The Predatory Alpha Character Appeal

 

Ok, go ahead–get your groans and eye rolls out of the way, right now.  You finished?  Good.

For all of you who are wondering when will the vampire/werewolf character be finally retired from tv shows, television, and books–weeellll you might as well buckle up buttercup, ’cause you’re in for the long haul.  Those sexy beasties won’t be going anywhere for a long time.

What’s the appeal you might ask?  Well, because they make for the perfect–yet for obvious reasons, thanks to reality—unobtainable bad boy.  Huh, come again?

Here, let me explain.

Its common knowledge that girls like bad boys.  They always have, and they always will.  I could go on forever about the psychological reasons why, but I’m too busy staring at Kris Holden Reid’s six pack and getting lost in Ian Somerhalder’s piercing baby blues to get into all of that. (Where’s that damn paper bag again?)

Ok…I’m back…

So, as I was saying bad boys…they’re mysterious, brooding, beautiful, dark, and exciting.  Yes.  Why?  Well, because they’ll force you to walk on the wild size, rip that stick out of your ass, and in general live in the moment.  Buuuuuutttt….when life hits us with grown up responsibilities they aren’t the most reliable companions which is where most girls mess up.  They either can’t let go of the bad boy in all of his philandering, addicting, misdemeanor ways or they cut loose and marry the boy who has been in love with them since 8th grade whom they’ve had sitting patiently waiting in the friend zone. Go ahead and check–he’s still there ain’t he?  Yeah, he’s safe, and nice, and secure, and zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…..

Oh wait, sorry…is there something on my chin? *wipes drool*  Where were we?

Oh yes, so the predator bad boy.  He is the best of both worlds, see, because he’s wild, dark, and brooding, but those predator types are usually monogamous (depending upon the story—once they give their love to a mate there is no turning back baby), they will fight to protect you to the bitter end, aaaaannnnd because they are immortal they’ve lived long enough to have a sense of responsibility.  You don’t survive hundreds of years by being a flake.  Also, if they lived during a time when chivalry still existed, you’ll get a taste of that too.  Nice, huh?

So, that is why werewolves and vampires are such a popular choice for stories.  They’re exciting, fun, sexy and–if you’ve managed to capture their heart, dare we say dependable?  What lady wouldn’t want that?

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A great character Hollywood got wrong. (What’s new?)

Ok, seriously I know I’m not the only one with this complaint. Hollywood (or the film industry—whatevs) is notorious for screwing up great literary heroes. And sometimes, in the case of Jane Austen’s Fanny Price from Mansfield Park they do it more than once. I know that there are more than one rendition of this movie, but I’ve only seen these two (the Masterpiece Theater 2007 production and the 1999 version with Francis O’ Connor and Jonny Lee Miller).

Now, here is my issue with both of these films. They ruined the character of Fanny Price. It wasn’t the actors themselves, but whoever it was that had the grand idea to turn Fanny into a robust athletic Amazon with a spine of steel. Erm, no, for the love of all things literary STAHHHHPPP!

What makes Fanny Price such a special character is her many “weak” attributes. She is socially “weak” because she comes from a poor family who live in a not so pretty shore town and is under the charitable mercy of her rich relatives, the Bertrams. Sure, they take her in, out of the kindness of their hearts—or so they want everyone to believe—but really it was done more out of duty than anything. Fanny’s mother was married to a naval man who was out of work on disability and had eight other mouths to feed, it was the least the wealthy Bertrams could do.

Second, Fanny was weak physically. We often see this throughout the story as her cousin Edmund seems to be the only one who cares about her health, wondering how she can walk back and forth between the estate and their Aunt Norris’ house on petty errands for the old bat.
One of many examples is when the women in the family give Fanny grief over having a head ache that she unsuccessfully tries to hide. Edmund, of course, ferrets out the real issue and is appalled at how much they made her do that they were too lazy to do themselves.

“What!” cried Edmund: “has she been walking as well as cutting roses; walking across the hot park to your house, and doing it twice, ma’am? No wonder her head aches.” (p. 64)

Third, Fanny would probably be considered by many to have a “weak” spirit. When Miss Crawford or Ms. Norris make ignorant and rude remarks toward Fanny as though she really isn’t all that important, Fanny takes it on the chin. We all know Elizabeth Bennet would have had a cutting remark elegantly wrapped in the social niceties of her day, but not Fanny. That’s just not her style.

However, despite all of this, the film gods that be decide that Fanny should be played as a frolicking and robust young woman who knows her place in society, but gets the guy she wants anyhow through patient waiting.

Nope, nope, nope, nope.

If you have a healthy, confident young woman you can expect her to turn down a sleaze ball like Henry Crawford and not really care about the coquettish Mary trying to steal your main squeeze. However, no one would expect weak, poor little Fanny to do that, now would they? Of course not! That is what makes her incredible.

She essentially has very little to offer. She has no social standing, she isn’t the healthiest, and her economic status has made her a doormat, but she’s smart, very smart. She sees through the Crawfords instantly and even as they play everyone else, they don’t get past her. When Henry Crawford pursues her relentlessly, making her an offer most girls in her situation would not have been able to refuse—-Fanny says, no!

This is what I love most about her. She is the perfect underdog heroine and her strength of character and will is what makes her beautiful and inspiring—and look—she still gets the guy in the end!

So, Hollywood and the rest of the film industry, if you are going to borrow from books, please get it right or find some real talent to come up with new ideas. Novel concept, right?

Heh. 🙂

Criticism VS Constructive Criticism

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Ok, so I have waited a good six months to write this post because I not only wanted to distance myself from the situation but also the person that inspired this rant.  Today I want to talk about the difference between criticism and constructive criticism because, as an artist in more than one field, it is something I deal with on a continual basis.  Sometimes it is from other readers, critique partners, editors, agents, publishers, or even other writers.

If you are going to put yourself out there in an artistic manner, criticism is going to be a part of your life–obviously.  However, my issue with the whole idea of criticism revolves around one specific experience I have had as a writer and a few others afterwards.

About six months ago a writer friend expressed that they no longer wanted to be my friend, because after reading my book and after having several writing based conversations they felt as though I was too sensitive of an individual to take their criticism or advice.  They also felt as though I was going in a different direction with my writing than they wanted to be associated with.  Ok, that’s their prerogative.  However, what bothered me about this and several other cases of criticism that I have had during the course of my writing career is the accusation of being too sensitive.

I am a very sensitive person, this is true, however I–and most people–will take criticism personally. Constructive criticism, on the other hand, I can take–no problem.  Why?  Because there is a HUGE difference between the two that I think those who dish it out don’t understand or take into consideration.  So, when their criticism is met with hurt feelings then they get annoyed and answers like my friend’s are produced.

Criticism is nothing more than another person’s opinion.  It is often tangled up with their feelings, motives, and pet peeves.  This is why I really don’t pay much attention to it when it is given for other works of art. Reviews are nothing more than someone’s often nit picky opinion.  You can’t please everyone, so there is no point in trying.  However, because it is personal to them, it is also personal to me.  Therefore I am going to react accordingly. Wouldn’t you?

Constructive criticism, on the other hand, is the exact opposite of that.  It is helpful, insightful, and designed to help you and your work improve.  It doesn’t need to be sugar coated in order for it to be effective, it just needs to be valid.

A good example is a friend of mine who offered to edit one of my books.  She was worried about whether or not I could handle criticism (I’ve had lots of people ask the same question, in general).  I replied, “Yes, as long as its constructive.  I don’t need you to sugar coat or coddle me, but I do need valid examples.”  She did exactly that.  Sure, there were moments when some of the suggestions she had were more of a personal nature to her preferences and I took those with a grain of salt.  However, all of her advice and guidance was backed up with examples on not only why something wasn’t working (from a technical perspective) to how I could fix it.

See, that is the difference folks.  If you are going to criticize someone’s work, be prepared to back it up with a solution.  The friend who helped me with the edits is someone whose knowledge I value and respect.  I’m 100% creative and 100% crap at the technical stuff when it comes to writing.  I know where I need help and I knew that she was basically giving me the cure for the cancer of my faults that was killing my story.

Soooo…ok…rant over.

Also, in case you are wondering why I used the picture of the oh-so-handsome and talented Richard Armitage for this post, the reasons are two fold.  One, that look he is giving is the same one I want to give those who criticize me in a personal manner or call me too sensitive.  Two, he always brings a smile to my face.  🙂

Backwards Organized Writing

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When I write, I do so organically.  What I mean by this is that I do very little planning before hand.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t just come up with an idea and sit down to type furiously away at it.  I will often write down my idea and since I like writing fantasy/paranormal I will usually write down “rules” for my world.  Any fantasy writer will tell you that when building a new “world” or characters the rules are important.  You have to decide what can and cannot happen and if there are any loopholes.

I know that in the past I have mentioned that I often use John Truby’s book, The Anatomy of a Story, to help plan as well.  Once again, his book prepares the “rules” of the story.  Its all about the characters, the theme, the purpose of the plot, etc.  All this to say, I don’t sit down and outline my books, nor do I sit down and plan out every detail of every chapter.

I’ve read some writing blogs/books that suggest outlining or using index cards to put scenes on.  There are so many different ways to organize your book and plan it out before writing and I’m sure they are helpful to most people.  If there weren’t then there would be no market for writing programs, like Scrivener, to hold all of your notes/diagrams/outlines…stuff.

I can’t do all of that.  The more organized and structured I get, when working on a book, the more I feel the joy of the story being sucked out.  I write “organically,” meaning I just let the story take me where it wants to go.  As long as I have a general idea of its direction, I’m good.

Except…after finishing the sequel to my first book, Words Once Spoken, I kind of ran into a wee bit of a problem.  Once I finished writing Curses Once Spoken, I set it aside for a few weeks to let it marinate and to allow me time to detach myself, emotionally.  Just this week I went back to begin my personal edits before sending it off to beta readers.  Ummm, yeah, problem.

Due to my lack of organization, I am finding that I’ll mention something in an earlier chapter that won’t match up with something that happens later and then, because I don’t know precisely where those other mentions are, I am frantically scanning the entire document looking for them so I can fix them.  Oopsie!  So, does that mean I’m going to start outlining my books from now on?  Nope.  I’m going to outline each chapter after I’m done writing about them.

Wait, no, I promise I’m not crazy!  See the method to my madness is this: If I made notes of a chapter after I write them, then I can easily keep track of topics that have been discussed so I can reference them quickly when I need to go back.  I was constantly attempting to do this when writing, too.  I would be in the middle of a chapter, wanting my character to mention something, but then had to go back and try to find out if they already knew about something or if someone had already said it.  Exhausting!! Agh!

So, while this may seem really simple and “like duh,” I’ve never seen anyone suggest doing this.  Most people give the advice of doing all of this before hand.  If you are a super organized/structured writer, well then more power to ya.  But, if you are like me and all of that structure and organization is going to go out the window once your characters have been set loose to tell their story…weeeelllll…you need other options.

Does anyone else do this, or am I the only crazy one?

Late Fandom Bloomer

There are so many fandoms out there that it can be hard to decide which ones to join.  Being passionate about a book or television series takes a lot of energy, time, and sometimes money. It is also a lot like picking your favorite sports team, albeit slightly easier in the fact that very few of us were alive when the teams out there now first got started.  Still, our reasons for joining the fan base can be similar. Are we fans because everyone else is or are we part of an elite that sees the genius behind the story before everyone else does and it explodes upon the stratosphere that legends are made of. Fans of Firefly know what I’m talking about, right?

I’m not going to lie, when it comes to joining the bandwagon on certain fandoms, I take my time.  The main reason is because I have always been rebellious to what is popular or trendy. If everybody has one, wants one, thinks its “cool,” I automatically don’t want one (seriously I finally bought my first smart phone last January—and yes it is an Apple, but other than an iPod Nano, its the only Apple product I own.) So, when everyone starts raving about a book series or television show, I usually like to sit on the sidelines and watch the chaos unfold. (Unless, of course, I catch the debut along with everyone else, which is slightly easier with television shows—but that is also another story.)

My logic behind this is because, once the hubbub about the product dies down—it will someday—then I like to finally check it out and see if it was really worth all of the excitement. Sometimes things stay legendary and last while others go down in infamy for being preposterous. Harry Potter, is a great example something that will never fade.  I think that fandom will endure for generations, which is why, this past year I proudly jumped on that train.  Twilight and Fifty Shades of Gray, for example—erm, not so much.  I waited as long as possible on Twilight, but my mom bought the series, devoured it, and shipped them to me with a “You must read now!” command. I did, and I’m not going to lie, I enjoyed them.  I wasn’t paying attention to the editing issues that everyone bemoans or the few inconsistent word choices.  I paid attention to the fact that I was able to relate to the main character in regards to her childhood—a lot, actually—and I could feel the emotional connection of first love again. (All the people who complain about how the book is just on how you get/keep a boyfriend, really weren’t paying attention to the story, but that’s another debate for another time.) Say what you want about the writing, but if the story was that horrible it wouldn’t have made the money it did. I guess that is why Fifty Shades did so well.  However, I refuse to read that one, because I am deep enough in the writing world now, to know better—-let’s just leave it at that!

Television shows are the same way, I am just now getting introduced to Firefly and Dr. Who, because they have become iconic.  I watched one episode of Game of Thrones (and I’ve been encouraged to power through more—its worth it, promise—they say). I’ve also watched a few episodes of True Blood.  The problem, or maybe the blessing, is that there are so many fandoms to choose from that there is never enough time to dive into all, and if I’m not hooked by the first book or first few episodes, I can try the next one out.

So, am I the only crazy one who waits to see if a fandom is going to be iconic or a laughing stock before I join?

All photos from http://www.barnesandnoble.com

Getting Literary Heavy With The Help

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Even though this blog is called The Fashionable Bookworm I know you guys probably expect me to talk about books on here more often.  I was for a while, but if you’ve been following me long enough you’ll know that I deleted the majority of my “opinions” on the books I’ve read, save one and that is Rowling’s The Cuckoo’s Calling.  Why, then, if this blog is partially about books, do I not write about them much?  The reason is actually simple.  I write books and since I do so I’ve come upon a few conundrums.  One, as an author I need to protect my author brand and it isn’t fair for me to write reviews on other people’s works if I don’t have anything nice to say. I’m not saying that all of my reviews were vitriol fueled rages against the writing of others, but I was honest in how I felt about what I was reading. Most book reviewers are, but it must be remembered that most book “reviews” and even most “critiques” are nothing more than opinion and personal preference. Just like some people prefer fall over spring.  Very few reviewers will give helpful feedback on how well a book is written. It doesn’t mean that their word is gold or “right” its just their opinion.  So, I decided that unless I am 100% in love with a book, meaning I can recommend it whole heartily to a friend, then I won’t post about it on this blog. Because, lets face it, I am not an expert in writing, therefore who am I to review or critique another person’s work?

This brings me to my second problem.  Since I’ve read Rowling’s book, back in July, I have not read a book that I felt I could post on here. I’ve read many books from a variety of genres, but I have not been really excited about any of them.  I don’t know why, but the more I learn about writing the less I enjoy the writings of others because I can all of a sudden see the flimsy characters, plot holes, and awkward dialogue. (Once again, this does not mean I think my writing is better, its just I pay attention to these details more and they actually bother me now.)

Last night I finished Kathryn Stockett’s The Help.  Yeah, yeah I’m late on the bandwagon, but I usually always am. For some reason when something hits the stratosphere culturally I tend to shy away from it.  I honestly did not walk into my local bookstore with the intention of picking it up, but when I saw it on the shelf I flipped it open to the first page and read.

I was hooked.

The writing in this book is so different from my own, but in a good way. Everything is simple, precise, and clear without seeming too oversimple or thin….if that makes sense.  I’ve read a lot of books where the sentences are short and quick, but it often makes the pacing seem choppy and uneven.  The story is so rich in this book, that you don’t even hardly notice how simple the writing is.  I’m not saying her writing is simple in a bad way, rather it keeps everything clear and uncomplicated, which is a beautiful thing because the story itself is so complicated. I absolutely love the characters she told the story through, and wanted so many time to reach through the pages to help or comfort them.

I know Stockett said, in the author’s notes, that she knows she will never be able to truly speak in the voice of those women who were maids or went through what they did, but I think she did an amazing job bringing just a sliver of their experiences to life.  I don’t often read big, heavy, literary pieces, but I am so glad that I picked this one up and gave it a chance.  It is a beautiful story, brilliantly written. I am also really glad that, although society is still not perfect, that we have come a long way since those days of segregation.  I just wish they would have never happened to begin with.

Win a copy of my book!

Win a copy of my book!

Soooooo….

My publisher is celebrating their 1st birthday this week, and how do you celebrate a birthday?  

You party all week….or all month if you’re a full tilt diva….

One way they are celebrating is through interviews and give-aways.

The link above has an interview that I did and here is another one, from our acquisitions editor, Kate.

http://bewitchedbookworms.com/2013/11/big-harlequin-escape-celebration-big-yana-giveaway.html

My book isn’t the only one you can win, but she is the Marilyn popping out of the cake…just sayin’.

🙂