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.


That Time of the Year

Well, it’s that time of the year again.

The time where work is slow and I have a chance to catch up on reading and writing.

The time where I (and millions of other people) make promises to themselves that they probably won’t keep.

The time for New Year’s Resolutions.

I do/say this every year. I’m going to write more. I’m going to submit to agents this year. I’m going to read 50 books…well, maybe more like 25 (which I never even get close to) this year. This year I’m going to be better.

And, like most people, I am. For a little while. But not long enough. Not long enough to be really productive anyway.


So, what am I going to do differently this year? What revelation have I had that’s prompted me to write this post?

…. The answers are 1) I don’t know and 2) nothing.

In a lot of ways, I think my thesis burnt me out way more than I realized. For over a year the thought of writing something new,o f opening up a blank word document and just letting the words flow, was just exhausting. It took me about 5 years to write my thesis from scratch and work through countless drafts and revisions. 5 YEARS! I know that writing the second book will be different than the first, but its hard to get excited when I know how much “suffering” there is ahead of me.

Maybe you’re thinking at this point, “Why are you even worried about writing a second book when the first one isn’t even published?”

Because the story isn’t over. It’s not all about publishing and agents and that nonsense. Writing for me has always been a passion. A discovery of people and places and things. I had to learn a lot about fencing my thesis. And fairy tales and folklore. I also learned a lot about myself.

I will write the second book because it deserves to be written, even if I’m the only one who ever reads it.

While writing this post, I found a quote from Neil Gaiman that I think encompasses my goals for this year:


So – here’s to surprising myself next year, and I hope the same to you.

The Dangers of Being True to Yourself

There’s all this emphasis on being true to yourself. Google “being true to yourself quotes” and you get like a million hits of a million pages all full of inspirational quotes.

Well, words will only get you so far.

I’m not sure how many of you watch The Big Bang Theory but at our home if one of the few channels we get has it on, we’re watching it.

If you’re not familiar, I have a clip.

So, a lot of days I feel like the guy in the blue shirt. “It’s not that I think you are worthless. Just what you do (or let’s substitute in the word “like”) is.”

Yep. That’s how I feel most days.

I am someone who…

  • loves Star Wars – so much so my license plate reflects this love. Also, there is an R2-D2 action figured super glued to my dashboard
  • is falling in love with Star Trek. I didn’t want to really, but it happened. 
  • watches Dr. Who
  • reads like a meth-head smokes
  • loves children’s and young adult literature
  • enjoys discussions on how the Disney princesses reflect various views of women/ why Sleeping Beauty sucks/ how Disney himself sticks to the tradition of fairy tales much like the Grimm brothers
  • enjoys debates on the psychological undertones of Harry Potter
  • loves animated movies – I can’t wait to see Hotel Transylvania 
  • is getting a Masters degree in not only creative writing, but in Children’s Literature

 None of these are horrible traits. However, when they’re all combined …well, let’s just say I tend to feel like a minority. I know that there are other people like me out there. That’s why I love my program. I can totally walk around in this shirt …

… and people get it. I can have serious discussions about Disney princesses and not get ogled like I’ve just grown a second and third head. 

I would like to pause and mention that none of this comes from anyone in my family. They tend to share a lot (but not really all) of the things listed above, and support me none-the-less. Granted, on more than one occasion a few of my loved ones have exclaimed upon meeting my grad school friends, “Oh look! There are more people like you!” I know that’s supposed to be encouraging but what I’m hearing is “Oh honey, you aren’t as big of a freak as I thought.” Is that what my loved one means? Hell no! They just are excited that I have people I can relate with.


Okay, here I am getting to the real meat of my post. I am who I am and that’s not going to change. I’m damn stubborn enough to like what I like and march on. But the thing is, I just get so freaking tired some days.

Here’s how I want some days to go at work:
(PS – I work at a catering/ cafe/ bakery place)

Me: Hello there, can I help you with anything today? 
Customer: I think I’d like a few frozen casseroles.
Me: Well, I can help you with that [INSERT CASSEROLE SPEIL HERE]
Customer: (while I’m ringing them up) So, are you a student?
Me: Yes I am.
Customer: Oh, that’s nice. What are you studying?
Me: Well, I’m getting a Masters in Creative Writing with a focus on Children’s Literature.


Customer: (while I’m ringing them up) So, are you a student?
Me: Yes I am.
Customer: Oh, that’s nice. What are you studying?
Me: Well, I’m getting a Masters in Creative Writing with a focus on Children’s Literature.
Customer: Oh, well, so what …uh… what do you want to do with that?
Me: Well, write. And maybe teach. 
Customer: That’s sweet.
Awkward silence
Me: *sigh* well, my husband is going to be a nurse. He’s finishing up his degree.
Customer: Oh thank God! Well, at least you’ll have him and won’t have to starve. 

Yes, I am so thankful for my husband. 

But come on. I mean, upon reading those two different scenes to him out loud just now he laughed and said, “Oh dear, that’s horrible.”

I know. I live it.

So like I was saying, sometimes I just get so tired of being unique. I mean, I know that there are more people like me. I see them when I go to other places in the US. But if there are any near me (and no, the creepy comicbook store guys don’t count – why?  Because the main adjetive there is “creepy.”) I sure can’t find them.

What do I do? I mean really, how do you just keep on going all the time when people ask you what you like/ what you want to do and you get that same damn blank stare over and over again? 

Really, I see two choices:
  1. Suck it up and just keep going. You will find people who understand you and when you do, you should really develop those relationships and get fulfillment there and from yourself.
  2. Give up

I don’t like choice number two. I don’t want to force myself to like TV shows I hate just so I can relate to the general public.

I guess what I’m saying here is yes, it’s exhausting staying true to oneself when you seem to be in the nerd minority. But what other choice do you have?

If you are reading this and are like, “Holy shit that’s me!” Awesome. You are not alone. Keep it up. Keep doing what you do and loving what you love. 

On those days when I feel the weight of the world on me. Like I’ll never fit in. Like I’ll always get those blank stares and that no one will understand me again, my amazing husband comes through. He reminds me of this quote… 
Ending thought: Stay true to yourself. Sure, we may be some fish among birds, but at least we can breath underwater! Kapow!

Pondering on Growing-Up

Well, I’ve avoided it for as long as possible, but I think I have to admit something.

I’m not a kid anymore.
Am I an adult? I donno. I don’t really feel like one. I feel like a kid playing dress up in my mother’s clothes and then when I look at all the other kids (the real kids) I realize that I don’t really fit in with them anymore.
I don’t think it’s a bad thing that I feel like this. But it does mix up some fears. 
Let me start at the beginning…
Husband and I just moved out of our one bedroom apartment into a two bedroom (but now one bedroom one “library”) house. I love it. I adore it. We can breathe in it and not choke the other person with our recently exhaled breath.
Moving was stressful, yes. All moving is. But it was welcomed. Since 2006 I have lived in either a dorm or this one bedroom apartment. Yes, there were vacations where I spent time at my parents house, but my space was always … on the smaller side. 
What does this have to do with growing up? Well, apart from the obvious (it’s a house) I’m getting there.
So, I meet the neighbors that are two doors down. They’re a super sweet couple. A bit older than me (maybe in their early 30’s late 20’s) but my age. With two little kids. 
Here’s where I start to feel awkward. In my life I have always been friends with the “children” in a family unit. My college best friends don’t have kids (yet – most are still single or getting married) and didn’t have kids in college. It’s not like I befriended Husband’s parents and then met him and got married. I have always been in that kid role. Understand?
Now, I’m not. I’m relating to the parents and they are my peers. Not the other way around. 
And yes – still, I am okay with this.
But at the same time it kinda freaks me out.
And I feel it’s not for the obvious reason of leaving childhood behind and facing my own mortality and all that hoopla. 
It’s because I’m scared my writing will suffer. I feel like I’m finally growing into my skin as the writer I want to be. Having to rewrite Chapter 1 has been so much fun and given me a chance to enjoy the characters a little bit before I turn their lives to hell. 
But I write YA – YOUNG ADULT fiction. Will I be an adult that can still capture that voice, those feelings, everything that makes a young adult what they are once I’m totally through that phase? Will my work still be relatable or will readers pick up my stuff and toss it aside as crap because I can’t tap into that teenager/early 20’s side of me?

Honest to God, it freaks me the hell out. I don’t have an answer on how to fix it either. Not even a game plan. 
Updates on this matter in the future. Because despite being scared, I’m also determined (or freakishly stubbon as many might call it) and I will keep writing and I will keep telling the stories that are in my head that need to be told.     

Revision is a New Form of Hell…

Well, my plan has been to work on writing the last few chapters of the novel and revise the earlier chapters at the same time. You know, one day writing, one day revision, and so on. 


That plan didn’t really work out. I am making progress, however; it is not as quick as I would like for it to be. 

Writing the climax of my novel is really intimidating. It’s like, it’s been in my head for so long, it’s what I’ve been working toward, and what if it doesn’t come across as well on paper? What if I fail at delivering? It’s what the readers has invested their time in reading the novel for. 

So there’s that lovely little rain cloud hanging over my head.

Then, there’s the revision.

Yes, I have revised things before. How can I be in a writing program and not have done it. However, this time it seems different. Reading Chapter One and getting ready to revise it was just depressing. I looked at it and was like, “Shit, I’m going to have to rewrite the whole damn thing.” This is such crap! 

Then I took a break and literally stared at the hard-copy pages I printed out. I thought about things. About revision, about how to crawl inside of something and make it all better but not waste all the words and work you’ve already put into it.

After that, I put my little bird on my computer screen and went to work.
It really wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It really was like I could climb into the chapter and fix it. I cut pages and saved paragraphs. I shuffled things around and rewrote big chunks. What I found was, it was fun. I have a better handle on my characters now than I did when I started this years ago. I know who they are, how they talk, and how they react to thing. Even better, I know how to fold description into the story and eliminate huge paragraphs that are all telling and no showing. I know the weight of one perfect word over half a page of the almost right words. 

It is a slow process. In a way it’s daunting and hellish, I wonder if I’ll ever get it done

But, I just have to keep going. One page of revision at a time and writing one sentence at a time.