Wednesday, December 17, 2014

How NOT to Write a Strong Female Character: 5 Tips

There are a lot of posts out there on how to write a strong female character, but for some reason it still seems like a hard thing for writers to do as I continue to stumble across books and movies with women who either have no real place in the story, or who's only purpose is to be a damsel in distress. On the flip-side there are a number of books out there that take being a strong female character to the extreme, putting forth characters who are more focused on being strong than being real people.

So, instead of writing a list of "do's" when it comes to writing a strong female character, I've written a list of "don'ts" that I think could be more helpful.



Things that DON'T make a female character strong

1. Giving her a strong background story - then leaving it as background. Giving your female character a deep and well written background showing a history of strength and independence is great, but it's meaningless if you only reference her strengths in the past and don't show her being strong in the present. I don't care if your character was raised by wolves or single handedly defeated an entire army of marauding beasts; if she's acting helpless in the present your reader won't believe she's strong. I've heard this called the "Trinity Syndrome", where, like Trinity in the Matrix a female character will have an awesome introductory scene; they save the male main character, they kick but, then once the hero is on his feet their role in the story is to be nothing more than the male hero's love interest. Even Bella from Twilight suffers from this. Many might just consider Bella a weak character all around, but she has a moment where she's talking about how she used to look after her "hair-brained mother" and shows strength in supporting her mother's decision to follow her new boyfriend to Florida, but then for the rest of the book Bella becomes the damsel in distress, constantly being saved by Edward.

2. Not giving her weaknesses - Yes, you want to write a strong female character, but you want her to be human, not a robot. Writing a strong female character is not the same as writing a "Mary Sue". She should have faults, weaknesses, problems. She should make mistakes, and she doesn't always have to win. It's how she handles the issues in her life, and how she grows from them, that will show her strength. Any character, female or male, who is always strong and never loses, is boring. Nancy Drew may be a strong, smart woman, but being a goody-two-shoes who excels at everything she does makes her boring. I also think Katsa from "Graceling" suffers from this problematic strong female character trope, she's strong - stronger than Po, her love interest, and manages to beat the unbeatable evil king. Even the few weaknesses she does have, like being incredibly stubborn, manage to benefit her in some way. Read more on my thoughts of "Graceling" here.

3. Not giving her anything to do - You can create a great female character who is strong and independent, but she has no purpose in your story if she doesn't somehow advance your plot . Don't throw in a strong female character just to have one, you have to give her something to do. This is like letting Wonder Woman join the Justice League and making her the secretary. Or, remember the movie version of "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen"? Lone female character Mina Harker, is an awesome reinterpretation of Bram Stoker's weak, victim Mina, however in the League book she was the leader of the gentlemen, but in the movie she felt like she'd been thrown in just to say "hey, we've got a girl!".

4. Letting her overshadow the lead - If your strong female character is your main character then no worries, but if she's a supporting character, don't forget that she's a supporting character. Supporting characters should help your main character resolve the plot's main problem, they shouldn't completely steal the spotlight. Rita Vrataski from "Edge of Tomorrow" is a great example of a strong female character who manages not to steal the spotlight. Also, Julie from Isaac Marion's "Warm Bodies" was an awesome character who moved the plot along and was a great counterpart to the lead R, but never stole the show herself. She worked with R to solve the book's problem.

5. Making her physically strong - and that's all she is. Having a female lead who's got muscles, or superpowers, or can make her way in a man's work is all well and good, unless that's all she is. A true strong female character does not have superficial strength. A woman who's tough as nails and can fight her way out of anything may be strong in some ways, but she's boring and paper-thin. Having a character with a deep backstory who's important to the plot is a stronger character than one who's got big muscles, but thinly written. Don't write a Lara Croft who comes off like a male main character with boobs and no real reason to explain why she doesn't feel like a real woman; write a Katniss Everdeen who's physical strength and skill are explained with backstory and any moments she lacks emotion are seen as a defense mechanism instead of her being a robot. Or, write a Hermione Granger who's strength is intellectual and rooted in her fierce loyalty to her friends.


All and all a strong female character is less about their strength and more about how they deal with their struggles.  

Maybe we should all stop focusing on writing a strong females and instead focus on writing a real female character who has both strengths and weaknesses. I don't want to see anymore characters who are completely weak like Bella Swan or Nora Grey from "Hush Hush", but I don't want to see characters that completely lack weakness like Katsa either. Lets focus on writing female characters who are important to and contribute to the story, and handle their problems in a believable way.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Holiday Giveaway! Enter to win Free Books.


Happy Holidays Everyone!

To celebrate this time of year I'm giving away some SIGNED copies of my books. Below are two separate giveaways you can enter, both for signed paperback copies. The first is a Goodreads giveaway for my most recent novel "A Different Kind". The second giveaway is a Rafflecopter to win both "Into the Deep" and it's sequel "Hidden Beneath.

Paranormal romance readers will love these inviting and fast paced reads.

About: "A Different Kind"
Payton's life is perfect – until the night she’s abducted by aliens. Being taken the first time will change her, but can she stop them from taking her again?

About: "Into the Deep" 
Ivy Daniels is just a normal high school junior, until a an accident gives her a unique ability. When Ivy starts hearing other people's thoughts she uncovers one student has a dangerous secret.



Goodreads Book Giveaway

A Different Kind by Lauryn April

A Different Kind

by Lauryn April

Giveaway ends December 24, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Review for Opposition (Lux #5) by Jennifer Armentrout



4 Stars. Holy Alien Babies!

I thought this book was a nice conclusion to the series, however I enjoyed the first half of the book far more than the second. It starts with Daemon and Katy being separated and eventually Katy being captured by the Luxen that Daemon and his siblings are staying with. And, I really enjoyed the tragic love scenario that developed as Katy and Daemon found themselves in the same place, but surrounded by enemies preventing them from being together. As the book progresses, however, the focus changes to more of a big picture kind of plot. Not, that there isn’t plenty of romance along the way, but the focus shifts from being about Katy and Daemon to being about saving the world they live in.

The overall concept of the invading aliens was intriguing. There’s this hive mentality going on with the Luxen and seeing how some of the Luxen fall in line with the Hive while others try to fight against that bond was interesting. 

This book ends in a very different place than the series started. It’s no longer the cute paranormal romance that Obsidian was. Instead it’s become a science fiction thriller. The character’s have grown up and they face some grown up problems, many of them with heartbreaking conclusions. This book changes everything in Katy’s life, and by the end of it, the world she lives in is forever altered.

Overall, I enjoyed how deep Armentrout’s characters were, including her villians. This book, more than any before it, really made you question who exactly the bad guys were. Right and wrong were complicated, and Katy and Daemon are thrown into situations where the right thing isn’t always obvious. They’re both forced to work with people they might otherwise consider the enemy for the greater good, and I enjoyed the level of complexity that was involved in their decisions.

Despite the upped level of seriousness there was still plenty of lighthearted moments as well. I particularly loved the protective brother moments Daemon has with Dee concerning her budding relationship with Archer. And, as usual the language is perfect. Each character has their own unique way of speaking. Overall, if you’ve read the Lux series up to this point you need to finish with this book. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

There are No New Plots

A while ago I did a post discussing the fact that there are only so many plots out there and that as readers we shouldn't be so quick to say that one story is copying another. (Check out Rif-offs, Inspiration, and Coincidences) Recently I saw a video that demonstrated this point well.

The video below compares the children's movie Toy Story, with the horrific AMC drama The Walking Dead. On the surface these two stories couldn't be more different. One is made for the entertainment of children, it's funny, and filled with bright colors and characters that will make you smile. The other is a terrifying drama depicting life after the zombie apocalypse. Yet, the video below will show that at their cores they have very similar plots.

Watch and enjoy.

 

This is just further proof that what makes a story original is not coming up with something that's never been done before (because it's all been done before), but instead by looking at what works, being inspired by something, and making it your own. 

What makes a story unique is the twist the author puts on it. 

Do you know of any other videos comparing the plots of two books, movies, or TV shows?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Review for Living Dead in Dallas (Sookie Stackhouse #2) by Charlaine Harris



4.5 Stars. Quirky and Engaging.

Living Dead in Dallas, like Dead until Dark is a fast paced story with an action packed plot. New supernatural creatures and elements are introduced in this book, many of them much scarier than vampires. However, like the first book, what makes this story special is its characters who are each unique and well written. Even some of the bad guys have you rooting for them at one point or another. 

As with the first book I love Sookie’s personality. She’s quirky and a little strange, but her oddities are endearing. Bill continues to have his secrets, but his relationship with Sookie grows in this book and despite the fact that he keeps things from her I enjoy seeing them together.

As for Sam however, I find I like him less and less as this series continues. He’s constantly pushing himself on Sookie, and it feels like he doesn’t respect her boundaries at all. However, there were some interesting developments in his storyline in this book that relate to his love life and I think it will be fun to see how that develops. The supernatural world Sookie was introduced to in the first book in this series is growing for everyone in Sookie's life, particularly Sam.

Eric continues to make his way deeper into Sookie’s life as well, but I don’t find his methods as disrespectful as Sam’s. He and Sookie have developed an interesting friendship, and I do enjoy watching them interact. However, sometimes I think Sookie lets him get closer to her than she should knowing that he has feelings for her. At a few different points in this book both she and Bill make you question just what exactly counts as cheating in their relationship.

Overall I enjoyed this book, and will probably continue with the series.



Wednesday, October 15, 2014

How to Make Time to Write

I've said before that if you wait around to have time to write that you'll never find it. You have to make time. However, sometimes that's easier than others. Life gets busy sometimes and when things in your life change it can throw off any rhythm you've fallen into with your writing.

Over the last few month's I've graduated with a BA in Psych, bought a house, and started a new job. For those of you who follow my blog I'm sure you've noticed that I haven't been posting as regularly as I used to. I fell out of my rhythm, and it's gotten a lot harder to make time to write. But, I'm working on getting my groove back.

bookofjoe

Below are some tips I've been using to make time to write with my increasingly busy schedule.

1. Use what's going on in your life to inspire your writing, like blogging about how to find time to write when your life seems to be getting busier.

2. Schedule time to write. Put it on your "To Do" list every day, and set reasonable goals, like write for 30 minutes or even just 15. It's more important to write a little every day than to knock out a large chunk of words. You want to be able to accomplish the goals you set.

3. Make sure the time you do have to write is distraction free. Don't multi-task writing and catching up on your favorite TV show. Devote whatever chunk of time you set aside for writing for just writing.

4. Be flexible. Life changes, schedules change. If you can't write for your 30 minutes at your normal time try to fit it in later in the day or adjust your schedule for the next day. Don't give up just because you missed your usual writing window.

5. Don't give up. If you fall into a slump where you haven't gotten any writing done for a while, it's never too late to start up again.


I hope these tips help. If you have any advice to share on how to make time to write please comment below.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Review for Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse #1) by Charlaine Harris

4.5 Stars. Well Paced and Exciting.

The funny moments give this book bit of a chick-lit feel, but the vampires are real vampires, and written in a way that you can believe they exist in our world. I liked the level of believability Charlaine Harris achieved.

Though at first I hated her name, I liked Sookie’s personality. She was straightforward and honest. I enjoyed seeing her being both a strong female lead as well as being protected by the vampire Bill. It felt like there was a good balance between making her a strong woman and keeping her soft. She felt like a real woman. Sometimes, however, her blunt questions and the dialogue that followed felt a bit like an info-dump. In fact the dialogue in general is where this book lost me a little. The author certainly captured the feel of southern speech, but sometimes the dialogue felt strange. It didn’t always sound natural to me. The kids however did sound like kids, and I really appreciated that. Children’s dialogue can be hard to write and too often they end up sounding either like babies or full grown adults. The author did a good job of giving them believable and age appropriate voices.

As for the other characters, I found them deep and interesting, many of them colorful as well, including the vampires. The vampires in this book were not thinly drawn monsters. They were people, fully fleshed out people with problems and issues and personalities. I think that really added to the believability of the story.

This book also had some nice descriptions making it easy to visualize Sookie’s world. Overall I enjoyed this story, and will continue with the series.

Read my Review for Living Dead in Dallas (Sookie Stackhouse #2) 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

If they Re-Vamped Buffy...

I'm currently working on a story involving vampires (more info coming soon!), and of course I've been doing some vampy research, wanting to know what's been done, or what's been popular, so I can work my own original twist into the genre. I really want to get away from the Twilight-style story that has overpopulated the YA genre. I will not be writing a sappy insta-love, good-vampires, fluff piece. I want to write a story that looks at the harsh realities of what being a vampire means and relate that to real life issues. So, in my quest to read and watch everything vampire related I've been re-watching some of my favorite episodes of Buffy.

After getting sucked back into the magic of this series I found myself wishing it had never ended, and wondering what the show would be like if they re-booted it. (Rumors of which have been circulating for some time.)

How could they do it? Now the storyteller in me comes out, and since this is the Buffyverse we're talking about, anything is possible. The easiest way to go about it would just be a simple reboot. But, I think it would be more fun to connect it to the original series (kind of like what they did with the Star Trek movies). And how would they do that with Buffy, you ask? It's simple (once again, anything is possible in the Buffyverse) have someone make a wish, boom instant parallel universe where new writers can send Buffy down whatever path they want and have no requirements to staying true to the shows original cannon. All it would take would be any one of the original cast members to appear in the first episode for all of thirty seconds, insert vengeance demon, and a wish that "such and such" had never happened. Then they can start the reboot where ever they wanted and make what ever changes they wanted, after all it would be a new wish dimension.

For this to work though, we would still need a cast of talented actors who would truly look the parts. These would be my picks.

Buffy - Ashley Benson - Have you seen her on Pretty Little Liars? She totally has the acting ability to be the quick witted Buffy we all know.









Xander - Josh Peck - There are a few actors out there who I think could pull off Xander in the looks department, but I think Josh Peck would be best to capture Xander's humor, and the resemblance isn't far off.







Willow - Morgan Smith Goodwin - Yes, the girl from the Wendy's commercials. Every time I watch those I can just picture her saying a Willow line. "A doodle, I do doodle, you too, you do doodle too."







Angel - Paul Wesley -  Let's be serious he's pretty much playing this character already on The Vampire Diaries. Check out The Vampire Diaries just like Buffy.









Faith - Ellen Page - How much does she look like Eliza Dusku in this photo, it's crazy, and I think she could really pull off Faith.









Spike - Kyle Schmid - I don't know if anyone could ever play Spike the way James Marsters did, and I don't think anyone could pull off bleached hair quite the same. But, after watching Kyle Schmid on Being Human, and with those blue eyes and cheekbones, I think he'd be a great Spike.