NaNoWriMo Update

Confession time, y’all: I just started my NaNo-writing yesterday.

I can offer you any number of excuses as to why I’m getting started so late, but really it comes down to my reluctance to deliver a swift and much-needed headbutt to my story’s timeline of events. The good news is that I managed to start that process yesterday by finally outlining the prequel to my main story.

The full series follows two generations–the mother’s story takes place in the prequel, then her daughter’s story takes up the bulk of the series–making the need for continuity a priority. I’ve been sitting on a wide variety of options for the daughter’s portion for a while, but the story of how it all starts is pretty necessary to grasp the full scope of the series. I’ve also been putting off the mother’s side of events because it’s a much smaller piece of the puzzle and I didn’t want to succumb to scope creep, but I’m pleased to say I was able to outline the events as planned yesterday with minimal bloat.

Which of course means huzzahs are in order! And also an average of 4,000 words a day to reach 50k by the end of the month. >.>

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Happy NaNoWriMo!

NaNo is upon us!

I haven’t started yet, but tomorrow my weekend starts and I intend to dig in with a will. For anyone who wants to try out the organization site, have a look here: National Novel Writing Month.

Good luck to everyone!

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Tech Advice for Writers

Alright folks, I’ve spent a little time on tools for writing and organizing timelines, outlines, research etc, but after working in tech support for some time it’s become clear to me that a fair lot of us have no idea about the three-part tenet of technology:

It will fail.

It will fail when everything seems fine.

It will fail shortly after you consider making a backup, but shortly before you are actually able to complete said backup.

I can’t tell you how many times in college I heard some variation of the phrase “Holy Mother, my term paper is due tomorrow and my laptop won’t turn on.”

I can’t tell you how many times a week I hear similar statements when I’m taking tech calls at work: “My late husband’s photographs were on that hard-drive,” “Three years of my research notes were on that laptop and it was just stolen from the library,” “I spent 16 hours on that spreadsheet yesterday and the presentation is in an hour,” “I saved my original project file to a new disk and now it says I don’t have the correct permissions to view it,” and it’s all tragically avoidable.

I’m not saying technology is out to get you, but you can bet your curvy buttocks it doesn’t have your back.

So for that reason, I’m outlining some ideas to keep your bizz safe and sound with local and remote backups.

(Note: Don’t rely on emailing yourself stuff, because it’s all too easy to accidentally delete or archive an item, or find that a server issue caused delivery to fail, or lose a password and get locked out of the account itself.)

Here are some basic ideas:

  • Dropbox:

Pros: very user friendly, most stable with multiple platforms in personal experience. Nothing to install, just set up a folder on your desktop and drag and drop. Usually no issues with permissions.

Cons: limited space unless you want to pay. Not exorbitant pricing, but if you’re kickin’ it starving artist-style…yeah.

  • iCloud/iCloud Drive: 

Pros: lots of options for interconnectivity with smart phones/iPads and computers, now has bundled software options that auto-sync and save across devices (Keynote, Pages, Numbers included).

Cons: can develop issues if you’re not well-acquainted with Apple ID accounts/services and how everything links together. There’s a lot to it, and it’s possible to lose access to your account completely if you don’t stay on top of your account security questions, emails, and passwords. The functionality is also somewhat dependent on your operating system and phone configuration.

  • Google docs: 

Pros: basically combines free software with remote storage.

Cons: some formatting issues when exporting as docs/pdfs, kind of tiresome that wifi is required to work on the main document.

  • External hard-drives:

Pros: the best option if you have a mega-ton of content (photos, music, movies, and data-heavy documents like articles, spreadsheets, etc). They tend to be more stable than a computer HD simply due to the fact that they have no software that has to run (and summarily fail), no logicboard, etc.

Cons: Can fail, break, or be lost almost as readily as a laptop HD.

  • Other:

As always, I can’t recommend Scrivener highly enough, and not just because of the excellent functionality: there is also an automated backup option that helps me sleep a little better at night. Go to the File drop down, go to Backup, and there’s a “Backup To” option that will allow you to select preferences for frequency of backup and location of backup. Mine syncs to Dropbox, and it has already saved me from hair-tearing tantrums a couple of times.

If you have suggestions, post them in the comments! 

Behold, the Mighty Three Act Structure

Now, three act structure is not new – in fact, I feel like I may have been the last one to the party – but what kind of blogger would I be if I didn’t bandy my would-be revelation about like it’s as new as all those babies my Facebook friends keep having?

Three act structure is most common as a movie formula, which is one reason I never messed with it for novel-writing; I tend to write stories like I’m seeing them on a screen anyway (which isn’t necessarily best practice) and it’s a tough impulse to fight. I’ve posted before about the eight point arc structure and, while it is no doubt a solid set of bones to build on, it has its limits.

Historically eight-point has been my go-to when I get lost with my storyline, but during the week I had a very writerly conversation with my Dad about the three act as well as the foremost screenwriter who examined and popularized it, Syd Field. I decided to peep the deets and then gave it a test run – it’s simple enough that I was able to apply it with minimal tweaking to my own story and it wound up working a fair bit better than my usual eight point structure, which is comparatively much more rigid.

Studying my story’s Three Act version next to its Eight Point helped me see a few places that could be consolidated and tightened up plot-wise and it in general spruced up my whole approach. I even threw in some Hero’s Journey for good measure. Try it out and let me know how it goes!

ThreeActStructureFlat script-analysis-three-act-structure-with-plot-points (1) 

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The Quiets


Appalling, Outrageous, Unacceptable!

My blog-tending habits this year have been appalling, sweet readers, but I’m hoping to soon be back on the warpath with writing in general.

I’ve picked an odd time to get back to it: my fellow and I will be moving within the next month, so the past few weeks have been filled with planning and packing and selling and buying and all that likely won’t stop for a good while. Meanwhile, I’ve adopted a puppy who, for all his good behavior and quick uptake is still a puppy (to wit, I’m learning pretty quickly that getting absorbed in another task and leaving him to his own devices has undesirable results beyond the occasional small leavings in the hallway).

Outside of all that, I was able to narrow down what seems to be the real reason for my dry spell: I bit off a little more than I could chew with my story. While the scope of it is slowly resolving and lining up like good and orderly little ducks, one of my main characters is proving to be a little more difficult to write than the others. To sum up, I’ve made her too much like me and I’m beginning to wonder if that wasn’t a smidge over-ambitious for my skill level.

That’s not to say I’m some free-spirited rebel that can’t be contained, now–that would be as silly as it would be untrue–I’m actually wondering if I as a person am mature and honest enough to draw on my flaws without making lots of excuses and glossing over my less appealing qualities to the point of turning those issues into sideways compliments (or going the opposite direction and being so self-deprecating that the character herself becomes watered down and tiresome).

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, think of some of the more recent heroines/heroes that you see turn up in popular YA fiction lately. I won’t name names, because that’s rude, but it’s pretty easy to spot a writer that has fictionalized him or herself into a story as the main character.

In such a case you may find the main character to be, if not written in first person, then almost excessively open with their feelings reader-side. The victimization is strong with this one, you might think as they slope around the campfire or common room or training hall, wallowing in their self-awareness of how plain or unfit they are. Often the story takes a backseat to their own feelings of inadequacy. Other than being a very tired means of eliciting empathy, this carries the danger that no matter whether the character finds love or acceptance in spite of those undesirable qualities or bites down and betters himself/herself until success comes along, either eventuality seems to be an exercise in the author blatantly indulging personal desires and back-patting their own obstacles. And once you get the image of the author as a character into your mind it’s almost impossible to cheer said character on without feeling like the author has slipped you a bit of a mickey.

Given my obviously strong feelings about turning a novel into a dramatized journal entry, I have some serious doubts about my own ability to write my heroine while drawing from some of my so-so personality traits. It started out honestly enough: I wanted to write a female character with anger issues. Still do. But not the pervasive aggression that you might see in heroines like Katniss Everdeen (don’t get me wrong, I like her), and not the chip-on-shoulder kind of anger that comes from the fear of being patronized or taken advantage of, but the kind that with the right kind of trigger, hits you hard in the chest out of nowhere and scares your pants off because you wonder what might happen if you lost your grip on it. The kind that makes you skittish in groups, a little unsure of yourself in the event of a confrontation, and very careful where you invest your emotions day to day.

It’s a common personality trait with male fantasy and sci-fi heroes in particular. As a trope, the term is “berserker.” Such a character is generally stoic or unfeeling or even shy during most encounters, but, with the right prompting, reveals himself as a force to be reckoned with at a later time. I’ve never understood the disproportionately heavy population of male characters in Berserksville–I mean, I know I’m not the only person with lady-parts out there who knows how to get good and properly mad–and while it’s not the worst thing ever to heavily identify with male characters, sometimes I do wind up looking around wondering, “Where my girls at?”

So that’s how my dilemma started. My character has biological/hereditary reasons for her anger issues, and it could be argued that I do as well. My dad’s family has a long history of what is referred to as “the Copeland Quiets” (that is, a propensity for anger that means at a certain time in life one must start being very careful to avoid heavy situations, or at least stay still and quiet for the duration) and it’s no secret that I spent a fair portion of my childhood scrapping. I wasn’t a bully, rather I was the kind of kid that invited bullying: goofy (but not quite in the class-clown/cool-kid way, more like the snaggle-teeth and hiccups-all-the-time kind of way), far too open with my desire to please people and make friends, and shy at all the wrong times. Thanks to my “Quiets,” however, I gained an early reputation as the kid who punched others in the face with sometimes very little overt provocation. By the time I was in third grade I was wondering where all the usual bullies had gotten to. It wasn’t til later I realized that I had edged very close to being one.

For a while I enjoyed it. My mild violence protected me to a certain extent, and since I didn’t seek confrontation out I never got into much trouble with school (it was also a different time, and in Texas); it actually made me feel special. Then a news story broke about a boy who lost control and stabbed a bully: he was barely a teen and he would be tried as an adult for the indiscretion. And that was the point when I started to wonder if the same could happen to me, and started to worry a little more about my own hard-to-deny impulses. Luckily by that time I didn’t have to keep proving myself and coasted by when it came to physical confrontation, though to this day I am more concerned about my own potential reaction than my opponent’s in the rare event that I feel legitimately threatened.

I see a lot of withdrawn heroes who might be hesitant for one reason or another, sometimes due to their powers or abilities, etc, but most often those who hesitate do so to either avoid detection by an enemy or to please a parent or to align with an ideology or religion: in short, an outside, non-personal reason. Sometimes you find one who is truly afraid of their own power, though since the power itself is almost never inherently dangerous I just as often end up shouting at them, “Stop being melodramatic and just learn to use it better, jeez!” (Elsa from Frozen, I’m looking at you…)

By contrast, I have always loved characters who hesitate because their powers honestly have very little positive application. A good example would be Rogue from X-Men. Yes, she can borrow powers by touching skin, but in the process she could very easily kill the mutant she borrows from, or at the very least put them in excruciating pain. She wears gloves and keeps to herself somewhat, but doesn’t hate herself or refuse to use her ability (or someone else’s) in an extreme situation. I like that. She’s a champ, not a whiney prepubescent looking for a reason to feel cast out and ugly.

So I wanted to write someone who is inclined to love the freedom afforded by an ability, but remains constantly aware of her own destructive power. Someone who has to remind herself daily that opening a well-deserved can on a baddie could cause her more trouble in the long-run, but maybe still wants to do it anyway. Someone who feels a trifle slighted when she has to forgo a good beat-down, but then goes home and feels a little ashamed once the moment of rage passes. Really, I’d like a hero who with a tiny push could become a villain.

Since this is personal to me, it is proving hard to write without appearing to glorify my character’s tendencies, or puffing violent altercations up as “cool,” which is just foolish. Sure, she has her badass moments, but not every decision she makes is a good one and not every scrap turns out in her favor. Loss of control complicates the story and puts the people she loves in danger. While I do not subscribe to the belief that violence is never the answer, I am not in a hurry to suggest that it’s the only way to go about handling life. Rather I think it’s important to address where anger comes from rather than pretend it doesn’t exist, or if it does, that it’s only for bad guys.

For those of you who have gotten through my ramble, any suggestions for good stories featuring characters with similar woes and qualities? I’m not looking for only female characters, but I’m hoping to examine a few successful examples before I jump in too deep on my own.






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Writing the Script


I haven’t been blogging much lately, so this is a bit of a cheat post.

For anyone familiar with the “Avatar: The Last Airbender” series and its most recent incarnation “The Legend of Korra,” here’s an interesting look into the story and script writing process for an episode. Enjoy! <3

Originally posted on Mike DiMartino:

Screen shot 2014-06-12 at 4.54.25 PM

In the final part of this series on “Beginnings, Part 1″, we’re going to take a look at the script — essentially the blueprint for all the actors and artists once we move into the production phase.

Once the outline is written and we’ve received notes from Bryan and the network, I usually go over the notes with the writer before they head off to write the first draft. When I write a script, I also have all my other executive producer meetings to do, so often I’ll write for an hour here and there, sometimes at night, or whenever I have a spare moment. This isn’t my idea way to write, but I make it work.

Because we’ve thoroughly worked through all the story beats in the premise and outline phases, the script writing is more focused on nailing down dialogue and describing the action in a clear, visual way. I find it’s really…

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What Makes A Story “Bad”?


Some interesting thoughts, because often it’s more helpful to learn what makes something crap rather than sift through more relative or nebulous ideas of what makes something good.

Originally posted on Thought Catalog:

The Anthropic Principle in Storytelling and the Shattered Illusion

Do not even try to convince me I am alone in this one, for I have heard it too many times in much mixed company: you are watching a new movie, or perhaps an old favorite, or a television drama, or whathaveyou, and friends or acquaintances are gathered around; at just the moment that perhaps you think, “Oh my, this plotline is amazing!”, someone from the gallery pipes up, “Really? Everything in this story happens too perfectly, it is unbelievable.” Maybe you fume with anger; maybe you voice your own opinion and a debate ensues; maybe you engage in an internal struggle, embarrassed, asking yourself, “Is he right? Am I naive for loving this show?”; maybe you just keep your emotions on the downlow and try to forget this neophyte’s transgression, for he will learn in due time…

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I mistreat my characters sometimes.

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Bad Writing Advice From Famous Authors


Worth reading, for the sake of reminding you to do your own thang.

Originally posted on Flavorwire:

Aspiring writers will never tire of reading lists of writing advice from famous authors, whether legendary or living. And why should they? These lists, the most recent of which to bubble up in our collective consciousness being advice from W.G. Sebald, contain countless encouragements, tips, and (in almost every case) directives to get to it and stop fooling about. But even famous authors can lead young writers astray — after all, not every suggestion works for everyone, or every rule for every type of writing, and we find ourselves deeply skeptical any time anyone tell us we must do something (or not do it). As Sebald himself advised, “Don’t listen to anyone. Not us, either. It’s fatal.” After the jump, a few pieces of bad — at least in our minds — writing advice from famous authors, and if you feel so moved, add to our list in the…

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My Beef with YA: Girls Can’t Be Friends

(Note: this rant will not contain specific examples for very specific reasons. My frustration is not with just two or three well-known writers, as the tropes outlined below are becoming more and more widespread in YA, propagated by small-time authors as well as major ones. I believe that pointing fingers would only undermine any point I’d like to make and would make the issue into a personal injury for a handful of writers who at the heart of it want nothing more than to tell a story. Poking fun is not my intention, no matter how frustrating I find the content.)

Some authors get YA right.

Some of my favorite stories follow kids between 10 and 17 years old, and while you might think from the outside that those stories would be about as riveting as hearing a kid brother talk about a particular science teacher who is constantly on his case or your little niece complaining that another girl on her softball team is so mean, the scope of the story usually keeps the subject matter from being trivial. There may be a spice of adolescent drama, but it’s not the forerunner of conflict. It’s an afterthought used to round out the characters and make them appear their age as they slay dragons and hop through universes and come up against larger than life dangers. This is what makes the story acceptable and even highly enjoyable to those readers who are well beyond the age of the actual characters. It keeps these readers sympathetic with the younger characters by offering slight nods at the average trials of youth that we’ve all gone through and perhaps to some degree have passed.

But so many authors do not get YA right.

There has been a huge swell of YA fiction released in the wake of successes like Harry Potter and Twilight: The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Mortal Instruments, and plenty of others in the mixThese successes are lately cited often and in varied contexts–for myself, I am a fan of Games and Potter, with a few reservations–and chances are good you’ve already read a scathing account of at least one of these series, calling out anti-feminist values, abusive lover trends, questionable display of culture or race, and otherwise profoundly diluted portrayals of teen years as some kind of golden age wherein adults are merely blinkered sheep, obstacles to either narrowly avoid or triumphantly overcome in the course of adventure.

Or perhaps these authors do not get YA as right. There is some really beautiful and imaginative world-building at work in many of these series, not to mention fine execution of more technical points such as pacing and tension. Obviously, they are still selling copies, so I will not categorically condemn them as unreadable. All the same, I have one major beef with many young adult science fiction and fantasy series, well-known and otherwise. This crime is one I see committed far more by female authors writing central female characters than male authors writing the same, and it is a sad lot of self-congratulatory wish fulfillment. I so want it to stop.

The underlying gripe is this: Girls, apparently, cannot be friends. 

Ever. All too often, every girl but the female main character (forthwith referred to as the FMC) is portrayed as a backstabbing menace. Especially the girls that spend time with other girls. These other girls may, for a brief moment, display a touch of uncharacteristic friendliness…but you can be certain that this moment is a snare for the heroine, either as an attempt to lure her toward dire embarrassment or as an effort to gain access to something the heroine has, whether resources, smarts, or attachment to another person. They are shown as conniving gold-diggers that exist only to cause problems and make the FMC feel like scum. Pond scum of so boring a variety that even Jerry Brand wouldn’t be interested in studying it under a microscope.

Any moment of clarity about the fact that an enemy female character (if one gets around to being named) is really just a person with her own fears and issues and a soft, creamy nougat of personality underneath it all, the FMC grows up a little and the author gets to pat her on the back for braving a burdensome revelation. She realizes that other people actually exist and that despite the grievances for which the FMC seems to hold the whole world accountable, she may need to do her part and learn why others treat her the way they do and then take some responsibility for it. Naturally though, this moment is just as often shattered when the other girl, still reeling from the FMC’s glimpse into her soul, shuts down the FMC’s dutiful offers of help or friendship. Often an insult or an all-out attack follows. And so the moment is had and lost, the FMC is spared the responsibility of making good on her revelation, and the blame for the FMC’s failures in navigating the currents of adolescent femininity continues to fall elsewhere.

In light of this, boys are the only real friends. 

As a trope, there is often an Obligatory Male Bestie whom the FMC tends to emasculate by disparaging any romantic interest he might have in her, sometimes to the extent of directly insulting him for having those feelings (though using him as a boyfriend sounding-board while eyeballing other guys is shown just as often and is just as distasteful). There is also a trope of nostril-flaring jealousy should the Obligatory Bestie take the hint that it’s never going to happen and start looking at other girls: so not only is the FMC never going to return his feelings, she doesn’t want anyone else to return his feelings either. This is shown as acceptable behavior because often the FMC hates herself so much that she cannot take her Obligatory Bestie’s interest seriously, assuming he is just a boy who wants an easy lay with the ugly girl, and as such can have no investment of actual emotion in the matter of her affections–a sentiment which is often curiously absent when the Mysterious Babe Guy arrives on the scene and starts sending smoky glares in her direction (but more on him later).

Opposite the friendzoned Obligatory Bestie, there is the First Love Bestie. He has known her forever and is as yet ignorant of her feelings toward him. He can be found waggling his charming, caddish eyebrows at other girls even as he begins to drift away from the FMC by collecting male friends. Even the company of other dudes threatens FMC’s sense of possession when it comes to First Love Bestie. His supportive attitude when she tries to make him jealous by talking about another guy sends her into a rage. Every moment spent with him is a lifetime of emo-torture because she finds herself so viciously unattractive/spotty/boring/unfunny/drab/dumb that she can’t get up the guts to say: “Hey best friend: here are ALL THESE HOTS. I HAVE THEM FOR YOU. Mind taking a few off my hands?” 

If the FMC is taken to task for a poor choice or action by another female character, the reader should really consider hating that character:

Most times in these stories, the FMC is emotionally unstable, brash, or unacquainted with the new world or laws of magic to which she has recently been introduced. It is natural that certain mistakes would be made, but as another symptom of the ego-stroking, the FMC is rarely held accountable or asked to learn from these mistakes. If she is, the deed is often done by a Mean Girl side character whom the writer goes to great length to vilify, usually by depicting her as a slutty, jealous temptress who is only trying to make the FMC look bad in front of Mysterious Babe Guy. In truth, the Mean Girl is usually a veteran of the world to which the FMC has just been introduced, and as such would naturally have much more at stake and much more to lose, and therefore ample reason to shout down a brash newb who appears to be keen on foolish or impulsive or flat uninformed behavior. Even more frustrating, Mysterious Babe Guy usually comes to the FMC’s rescue, soothing her battered ego and in turn shouting down the Mean Girl’s objectively valid concerns.

Girls are the real enemy for being aloof and cruel and unapproachable, but somehow that same behavior is not only appealing when acted out by Mysterious Babe Guy, it’s downright panties-be-droppin’.

From the first moment the Mysterious Babe Guy appears on the FMC’s radar, he’s alternately ignoring her, looking at her like he might look at a piece of gum stuck to his shoe, ridiculing her, and showing bare disdain for her presence. In essence he is the only person in the story who treats her like the person she believes herself to be (except of course, for the nameless droves of other women who seem to get off on sadistic treatment of a sad underdog): drab, annoying, unworthy of notice except in the most unappreciative of ways. This often gives the FMC leeway to surprise him with a power or insight or some other display of hidden quality, usually surprising herself in the process. And so she begins to show a little defiance, and defiance grows to confidence, and then the Babe Guy begins to find her “interesting.” Because she’s just so different from other girls. All other girls. Bringing us back around to the premise that the entire world is made up of harridans and harpies, and those not clever enough for treachery exist solely to flirt with taken boys while flaunting short skirts and listening to vapid music.

For good measure, Mysterious Babe Guy is almost always exceptional in (at least) one of three ways which serve to rationalize his misbehavior, although the same courtesy is rarely extended to disagreeable female characters:

1) He has…no one (wistful gaze), because he is extravagantly wealthy or powerful or beautiful. Others just can’t handle his presence. They’re just too scared or too jelly. Even the company he keeps is a facade.

2) He has…no one (sad smile), because he’s actually over a hundred years old and everyone he’s ever loved or let in has died. Despite being at least seventy years past the age when most folk lose interest in highschool drama, he readily involves himself in exactly that by diggin’ on a sixteen year old. Perhaps it’s because he still looks seventeen…

3) He has…no one (deep sigh), because he’s hiding a mysterious secret/curse/disease. No one close to him is safe, so he acts the ass to push them away for their own safety. He must now endure a lecture on the selfishness of making decisions for those who just want to be there for him.

The tenacity with which the FMC pursues this mewling, hackneyed pseudo-Darcy undermines the proposition that she has to stay away from other girls “for her own protection.” She follows him into danger, picks apart his defenses, and pretties her way into his heart and hidden depths, all accomplished between longing gazes cast here and there like stray buckshot. That is, until…

FMC’s infatuation (often cloaked as ‘curiosity,’ ‘concern,’ and my favorite ‘morbid fascination’) is interrupted by a sudden incursion of doubt/distraction/caution/misunderstanding/standard-grade sanity, or simply a short period of time wherein the FMC is sufficiently un-besotted to question Babe Guy or perhaps her own interest in him. Usually this is just after the FMC has come very close to death or dismemberment, either by the recklessness of Mysterious Babe Guy or by an outside danger that is ruthlessly put down by Babe Guy’s abilities or powers. There is a short span of time after the FMC witnesses and processes this event and the Babe Guy’s ferocity of response, during which she may experience a waning of interest in him and sometimes life in general. It’s called shock and is generally considered to be a pretty legit reaction to extreme duress by sane people. Babe Guy, being very probably not sane, takes immediate offense to her would-be rejection, and either storms off or slinks away emo-style, leaving her enraged, or feeling unsettled and wistful, or fearing that she has disappointed/offended him or failed some manner of personal test, all during a time when she should be focusing on not developing PTSD.

Tiny slips of speech, petty injustices, and easily-correctable miscommunications riddle the languishing couple’s interactions to spark epic rows of feeling and latent sexual tension. This is especially unacceptable for the ‘old soul’-style Babe Guys–they’re old enough to know better. Break ups and make ups abound, ending in a climactic meltdown with tears and grievous emotional wounds, until…

Mysterious Babe Guy’s many faults all fall into perspective for the FMC. His complete lack of maturity, the absence of common sense, the disinterest in reigning in his temper, and his inability to manage what often turns out to be a textbook inferiority complex–all excused. This occurs when the FMC realizes that their inexplicable attraction to each other is at least in part due to the fact that Babe Guy hates himself as much or more than FMC hates herself. This is portrayed as, if not a good thing, then a sad fact of life that one may as well just roll with. The couple is then reunited with the understanding that, while they may make each other wholly and completely miserable, they’ll always have the ultimate aphrodisiac of “at least we’re in it together.” Sexy.

Afterward, Obligatory Bestie is released from the FMC’s shacklehood on his heart as her romantic backup plan, and the FMC may dip a cautious toe into the waters of civility with whatever girl he chases afterward. Generous.

The Precedent and the Point

With friendship being the larger part of romance, this sets a dangerous expectation (if you care about the fact that young readers learn how to interact with the world largely through various forms of escape and entertainment) for what kids and teens can expect from their peers, friends, and crushes. And if you call yourself a feminist or a supporter of equal rights and then write the kind of woman-hating nonsense that is beginning to fill so much of YA fiction, you need to reevaluate either your writing or what you think it means to support other women. If you’re going to be a YA writer who targets young female audiences, you have a responsibility to help those same young women learn to better their situation (even if it is just through the lens of fantasy), not bog them down in the belief that they’re right about the whole world being a big pile of suck. Everyone gets that feeling at some point, but that feeling will pass if one is inclined to let it.  I’m not saying every YA novel needs to read like a textbook on how to play nice with other girls, and even less like a textbook on responsible dating habits, but lately too much of it seeks to deliberately poison the reader against an entire sex, and for what? All to snatch at the lowest hanging fruit that might cause a flare of empathy between an awkward adolescent reader and and an awkward adolescent character, but is just as likely to polarize your audience and range even more readers against you.

In strictly practical terms, it’s also just lazy writing. There are plenty of ways to promote empathy with a reader that don’t involve throwing your own sex under the bus and that also do not cheapen your options for story progression. And I’m not saying to make every FMC an angel, either–some of my favorite female characters could probably be deemed psychopaths–the point is that tinny adolescent drama is a one note tune that’s been played too much already and will do neither your storyline nor society in general any favors in the end. Human emotion runs rampant with chaotic and complex motivators, even from an early age–pick one other than petty jealousy and learn to love the burn as your story evolves around it.

In summation, please stop writing hatred of other women into your fiction, and not only because many of the ideas you’re presenting as fact are patently untrue. I’ve been there–for most of my life I thought that I couldn’t trust other women as far as I could throw them–but if we can’t even get past that fear enough to set a good precedent in the stuff that we literally make up and put on a page, how can anyone take us seriously when we call ourselves feminists? How can we expect to be taken seriously as writers if we’re using tired old cheats to dredge up a reader’s empathy?

Please stop undermining yourself as a woman, and please stop undermining yourself as a writer. But please do keep writing. <3

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