Monthly Archives: July 2017

Tripping Over Tropes in Women’s Fiction

Continuing the discussion from two weeks ago, I started a post about tropes in another genre near to my heart: women’s fiction. But no matter how I tried, I couldn’t seem to phrase it in a way that wouldn’t hurt the feelings of certain people whose feelings I did not want to hurt. It ultimately boiled down to my critical thoughts about a certain world view.

No, not politics—I’m talking about issues like victimhood, agency, self-advocacy, passivity, resilience. I couldn’t express my frustration with certain types of female protagonists without coming across as dismissive of women who’d suffered greatly at the hands of others, and that was not my intention—so into the trash can that post went.

Instead, as an exercise in positivity, I compiled a list of what I do want to find in a novel I read. This also serves as a checklist for my own writing.

  • For me, realism and believability are key. This doesn’t exclude magical, made-up worlds: I’ve read historical and fantasy fiction where I completely bought into the actions and motivations of the characters. Likewise, I’ve read contemporary fiction where I’ve thrown down the book in disgust, exclaiming, “No way anyone would say/do that!”
  • a protagonist who’s brave, audacious, resilient, creative, flamboyant, funny, smart
  • a protagonist I’d want to spend time with. She needs to be passionate about something other than just a guy, her kids, shopping, a corporate job. Not that family and jobs aren’t important, but I want to see substance beyond those basics.
  • a protag who thinks before she acts. If she makes an obviously bad decision, I want to see her reasons as she decides, and they’d better make sense in the moment. If later she learns something that reveals her reasons to be invalid, that’s okay. But if she allows herself to be buffeted about by strong emotions with no thought to consequences–meh.
  • sparkling, funny, biting dialogue
  • sensory description that allows me to peer over the characters’ shoulders and experience the scene as if I were there.
  • lots of scenes. Yes, narrative summary has its place, but I most enjoy stories I can experience as if I were watching a movie, but with a great sound system, vibrating seats, and Smell-o-rama.
  • Lots of riveting plot action but—and this is tricky—a minimum of obvious, formulaic manipulation. If every scene ends with a melodramatic cliffhanger, I feel like I’m watching a badly-written TV show. I like a break every now and then, a funny or reflective scene that lets me catch my breath.
  • This one is especially important for me to remember as a writer: a character who learns something about herself and/or others as a result of the plot events.
  • Of course, recipes are a plus.

How about you? Do the items above resonate with you? Care to add an essential of your own to the list?

Learning Patience

July beauty from Tacoma’s Point Defiance Park

Once again, I welcome a new month with a blog hop from the Insecure Writers’ Support Group. Thanks to Alex Cavanaugh and this month’s cohosts Tamara Narayan, Pat Hatt, Patricia Lynne, Juneta Key, and Doreen McGettigan. Check out their helpful resources for writers, including an upcoming Twitter pitch event, here:

http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

July 5 Question: What is one valuable lesson you’ve learned since you started writing?

I’ve learned patience–or rather, I’m learning patience. It’s a struggle, because I’m an impatient, over-caffeinated achievement junkie.

I queried my first two novels too soon. Of course, I didn’t know any better at the time–they felt done to me, and I was itchy for forward progress toward my dream of publication. The more you learn, the more you know, right?

My current WIP is moving forward at a snail’s pace, but it’s moving forward and is more substantial, more layered, more suspenseful and emotionally meaty than my previous stories.

It soothes my impatient ego to hear published writers tell about their first, unpublished novels—sometimes just a few, sometimes a trunkful. And on one of my favorite podcasts, The Creative Penn, author Joanna Penn asserts that an indie author can make a good income when she has twenty books out. Twenty!

To paraphrase Penn, what would you rather be doing with your time? I’d rather be writing. Onward!

Here’s wishing you a juicy, joyful July.