Thoughtful Thursday: My Favorite Heroines

Thoughtful Thursday is a feature here at The Nighttime Novelist which usually consists of me ranting, raving, and flailing about all manner of things, from books to films to how many ballpoint pens I go through in a given month. It’s awesome.


So let me just say straight up that this post will basically be me + lots of flailing + fabulous women + BAMF commemoration. You have been warned.

Okay, first of all, I cannot be the only one who is permanently pissed off at the damsel-in-distress archetype. It’s like, yeah, sure, I don’t mind if a girl needs help once in a while, but we vagina-owners know that not only is being stuck in a tower boring as hell, but it’s a bit insulting when you get down to it. Women don’t have to be weak and helpless to be attractive, nor do they always require the strong arm of a prince charming to make things happen and get what they want. I mean really.

So then there’s this compromise heroine figure that came up, where the woman can fight or has a cool power or is just a general sassmaster. Don’t get me wrong, I love that, but the fact that these kickass women do most of their kickassery in completely impractical, uncomfortable, skimpy clothing just makes me sigh every time. Think Anna from “Van Helsing”. DO YOU UNDERSTAND HOW STUPID IT IS TO LACE UP IN A TINY CORSET TO FIGHT MONSTERS AND RUN ALL OVER EASTERN EUROPE? Like, in reality she would have been winded five minutes in.

That heroine figure also bothers me because it’s basically like saying, “Yes, you can fight and have a mind of your own. Oh, but you have to dress like a hooker pirate in order for that to be cool.” Uh. No.

However, I’ve found a decent amount of female protagonists that I just want to kiss for being so awesome. And I’ve made a list of them, because I love lists and I am a nice person.

Natasha Romanov

1. Natasha Romanov, “Black Widow” (Marvel Comics, Iron Man, Avengers)

CAN WE JUST TALK ABOUT THIS FABULOUSNESS? I know there’s copious amounts of skin-tight leather involved, but I mean, she is just so freaking smart and strong and fierce and she takes nobody’s shit. It’s like the second you think she couldn’t get any cooler, SHE GOES AND GETS COOLER.

Katniss Everdeen

2. Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games)

If you don’t love Katniss Everdeen, there’s like a 99% chance we can’t be friends. (Jk, I will just respectfully think you are crazy.) She not only does not do the “oh my God boys what do I do” faint-flutter-flail nonsense with Peeta (or Gale); oh no, she’s just like “I will do this shit” and does what she does, and it’s awesome.

Hermione Granger

3. Hermione Granger (Harry Potter)

This girl just takes it all in stride and is always in kickass mode. She’s constantly at work to protect the people around her and succeed and she’s so smart and clever. She is also ridiculously good at making me want to shout, “YOU TELL ‘EM, HERMIONE!” at the page/screen. Let’s face it, Harry would’ve died like two minutes in if it weren’t for her. How can you not love her?

4. Daenerys Targaryen (A Song of Ice and Fire)

FEEEEEEEEELS. I mean, she starts out too shy to say boo to a goose, and by the end of the seasons she’s just like “I WILL DO ALL THE AWESOME THINGS RAWRRRRR” and basically rocks my socks off. And she’s not just doing the it’s-my-crown-back-off-bitches routine. Oh no, she is a freaking LIBERATOR. She refuses to play the same game as her enemies; everyone who follows her does it because they want to, and she protects those people like NOBODY’S BUSINESS. I just generally want to bow at her feet and make her president of the universe.

Merida

5. Merida (“Brave”)

I’m sorry, I can’t hear you over the AWESOME. I mean, Scottish warrior princess wins every time. This girl takes her life into her own hands and even though she may go about it in the wrong way, she doesn’t let people tell her who to be and what to do. She refuses to be put in a cage and she also has a freaking spectacularly cool horse and knows how to shoot with a bow and I just want to give this girl all the kudos.


Those are my top five heroines. To me they’re everything a good female protagonist ought to be: strong, courageous, loyal, smart, fierce, loving, passionate, and carriers of the awesome gene.

Let me know who your favorite heroines are. One can never have too many great female characters in one’s life. (Geez, that made it sound like a harem or something.)

Advertisements

Thoughtful Thursday: Retellings + Reading Challenge

Thoughtful Thursday

I have been obsessing over a few retellings I’ve found in the past few weeks, especially Another Little Piece of My Heart by Tracey Martin. I’ve always loved these kinds of books, but recently a lot of great ones have come out that I’m really excited about. In fact, I’m so excited that I’ve decided to start a challenge devoted to reading retellings.

But first, I want to explain why I love them.

There’s a lot of classics and obscure books and myths that don’t get the attention they deserve, often because stylistically, they’re very different from what today’s readers are accustomed to. So I think it’s an amazing idea to “modernize” these stories to appeal to an entirely different audience. How many people have seen that “Romeo + Juliet” movie with Leonardo DiCaprio? How many people have seen the one from the sixties (which is my favorite btw)? A lot of people wouldn’t know about stories like Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast without Disney. We wouldn’t know about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table if it weren’t for all the films and TV shows and books written about it. The fact that we are managing to keep so much of the past alive, albeit in an often heavily altered way, is a huge achievement, and it’s introducing older, “dated” material to a new generation of readers so that they can see beyond the current literary world to what has come before it and, in many ways, created our current reading culture. I love the idea that after reading a book like Bridget Jones’s Diary or Ophelia, a teenager will be able to see the relevance of Pride and Prejudice or Macbeth in today’s world and appreciate the story more than they would have otherwise.

It really just makes me happy to know that older stories aren’t fading away for the most part. If anything, they’re becoming even more prevalent. It’s a little bit awesome.

But anyway, gushy feelings toward retellings aside, because of the huge array of retellings out there, I’m hosting a teensy little challenge here at The Nighttime Novelist to read more of them in 2014, and you are welcome to join me!

2014 Reading Retellings Challenge

Rules/Information

  • The challenge will run from January 1, 2014 to December 31, 2014. I will post a wrap-up post at the end of each month with a link to my retelling review(s) for that month. Each retelling read MUST be reviewed in some way.
  • Novel-length (150+ pages) fiction only
  • No more than 2 re-reads
  • All formats allowed
  • Anyone can join at any time in the year, although books read prior to joining do not count.
  • You don’t have to have a blog to join; reviewing on Goodreads or Amazon is fine as long as everybody can see it.
  • Books don’t have to be stated in advance; it’s up to you!
  • ARC’s are fine, but try to read some that aren’t new releases.
  • Retellings can be anything from a contemporary version of a Shakespeare play to an interpretation of Sleeping Beauty. As long as there is evidence it is a retelling of some kind, it will most likely count. But you can’t just start reading a random book and go, “Oh! This sort of reminds me of blankety-blank.” There must be some sort of statement that this is based on a prior work.
  • The retelling can have an oral origin. Not all legends/myths were traditionally written down, but if it’s a legitimate story, it works. For example, most Native American folklore was not written, but a retelling of some Iroquois tale is perfectly valid.

Levels

  • Easy: 1-5 books
  • Not So Easy: 6-12 books
  • I Like A Challenge: 13-19 books
  • I Eat Easy for Breakfast: 20+

I can’t wait to get started on this! I’m aiming for the I Like A Challenge level, preferably at 15 books, but we’ll see how it goes. If you’d like to join me, feel free to leave a comment. What challenges are you joining for 2014?

 

Thoughtful Thursday: Bookish Things I’m Thankful For

Thoughtful Thursday2

Bookish Things I’m Thankful For

Thoughtful Thursday is a meme hosted here at The Nighttime Novelist, in which I share my thoughts on a certain topic relating to writing, reading, and (on very special occasions) random things.

First of all, Happy Thanksgiving to those of you who celebrate it, and Happy Thursday to those of you don’t. I figured that with the whole gratitude theme of this particular holiday, I would consider what bookish things I’m most thankful for, and I came up with a few things in no particular order.

(Note: Because I’m rather thick at times, I didn’t realize The Broke and the Bookish was actually doing a Thanksgiving-themed Top Ten Tuesday; otherwise I would’ve posted it on Tuesday. My bad.)

∞∞∞

1. Bookcases

This is so basic but, I mean, stacks of books can only go so high before they a) fall over, or b) block air traffic. So I’m very grateful to have a bookcase, even if I really do need another one since the books are starting to come out of my ears.

2. Bookish Friends

I’m so glad to have friends both on and offline who share my love of books. If I had no one to talk to about writing or books I’m reading or other bookish things, I’d probably be pulling my hair out by now. It’s so wonderful to be able to connect to people over books, and I’m so thankful I have those people in my life.

3. Ballpoint Pens

I am such a pen snob, it’s a little ridiculous. I once wrote a petition to a school teacher stating that pencils were a tyrannic assault on my rights as a citizen of the world; I feel quite strongly about pens, and ballpoint pens—though expensive—make me feel confident and classy.

4. Blogging

Sharing book-love is a huge thing for me, like I said. Blogging gives me the chance to meet others who love reading/writing just as much as I do, and I’ve found some amazing new books to read in the process.

5. Microsoft Word

I can’t help it; I just really love the look and feel of Word. I mean, I could still write with Notepad or Open Office, but it wouldn’t be the same.

6. Goodreads

I LOVE GOODREADS SO MUCH DO YOU UNDERSTAND?! It’s such a great way to keep track of my books and what’s going on in the literary world. I can see what’s on my TBR list and I can figure out what books to read next and I can join groups and discussions and meet other book-lovers. It’s awesome.

7. Printing Press

When you think about the fact that before printing presses, all books were handwritten (which took just about forever), it’s a bit of a “whoa” moment. If we didn’t have the system we did, there probably wouldn’t be a lot of people reading, which would really suck.

8. Powell’s Books

The largest independent new and used bookstore in the world. It’s probably my favorite place except perhaps Hogwarts and England. But seriously, if you don’t walk in and tear up at the sheer beauty of it, there’s something wrong with you.

9. Bookmarks

I hate dog-earing—it’s book abuse, do not deny it—so bookmarks, especially with cool quotes or designs, are awesome for me. I’m a little bit ridiculous about them. I have a bookmark in just about every color, and whatever bookmark I use has to match the book cover. If the cover is blue, the bookmark must be blue. Don’t judge me, I was born this way.

10. BOOKS!!!!!

What are some bookish/non-bookish things you’re thankful for?

Thoughtful Thursday: Pantsing vs. Plotting

Thoughtful Thursday is my own little meme in which I share my thoughts on a certain topic relating to writing, reading, and (on very special occasions) random things.

I’m one of those people who likes to plan. I’m a list addict and I make budgets for fun and I’m very anal about certain things. My shirts are organized by color and I have a bookmark in just about every color so that I’m never forced into a horrid situation where I have to pair an orange bookmark with a blue book cover.

So I guess it’s no surprise that I’m more of a plotter than a pantser. Which can be a bit of a problem because I’ll get so caught up in reading books on novel writing and making elaborate charts and diagrams for my stories and characters that by the end of it, I’ve got a stack of blueprints and outlines and worksheets and a word count of 2 (those two words say as follows: Chapter One). It’s a bit like rolling down a hill; once you start plotting, you can’t stop.

Or at least that’s how it is for me. I know plenty of people who loathe outlines, and sometimes it works for them, sometimes it doesn’t. I know plotters who hate plotting but do it anyway because otherwise what they write will be crap. I know pantsers who can sit there with an idea and just spill out something beautiful without a single thought for graphs and charts and writing techniques. It really depends on the person.

But with that being said, there are some definite pros and cons to each method.

Plotting Pros

  • No surprises: You’re much less likely to find yourself 30k into a first draft before realizing that it’s all wrong.
  • Less writer’s block: You won’t be sitting at your desk staring at a blinking cursor for hours at a time. With an outline, you’ll at least know what comes next, even if you’re not sure how to write it.
  • Fewer plot holes: Outlining is a big plus in this way because it’s much easier to see issues in your story when looking at a chart or spreadsheet rather than when you’re writing the actual novel. And if you write the whole thing by the seat of your pants and go back to read it, it’s likely that some of those same issues that would’ve popped up in the outline will slip past your radar.
  • Cool stuff: Plotting can be so much fun with all of the cool techniques and software and books that are out there. I mean, color coding and drawing giant maps and doing elaborate designs is pretty awesome, especially when it doubles up as an actual means of productivity.

Plotting Cons

  • No surprises: If you’re the type of person who enjoys discovering the story as you go, outlining will take that first-time thrill away from you.
  • Time eater: Sometimes you can get so stuck on plotting and using cool software and tricks and marking every tiny detail that you never get around to the actual writing (it’s certainly happened to me).
  • Burnout: It’s not uncommon for a writer to spend so much energy and effort on an outline that by the time they’re all prepped and ready to go, there’s just no drive left to write the actual novel.
  • Potentially choppy first draft: While an outline is certainly useful, it’s easy to get stuck on following it to the point that you’re just checking off scenes. Protagonist breakdown? Check. First date? Check. Protagonist conquers evil? Check. And it won’t be very fun to read because there’s no real life in it.

Pantsing Pros

  • The thrill of discovery: It’s a wonderful feeling to have epiphanies during writing. Every word you write is a kind of discovery. You get to know your characters and your story and your setting in a very fresh, exciting way.
  • Writing only: Without an outline, you have nothing to focus on except writing, which can mean you get more writing done in less time.
  • Less boredom (possibly): If you never know what’s coming next, there’s bound to be more excitement in writing, and because of it, you’ll probably get more words on the page.

Pantsing Cons

  • Revision will be hell: Your first draft is most likely going to be very messy and revising it is going to equate to rewriting the whole thing.
  • Major issues popping up: You could very well end up with 50k of plotholes, underdeveloped characters, and it can be really overwhelming to see how much work will need to be done to fix everything, which could put you off the whole project.
  • Your plot will likely be rather basic: Without an outline, it’s hard to thread more complex storylines together to make a more interesting read, so it could end up rather dull.

I think the important thing to remember when considering how to write your novel is that there is no right way. No two people work the same way, so your method of writing will and should be completely unique to you. You may be 100% plotter or 100% pantser, or a mix of both, like me. Just find what works best for you and do it.

3 Things to Consider When Writing A Novel

These three questions aren’t in any particular order, and they certainly aren’t irrefutable nuggets of truth. My ideas about writing may not match your ideas, and that’s perfectly alright. These questions simply explore what I have experienced and felt as both a writer and a reader, and I wanted to share them.

A Note: While I’ve geared this post toward novel-writing, I’m fairly sure it’s applicable to not only other forms of writing, but really to any form of creative expression.

This is huge. HUGE. You can’t write without a reason. Or, come to think of it, you could—theoretically—but there’s a 95% chance that whatever you wrote would be crap.

There are thousands upon thousands of reasons why people write. It can be therapeutic, rewarding, entertaining, but it has to be something. You wouldn’t spend $1 million on a mosquito, would you? (For those of you who answered yes to that question, kindly escort yourself away from my blog and into a mental hospital, please and thank you.) Not unless you had a reason for buying that mosquito. Maybe the mosquito is actually a robot and you are a collector. Maybe the mosquito is the last mosquito on earth and you are a (deranged) scientist who wants to preserve the species. But there is a reason you want that mosquito.

In the same way (leaving the horrid mosquito metaphor behind), you must have a reason for writing. Maybe you’re writing to make money (good luck, mate); maybe you’re writing to distract yourself from something unpleasant in your environment; maybe you’re writing because some mad bloke is holding a gun to your head demanding you write him a sonnet.

Whatever the reason, it must exist, and it must be solid. Otherwise, you can write, but you can’t create.

Personally, I write because I enjoy it. It’s fun, it’s interesting, and I’m good at it. That’s my reason. What’s yours?

This isn’t particularly related to formatting, although that’s certainly something else to consider. But what do you want your novel to be? Do you want it to be cute and fun like Pulling Princes? Dark and dangerous like Dracula? Charming and magical like Matilda? Write with the spirit of your idea. If you’re going to write about a murderer hunting his next victim, don’t drop in slapstick humor just for the hell of it. If you’re writing a children’s book, don’t build a plot around real estate marketing or quantum physics research. Consider your content, your objective, and your own personality, and write with a certain tone already in mind. This will help you not only get to know your story better, but help you write it better too. A lot of writers don’t plot everything out from the beginning, but the good ones have at least the feel of the story and write every word to fit that particular mood.

3 Things3

This is sort of a trick question. You ought to be writing for your own sake, because you want to or you need money or some other reason that involves you. Writing is in many ways a selfish occupation, and using it for gain, healing, or entertainment is one of its primary functions for people. You must write for yourself before you can write for anyone else.

But with that note aside, consider your potential audience. You may not plan for your novel to ever see the light of day, which is perfectly alright, but if you have even a smidgen of an inkling that someone other than yourself might someday lay eyes on your work, think about that. Think about the kinds of people your book may attract and ask yourself what you would say to that group if given the chance. If you’re writing a teen romance, who might pick up that book? Teenage girls, of course. So what would you say to a teenage girl? What advice would you have to offer her? Perhaps you might want to remind her that breakups aren’t the end of the world, or her own self-worth is more important than any boy, or there are worse things in life than having zits or nagging mothers.

This isn’t something that you necessarily have to incorporate into your novel. Your theme doesn’t need to revolve around any particular gem of wisdom you have for your audience, but it will likely be influenced by how you answer this question.