Well this makes me uncomfortable

So, let’s talk women, but that’s not going to get me in trouble at all. Actually, it really does, I’m terrible at writing women to the point I’ve written stories that featured one female character, because I know I don’t do it well.

First of all, let me explain, I’m not sexist, or at least I don’t think of myself as sexist. I just struggle with the perspective, even though intellectually I know we all see the same world, and reactions and motivations are the same – when I write a female character it just doesn’t read back well. Anyway, that’s my problem, it’s something I’m working on, my protagonist is a female badass type, and a mother.

All that being said, over the years I’ve read many bad portrayals of female characters, most are bad because of the stereotypes, perceptions, behaviours and sidelining which belongs in decades ago, if it belonged at all.

I recently came across a  blog post that tackled this in a really clever way, it’s by a woman called Meg Elison and was on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, link here and at the end: https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/if-women-wrote-men-the-way-men-write-women 

It’s entitled, If Women Write Men the Way Men Write Women, which makes as uncomfortable reading as you can imagine. Some of them would make uncomfortable reading whatever the gender of the character, others if it was a man that was the focus, you would accept with few questions, after all lads are just lads, you switch the roles though and you can see why it would feel demeaning. Cads are a fact of life, but a female cad does feel wrong – and yet the behaviours, and the results are the same.

It’s a great thought provoking article, and I highly recommend you read it, it’s definitely worth five minutes of your time. I’m suddenly conscious of all the times the murderess in murder mysteries is somehow always more wicked and evil than their female counterparts, whether or not their crimes were less or more.

As I continue to write male and female characters I’m going to try and keep it in mind. Terrible behaviour is terrible no matter who does it, and if other characters are going to react differently, I’d still like the story to treat them the same.

What if Women Wrote Men the Way They Write Women

StockSnap_QKFY1FBMG3

My Top 5 Evil Protagonists

I love morally good hero, I also love flawed but good heroes, obviously the anti hero love is strong and am so so about mostly neutral heroes… But every so often I love a villainous protagonist.

I’m a good guy by nature, I shy away from doing wrong, so there’s something a little titillating about seeing life from the other side of the moral line, to see a bank heist come together, to follow an assassin about his business. I don’t want to be them, and in real life most of them would belong in prison.

You won’t find the truly evil here, I’ve got my limits, and nothing based on real events, this isn’t the most evil protagonists of all time, just my favourites.

Enough said bring in the list:

Continue reading

That’s a nice little hobby you have there… Hmmm

Now I’m returning to writing, and to blogging, I thought good place to start in my new run of blogging was to attempt to explore both what storytelling is, and what it means to me, or why I do it. However, as it turns out, that’s actually much harder than it sounds. So I present to you the inconclusive answer, in time I will revisit this subject with a bit more self awareness.

In this entry in going to discuss why I write, there’ll be a disproportionate amount of randomness, segues, grandstanding, self depreciation and no doubt you’ll see the words “I don’t care what you/they/anyone thinks”,  but don’t worry it’ll only be after seeking your praise.

The post will be in three parts :

  1. What is writing/storytelling to me?
  2. What do I get out of it?
  3. What do I enjoy most?

Let’s begin

1. What is storytelling to me?

Storytelling is the social and cultural activity of sharing stories, often with improvisationtheatrics, or embellishment. 

Wikipedia: Storytelling

It’s simple right? Storytelling is the act and at of sharing anecdotal or fictional stories. Writing is the act of committing words to a static medium. 

But who wants a clinical description? No, to me storytelling it’s about exploring, experiencing, and growing these fictional worlds floating round my mind, and then finding a way to convey them to an audience. 

In truth, I’m not great at that last part, that’s a confidence thing though, when I do set out to write fiction or most things, I do so with an audience in mind and intent to share it when them. 

2. What do I get out of it?

One last thing about what storytelling is, is that it’s about is potential, because a great piece of writing can change the world, whether it’s big or small, whether it’s an actual effect on the real world or simply how someone experiences it – writing can do that, and everything written has with in it that potential. 

Don’t believe me? Tolkien has touched the world for millions of people, he don’t just write he created while universes, with interconnected narratives, has spawned a genre, and an industry, made some people incredibly rich, and sent others to barreling through nerdvana.

Jane Austen who didn’t just define the modern romance, but how through relatable characters and comic twists, but also how social commentary could be highlighted in accessible ways. 

I could go on, but we’ll get way off topic, but definitely look out for a future post about how writers can and have changed the world in some fashion. 

That potential is exciting to me when I write for two reasons, firstly that I may have an idea that could reach people on the level my favourite authors have, and secondly that they a story I’m writing may change me, from learning new things like how a fusion generator works to how I approach the challenges in my life. The latter is nearly always true, the former continues to be an ambition I aspire to.

3. What do I enjoy most? 

The challenge. I’m not going to pretend to be good at storytelling, I struggle for originality, I struggle for the technical things like grammar and structure, and I struggle for confidence in what I write… and that is what makes it fun. The more I write, the better I get and one day I’ll overcome the things I struggle with.

I love challenges, that’s why I like to play pool and snooker, I’m terrible at them, but those moments where I overcome my own weaknesses there is a glory – more so when there are others to offer praise, so here I am sharing my thoughts and my stories in a blog, in the hopes others will see something of merit., and say “well done”, or “thank you”.

Clockwork

Site Update

So been doing quite a bit behind the scenes to sort out my blog.

My old hosting was a bit overpowered for my needs, about 8 years ago when I’d gotten it I’d had bigger ambitions than a blog, and over the past few years the performance on the site had been excruciatingly slow and frequently chose not to work.

Instead I’ve gone just for wordpress.com – all my posts and such have been imported and I’m just playing about with the look and feel of the site. The good news is it now runs nice and zippy, and can concentrate on writing and blogging.

If you were following the old blog, you’ll have to refollow again I think.

Expect regular posts from now on.

Well well well… look at who’s darkening your door step

So I’ve been gone a while, but I’m back. I lost my mojo for a bit, combination of many many factors, which ultimately are dull, and uninteresting compared with what’s going on in your life, and the world in general – but it was important to me at the time, and it dragged me away from writing, and blogging.

As the title suggests, and the first line, (because apparently reiterating your point, however pointless is the best way to get it across), I’m back. I’m currently working on a project, an epic piece though slightly unoriginal in a world populated by George R. R. Martin, J. R. R. Tolkien, and many others… but it’s fun, and maybe along the way I’ll stumble into a something unique and interesting in the world of fantasy story telling.

I have other ideas piling up, which is great suddenly the creative juices are flowing again.

And I’m half way to fixing my site up – I’ve reinstalled WordPress, and managed to upload all my old posts and comments, (which turns out is very easy), but it’s still running slow.

I’m not sure what I’ll be blogging about – just a journal of my life writing, commentary on writing news, a significant amount about NaNoWriMo this year and future years, (and if that’s news to you… surprise! I’m obsessed with the non-competitive writing competition), a challenge or two, and I’d like to analyse other people’s stories, not just writing but other media’s too – because I find it fascinating. I’ll try and sort out things like that out, but I’m all a quiver at being back, and to be writing for  a few weeks, and I wanted to share that.

That last minute complete turn around…

So, I told a falsehood last time I was writing here, I said I was going to do all the preparation. Well life has a way of getting in the way of the best laid plans. I’ve got plenty of research into the science of my novel, I’ve even drawn out designs for the vessel it was to take place in – but that’s as far as I got. Well not quite, I did spec out two characters, but they were more straw men meant to get the ball rolling. I mean one was a private detective paid to be on, what in cost terms, is the equivalent of an exclusive luxury round the world cruise. It wasn’t meant to make sense, it was just meant to be a start.

So, this story I wanted to tell, the rules I set myself, needed to be fully plotted out and researched to work. I haven’t done that, and it’s twenty minutes to NaNoWriMo. New plan then, I’m going to wing it. I don’t have any idea what the plot will be, but I’ll go at something hell for leather from midnight. The 50k day one is still the goal – might be even tougher now, but doesn’t that sound like even more fun?

Until I’ve got the first 50k, weather it’s day one, or day thirty, I’ll be a bit quiet here.

NaNoWriMo Preparation – the practical (fun) stuff

For the past couple of years I’ve been writing about various things I do to prepare for NaNoWriMo, it’s the things stuff. The electronics and software, the pens and the paper, etc… I’ve already mentioned my spare room, so I’ve spent some time setting it up, arranging it, and adding some motivation posters and such. I’ve had great fun, and there’s still some odd jobs to do until it’s quite ready for November in just 36 days.

Below is a list of the things my new den has, and some photos, for posterity, (because by the time November 30th comes around it will probably be covered in screwed up papers, broken pens, cables strewn about, books stacked haphazardly, etc… etc…).

  • A 20m reem of paper, and lots of blutack so I can get it up on the wall and plot out my timelines and such in big.
  • A collection of physical books for guidance and inspiration, (yes as well as the Kindle ones, I’m quite loaded with advice from over the years). These include:
  • A4 whiteboards (2 of them, with whiteboard pens to go with), for when you just want to experiment with an idea without committing to anything, (you’d be surprised how liberating that is)
  • Huge collection of notebooks, and pens
  • And these things are pretty important up in the home office:
    1. No TV
    2. No Xbox
    3. No fridge/snack draws


So, in earlier posts I mentioned I bought a new laptop this year, it’s the Acer Aspire V5 11.6” model. It’s snappy and comfortable to write on, and even though the screen’s an inch bigger than my last one, the whole laptop is smaller and lighter. So it’s perfect for NaNoWriMo.

For PC software this year I’m sticking with the tried and tested Microsoft Office, I’m on the 2013 version on this laptop and it’s nice and comfortable. I know there are alternatives, but they have never measured up for me. Aside from the Evernote Windows 8 app, (for syncing research), that’s pretty much it, some software yet to be decided upon for brainstorming, and the return of my over complicated NaNoWriMo Excel tracker.

I’m aiming for an uncluttered computer for writing. I’m not going to be writing on my mobile phone or tablet this year. In the past couple of years mobile writing has probably accounted for somewhere between five and ten percent of my overall word counts, however it can be frustrating at times, and my motif this year is to keep it simple, so I’m sacking it off. Instead the time I would have spent mobile writing will instead be focused on research, and I’m going to keep a running tally of what I need to research. It’s a nice separation I feel, because my computer does the grunt work for writing, and the mobile does the grunt work for just about everything else. So here’s what I’ve got on my mobile and tablet (Nexus 5, and Nexus 7 respectively):

  • EverNote, to collate and organise my notes, which handily shares with the Windows 8 EverNote app, not only that but it allows you to attach photos, links, website extracts, all very handy for research purposes.
  • SimpleMind, brainstorming charting tool for organising my thoughts in a brainstorm. The other reason I like these is the ability to lay out an idea, and then rearrange it, move information from one node to another etc… (great for settling on character backstories and such)
  • WordPress, because this year I’m not just going to stop blogging on October 31st, and then resume again until July the following the year with a “Oops I forgot to mention I won”
  • Amazon Kindle app, (and also my Amazon Kindle device), for my collection of advice and inspiration books I’m going to try and make full use of this year.
  • Google Earth, not a tool I’ve used in previous years, then again my sci-fi has been largely extra-terrestrial, this time round we’re spending a lot more time travelling round Earth, and I think Google Earth will help in that goal of being more descriptive in my writing.
  • Wikipedia, I don’t normally have this app installed, more often than not it bugs me – and accessing Wikipedia through my browser allows for multiple tabs which is far better for research – however the saved pages function might come in handy. It also might not, because I can bookmark from a browser, so I guess watch this space.
  • Plume, to keep in contact with the NaNoWriMo Twitter community in less than 140 characters, (which is perfect for NaNoWriMo, why waste lots of words on communicating when they should be going into your novel!)
  • Simple Notepad, in case I know I’m going to be out and about, and the opportunity to pull out a computer and write is limited, this will be my backup, ideally I don’t want to do the writing on my mobile as mentioned already, but better to be prepared.
  • Writer’s Lists, an app I got after doing some Google Surveys, it’s pretty good as a quick reference for elements in story writing. I’m going to be running my plans through to see what opportunities it gives me to refine my plot and characters further.

So that’s the preparation for the how, where, and on what. Next post I intend to go in to what I do once I’ve had an idea. I’ve been planning what I write for a few years now, (and with three wins in a row, planning has kind of worked for me), so I thought I might share some of my lessons, and hopefully in the process actually codify what I largely do by whim and instinct, and fix that bits that are broken.