The “Right” way to Write Female Characters

I’m a little ashamed to say that when I was younger I was so judgmental about female characters. It wasn’t that I thought they weren’t needed or not important, but I always held female characters to a higher standard than their male counterparts. To me, female characters were never written right; they were too feminine, too masculine, too smart, too witty, too shy. Quite simply they couldn’t win. As much as I blame myself for this, I also think influences around me helped create these ideals I had of girls and female characters. Back then I was socialized to be critical about girls and it definitely affected the way I read books. 

Here’s the thing: there is no right way to write a female character, just as there isn’t any right way to be a girl. I had internalized these expectations placed on girls, how they should behave, what they should do, and demanded that characters be that way as well. Not to mention I never gave female characters the chance to make a mistake. Recently I saw The Lightning Thief Musical (based on Rick Riordan’s novel) and the character of Annabeth Chase sings the line “Boys are always given a second chance,” and did that ever resonate with me, this happens in my day to day life, and was part of the reason female characters were never enough.

Quoted from Rick Riordan’s The Mark of Athena

Watching the character of Annabeth on stage reminded me how much I had disliked her as a character when I was younger because she was smart and it came across as a know-it-all when really she was just excited about the things she knew. She also ran away from home which seemed so cliché to me back then. I didn’t approve of the mistakes she made, didn’t think she deserved redemption, but I always found it endearing when the male characters tried to do right after doing wrong. Girl are held to a different standard, they aren’t often given redemption arcs, they aren’t forgiven after a mistake, both in fiction and the real world. We need to be more patient with girls, let them know they are allowed to fail and try again without being ridiculed and scolded. I’m happy to say I love the character of Annabeth now. Her strength, her intelligence, her vulnerability, and kindness. She is who she, and she is unapologetic about it. Unless of course she does make a mistake, then she owns up to it, and she improves herself, but my point is that she should be allowed to do that without judgement. It’s the same way we should treat the girls in our lives. 

We need to write all kinds of female characters and show their failures and their struggles and their victories. A well written female character is whatever she needs to be as long as she has her own goals and ambitions. As long as she is not there for no reason other than to have a girl represented in your book.

Instead of tearing down female characters into personality pieces let’s think of them as whole character representing girl everywhere. I think this is even more important for young girls who are still figuring themselves out because how are they going to figure out who they are if they aren’t allowed to make mistakes?


Points of View and Finding your Writing Voice

I love having multiple points of views in my books. I know that this narration style isn’t the best choice for every book but I’m really glad I chose to try it out. I used to swear I would only ever write in first person.

My current manuscript actually started out with a single protagonist, but I found myself being drawn again and again to these secondary characters I had created. I kept imagining their backgrounds and their stories and why they acted the way they did. So I decided to just try writing more than one protagonist and found myself loving it. Sometimes writing is honestly just trying things out until you find your voice and the best way for you to tell your story.

While writing, I also found myself wanting to show all these scenes that didn’t directly relate to my protagonist, but related to my plot. The easiest way to fix this was to write in third person. However, I don’t love omniscient because it makes me feel distant from my characters.

All of these things lead to me having multiple points of view in limited third person in my manuscript. And honestly it’s so much fun to write. I feel like I have finally found my voice and I encourage all of you to try out new things. Curious about a style? A point if view? A setting? Just try it. It might work and it might not. But there are no rules to writing so try it out.

Screaming at your Writing

It’s perfectly acceptable to scream at your writing. It’s perfectly acceptable to realize that you had a really difficult writing day where the words didn’t flow and your characters refused to listen to you and that you might need to scrape an entire chapter. Sometimes more. I think I once scraped a good 35,000 words when I realized that the direction I was taking my book didn’t make any sense and the plot was about to unfurl.

It takes a lot of energy to make words go sometimes. But I’m here to tell you to have confidence in your writing, even on the bad days. Highlight that terrible paragraph, circle that weird word choice, scribble and tear apart your writing because only once you rip it to pieces can you start to rebuild.

A lot of people think writing is a linear path, that it goes one sentence after another as easily as breathing, but here’s the thing: there’s so much going on when you write that it’s not surprising it can turn into a disaster. You have a plot you need to keep interesting, character’s who need motives and attention, settings that capture the reader’s imagination, and somehow you need to balance all these things (and more) to create something entertaining and interesting. Seems like a lot, right? And this is not all going to happen overnight.

I’ve been writing for a long time, at first just for fun, then just for myself, now I’m seriously pursuing publication, and I am always learning. Writing is a passion first and a skill second, and though there’s no one way to write, skills are important. It might seem annoying to need to develop these skills in order to get the image in your head somehow communicated onto the page and to the reader, but it’s actually really exciting! This means if you’re not where you want to be with your writing there is room to improve. It means you never have to stop chasing your dreams because as you write you will ONLY get better at it.

And if you’re screaming at your writing or tearing it apart with a red pen, it means your learning something. More importantly, it means you care and that you want to put the work in to learn how to write. So, by all means, pick up that manuscript or that paragraph that just doesn’t sound quite right and throw it across the room if you have too. But remember to pick it back up, destroy it, rebuild it, and learn. Besides, you’ll probably feel better after a good scream anyways.

Book Review: The Disasters

This book does not give you time to breathe. But in a good way!

M.K. England’s book The Disasters is exactly what you hope it will be. With a pace that leaves you breathless, a ragtag bunch of teenagers must save the galaxy as we know it. And try to get along in the process.

At first I wasn’t sure I was going to like this book, usually I’m pretty excited about a group of teenagers who have to find a way to work together, and even better, this one was set in space, but I was worried it would be predictable. I wasn’t sure if it could captivate me. However, that quickly changed. This book had twists and turns and action packed scenes that kept me reading.

As great as the plot was though, it was the diversity in characters that really impressed me. These teens are all so unique, and they’re dealing with heavy issues, such as coping with anxiety or being rejected for your gender. England manages to bring up these issues even in a fast-paced and sometimes humorous book. And for someone like me who has only read very serious books on those issues, it was nice to see these characters deal with them in a much more entertaining way. Their issues weren’t the entire plot of the book, even if they were a focus, and I really appreciated that.

Teenagers will really appreciate the voice in this book. And if you’re not a teenager anymore, I think this book can show you the types of thoughts teenagers deal with. And besides, it’s an enjoyable read, so why not pick it up?

The Disasters Book Blurb:

Hotshot pilot Nax Hall has a history of making poor life choices. So it’s not exactly a surprise when he’s kicked out of the elite Ellis Station Academy in less than twenty-four hours. But Nax’s one-way trip back to Earth is cut short when a terrorist group attacks the Academy.

Nax and three other washouts escape—barely—but they’re also the sole witnesses to the biggest crime in the history of space colonization. And the perfect scapegoats.

On the run, Nax and his fellow failures plan to pull off a dangerous heist to spread the truth. Because they may not be “Academy material,” and they may not even get along, but they’re the only ones left to step up and fight.

Aging Teen Protagonists

I’ve been toying with the idea of aging my characters as I continue to write books. As some of you know I write fantasy aimed at YA audiences, so that usually means my characters are teenagers. Lately I’ve been putting some thought into making my characters in their early twenties.

Now the reason for this was really sparked by a blog post that circulated on Twitter about how teen books are no longer just written for teens. Recently there was another post about a lack of books aimed at young twenty somethings. I think it’s important that we look at our own writing and ask ourselves if our characters truly act and talk like teenagers. A lot of YA books are being bought by adults which means that there’s a want for stories that are written in that personal and emotionally driven way that YA books tend to be. I think many twenty somethings want that and right now the place they are more likely to get those story elements is in teen fiction.

I know for awhile authors and agents were toying with the the idea of New Adult novels, which was supposed to feature characters in their 20s, but would still retain those emotional story arcs. Unfortunately, New Adult didn’t particularly sell. Publishers aren’t looking for New Adult works because bookstores aren’t displaying them as such. And the way I write certainly doesn’t belong in the adult section of the bookstore.

I want to have characters in their twenties, but retain that fun, imaginative storytelling that belongs to teen fiction. And I feel there is a market out there for it, based on how many adults are buying teen fiction.

Besides if teens don’t feel they are being represented in teen fiction anymore than that means there is a gap that needs to be filled. There is a demand that’s not being met. I don’t have any solutions to this, but I do know I would like to write a book with older protagonists, and I don’t think that book belongs in the teen or adult sections of the bookstore or library.

Writer’s Block: Frustration

We’ve all had it: Writer’s Block. The dreaded halt of ideas and inspiration. Feeling like a dried up well. Stuck rewriting the same chapter over and over again and knowing it’s not improving. Missing that passion that makes your book come alive.

We’ve all experienced this for one reason or another. But for me, what comes from writer’s block and can be even more stifling is frustration. The inability to put words on a page and your characters suddenly going silent on you is so frustrating, and it can make writer’s block even worse. I’m unable to clear my head because I’m trying to force a story that won’t come. And if I write something when I’m frustrated I know it’s not my best quality. The longer I have trouble writing, the more frustrated I become. It just builds and builds, and I start to fear it will never end. And fear is a whole other side of writer’s block I’ll save for another post.

For a lot of people writer’s block isn’t just the inability to write, it’s the inability to write well or to develop ideas. You can still put words on the page but they are probably missing that passion. That storytelling element that makes all good books worth reading.

So how can we overcome frustration?

  • Take a break from writing
  • Scroll through your favorite social media for inspiration
  • Watch shows with characters that have inspired you
  • Write short pieces with no pressure on yourself
  • Remind yourself why you love to write
  • Relax and breath
  • Always remember this will come to an end, the words will flow again

I know it can be difficult, but I think easing out that frustration can really help you to overcome writer’s block. I know it’s not as easy as following these suggestions, however they can be a good place to start.

Writing First Chapters

I am so excited about this topic because writing a first chapter is my absolute favorite part of writing a book. It might be because I don’t really plot out my books, I have a general idea of where it’s going, but starting a new book means there are going to be so many mysteries to unlock and characters to discover. I also find when done properly it can be incredibly exciting.

I know that everyone has a different way of doing writing first chapters, but these are a few key factors I like to rely on. Keep in mind that I write fantasy for YA, and you should always write your first chapters within the structure of your genre. Also, I have a tendency to write fast-paced openings that drop you right into the middle of the action, so if fast-paced isn’t your style my post might not be for you. However, I’d love to hear from you in the comments if you write openings differently anyway.

Hold Back on the Details

Yes, I know, you’ve created this really incredible world filled with magic systems, laws, new nations, political strife, among so many other things and you’re excited to dig into this world and show the reader everything you created. However, and I’m sure you’ve heard this before, be careful not to create information overload. That’s when you provide so many details that either your reader can’t absorb all the information or your writing can become slow and dull because it is weighed down with detail. Instead, introduce your world slowly overtime. It’s fine to introduce a couple aspects of your world if they are relevant to your first chapter, or important for the understanding of your second chapter, but try not to ‘info dump’. Remember your reader has an entire book to explore your world and it will be much more satisfying if they can remember all the little details because you paced yourself in exploring that world.

Focus on One Main Character

When I open a book, I want to know why I should care about the main character. My current book is written from multiple perspectives, so for the first chapter I focused on one character in particular. Opening with a strong character can really ground your readers immediately in the book. They know who they are following. But introducing a lot of characters, even in third person omniscient view, can make it difficult for readers to know who they should be following. You can introduce a few characters in the first chapter, but I always try to focus on one character specifically because it gives a focus for your reader. I think grounding them in your world is really important.

Have a Goal

I’ve seen it written a few times: your first chapter should read almost like a short story. I agree with this and I don’t. When I write my first chapter I certainly have a goal in mind, something that my character is trying to achieve. It doesn’t have to be a big goal, but there should be something. And unlike a short story that ends quickly, your opening needs to set up the rest of your book. Whatever your character is achieving, or striving for, should be important to the rest of the plot. So, as you write your opening chapter try to have a self-contained goal that can be achieved that also relates to the second chapter and overall story line. It can be tricky, but I think it’s an effective way to write.

Have Tension

There should be something at stake. It doesn’t have to be a life or death situation, but provided you have a goal for your first chapter, you should also try to create tension around it. That tension, or suspense, will keep your readers interested. The best way to achieve this tension in such a short amount of time is to make sure each of the characters in the chapter want something. Then put an obstacle in their way. Right there you have tension, suspense and stakes.

Best Practices for First Chapters

  • Don’t overwhelm the reader with too many details
  • Introduce only one or two main characters
  • Have something that the character is trying to achieve
  • Tension will keep your reader reading

Of course I’m not an expert by any means, I just find these tips have worked really well for me, at least within my genre of choice. There are many ways to write opening chapters, but if you’re looking to have an emotionally charged and fast-paced opening I hope my post was helpful to you.

If you have any other tips, or write in a different genre and style so your openings are different feel free to comment! I’d love to heard about it!

Writing LGBT Representation

When my book gets published I personally know people who will judge me because I have LGBT representation in my novel. I shouldn’t have to defend my choice to include LGBT characters (it’s 2019!) and yet, I know I will.

I’m not LGBT personally, but I am an ally. Perhaps that means I have no right to thoughts on this matter, but it’s something I think deeply about because I know so many people who are opposed to LGBT rights. Which in my opinion is ridiculous and needs to change. Writing a book with an asexual character and a gay character are just the start of that.

I hope to portray my LGBT characters as fully developed, three dimensional characters and not just some stereotype we’ve all seen on TV before. If you’re part of the LGBT community, you are valid and you deserve representation. I’m preparing myself for conversations, arguments, and lack of support from people I know. It makes me feel as though there is a rock sitting in the middle of my stomach. I will never understand how difficult it can be for members of the LGBT community to come out, when I’m nervous about something as simple as characters in a book. I have a lot of compassion for all of you. My hope is to show people how to be a supportive LGBT ally, and how to accept everyone fully for who they are.  I will continue to write stories encompassing characters who are LGBT, and I really shouldn’t have to defend that choice.

I’ll admit it still surprises me that there are people who don’t accept LGBT lives or support them, but it only takes one ill-spoken word, one off the cuff joke, to piss me off and remind me about why representation is important. Everyone deserves to see someone they relate to in a story, someone who is like them. Basically, this is a long way of saying I write LGBT characters and I will always fight for acceptance.

This post is for all my LGBT+ friends. 

Why do I write?

Why do I write?

I think this is a question that writers both ask themselves a lot, and also instinctively know the answer too. Though the reasons for writing are vast and vary from person to person, we all have our go to answer for this question.

For myself, writing has always been an escape from reality. It’s a chance to create these amazing fantasy worlds and to go on journeys with characters whose personalities are often different than mine. It is an endless blank page for creativity.

Writing is also very calming. As someone who is often anxious and gets stressed out easily, writing lets me clear my mind and refocus on the things that are important.

I also write because I’m inspired by the stories I have read. Evoking an emotion in a reader with a few clicks on my keyboard in the same way an incredible story did for me has been the most gratifying part of writing. I want to share my love of reading. I want to evoke laughter and sadness and suspense.

Mostly, I think stories connect everyone and I want to help create those connections. And if my writing ever helps someone – as many books have done for me during difficult times in my life – I’ll have done what I believe writers are meant to do.

I think, as writers, we all have a little bit of that in us. A desire to connect.