? Even still, the glowing blue bit at the end made up for that lapse rationale.

One last complaint about the dragons and I’ll be done, and this is a big spoiler. At the end Hiccup helps Toothless resist the control of the Alpha by blindfolding him. How did Hiccup know that the Alpha’s control worked through the eyes? Several times actually, the Alpha controlled dragons from some distance without being able to see them… A weak plot detail if you ask me.

On to the relationships. Seeing the family relationships and the bonds between Hiccup, Stoic, and Valka was beautiful. The relational plot centered around Hiccup’s anxiety over what kind of a man he is, and how he can take on the role of village chief. In meeting his mother, he discovers that his unique traits come from her, and he finds peace in who he is. Unfortunately, still being naive, he relies on his own skills instead of listening to wisdom and putting his tribe first.

The price is his father’s life…

That’s right, I said it. Stoic dies. And not just a falls into an abyss and disappears forever kind of dies. In an emotionally charged, heart wrenching twist, Stoic is killed by a dragon blast as he takes the blow to save Hiccup’s life. Not only do we pretty much see it happen, we get to see Hiccup and his Mom cry over his dead body at some length, and then a very solemn Viking funeral. My eyes teared up, I’ll admit it. But my four year old was bawling.

It is not the kind of character death that will go over the head of a small child. Dreamworks makes sure of that. Did I mention it was Father’s Day? That’s right, on Father’s Day, I took my kids to see a movie where the main character’s father dies horribly. Epic parenting fail.

Of course, Stoic’s sacrifice inspires Hiccup to fulfill the role of Chief of Burke and defend his home from an evil dragon army. One of the interesting themes in the movie was whether or not people can change. Hiccup’s mother did not return to Burke because she believed Stoic and the others could not change their dragon killing ways. She was proved wrong, by Hiccup’s taming of Toothless in the first movie. We also see the dragon trapper, Eret son of Eret, change his ways. Interestingly, we get a little reality check in that, despite Hiccups confidence and best attempts, the scarred villain Drago Bludvist remains unchangeable. Life is hard, there is hope, but you can’t change some people. Too true.

They tried to make a point in the movie about leading by free will, but it didn’t really work for me. The scene where Drago shows his dragon dominating skills was impressive and resonated, but the antiparallel didn’t hit home to me. I can’t even pin down when it was supposed to be shown. Maybe I was distracted by my daughter crying.

I have a few minor pet peeves left including; 1) the rather limited role of Astrid in the film, 2) how in Thor’s name did Drago tame/subdue the Bewilderbeast in the first place?, and 3) why were all the baby dragons the same species? Those issues bothered me a little, but not so much that I won’t see it again.

Despite all that, I really enjoyed the movie, at least I did when I wasn’t feeling like a jerk of a father.  I can’t wait to see it again when it comes out on DVD.

Check out How to Train Your Dragon 2. I give it 4 out of 5 impossible flaming swords. Be ready for a wild ride, but leave your preschoolers home.

And maybe bring a tissue, just in case…

Cover Art Reveal ‘Zero’

jaurelguay:

Now that is a classy cover. I love the amazing detail put into it. Congrats J.S.!

Originally posted on The Path - J. S. Collyer's Writing Blog:

My first book, a science fiction space-pirate romp called Zero, is due for release this August and it’s feeling more and more real every week. This week is no exception. Dagda Publishing revealed the cover art at the weekend and here it is in all its glory. I have to say, I’m more than a little chuffed.

'Zero' by J. S. Collyer - due for paperback and e-book release August 2014

‘Zero’ by J. S. Collyer – due for paperback and e-book release August 2014

The work was done by the amazingly talented Matt Davis. Check out his DeviantArt: he is amazingly talented AND open for commissions!

Seriously, writers, don’t settle for less than amazing cover art. Even if it costs a little more, it’s worth the investment. All that guff about not judging a book by its cover? Guff. I may chance a book with a poor cover if it has been strongly recommended to me but whether I am…

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Not Quite Twenty Questions for Kate Flora

jaurelguay:

Fun interview with a very successful author friend of mine!

Originally posted on Pen, Ink, and Crimes:

hank-2013-bioHANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: if there is a photo of when I met Kate Flora it certainly was taken with an actual camera, not a cell phone. Because that’s how long ago it was.

Not that long ago in real years, I guess—maybe seven or eight—but long ago in book time. There were no e-books, I think. I was so new, I’m sure I had no books published, and the wonderful Kate’s Mystery Books in Cambridge was still a Mecca for mystery authors.

The iconic Kate Mattes had organized the place—a crowed and chaotic two-room treasure chest crammed with every imaginable mystery book—some you could find, some you couldn’t. She’d enlisted Robert B Parker himself to help put up the shelving.

And every year she’d host a huge holiday party, all were invited, and we’d all make the pilgrimage to Kate’s Mystery books, because everyone would be there.

I was terrified…

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Looking after #1 – Write the Novel You Want To Read

Guest post by Author J. S. Collyer

10372641_1436299246625640_8730916658319903732_nI sometimes wonder what sparks people off to start writing. In my experience, people decide to start for all sorts of reasons and at all stages of life. Some start penning poetry at 45, others (like me) were scribbling space operas in notebooks at age 10 before we even knew what a space opera was, let alone ever read one. Everyone has their own starting point and their own journey but I know the reason I started writing stories was because I loved to read, but the more and more I read, the more I realised that my novel is not out there. And the reason it’s not out there is because it only exists in my head.

Until now.

My first novel, a laser-filled SciFi romp called Zero, is due for release this August and it is the first time that a novel is out there that has everything in it that I would like to read. I’m not saying it’s perfect, or even that it’s any good, just that it was what I would like from a story. And it made it incredibly fun to write.

(If you want more details about Zero, you can check out my page on my blog)

It’s a given that if you’re not enjoying what you’re writing, chances are your reader won’t enjoy it either. Love you work, writers! Sink yourself in it and don’t be ashamed of what you want from it or what it wants from you. If you want to write paranoid erotic thriller or the next biggest literary social commentary with a high fantasy side-plot, you do it, baby! There will be an audience out there for you, whatever sort of story you want to write, so why not enjoy the journey?

If your narrative is a chore, chances are it’s not your narrative.

I’m not saying give up at the first rocky patch in the road. You and your story will go through good times and bad times, just like with any worthwhile relationship. There will be times when you skip through flowered meadows hand-in-hand, feeding each other chocolate-dipped strawberries and blushing at every exchanged glance. But there will also be times when you want to throw the furniture at each other, throws, cushions, lamps and all.

Don’t be scared of the work, of the difficulty bits or the dodgy bits in your draft. Keep on writing. If you’re really, really stuck, change your playlist, go for a walk, read another book and come back to it. If necessary, have a break. But, I’ve found, if you have faith in your project and you enjoy it enough, you will come back together and find a way to patch up your differences in the edit.

Of course, don’t avoid making the tough decisions. Some narratives are not meant to be. Be warned, it may take a long time for their cracks to show. You could have just written the first page or you could be 100,000 words in. But you can’t lie to yourself. You will know when a narrative is not salvageable. Be tough. Move on. It’s best for both of you.

(A tip for these difficult times: if the ctrl + alt + del step is a little too final, squirrel the story away in a ‘ongoing’ folder somewhere on your hard drive, or in your desk drawer if you’re old school. This is agreeing to disagree indefinitely and go your separate ways…but keeping each other’s phone numbers, just in case)

Because, after all, if you’ve reached that point, it probably means there’s another narrative in the brain tank screaming to get out, the one that was meant to be. No one else is going to write that story, not in the way you will. If you want it in the world, make it happen.

Set it free!

Look after number one, write the novel you want to read, because it’s very unlikely anyone else will do half so good a job.

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J. S. Collyer is a science fiction and horror writer heralding from Lancaser, UK who shares fiction and musings on writing on her wordpress (jcollyer.wordpress.com). Her first novel, Zero, is due for release by Dagda Publishing Aug 2014 and you can follow her for updates and fiction fun on Facebook (www.facebook.com/jscollyer) and Twitter (@JexShinigami)

Conversation with Jay Barnson ~ Author Interview

Today’s post is a transcript from a recent conversation with author Mr. Jay Barnson, which occurred during his visit to my little corner of the etherverse.  Barnson is video game designer, up and coming novelist and acquaintance of mine through Xchyler Publishing.

JayPunkHeadshot1J. Aurel: Hello Mr. Barnson, It was so good of you to accept my invitation for an afternoon drink at the ‘Grog-and-Dart’. Pull yourself up a stool.

Barnson: What, they’ve got stools here, too? Man. Classy establishment. So much better than the last place I found myself…

J. Aurel: I understand that you have a new work of fiction. Can you tell us a little about your story?

Barnson: I could tell you, but then I’d have to ki… oh, fiction. Right.

I was actually inspired when I was doing research on what was going to be a totally different story, involving telecommunications in the Victorian era. I had some weird idea for steampunk technology, but the more I dug into the actual technology of the era, the more I realized that what I thought would be science fiction in the 1880s was actually science fact. They really did have pretty amazing technology back then. Trans-Atlantic communication, fax machines, “online” romances, telecommunications fraud…Really, all the stuff that we think are unique to the Internet age… maybe back when it was text-based, at least… existed back then, on a smaller scale.

A few months earlier, I’d read an article about a profoundly autistic teenaged girl. Her therapists believed that she was also intellectually disabled. With a great deal of effort, her family taught her to use the keyboard. After a while, she was able to write messages to explain what she was going through. Even her family, who loved her and knew her best, had completely underestimated her. Here was an intelligent young lady with the same emotions as any other girl her age, fully cognizant of how her brain and body were betraying her. Until she used an alternative form of communication, everyone assumed she was incapable of understanding what she was doing.

Between this, and a little study of Savant Syndrome, I thought about how little we know now in the 21st century about these kinds of disabilities. Back in the 19th century, what chance would even a mildly autistic individual have?

These ideas became the seeds for Dots, Dashes, and Deceit. From the high-tech telegraphy industry came Winnie. She’s a young, small-town telegraph operator who has been displaced by advancing technology. She’s frustrated by her love of technology and hope for adventure, and the expectations of society which considers her perilously close to “old maid” status. Then you have Joshua, a mute savant, dismissed by the town as harmless but hopelessly “dumb,” in both senses of the word. However, nobody recognizes that the supposedly nervous habit he has of tapping with his hand is actually Morse code… and that he’s discovered a deadly plot that he has been unable to communicate.

Add to that an eccentric inventor, mechanical men controlled via Morse code, an alternate history where the East India Company was not nationalized after the Indian Rebellion of 1857, long-distance plots from across the world coordinated via coded telegraph messages, and an airship full of thugs… and you have Dots, Dashes, and Deceit, my short story coming soon in Terra Mechanica: A Steampunk Anthology.

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J. Aurel: Wow that sounds like quite the story! What moved you to become an author?

Barnson: I honestly can’t Continue reading

Conversation with ‘Dancing with Fireflies’ ~ Author Interview

Today’s post is a transcript from a recent conversation with author Ms. Crysta, founder of ‘Dancing with Fireflies’. Ms. Crysta is a prolific blogger, champion of authors and the writing craft, and acquaintance of mine through our common interests in writing and blogging.

DWF Pic.J. Aurel: Hello Ms. Crysta, thank you for coming.  Would you care for some Tea?  Crysta: I would love some. I have actually been a tea drinker for many years. In fact it is one of my many writing rituals, to make a cup of tea and sit for a few minutes watching the steam rise.  

J. Aurel:  You are very welcome.  Let’s see now, I have Earl Grey, Green, and Raspberry Zinger, which would you prefer?  I am so glad you were able to make time in your busy schedule. Tell me, what is ‘Dancing with Fireflies’ all about?  

Crysta: I love Earl Grey with cream and sugar. So, Dancing with Fireflies started off like so many blogs as a personal space for my own creative writing. But through the years it has started to morph into an imaginative networking place for people who have the same love of writing as I do. Writers tend to be introverts, unless forced out into the public due to some grand luck of fame. So this gives people a chance to share their art from the comforts of their own sacred spaces.  

J. Aurel:  Please help yourself to a biscuit.  And tell me Ms. Crysta, how is it that you find yourself in the world of Blogging?  

Crysta: Well for me, I have always been a journal keeper since I was old enough to pick up a crayon. I found that through my writings, both fiction and non-fiction, I could express not just my feelings but create my own worlds when I felt like this one was just overwhelming. Blogging evolved from LiveJournal and moved into what it is now.  

J. Aurel: What are your aspirations both for yourself and for Dancing with Fireflies?

Crysta: Dancing with Fireflies has been an amazing experience for me both as a writer and as someone who wasn’t sure what to do next, after Motherhood started to become less of a full-time job. I knew I wanted to be a writer, I spent some time with local press and always submitted freelance pieces. But I would like to take the steps to publish and take my own writing to a new level. Dancing with Fireflies is also moving forward in the direction of becoming more about creative exploration with others and opening up to bringing people in to share their talents. We learn from each other and grow as writers and as humans in the light of brilliance and talent. 

J. Aurel: Can you tell us about some of the things that inspire you?

 Crysta: I am always inspired by Continue reading