Female Protagonists: Hermione, Clarice, Ellen Ripley and MeToo

There’s been an explosion . . . of books starring women and girls. As if to make it perfectly clear, publishers put it in the title: The Girl in the Tower, All the Girls in the World, The Girl in the Spider’s Web, My Husband’s Wife (wait, what?), etc.

To quote Esme Squalor from Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, women are clearly the current ‘in’ thing.

This is good.

Unfortunately there seems to be two inclinations in the minds of writers of female stars these days:

A majority (but certainly not all) write their women as victims (so that they can then be excused for hating all men?), and a majority equate prickly or snarky demeanors with strong female protagonists.

As writers, we must ask ‘Does snarky equal engaging?’

The answer is: rarely. So then what character traits make for truly strong and engaging female main characters?

  • Is it a sharp tongue or wit?
  • Does a curvaceous body make for an impressive character?
  • Does a woman who dominates men really appeal?
  • Does a stunning superiority complex make her rise above her male counterparts?
  • Is it physical strength which sets her apart as great?
  • Does an abusive past make her sympathetic?

That last one is a question worth exploring further, considering the current social movement #MeToo. Continue reading “Female Protagonists: Hermione, Clarice, Ellen Ripley and MeToo”

Writing Relevant Stories

In your writing journey you will often be urged by professionals to write ‘relevant’ stories. While they of the all-mysterious ‘they say’ fame say your stories should be relevant, the term itself is often abused and misunderstood.

What Makes a Story Relevant?

Is George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series relevant because of all the political hoopla these days? If so, does that mean it was less relevant when it was first published over twenty years ago in (by comparison) sedate 1996?

Would you consider The Hunger Games relevant because of its atmosphere of gloom cast by a totalitarian government (which some people feared would be inevitable under a Clinton ‘regime’)? Or is it irrelevant because it is partly based on the ancient Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur?

Perhaps by relevance ‘they’ simply mean it promotes thought among modern people.

If so, then a story about a public shooting and a man’s struggle to find his way back to faith in God should be considered relevant by anyone’s definition. That’s what my short story The Shooting of Amy Rose is about.

Real Gun Control

Brian Collins survives a church mass shooting, but loses his fiancé—and his faith in a good God—in the chaos. Shattered and alone without Amy Rose, Brian experiences a night vision wherein he receives the idea for a device that could protect innocent Americans from any more shootings, all while bypassing useless gun control laws. But even as he builds his device, Brian is faced with a horrible decision: defend his investor, whose actions may mean the device was paid for with blood money, or hold to his own moral uprightness and reveal the truth. Such personal integrity would jeopardize any success wrought by the device.

All the while, he is confronted by a strange dark woman, who gently tries to nudge him toward forgiveness and a return to the God he abandoned. Can a man ever forgive his fiancé’s shooter? Can a machine really do what the government has failed for years to accomplish? Or is the device a trap, designed to keep Brian forever alone and incapable of loving again?

Inspiration, My Motivation

It is my hope that there might be a device (probably not like the one I invented for the story) which could protect innocent Americans from being shot up in public buildings. My highest hope is that it inspires someone to act on its hopeful theme, to work to create a safer public sphere for our fellow Americans.

It (the story, not the device) will be available soon. I will provide a link in the next post, to where it will be available for free for 5 days! I trust you will enjoy it; I hope you will find it relevant and motivating.

Writing Original Ideas: Ichabod Kills Common Tropes

You love reading. You love discovering new characters and worlds. Big time readers like yourself eventually run into the dreaded ‘common tropes’ monster. After consuming a few hundred books, characters and ideas take on a familiar shade of prose.

Too Familiar Writing

You’re like, ‘Ah yes, the love triangle again. How original’ or ‘Oh good, another character whose childhood abuse has made him into a serial killer. Never seen that before.’

This is why I am so proud of my serial killer thriller ICHABOD, and why I am excited to share its opening with you here.

Ichabod is an upper-class playwright with no brain disorders and a past filled with nothing but love and peace. There are no apparent triggers to explain why he does the things he does (and why he believes what he believes).

These things involve experimental murder, mass disaster, and igniting a city-wide gang war, among other nefarious deeds. All of this is in the name of enacting his philosophy: crime rates will drop as the population is decreased.

Embrace the Strange

Another unique aspect of my novel is its hero. Detective Stephen Van Tassel is not the world weary boozer you’d expect in a serial killer novel. Instead, he is young and horrifically afflicted by the very disorder which makes him the one man uniquely qualified to solve the riddle of the chaos in Philicity.

He suffers from synesthesia, a blurring of the senses; he experiences the world like few humans ever have. And he remembers everything. He could tell you what the weather was like when he was having a conversation with a stranger ten years ago, and why the number 7 is a fat man wearing swimming trunks, or what the color red tastes like on an afternoon of 35’s.

‘Ichabod’ pits these two original characters against each other. Hunter and prey, haunted and determined, flawed and perfected.

Please enjoy the opening passages:

Continue reading “Writing Original Ideas: Ichabod Kills Common Tropes”