The Bad Boy vs The Bad Girl

| Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Today's Tune: Never Go Back

You guys, today is the VERY LAST DAY to enter to win this copy of The Raven Boys! It's signed! By Maggie Stiefvater! And stuff! Go enter!


So, last post, I was asked if I thought there was a literary equivalent to the "bad boy" trope for girls, aka a "bad girl" who follows an equivalent line -- sexy, impulsive, domineering, attractive, morally ambiguous (or leaning toward corruption), rough around the edges, shakes up the "good" characters, etc. I mentioned the character Amber from Malinda Lo's Adaptation, and although I don't think she quite fits the bill, she has some of the qualities.

However, my readers came to the rescue with several possible examples! From the comments on the last post, people suggested Faith from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sharon Stone's character from Basic Instinct, Manic Pixie Dream Girls, Mandarin of Like Mandarin, characters from Courtney Summers' novels, and Alaska of Looking for Alaska. All very interesting choices.

Of these examples, Faith really leaped out at me, mostly due to her extensive character arc throughout several seasons of Buffy and Angel. I was also intrigued by the comparison to Manic Pixies, because I nearly made that comparison myself.

The thing that hung me up on Manic Pixies is that the character doesn't fit the same mold, exactly. That, and Manic Pixies are well known for being ideas rather than actual people; dreams or inspirations to guide the (usually) male protagonist out of his ho-hum life. They aren't typically "bad" so much as intended to define the existence of some guy through spontaneity and carefree spirit. Which from a gender standpoint is pointedly different from a "bad boy," who rather than being an empty shell for the female protagonist to fill is a defined person who often drags her around to his way of thinking.

There's a power imbalance with a "bad boy" that's not present with a MPDG. If a dude ever said, "No, I am not interested and you are of no value to me sexually or emotionally," then that would be it for the MPDG. The typical "bad boy," however, is the sort who doesn't take no for an answer and imposes on the heroine until she budges. These tropes can naturally be lampshaded or subverted in a number of ways, but for the purpose of this discussion, we're going with the typical version of said trope.

Now, let's talk about supposed "bad girls," shall we? BUFFY SPOILERS AHEAD.

Using Faith as an example, because I think she's a near-perfect one, we find a lot of the typical personality traits present in bad boys. She's angry, always looking for a fight, sexual/sexually experienced, comes from a shady background situation, wrong-side-of-the-tracks, shocks the "good" characters, morally ambiguous/corruptible, likes to wear leather, etc. This is mostly portrayed with a steady hand and Faith is considered to be confident, funny, a fun friend, and a good ally to have on your side.

However, things change for Faith. She's never really accepted into the core group, she's slut-shamed by Willow and others, she's rejected from sexual and romantic overtures, and her descent into going "dark side" is largely inspired by her need to feel respected, loved, and wanted. Some of these are elements that could be shared if she followed the line of the typical male trope, but generally speaking, a bad boy character may not be accepted by all the characters, but the protagonist and possibly several other characters warm to him and tend to stay warm. It's typically revealed that he's actually a "good person" behind a rough exterior. And he's never seriously slut-shamed for his sexual past/present.

Ultimately, the bad boy trope usually exists as a romantic metaphor for the sexual awakening of a (usually virginal or otherwise sheltered) female. He has a personality and a certain allure simply by being male and able to kiss her real good. This is where gender typing comes into play, bigtime. A bad girl in a heterotypical story can't be the romantic interest, so she doesn't hold the same allure and value for the heroine. If we're dealing with a male hero, the bad girl tends to be viewed as a heartbreaker, a bitch, a slut who makes him question his masculinity (again, speaking about the general tropes, not subverted versions).

Now when we edge more into queer theory and breaking down gender constraints, I think a whole new ballpark opens up. It's generally believed, and has (I believe) even been canonized, that Faith is hetero-leaning queer and definitely had some feelings, romantically or sexually, for Buffy. However, Buffy is canonically heterosexual, so the potential broken gender rules don't really stick. Also, though Faith may be queer, she identifies and presents as cisgendered female. Which basically undoes any kind of genderfluid or queer extrapolation on the bad boy trope that could be going on here. She is, at the end of the day, a woman who bucks societal norms and is unsurprisingly criticized/punished for it.

Which is not to say that Faith's characterization and arc aren't emotionally powerful, in character, and examples of strong writing. In my opinion, they are. However, when she's stacked against the bad boy trope, her experience is markedly different and colored by her sex, gender, and the characters around her.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. Women do not and should not need to be exactly like a male equivalent in order to fit neatly into a trope box. Faith's character ends up being a lot deeper and a lot more emotionally complicated than many factory processed Bad Boys (TM).

Now, when the bad girl character is a love interest for another woman or otherwise genderqueer individual, I think the context can change. The element of sexual awakening is again present, in a more even-handed context since there's less of a sex-specific power imbalance. The attraction is back, as is the potential for change in the protagonist, but this time there could be the possibility for both characters to come at it on equal footing. I think there's a lot of gender deconstruction to explore here.

And then there's what happens when we move beyond using this character as a staple romantic interest and make them a singular character acting independently. What do they become then? Something different altogether? I'm not sure.

So... yeah. These are my thoughts!

What say you, readers?

 

Answers! All of the Answers!

| Monday, January 28, 2013
Today's Tune: Over and Over Again

If you haven't entered to win this signed copy of The Raven Boys yet, you only have a few days left! So, you know, GET ON IT.

It's time for answers to those questions you asked last week! YES. I like answering questions. Because I am Hermione Granger. Here we go!

Phire asked: Do you REALLY like my hair, or are you just saying that to entice me to comment? :|

Of course I like your hair! No, for really reals, I love hair colors and styles and seeing how people wear their hair (or not, as the case may be). It is a subject of interest to me. I do also say it to get you to comment, BUT it's the truth.

We Love YA asked: When did you start to write and why? How did you get your agent? What's your writing process like? What do you struggle with the most?

I've been writing since forever. I used to write stories and "books" (actually short little bound stories) when I was a kid, and I actually wrote my first TERRIBLE vampire novella when I was 13. I've always been a big reader and story lover, so it seemed natural to me to write my own. I started writing "seriously" (aka, with a goal toward publication) about five years ago. I actually have posts about getting my agent here and here! And one about my drafting process!

As for what I struggle with the most, it tends to be creative paralysis. In other words, I get into the ruts where I ask myself who I'm kidding and why I ever thought I was qualified to do this and why I even bother because I WILL NEVER BE GOOOOOD. It bleeds very easily into procrastination and being afraid to start/finish a project and I have to push through it. Yes, even after you've had publishing professionals tell you that you are DEFINITELY good enough to do this, you still have these moments. At least, I do.

Yael asked: Let's say you take a day to go somewhere and pretend to be someone else. Where do you go, and who do you pretend to be?

I feel like I would go to a major metropolitan area and present myself as someone gregarious and outgoing who has confidence bursting at the seams and a clever quip for every situation. Someone who's never ruffled and always ready with a barb on the tip of their tongue for the jerkasses of the world. Because that is very NOT me, but it seems like an incredible person to be.

Cowboy Dev asked: What are some of your favorite movies?

I love love infinity love Hayao Miyazaki films (particularly Howl's Moving Castle and Princess Mononoke). Eighties comedies like Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Say Anything have a special place in my heart. Musical films, especially weird ones a la Repo! The Genetic Opera. I basically like anything that can either make me laugh or take me through genuine emotional crescendos. If it can do both, I am smitten.

Becca Christiansen asked: Tell us about the first manuscript you ever finished. Or the first attempt you ever made to write a novel. Anything hilariously embarrassing in your writing past? :)

I believe I mentioned my disastrous attempt at a vampire story from when I was 13? NOOOO. Like, imagine the worst Twilight self-insert fanfiction ever, except it was way before Twilight and my crush was a skateboarding Edward. It was tragic. AND I TURNED IT INTO MY CREATIVE WRITING CLASS FOR CREDIT. OMG. I also have a few very sad attempts at secondary world fantasies and science fiction with overpowered-and-tiny fighting girls in my writing past.

aaand one more:

I LIKE THIS QUESTION BUT I DON'T KNOW IF I CAN ANSWER IT FULLY YET! I may have to write a post on this one. The closest "bad boy" girl character I've come across recently was from Malinda Lo's ADAPTATION, so I think it can be done. However, I also think that based on gender norms and power imbalance,  I don't know if a "bad girl" can ever truly be the equivalent of a "bad boy." In theory, a character's actions and personality could be divided from their gender, but in reality, we hold certain standards for female vs. male behavior, and actions from a male character that people consider sexy/domineering would be considered gross and "slutty" coming from a girl. And when you bring sexuality/gender presentation into the mix, the various layers of approaching this go haywire. I am going to have to think more on this one! I am sure I will have many things to say.

Thank you all for your wonderful questions! This was fun :D

Have a wonderful week, everybody!



Ask Me Anything!

| Friday, January 25, 2013
Today's Tune: Fuel

Hey, you should definitely go enter to win this signed copy of The Raven Boys. Go on. You know you want to. I'll wait.

Back? Yay!

I'm running a little dry on blog ideas at the moment, so I thought I'd open up a Q&A post. Is there anything you'd like to see a post on in the future? Any questions you have for me? I'll answer anything! Within reason. Don't be a creep. No creeps! This is a creep-free blog!

Ask away, buddies. If you've ever wondered exactly what I thought about something, now's the time to ask. I'll do an answers post on Monday.



 

Vocabulary, Profanity, and Snobbery

| Monday, January 21, 2013
Today's Tune: Fuck You

First: you can win a signed copy of The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater just by commenting on this post over here. WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR.

There's this opinion I see floating out in the world fairly often, and it's this: certain types of vocabulary, particularly those considered "slang," "urban," or "profane," are lesser words and phrases typically only used by those who aren't intelligent or educated enough to use other terminology. In simpler terms: people who swear and use slang are inferior in intelligence and communication skills.

Whenever I hear this argument, my immediate response tends to be: FUCK. THAT. NOISE.

Before I start getting my rant on, I'd just like to clarify that I have no problem with people who choose not to swear for personal reasons. That's fine. My issue lies with the superior attitude that comes with the insistence that swearing or slang usage is something that marks a person as unintelligent or unworthy of acknowledgement. The sentiment is, frankly, bullshit.

I imagine anyone who's been around me for very long is well aware that I am fully capable of explaining complex positions without the use of slang or profanity. Basically, I'm no dummy. This is the case for people that aren't me, as well. So why is it that when one of us decides to use Internet slang or curse words, we're met with this attitude?

Because it's snobbery and tone-policing, that's why. If a communication doesn't meet someone's "standards" of appropriate discourse, then they are free to discount it or lament the decline of general public intelligence (of which they are exempt, of course). It's another way for people to try and control the language and voice of people they feel don't deserve to be heard.

This doesn't just apply to profanity. I recently saw a comic strip that was using "great literature" to illustrate how "lame" Internet slang is. Now, this is a strip that I usually like, so I was kind of put out to see this, because HELLO, INAPPROPRIATE COMPARISON. I naturally noted that the "great literature" is all stuff by white dudes from work released 50-500 years ago. Next, these come from drastically different mediums (the Internet versus poetry, stage plays, and novels very different from modern-day style). And, of course, it's disparaging the use of "Internet slang" as something of lesser notice and intelligence than these "great" literary masterworks.

Holding casual, conversational dialogue to the standards of classic literature is to say a certain structure is "real" communication, while the other isn't. This very easily blends into arguments such as, "You're swearing too much; clearly you're too angry to discuss this rationally." Or, "You made a typo and misused a word. This renders your argument invalid and me the victor."

Here's the thing about swearing: it exists for a reason. Swearing is actually tied to specific psychological reactions in the brain, and even if you don't use actual curse words, it's likely that you have similar fallbacks that your brain uses the same way. To decry it as something linked to a person's level of vocabulary or intelligence is not only incorrect, but a method of trying to control the expression of others so you can more easily write them off and feel superior.

I'm not even touching on certain racist and classist elements that exist under the surface of these claims, since I don't feel entirely qualified to talk about them. But here is a link you may find informative. Here is another one

There is no standard of communication to express complex or abstract ideas. Yes, there are standards of communication in professional writing that function to make a piece of writing easily recognizable to the reader. However, language evolves and changes. We do not expect our modern-day authors to write in iambic pentameter. It's kind of fallen out of fashion as an expected literary form. The digital era has changed the way we communicate ideas. This is not a bad thing.

IN SUMMARY: there are a lot of fucking reasons why someone may choose to express themselves with profanity. Real, concrete, scientific reasons ranging from stimulating specific parts of the brain to intentionally using a word that elicits a specific response in readers. There are situations in which highly academic discourse detracts from a conversation rather than adds to it. And, actually, academia can be restrictive and shitty in its own right.

So how about we allow people to express themselves in the ways in which they are most comfortable and we consider the value of that communication without writing off the entire thing because they said something "gave them all the feels," hm?



 

The First Boy I Ever Slept With

| Friday, January 18, 2013
Today's Tune: Criminal

I'm giving a way a signed copy of Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Boys over yonder. Please enter and spread the word!

In the meantime.

***

This is a true story.

I didn't think of you much before that night. You were good-looking, I suppose, in that casually careless way that some people try to manufacture and others embody. You embodied it. Threadbare shirts, unwashed hair, hint of facial scruff. The girl next door had one of those crippling, all-consuming crushes on you. I know because she nicknamed you and talked about you constantly like she was speaking in code, but everyone knew it was you.

We knew one another. We were friends, even. Your roommate had developed a fixation on mine, so we saw a lot of each other. He was good-looking in that carefully manufactured way; all clean-cut and red-blooded. The girls adored him. Hung drawings and notes on his [your] door. Sat in his lap and asked him to come to this sporting event or that campus gathering. It mostly amused us. We'd roll our eyes and laugh about it to each other.

I wasn't bothered. He wasn't my type. My type was the one boy I still dreamed of at night, the one who had won my heart at 15 and existed in the space between now and forever in my mind. He was a hundred miles away or more, literally and figuratively, but oh, I still loved him like a child loves snow. Fresh, clean, naive, and full of stinging cold.

But you. I watched the way your eyes shifted over to the girls around your roommate. Not jealously. Sadly. You didn't understand that they didn't just come to flirt with him... they flirted with you, too. They weren't as brazen, since you had a certain 17-year-old awkwardness about you yet, but they gave you your fair share of smiles. Whether you didn't notice or didn't believe they were for you, I don't know. It tugged at me a little. Just a little.

And then.

One night, midway through the semester, I'd escaped the stuffiness of my room[mate] and her its blaring boy band music uneasy silence and ventured over to your room to hang out. I wore cherry pajamas, the top stretched tight over the breasts I still tried to pretend I didn't have.

You were both there, you and your roommate. He was entertaining a very pretty girl with a name like Kendall or Crystal or Kaci. You were playing a video game on your computer, complete with headset and yelling amidst gunfire. Maybe that should have bothered me, but it didn't. I didn't want your undivided attention, I just wanted to be around people who didn't ask me prying questions about my religious affiliation. Your roommate was entertaining enough, performing for KendCrysKaci and me with various goofy impressions or funny videos.

I went to go lay in your bed to watch from there, since KCK had monopolized your roommate's lap and there was no additional seating. Except for your lap, but you were busy building gun turrets. Besides, that would have been weird.

Eventually you retreated back into the real world and the fact that your roommate had a girl in your room at 11PM. [No co-ed sleepovers in the co-ed dorms, the rules said! Right.] The entertainment had taken a turn at some point, and now your roommate had taken up playing some kind of animated and literally pornographic game that entailed panty-snatching and banging the sorority sacrificial virgin.

Maybe. The storyline was vague.

You joined me in snickering at it for a while, and then the pretty girl grew bored. But she didn't want to leave.

Her roommate had a guy over, she said. She didn't want to disturb them.

So your roommate, porn-watching gentleman that he was, offered her his bunk for the night. With him in it, naturally.

Nearly 2AM now.

As they climbed into the bunk above your bed, I started to get up. Time for me to go.

And then you looked at me.

And then you said,

"Are you staying over, too?"

My mind skipped over the track it'd been on. [The track was: "I Should Go Back Or My Roommate Will Think I'm Having Satan Orgies."]

I almost said no. I did. But you had this look. It wasn't desire, or nerves, or even expectation. It was hope. Not like the kind of hope you'd have if the girl of your dreams was in your bed, but like the flicker of hope you have that you don't have to be that guy whose roommate is fooling around in the bunk above him while he tries to fall asleep by himself. It was dangerously close to need. Almost.

So I said okay.

You smiled. An unreadable grin spread over your face, a smile I'd never taken much note of before, and you said, "Fine, but I get the inside."

When you crawled over me to huddle down under your denim comforter next to the wall, you kickstarted the section of my brain that overanalyzes everything. Thoughts raced in front of my open eyes.

I'd never slept beside a boy before. Is this super weird? What if I have to pee? How do we arrange ourselves so we don't get tangled? What's he thinking? Why does every part of my body that's touching him feel like it's six million degrees?

Naturally, the bed frame shook as giggles and movement from above attracted our attention. I tried to focus on anything else. You didn't move or speak, so I imagined you were doing the same.

Which meant the only thing I could think about was the beat, beat, beat of your heart against my spine where we laid back to back. I stared into the dark until my eyes began imagining bursts of purple-red-green that weren't really there.

I tried to ignore the way your too-fast pulse pushed its way through my skin, filling the hollow of my chest until I could barely breathe for all of the you inside me. Everywhere the icy remains of my last love still frosted my bones, you curled round, melting him away. Later we would laugh and joke about the "butt massage" your roommate claimed was the only thing to happen in his bunk that night, but in that moment, my entire body was a wire burning through its casing.

Already I knew that my life would be consumed with thoughts of your heartbeat, your laugh, your mouth. Your stupid mouth. The way our bodies would mold every time we hugged close. I shut my eyes, crushed them together, and forced the name of someone else onto my tongue. I wanted to remember. But I couldn't. Every letter of his name was replaced with a letter of yours. They tasted different.

When sleep came, I was already gone.

This is a true story.

Mostly.

 

Writing a Quality Love Triangle

| Monday, January 14, 2013
Today's Tune: Ready or Not

I have a confession that you already know because I have confessed it several billion* times before: I FREAKING HATE LOVE TRIANGLES. I THINK THEY ARE (MOSTLY) THE WORST. More often than not, they create superficial tension, paint the protagonist as emotionally hurtful, provide excessive angsting, and somehow manage to turn the (usually female) main character into an object for two (usually male) characters to fight over like a chew toy. I don't like them. I rarely see them done well.

However, when they ARE done well, I think they can make a splendid plot element that shows a lot of great emotion and explores the nature of choice, who we are, and what we want. In these cases, I can get firmly behind them and maybe even find them -- GASP -- enjoyable. At their very best, they get under my skin and move me emotionally. Which just goes to show that even a humbug can change their tune if they find the right thing.

So I decided to compile a list of elements that, in my humble opinion, constitute a "quality" love triangle. As a disclaimer, I want to clarify that this is only my take on the subject, and I'm only one person. There are probably infinite ways to write a love triangle that's interesting and emotionally complex, and I don't have all the answers. If you want to tackle the love triangle trope and knock it out of the park in your own way, go for it!

So, here goes.

Writing a Good Love Triangle

Make the love interests believable, unique, strongly-drawn characters in their own right. If I'm going to believe that a character is equally attracted to and confused over their options, than I need to really understand why each love interest has that effect on them. They need to represent something different, they need to be fleshed out, and I need to really feel the chemistry with BOTH characters. There needs to be a real choice. Not just Bland Option #1 or Bland Option #2. Malindo Lo's newest novel Adaptation had what I felt was an understandable love triangle. The protagonist had real reasons to feel conflicted about her choices, and the two love interests represented very different things for her. On top of that, both characters had a unique and non-stock personality. I understood her connection and attraction to both.

Make the choice more than just between the LI's themselves. This moves into metaphor a little bit. The love triangles I respond to most are the ones where the protagonist's choice is about something bigger than just This Hot Person or This Other Hot Person. Does one represent her childhood and the other her adulthood? Is it her choice between war or peace? One more closely aligns with her personal beliefs and the other prefers a line of thinking she can't get behind? I want to see CHOICE. What are love triangles about if not making the choice of what you want and who you are?

Love comes in many forms. One of my favorite love triangles comes from the manga Fruits Basket. The sticking point in this series was that while both LI choices were attractive in their own right, and she cared for both in equal measure, the relationships evolved into a different sort of love. Relationships change, and one leg of the triangle came to view the protagonist as more of a sister -- or even mother -- figure. She felt the same. They were family, not lovers. This feels most successful when the relationship naturally evolves this way, rather than them being all hot-and-heavy-makeouts and then ten chapters later they're like "oh you're like a brother to me."

The conflicts are real. Too often, the tension built into love triangles circles around something superficial or inconsequential, like a silly misunderstanding or an out-of-character action. If I'm going to believe that the protagonist is going to walk away from someone she claims to love, the conflict needs to feel important and in-character. It needs to be personal and rooted in the protagonist's own choice. That means not going for "we can't be together because you/we/everyone will die." That's not a choice. That's forcing someone's hand. I want to know that the MC is walking away because this relationship isn't right for her, and that she's choosing to walk away for real reasons.

Avoid excessive and prolonged angsting. When it comes to love triangles, some amount of angsting is going to come with the territory. There's going to be confusion, sadness, and heartbreak. I wouldn't expect anything less. But the last thing I want to read about is constant waffling and 80% of their thought process dedicated to thinking about who they'll choose when there are other things to do and think about.

No jealousy for the sake of jealousy. I would be super mega excited if I never again saw a situation in which the MC is completely uninterested in a romantic/sexual relationship with the "best friend" until they finally move on and develop a crush on someone else. You have no idea how excited that would make me. It makes the protagonist seem so possessively selfish.

The love interests aren't in constant annoying competition and respect the MC's personhood/choice. I recently read the Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce for the first time, and I was struck by the way the various love interests never fought over Alanna or tried to one-up each other. They were friends, even. When Alanna decided she wanted to become romantically entangled with one, her choice was respected by the other. She wasn't treated like a prize to be won, but as a person (aside from the argument that one of the LIs acted like an entitled child at one point, but that relationship didn't last). I don't LIKE reading about two (usually male) love interests talking around the (usually female) MC like this isn't her life and her choice. The muscle-flexing and snarky comments get really old really fast.

Don't ignore real chemistry in favor of ramming together two "intended" characters. Sometimes when we're writing, characters we never meant to have intense chemistry end up off the charts. Don't ignore that. Maybe your character isn't supposed to end up with the hot, broody one. Maybe they have better chemistry with the happy goofball for a reason. Remember and respect your MC's own personality. Legend of Korra I'm looking at you.

Put a fork in one relationship before moving on to the next. Sometimes relationships don't work out. Sometimes we fall madly in love and then life happens, people change, and things fall apart. I really wish I saw more cases of real relationships and love just not working out. Once that relationship is officially over, it leaves the protagonist open to finding a better one, and it avoids the complication of making them seem callous when they make out with one while involved with the other. Unless the relationships are all out in the open, that is.

* Probably not an exaggeration. Probably.

What do you love and hate about love triangles, dudes?


Put Down the ChocoVine Book

| Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Today's Tune: Jolene

Oh my gosh, one follower away from 400, YOU GUYS ARE KILLING ME. Killing me with ~*love*~ omg thank you for following my rambles!

I don't have too many thoughts today. Mostly I have this picture that I took at the market:


In case you can't make it out, it is ChocoVine. If you are unaware of ChocoVine, consider yourself lucky, because it is chocolate and red wine and CREAM in a bottle. For consumption. Together. Plus occasional food coloring to turn it a sickish Pepto-Bismal pink god what is that.

I happen to live in Northern California wine country, so one might call me a little bit of a snob when it comes to wine, but SERIOUSLY GET THIS ABOMINATION OUT OF MY WINE AISLE GROSS GROSS GROSS FOUL AND GROSS. Like, if you are looking to save money, there is wonderful wine to be had on the cheap. Swearsies. DO NOT STOOP TO THIS. Two-Buck Chuck is better and I am not joking. Students, take note. Buy Charles Shaw. Do not buy hot pink wine. Hot pink wine is usually bad. And it will give you headaches.

Now watch as I turn this into a weird and confusing literary metaphor *hand flourish*

Sometimes blending styles or genres or voices or otherwise being experimental can turn into an exquisite work of amazingness. Much like tasting a lovely wine alongside a selection of chocolates, the flavors can blend into something new, unexpected, and delicious. It is from experimentation and breaks from the expected that some of the best art emerges.

And then there is ChocoVine.

Moral: do not throw a bunch of stuff people supposedly like into a manuscript willy-nilly and then shake it up and sell it for $12.99 because lol are you kidding me.

It's okay to mess up. That happens to all of us (it happens to me all the time). Certain things sound awesome inside your head, and then you try to put them on paper and they end up looking like the weakest hot chocolate disaster in existence. The point is, if you end up with ChocoVine, go back and try again. The next time, or the time after that, it may turn out beautifully. It'll be the best wine-and-chocolate anyone's ever tasted.

But seriously, put the ChocoVine back. Please.

I am obviously feeling ~*very deep*~ today.

Why Do You Blog?

| Monday, January 7, 2013
Today's Blog: Have It All

I think I've mentioned once or twice or eight billion times that I'm in Internet Marketing. I've essentially been toying with blogs and social media and chatrooms since I was something like 11 years old, and now I get to do it for a living. Which is both cool and less cool, depending on which angle you're coming from. As with most jobs, I'm sure.

On this week's #NALitChat on Twitter, moderator/founder E.J. Wesley was leading a discussion on book marketing, and naturally blogging came up. I had a few thoughts.




This is the conundrum of blogging: some people will tell you it's absolutely useless when it comes to marketing; a complete waste of your time. Others will tell you it's essential for getting your name/product/service found. Ultimately, I find that it depends on what you want. For writers, any marketing we do (and boy, are we a lot that hates marketing), it's to find readers to purchase our books. We also tend to seek companionship and community. These are very different goals than your average product marketer.

A lot of people get hung up on blogging because someone told them they should, or because they heard it's a great way to market books. So they end up with a blog full of posts touting their own work... maybe picking apart their own plots, pushing bunches of tie-in stories, or gimmicks like writing posts "in character." If your goal is just to get people to find you on Google, click through to your blog, and then click right on through to another page of your website, this approach might work to get you clicks.

But if you want people to find your blog and stick around, you have to dig deeper. And the first step to digging deeper is to actually LIKE blogging. If you enjoy what you're writing about, it will come through.

Blogs are essentially a labor of love for most people. Some folks find just the right voice or niche, and their blog takes off like wildfire. For most, it's a much slower process. It's something you do because you're passionate about your blog topic, and you honestly enjoy the community around your blog, small or large as it may be.

Ultimately, you have to figure out your goal. Are you just interested in getting people to your website in order to lead them through a funnel to a landing page where they'll (hopefully) buy your book? Then your goal is probably just to figure out which keywords are going to get you the most traffic from search engines. On the other hand, if you're interested in building a readership and actually having your posts read/shared/followed/enjoyed, then you're going to want to find something you absolutely love. You have to love it enough to talk about it repeatedly for months, and keep talking about it even if it seems like no one's listening.

Blogging isn't easy. Especially blogging with passion. Some of my posts take me literally hours, if not days, to compose. It's worth it to me, though. Even if I don't get a single comment. Is that the sort of thing that interests you?

Why do YOU blog?


Title2Come

| Friday, January 4, 2013
Temporarily lost the ability to be all analytical and brainy so I'm cheating and throwing a link to Title2Come at you.

LOOK AT IT BECAUSE IT WILL MAKE YOU LAUGH AND MAYBE CRY A LITTLE BUT MOSTLY LAUGH.

 

YA Romance By Any Other Name

| Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Today's Tune: Hurt

Here are some statements I hear fairly frequently: Young adult lit is full of so much ROMANCE. Everything is romance romance romance. Interesting stories are ruined by romance. Girls spend too much time shipping or swooning and not enough time focusing on the IMPORTANT parts. Too many authors are latching on to genres that used to be GOOD (dystopian, science fiction) and turning them into stupid kissing books.

I have a few (okay, many) thoughts on this subject.

First: I'm not going to argue that there isn't a lot of repetitive, derivative, or poorly-crafted genre romance in the YA section. Of course there is. Not denying it at all. There are a lot of abusive, misogynist, and frankly rape-y relationships masquerading as "true love" floating out there. I'm not trying to convince anyone who dislikes romance as a genre that they should like it.

However, I do feel that there's a combination of factors going here -- 1) the assumption that the slightest hint of romantic tension means a YA book is "a romance," 2) pressure on female YA authors to portray relationships in certain ways, 3) a general sentiment of romance = for girls = stupid and boring, and 4) teenage girls being interested in crushes (literary or otherwise) means very bad things because having crushes apparently means they can't brain anymore or something.

I'm not saying that anyone who dislikes a romantic plot/subplot is being a misogynist jerk. There are many romantic storylines that I personally can't get behind for whatever reason, and that's fine. There are a number of readers for whom heterosexual romances just don't speak, as well. I also think there's a disconcerting and ever-present trend of feeding young women (most women, really) the idea that in order to be complete and taken care of, they need a male life partner. It's a damaging mindset and one that's most definitely worthy of criticism.

With that said, it does become ever-tiresome to me that if a lady writes a book containing even the slightest hint of romance, the book seems to be automatically lobbed into the "girly romance" pile. It doesn't matter how many male authors write books with significant sexual and romantic threads -- unless they SAY their book is a romance, it ain't a romance. Men have very DEEP THOUGHTS on humanity and philosophy and love, guys. But women who write about kissing? Bleh, more romance, YAWN. Doesn't matter that there are a dozen other storylines in the novel, all that matters is that she included romance, which means ROMANCE ROMANCE ROMANCE.

I regularly wonder about the pressure on female authors to not only amp up romantic elements in their stories, but make sure those romantic elements play out a certain way. It can be very difficult as a new author to step up to the plate with a book that doesn't fit neatly into expectations, and there can be significant pressure to change details to make something "more palatable" or "less upsetting" (translation: more kissing, more eye-gazing, less permanent break-ups or dying). I don't have the insider insight, and I'm not sure how much of this is conscious or not, but it's definitely there.

There also seems to me to be a significant focus on the "obsession" of teenage girls over their infamous "shipping wars." I've heard over and over that they spend all their time focusing on "Team Cute Boy" and that this means they're just being silly and missing out on MORE IMPORTANT THINGS. This always feels like "your sexuality is making you stupid" to me. I'm not saying some girls (and women) don't take things too far, but more often than not, it seems like a control thing.

I disapprove of not being able to dictate who you're attracted to! I don't like that you think about making out with fictional characters! I have no idea how this affects me at all, but apparently it's very important that you stop it and only care about things I say you're allowed to care about! You could be SAVING THE WORLD if you weren't writing fan fiction! LIKING BOYS GIVES YOU BRAIN DAMAGE.

Tell me again how this isn't another form of controlling female sexuality by making girls feel stupid and ashamed of it? I mean I can't remember the last time someone said that people were incapable of focusing on the other themes present in Star Wars because they thought Luke and Leia were hot together. Even after the twins thing came out.

Sigh. So. Yeah.

If romance really isn't your thing, that's cool, you know? If romance subplots are your least favorite, that's fine. But their inclusion does not render a book worthless or stupid or "another derivative romance YA." I'm right there with you in that I look forward to finding books with wonderful stories and great characters and different sorts of relationships. Just... can we stop ignoring the romantic plotlines in male-authored YA novels because their books have "more important" themes and acting as though any woman who dares write a makeout scene is subjecting you to the ABSOLUTE DREGS OF THE LITERARY PILE? Could we stop that, please?

 

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