There’s Been A Murder

I really hope you read that in the voice of Taggart.  If not, or if you have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m very disappointed.

I just killed someone.

It’s the first time I’ve killed a character I loved, I think.  It’s rubbish, but it needed to be done.

And now, wise words from a man who knows his business when it comes to character assassination (see what I did there?):

“I’ve been killing characters my entire career, maybe I’m just a bloody minded bastard, I don’t know, [but] when my characters are in danger, I want you to be afraid to turn the page (and to do that) you need to show right from the beginning that you’re playing for keeps.”

-George R. R. Martin

Why Can’t Boys Wear Dresses? A Feminist Rant

Dear readers, I have a confession to make – I am a feminist.  I get deeply upset by inequality, but just as much for the constriction of choices of men as for women.

Yesterday I saw a news article trending on my Facebook newsfeed, exclaiming that a young celebrity male has been photographed wearing – wait for it – a DRESS!  Gasp!  Shock!  I should never read comments on online media, it’s not good for my blood pressure, but I did and they were just as horrible as I could have predicted.  Thankfully since then there have been more messages of support, but it’s telling that the first reaction to this “news” (I don’t actually qualify this story as newsworthy) was a wave of homophobic ignorance.

It’s insane that in a time where a woman or girl can wear whatever she wants, be it dresses or trousers, or a princess costume or a pirate outfit, a man or a boy is still constrained by such attitudes.  A young woman is encouraged to enter male-dominated fields like construction, but a young man is still too-often ridiculed for entering female-dominated fields like nursing.

As a feminist I’d like to think of myself as more enlightened than this – and yet recently, when out shopping with my almost-18-month-old son and my mother-in-law, I found my views momentarily challenged.

In one lovely little shop my son became enamoured of a pink music box with spinning fairies.  He was obsessed in that delightfully exhausting toddler fashion, being over-enthusiastic in his playing with it and I realised that I should probably buy it for him a) to pay for it in case he was wrecking it, and b) because he was so enthralled by it.  While considering this, for one moment, I thought something along the lines of “Hm, but is it appropriate?”  The fact that I caught myself asking this was a wake-up call for me, and made me doubly determined that this lovely pink confection was coming home with us.

Don't hate the player, hate the game.

Pink, spinning fun for the whole family.

Why wouldn’t it be appropriate for a toddler to enjoy something that makes music, and spins around, and causes him to laugh hysterically?  Why would it be more appropriate if it were simply in a different colour, or with spinning pirates or something instead of fairies?  It doesn’t change who he is, at the basic level of chromosomes, because he will always be a male despite the colours of his playthings, or clothing.  It won’t change his sexual orientation.  It won’t in any way affect him, apart from setting a precedent that there are indeed no gender boundaries to constrain him when he’s old enough to make his own choices.

So my son has a pink spinning fairy music box, so what?  So a male celebrity sometimes likes to wear dresses, so what?

We still have a long way to go.

Insecurity

As a random aside, I will inform you, dear blog readers, that I’m a fan of the music of Sia.  In my fandom, I sometimes read interviews to understand the mind behind the music I’ve found resounds with me.  One such interview was in Interview Magazine  online, and featured a conversation between Sia and her friend/performance collaborator Kristen Wiig (of Bridesmaids fame, and with whom Sia perfomed at the Grammy Awards earlier this year).  One comment from Wiig struck me in particular:

In any of the creative arts, you rarely meet people who are like, “Hey, I’m great.” We all have our insecurities and we all kind of don’t know if we belong here: “I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be doing this, and all the other people who do this know that I’m really not supposed to be here.” It’s so subjective. What’s good, what’s bad? A song can be good to one person and bad to another. An acting performance can be loved or hated. It’s hard to have a very strong foot on the ground and feel confident in that world.

(From: http://www.interviewmagazine.com/music/sia/)

I find this is a constant struggle of mine.  On one hand, I’m confident in my skills as a writer (some days, at least).  On the other, I feel like a fraud, a rank amateur and a fool (this is most days).  But hey, look, Kristen Wiig says everyone else feels that way, too!  Hurray!

Anyways, here I am starting to write Bestial Part 2.  It’s taken me a while after completing Part 1 to face writing Part 2, and I’ve begun, and rejected, several false starts already.  However, I’m planning to use April in much the same way as I did November, and complete my first draft within the month.  So long as I push myself to write a segment in every spare half hour I find myself having, despite my toddler-sized personal chaos-monkey following me around, I should succeed.

I love nap time.  Long may it reign benevolently upon me.

How One Book Became Two

I had always intended for Bestial to be one stand-alone novel.  I was tired of all the trilogy hype, and I was determined that it was possible, even preferable, to avoid multiple volumes as a matter of principle.

But then I was sat here, working on my Unhappy Ending, and it was so glaringly obvious.  This novel was finished, and it had the most perfect Unhappy Ending: a cliff-hanger, leading you to volume two, inevitably entitled Mortal.  A novel which can revisit things kept hidden and subtle in volume one, and elaborate on characters not yet explored to their fullest, while still continuing down the current narrative track.

So that happened.

But I’m still not writing a damned trilogy.

The Unhappy Ending

I find ending a story the most difficult bit of all.  I’m often overcome by my emotional attachments to the characters, and my deep-seated wish to do right by them which is nice but ultimately unhelpful.  I sometimes have to first write the ending I wish I could write, where the characters are made happy and the loose ends are nicely tied up – and then delete it.

In writing the first draft of Bestial that’s what I did.  The ending I gave it was the wishful-thinking version of the ending which was easy to type out and required little forethought.  It made me feel nice to write, but it was not a good ending.  I gave The Husband its synopsis the other night while lamenting my ending problems, and his words helped me to feel finally ready to relinquish it to the depths of delete hell.

‘Yeah,’ he said, nodding sagely.  ‘That’s crap.’

Exactly.

Nice and happy and tied-up loose ends are just crap in most books.  If you need any convincing of that, remember the ending of the Harry Potter books, where all the friends are married and have children and all the children are friends and blahblah isn’t that just lovely?

Yeah.  Crap.

Sure, it’s the end you would love to give every character of every book if those characters were your friends and loved ones, and sometimes it works, but other times you have to get a little more brutal to tell the story you intend to tell.

So instead of happy endings for all and everything coming full circle, maybe there needs to be emotions left unrequited, antagonists allowed to escape punishment, and some horrific wrongs unable to be righted.  It’s real life, after all, even if you’re writing genre fiction.

Just because a story isn’t factual doesn’t mean it isn’t a true story.  Just because Bestial is the story of a fairy tale doesn’t make the turmoil of its characters less valid and it doesn’t make characters themselves, even the Beast, less human.

Now I need to spend some time finding the ending the novel needs to tell its story.  It is entirely about humanity, and sacrifice, and love in all its different forms.  It’s about how even those with the very best of intentions can make a god-awful mess of things.  Good does not triumph over evil, it simply comes into conflict with another type of good, from someone else’s perspective of goodness.  This is not a happy story, this is a tragic tale of life’s unfairness, of ugliness inside and out.

There will be no ‘Happily Ever After’s here.

Je suis Charlie

_80122504_newyorker

This blog very rarely delves into important current events, which is perhaps a failing of the author.  This is meant to be a blog about a writer, writing, but a woman who writes is still a woman living in the world.

I have to say something about free speech, because I feel that it’s such an important part of our culture and our lives that it bears defending at times like these, when it seems that we should be thinking about how to prevent a future tragedy like at Charlie Hebdo.  We might be considering that perhaps we should be treading carefully in fear of offence, in case that offence happens to have extremist repercussions.

Never.

Stephane Charbonnier himself, late editor of Charlie Hebdo and a victim of the shooting, had said in an interview, “I’d rather die standing than live on my knees.”  He had received death threats in the past, but he refused to bow to critics. (BBC News)  This is the only mentality to have in defiance of such tragic and abhorrent events.

Free speech should never be curtailed out of fear.  We are privileged to live in a country where we are given this right, so we mustn’t surrender it willingly.  Offence may be given, but there is no right of a person to live a life free from offence.  Offence is by nature subjective, and it is impossible (even if desirable) to eliminate anything which could possibly give offence.

A world without offence is a world with nothing in it at all.

Editing

This has historically been the part where I give up on a story in disgust, when the first draft usually so completely fails to live up to the expectations I had when first imagining it.

I left Bestial for the whole month of December, and only the other day picked it back up again.  I printed it out, hole-punched it, placed it in a binder and went through each page with a red pen.  There were entire sections I hadn’t read since I first wrote them, and I was pleasantly surprised by most of it.

There’s a long way to go still.  I have to reformat the narrative, fill in some gaps and make a couple of decisions on some key points.  But success doesn’t seem as distant and improbable as it has on countless other first drafts.