I had an awful day at school today, including an altercation with a grumpy cleaning lady whom the whole school (students and teachers alike) hates and a kid trying to nick my watch. And had the gall to tell me that it was ugly anyway, when I made him give it back. What a 14-year-old boy wants with a lady’s watch is beyond me.
Besides, I’m tired, so here is a linkdump:
Amanda Downum offers this rant about how speculative fiction by female authors about female protagonists is often dismissed as romance, particularly if someone has sex somewhere in the book. I presume she’s referring to this recent genre controversy.
What she said. This is yet another example of what Joanna Russ called “false categorization” in How To Suppress Women’s Writing, namely that books written by women and featuring women protagonists are shoved into a category that is considered lesser. Hence, many women writing speculative fiction are dismissed as paranormal romance, so the male-dominated SFF community can safely ignore them. Never mind that the hybrid romance genres – paranormal romance, time travel romance, futuristic romance, fantasy romance, SF romance and the romantic edge of urban fantasy – belong to the SFF genre, whether the (overwhelmingly male) genre establishment likes it or not.
And no, the solution is not to stop writing about female protagonists or relationships or sex or to use a gender neutral pseudonym. The solution is to stand up and say, “No, actually this book isn’t a romance, even if the author is female. Not that there would be anything wrong if it were.” or “Yes, it is a romance. It’s also a fantastic book and you should really read it.”
I completely agree, because this whole attitude of “Oh, I never watch TV, cause it’s a waste of time. And if you were serious about writing, you wouldn’t either” has been pissing me off for a long time. There is something so awfully superior about this whole “TV is just junk” attitude. First of all, because TV is not just junk – there’s actually a lot of good stuff to be found, if you know where to look. Never mind that the “TV is junk” brigade does watch TV anyway, but they only watch a) football, b) arte, 3sat or other cultural programming or c) “quality TV shows” on DVD. Hint: If it was originally made for TV, it is TV, even if you’re watching it in DVD boxset version.
Besides, there is a lot good TV or even middling to bad TV can teach you about writing. Loren L. Coleman mentions dialogue, characterization, plotting and pacing. I’d also add an ear for accents, dialects and slang (particularly if the language in which you write is not the language of the country where you live). You can also learn a lot by watching how really good actors convey emotion. One should never just rely on watching actors to learn about emotion, because acting is not reality and there are certain conventions. But particularly with highly emotionally charged moments, watching how a good actor conveys the emotion can be extremely helpful, because it gives you the chance to observe intimately without getting involved and also rewatch the scene as often as you like. But when faced with an upset or crying person in real life, one is usually too occupied with comforting the upset person to observe how the emotions play out on his or her face. And you can’t tell an upset person, “Uhm, would you mind crying again, because I didn’t quite get the way your forehead bunches the first time?”
Now for some more writing links:
Lynn Viehl has a nice post on the use of props in fiction at Paperback Writer.
Chuck Wendig also has this neat guide to blogging for writers.
Nancy Fulda has a nice overview post on indie-publishing.