Grey Area

You stand on a cliff’s edge. It is dark and grey and hazy. You don’t understand your surroundings, and therefore cannot see them. (It is not the other way around.) You look down to the bottom of the precipice, and you that see someone else is there, waving.

“Come down! Being up there is unrealistic! Have some humility!”

You might have thought that being on the cliff made you a little better than everyone. Such a belief may no longer seem so humble. You consider the jump. But, for now you’re unsure. You decide to look around first; an attempt to confirm that where you are truly isn’t where you should be. Through the haze behind you, you see yet another person.

This person is silent. They have a face that is all at once sublime, parental and judging. Perhaps their silence makes you nervous. This person does not speak, but instead points upward. And then you realize where you are. You are at the bottom of another cliff.

Daniel Triumph.

This, I think, is sort of in the vein of The Book of Sand by Jorge Borges, although unlike Borges, I am not one of the greatest short story writers of the twentieth century.

Also not sure why it turned out in second person. That wasn’t initially intended, but I decided to roll with it.

Foreign Youth

A sharp crack rang through Baracus a couple of hours before dawn. Alice sat up and looked around. She saw how dark it was and frowned.

“Not another time!”

Most people in Baracus were used to the occasional loud noise and, more often than not, the noise was caused by Drake, a resident Worker and also one of the King’s agents.

The first time Alice had heard the sharp crash of metal, she had jumped about in confusion and wonder. It had been during the day, and Jithin had explained it all to her in order to calm her down. He told her that Workers were field leaders for new Solune inventions, and that they used a lot of metal and springs. Occasionally, he had said, something would go wrong, and the combination of heavy springs and iron would result in noises like what she had heard. And, he’d added, usually it was Drake; especially if it happened after dark, since Drake liked to work into the night. Continue reading “Foreign Youth”

Musings on Gender and Characters

This is adapted from a reply to a reddit thread: “Male writers, what annoys you the most about women making male characters?”

I think most people agree that there isn’t really a problem with how women and men are written either way. Psychologically, the statistics show that the average man and the average woman are very similar. This is no surprise, as we have to get along for biological reasons at the very least.

Skylar Astin in Pitch Perfect (2012)
Had to look up his name. It’s Jesse. Nice guy, but is that enough?

However, something I notice more in movies and shows written by women (or anyone, I’m not really sure who’s writing in those contexts) for women, is that the men can be toothless. Take the guy from the rightfully popular Pitch Perfect. If a man came and challenged him, would he stand up for himself? Would he stand up for what’s-her-face? I don’t know, but I can’t definitively say yes. Antagonists and “bad boys”, of course, don’t have this problem. (I like Pitch Perfect though, but I feel like Aubrey has more spine then this dude.)

My personal process has always been like this: To start, I used to write a person first and think about gender later. That’s how we grow up after all, before puberty not many little kids give a damn what they are, not really. I think I cared about my age more than my gender. As my writing developed, this point turned out not to be enough. Little known fact, women are not just feminine men! Wow! Took my brain a little while to figure that one out. (To all my masculine female characters, you are remembered, and you will live on.)

Yaska of Souls
Yaska Rheya May Däwngale is more masculine than feminine… and I don’t really care.

Second, I had to figure out where masculine and feminine motivation differ. The feminine side (not necessarily the “woman”) is, according to literary archetypes, looking for someone that wants to become better, and then helping them do that. Beauty and the Beast is a decent example of what has come to be known as “the female hero archetype.” By my criteria, good fathers and good leaders have also embedded this aspect, so it isn’t just women.

Masculine motivation in the literary landscape is usually presented as the “hero’s journey.” Going out into the world, fighting a fear (dragon), and getting valuable experience (gold) in the process. It’s about going out, facing fears, and learning. Then, of course, he brings his gold and knowledge back to the community, or his family. That’s your stereotypical 60s “working man” right there. And, as before, obviously women need to face fears and learn too.

In ancient myths, it seems, the external and exploratory world was portrayed as masculine, and the domestic, and internal worlds as feminine. You can argue about that, but I didn’t write ancient myths, so I don’t much care. It’s cool to see that these two can quite easily intertwine though. Going out into the world, but need to improve as an individual? Doing some introspection, and you remember something you did that you can’t explain? Everyone needs to embed a bit of both, even your written characters.

Third is, physical issues. Writing women has been a long process of exploration and discovery for me. Women’s lives are more complicated than men’s; I don’t think it’s going too far to make such a statement. Take, for example, the current issue I’m exploring; what the hell is a career-oriented woman supposed to do if she want’s a child? What? What would you tell her? Seriously. There’s no good answer to this. If there is, I don’t know it, and that’s why I write. To find out.

Oh, actually, Camille Paglia has an answer. Hack the system, have children while you’re in university. You can imagine how fun that is, and how many semesters you’ll be taking off. But it’s a functional solution, It’s been done, my mother did it. It’s great because it leaves your later career free and open.

Janna Rhye, Fifth Prince of the Solune, Heir to the Solune Throne.

Finally, if the Five Factor Mode of personality are to be taken seriously (it’s what is used in psychology right now, so the answer to that is yes), then there are slight differences between men and women. Women are, on average, higher in neuroticism and agreeableness; so inversely, men tend to score lower in those two areas (Chapman). Openness and extroversion are generally the same (Chapman), and average IQ is identical across genders (no source, feel free to look it up).

As a male writer, I’ve come to the point where I can write better female characters than male characters. I don’t know what to do about that really. The solution to writing any gender, even your own, is to explore and research. The internet is free. Libraries will often take you deeper than the internet, especially academic ones. There’s no excuse for a hard working writer not to write a good character. In the mean time, I need to develop my males.

Works Cited

Chapman, Benjamin P. et al. “Gender Differences in Five Factor Model Personality Traits in an Elderly Cohort: Extension of Robust and Surprising Findings to an Older Generation.” Personality and individual differences 43.6 (2007): 1594–1603. PMC. Web. 7 Mar. 2018.

Daniel Triumph.

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Like most other things here, this is a working project; a first draft. Here is part one.

When I was young, very young, it was my mother who took care of me. She taught me to walk, or so she tells me, and she was the one that infomed my early actions. But, as I grew older, my father’s frustration changed how it was our family functioned. Understandably, what he wanted was a pupil. He would talk about this, and about hunting over many afternoons. It was because of him that I learned of my unusual nature.

When I was old enough, my mother began to teach me our domestic duties. I would clean the hearth, I would weave with her, and also, I would help her raise my younger sister. There were also duties for us to do outside the family. My mother and I would help around the tribe when people were sick, or needed their children taken care of, or needed to build something. The children, just like you two, enjoyed my stories and I liked to tell them. I would talk about the forest, about the wargs, about the awful basket I once made that lost its bottom and dropped all of my fruits. But my favourite job was shearing animal skins, and cutting and eviscerating the meat. I volunteered for this task often.

When my father’s agitation began to spill into the family’s afternoontime discussion, something within me became very interested. He would speak with Continue reading “Span”

Alice and Finch: The Archetypal Recapitulation

In this article, I write about Northrop Frye’s theory of myths and archetypes, specifically comedy, using my manuscript of Alice and Finch as a comparison and example. It may contain spoilers, but nothing I thing would ruin the experience of reading the novel.

Nine months ago, I powered through the first chapter of a three-part short story series. (I’m not sure what it is I have with short story series’.) That series is what later became the “Dawn” section of Alice and Finch. It was a very strong trilogy compared to my other work, and it eventually spawned my current best piece of writing, Inck. But then, three months later in late July, I finally finished the first draft of the novel. After that, I started tying up loose ends with a few epilogues, and I also realized major a flaw. As I looked back, I realized that I hadn’t really finished the story properly.

Image result for northrop frye
Northrop Frye 1912 –1991

According to Canadian literary theorist Northrop Frye, “The theme of the comic is the integration of society, which usually takes the form of incorporating a central character into it” (Frye). The integration can be broken down into individual, family, and society. I’m not so sure that I succeeded in this regard, but I think I made a good effort. In fact, in my own epilogue for Ilias, I somehow managed to subconsciously notice my own mistakes! Here’s a clipping with a limit on spoilers: Ilias came up with something of “… a solution neither Finch nor Alexandre had thought of …” (Triumph). This is an example of one of the many loose ends that I want to tie up; not in the band-aid epilogues, but in the actual story. Continue reading “Alice and Finch: The Archetypal Recapitulation”