Male Characters

My friend (fellow blogger/writer/we went to grad school together) Lauren wrote this really amazing post on Healthy Masculinity. You should read her post, but to give mine some context I’ll give you a snap shot.

Lauren discusses what Toxic Masculinity is and how this concept is fairly common in our culture. What toxic masculinity is is all those negative manly qualities we try to foster in men and the flip side of also discouraging “feminine” traits in men. So – it’s the violent, sexually aggressive, more powerful male figure who DOESN’T show emotion (because that’s a sign of weakness), ask for help (again – not strong), and liking “girly” drinks. This site (which Lauren links to in her post as well) really breaks it down.  

And Lauren’s goal – as a writer – is to incorporate the Healthy Masculinity into her male characters. She lists all these potential ways to do that. Really – just read her post all ready.

And it made me a bit embarrassed. Lauren is also my critique partner and read my novel. One of my concerns that I explicitly asked her about was one of my male characters. I said (and this is DIRECTLY from the notes I sent her) “He needs to be stronger emotionally and physically – he’s supposed to be this bad-ass but cries in the shower (lame).” Lauren even pointed out in her comments that she liked that he cried in the shower.

…Well, now I feel like a huge ass. It’s not that I think that men who cry are weak. The men I respect most in life are the ones who I have seen cry and breakdown (my father and Husband). When I’m in trouble, they are my heroes. They are the ones who I go to. So – in no way, shape, or form am I against men who cry.

And yet… yet that’s not the character I’m writing. Yes, there is another male character in the story who is one of my FAVORITES and is a more sensitive male character. Just wanted to put that out there.

But – I was having a hard time (and maybe still am) of figuring out how to make THIS male character a “bad-ass” and enforce this concept of Healthy Masculinity. So – my struggle is to make this knight-in-shinning-armor (well, his armor doesn’t SHINE but yes – he’s a knight) fit into this role.

He isn’t the hero of the story. I want to point that out. But he’s used to being the hero.

Mostly, I think my struggle comes down to not knowing him as a character well enough. I think my next post might be some character development exercises.


People That Stick With You

There are people who challenge you every day. They challenge you to be braver. They challenge you to be stronger. Nicer. Better. Kinder. 

There are people who bring out the best in you. These people can take all shapes and sizes. Sometimes it’s your husband. Sometimes it’s your boss. Sometimes it’s your best friend. Sometimes it’s a total stranger next to you in line at the grocery store.

Then, there are people who give you the opportunity to learn who you are and who you can be. These people are the ones that makes you doubt yourself. These are the bullies, the naysayers, the haters. Just like the others, these people can be anyone. They can be a sibling. They can be a coworker. They can be that jackass in the next lane that cuts you off.

These people, the “good” and the “bad” shape who we are. How we react and how we change defines how the world sees us, and how we see ourselves. 

Then, if you’re anything like me, there’s the scenes that play out in your head. The World of What If. What if I was kinder? What if I stopped and gave that homeless man I pass on my way to work my yogurt in the morning? What if I was braver? What if I told that coworker to go to Hell? What if I rammed that jerk in the bumper at the next red light?

I see these scenes play out so vividly in my mind. Mostly, I’m the hero. Other times, I’m the villain. All these people and all these choices to live in the World of What If are opportunities.

What people don’t know, is that for a writer, we live in the World of What If. Everyone we meet. Every person that makes an impression on us (good or bad) is free game. I might not be able to tell that creeper at the pharmacy what I really think about him, but in my writing I can. In the World of My Words, I can come in dressed in a cape, say something so clever and witty that ass won’t know what verbal onslaught just hit him, and then spray him with mace. 

This is your warning, people in the Land of the Internet. Piss me off, I will slay you in my next short story. Give me strength and I will make you a hero in my next epic. For all those people out there, the ones that stick with me, are the ones that will become characters in my stories. Good or bad, you will be my inspiration. 

I like the good, but the bad are just as fun to play with. 

So, I dare you. Challenge me. Push me and see what happens. Support me and see yourself through another’s eyes. I’m always looking for more characters for my stories. Just ask yourself first, “Who do I want to be?”

Loving Imperfections

I’m one of those people that likes to troll Facebook in order to see the funny articles, videos, and occasional updates from my friends. I don’t really pause to examine your dinner in full detail nor do I feel compelled to read every status update on your new born. Don’t get me wrong, I like babies, but I don’t need to know what color his/her snot is.

However, the other day I saw an article that made me stop and read the whole thing through. It was a link to a blog post about 7 Cultural Concepts We don’t Have in the US. The concept that spoke to me the most was this one called wabi-sabi. From the blog post and a small bit of other research, I discovered that the wabi-sabi way of looking at life might be something that all artist should adopt. Basically it’s a Japanese idea of finding beauty in something that is imperfect and/or worn. One web site defined it as ignoring perfect and embracing the worn and asymmetrical, and proposes that doing this can change the way you see the world.

It’s already helped me accept my knitting mistakes. Each time I purl instead of knit and each time I knit instead of purl I’m making a mistake that (while annoying) adds a since of humanity and beauty to the scarf. A machine can knit tons of scarfs in a day with no imperfections, but it won’t do it with love. It won’t come home from work and think of that special person each time it adds a row.

But this is a writing blog.

So what does this have to do with writing?


That first draft of anything you write should be full of grammar mistakes and plot holes. You should work hard on it and love those imperfections as you write. If another writer hard the same plot and characters and everything, they wouldn’t make the same mistakes that you do. And maybe something that looks like a mistake (a character turns out a bit differently than you intended) might be that thing that pulls the story together later on in other drafts. You need to make those mistakes to see what your story is just as much as you need them to see what your story isn’t.

Well, what about the last draft? The story will never be “perfect.” Each time you read it you’ll think, “Oh, I should have changed that phrasing…” So – just love the story for what it is. Sure, you’ll need to fine tune those rough edges, but by the time you are done that story will be well worn. It will be full of little quirks that is all you. Quirks that you might not even notice. Quirks that make up your own unique writing style.

Maybe its just me, but I think that sounds like a good way to go about writing. This concept of wabi-sabi is what finally got this idea of being okay with your sh*tty first draft. And, the cowl I’ve been trying to knit since October.

Back to Reality

Yes, I lied.

I said that I would post (not regularly, but post none-the-less) this summer. Well, I didn’t. Sure, I posted a bit, but not enough to count.

I was super busy! This was my last summer to be on campus during my program and I wanted to make it count. And did I ever. I made tons of new friends, got lots of writing done, fell back in love with my novel/WIP/thesis, AND came to terms with the fact that I am a good writer.

For such a long time I felt like I wasn’t good enough. That the words that I put done on the page were just awful and that I’d never get a book deal. 

Well, I don’t feel that now. I reread a lot of my older stuff, stuff I typed up three months ago and with each key stroke would think, “This is shit. This is total and complete shit, but just get it on the page and then you can revise.” I don’t think that anymore. 

I need to believe in myself, because if I don’t then who the hell is going to? Yes, my super-amazing husband will always believe in me, and so will my family, but that is only enough when you believe in yourself. 

I’m stepping off of my soapbox now. 

Goals for this new “year.” I say year because by this time next year I will (hopefully) have my thesis done and will be looking for agents/ editors. Well, let me rephrase… Goal for this year. Work on my thesis/novel (it’s one in the same now) for AT LEAST one hour each day. I need to do that to get the last few chapter written and then begin the revision process before sending the revised chapters to my thesis advisor for notes and even more revision.

But it’s so exciting! There is an end in sight! I will have this  novel done soon, and before you know it you will be seeing it on the bookshelves at bookstores. Mark my words. I will continue to make salads and whatnot to help my husband with the finances but also so that I can focus on my work.

From here on out, my real job is my novel. My hobby is going and making money. 

Writing Advice

I am going to start this post out with a big long quote… I’m preparing you but you should still read it. It’s a bit of awesome advice.

“It’s like making a movie: All sorts of accidental things will happen after you’ve set up the cameras. So you get lucky. Something will happen at the edge of the set and perhaps you start to go with that; you get some footage of that. You come into it accidentally. You set the story in motion and as you’re watching this thing begin, all these opportunities will show up. So, in order to exploit one thing or another, you may have to do research. You may have to find out more about Chinese immigrants, or you may have to find out about Halley’s Comet, or whatever, where you didn’t realize that you were going to have Chinese or Halley’s Comet in the story. So you do research on that, and it implies more, and the deeper you get into the story, the more it implies, the more suggestions it makes in the plot. Toward the end, the ending becomes inevitable.” 
~ Kurt Vonnegut (Nov 1985 issue of Writer’s Digest)
I think that this one paragraph is some awesome advice. It speaks to me on so many levels. 
First, it says to me write. No matter what just write. If you just write and keep writing something might sneak into your story; something you didn’t even think was important and that thing might unite your entire story. Sure, you will write a bunch of crap and fluff before you get there. But as long as you keep writing it will show up. You just have to watch out for it. Oooh… Like a four-leaf clover. 
Second, it tells me that your second, third, zillionth draft will require as much work and research as your first draft. While that might seem a bit depressing it should be fun. Sure, it’ll be more work, but it’ll make your story better. 
Third, it tells me that that saying “life if what happens when you’re making plans” is applied to writing too. You might have the main plot all figured out, but that’s not where the real story always it. 
So just go with it. Trust yourself. Trust your writing. And trust that you have something important to say. The story speaks to you, it might talk to you in another language sometimes and then you have to translate it, but it’s always there.
Keep it up.


So my blogger buddy over at Hughes Views on YA Literature has a post looking at what she’s learned this summer being in the MFA program… I thought that was a pretty awesome idea and wanted to copy her.

  1. Being a fan of a writer is not stalking. It’s being normal. If you say, “Oh no I promise I’m not stalking you” you become a stalker. So yeah, following your favorite author on twitter and their blog… Totally fine. Knowing what time they do their laundry and what kind of soap…now that’s stalking.
  2. Yes, there are gatekeepers for the publishing world: they are called Agents. But even if you find one that means nothing. They can give you the key, but that doesn’t mean it’ll fit the lock right away.
  3. As a writer you should be confidant but humble. The whole publishing world is a house of cards, without the writer is falls apart. So, be proud and don’t let the editors scare you.
  4. You can become addicted to caffeine 
  5. Here’s something I knew but was reminded of it… There is no such thing as a perfect draft. You can work your butt off to get close to one, but nope. No perfect stories. And that’s kind-of awesome.
  6. I don’t write long short stories. I like to focus on key scene(s) and stick there. I just do not do well with my characters walking all over the place in one story. I like them where I can keep my eye on them.
  7. There are parts of my personality that aren’t strong parts, but ones I can tap into for characters. I found this out when I wrote a short story about a girl who is pretty much a succubus: She uses her sexyness to pull in a guy so she can pretty much just own him. It’s written in first person. That’s not me. 
  8. I really am addicted to books.
  9. My writing is clear.
  10. And I have characters that are pretty awesome. They have clear dialogue and seem very real sometimes (and other times not…working on that part)

Some housekeeping business… The blog now has a twitter account. Why? Well, mostly I have it so I can follow some of my favorite authors (Holly Black, Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Neil Gaiman) but heck, if you read the blog you might enjoy the twitter as well. So, check it out and follow it!