Bad Girls

As part of my on going homework, I read. I should read more than I do, to get a feel for what works narratively, how to pace a good story, because books are effing awesome, but I do read.

At the urging of a friend, I set aside my current books (in no particular order)…

…and downloaded by first eBook, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Jeegus. I was up way too late. I couldn’t help it, Flynn sucked in with the spot on character voices: annoyingly perky (I’ve met people like her) and unnecessarily bitter (him too). The voices of the two characters are a great contrast, so too is how they remember certain events. It really feels like I was listening to two different people talk.

I was hooked.

This morning on the way to work I googled the author and found this article  on her site about how women can be bad, be violent and plain nasty, and something clicked. It’s kind of like the ‘Strong Female Character‘ debate, where women are allowed to be a certain kind of strong but only until the man shows up. Personally I think it’s just a new fetish going on in the fiction industries, but YMMV on that. Flynn mentions that she found a similar dissonance in the mean girls of fiction: women ‘go bad’ because of [insert reason here]. Maybe they’re stressed and lonely and lash out. Maybe they’re jealous of the heroine/Hero’s love interest. The explanation varies, but there’s almost always an explanation, especially if the Bad Girl is supposed to be on the protagonist’s side.

Sure there are women out there like that, (I’ve met some), but I’ve also met a number of women that are just mean and aggressive because that’s who they are. Women that snipe with comments more devestating than hollow points, or twist the knife while asking ‘don’t you think?’.

Flynn articulates what I’ve been thinking about the ‘Bad Girls’ of fiction. Be it movies, prose, or video games. Some people are just mean, like some are sweet. Some people are aggressive, and it isn’t delineated by gender, so much as personality. Female violence is a different beast than male violence, but it’s there. And it’s there in a simmering, lurking prevalence that doesn’t seem to show up much in fiction. Maybe that’s because women are still tokens, or if there’s more than one in a story they are often siblings or rivals. At least in SFF. Where are the frenemies in the fellowship?

Things are changing, and improving, but as a beginner in this world of writing, this sense of full-ness, with it’s sharp edges and sandpaper grit is something I want to pull off. Building a fictional world is complicated and full of pitfalls, but without well-rounded characters and cast, it just feels empty. I don’t want to write empty stories. I want to write stories crammed full of personality and people that don’t necessarily get along.

Like Flynn says, we as women aren’t given tools to articulate the weird aggressiveness/sexuality/violence that many of us go through. But I need to learn how to articulate this, if I want to keep growing as a writer.

The work never stops.

-Alice

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Nuggets – Taking Criticism

Okay, so. After my last announcement I was feeling pretty awesome, and then almost immediately after got some advice/critique that immediately deflated any burdgeoning ego.

Blobfish

My ego has self-confidence issues.

But, in all honesty, deflation like that is necessary. Without honest critique I’d hit a plateau and then end up staying there for god knows how long. Sure there’ll be some things I could improve by practice, but critique and constructive criticism is a jetpack on the hike up ‘writing’ mountain. That’s a terrible metaphor but shut up it’s Monday.

In my personal experience, learning how to take constructive criticism was one of (if not the) hardest lesson I had to learn so far in life. And that’s including my generation’s current ‘so we can’t actually do whatever we want if we work hard enough?’ life crisis. To anyone that says we can I have a couple choice words for you: Retirement, Gender Bias, Health Problems  and Saturated Markets. But that’s another post.

When I was younger, I was dead set on becoming an author/artist combo who studied sharks for a living. But I knew I had to improve my art skills somehow (my shark skills were top-notch), so I signed up for night classes. It was an adult class, and without it, I’m pretty sure I’d be an emotional porcupine whenever anyone would offer a suggestion on my work.

Lord knows I was before I took that class. The teacher was tough, and decided she wasn’t going to coddle 13-year-old Alice. Instead she vigourously pointed out mistakes, but did (eventually) offer suggestions on how to improve.

Colonel Meow

Bitch, what do you mean my art isn’t PERFECT?!

Trial by emotional fire, I kid you not. But, again, necessary. Now I’d rather hear the blunt problems people can encounter with my writing. But that’s not to say that it’s easy to hear, just that I know it’s not personal (and if it is, then HATERS GONNA HATE) and that no response would be worst of all.

What caught me the other week was the scale of the criticism. “It’s your style, the flow, it’s all choppy.” That’s not something easy to fix, since it’s not limited to one story and it’s something that I very obviously didn’t see. Or, y’know, it wouldn’t be choppy.

It took a while to absorb, and digest and I’m still trying to figure out a way around it. It’s also hard to get motivated when I’m now studying every paragraph for choppiness, or lack of flow. It’s something I’ll need to do, but not during the first draft.

While doing this, I realised that the steps needed to absorb criticism are eerily similar to the 7 stages of grief.

1. Shock or Disbelief Continue reading