Writing Bliss

"If they do not write the kind of books we want to read, we shall have to write them ourselves." -C.S. Lewis


May 2014

On Diversity Recap

I reblogged a post from a fellow fantasy guru and I have to say it hit the nail right on the head.  While his post may be considered “controversial” to some, I found it quite refreshing that someone has the guts to honestly say that diversity, in the political definition of the term, is not always good for a story.  Adding characters of other races, genders, or sexual orientations just to avoid being accused of leaving those groups out can be damaging to your writing.  Take, for example, the question of Dumbldore’s sexuality.  J.K. Rowling admitted, long after the conclusion to the epic Harry Potter series, that the wise old wizard Dumbledore, a long-time friend and mentor to the protagonist, and key figure in the history prior to the events in the books, was gay.  Some people were happy and others were upset but for me, he was never gay.  Once an author has written and published, that’s it.  You cannot go back and change the canon that you created, especially if it has no affect on the story, and I’m sorry, but Dumbledore being gay did not change anything.  It did not affect his relationship with Harry or with his rival Grindelwald (whose story came into focus in the final book), and it certainly never changed the fact that he died, the reasons for which he died, or who killed him.  His sexual orientation was simply an add-on made by an author hoping to appeal to a politically correct society. 

If your characters are going to have some diverse quality, there better be a good reason.  Writing is an art, and particularly science fiction and fantasy writing involves already complex elements both in characters and in events.  Everything has meaning in stories such as these, at least for me.  Look at Tolkien’s created world; every name and every place had meaning.  He had multiple volumes of histories to support his decisions in his narratives and it all revolved around each other.  Tolkien also covered the ageless topic of race discrimination, between elves and dwarves.  The animosity between these two races goes back generations and sends a good message that all races are not so different from one another.  He accentuates this hatred in The Hobbit and completely mends it by the end of The Lord of the Rings, but the relationship is always important to the story.  George Martin has done something similar in Westeros, though not on the same scale, but there is no detail left out.  Martin actually did use sexual orientation to shape his characters.  Look at Oberyn Martell, for instance, a man from Dorne, a part of the world secluded and whose culture is very much different from King’s Landing and “normal” society.  His preference for both men and women, and the fact that the woman he is with shares his tastes, shows a part of his culture and points out that his background will make him a strong character.  Renly Baratheon’s lust for men (though only hinted at in the books), is also vital to the story because it meant that he could never have been king.  He could not have sired children with his wife and the line would have ended.  Him claiming the throne to end it there would have accomplished nothing.  These are examples of diversity being used to better a story and to advance the plot. 

I encourage all of you (especially fantasy authors) to examine your works.  I am currently working on a fantasy story where the protagonist is a young girl and I am forced to question why she is female.  What makes her a strong character?  What qualities make her worthy of the role of protagonist?  If she were a male, could she still accomplish the same task? 

Good writing is good writing, no matter how you slice it.  Let us question the definition of diversity and make sure we use it to the benefit of supporting good writing and not just politically correct writing.  They are certainly not the same.

On Diversity

Why Aren’t Kids Reading?

Quoth The Wordsmith

Child_with_red_hair_reading There’s been a lot of talk lately about the lack of kids reading for pleasure. It seems that the statistical numbers are dropping, and less children are finding solace in the written word. If you simply do a google search on the subject, a plethora of articles will appear with opinions and suggestions and discussions from all over the world. I’ll give you yet another.

I don’t remember ever despising books. I seem to have always savoured them, even as a very small child. However, I don’t think that this would be the case had I not been encouraged to read. It’s not like I come from a super rich family that could afford all of the new toys and gadgets. I am the product of a single mother who lived in her childhood home (with her parents and three brothers) for the first three years of my life. One…

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How Essential is Happiness?


This year’s biggest hit for film songs was probably “Happy” by Pharrell Williams for Despicable Me 2, and I know “Let It Go” for Frozen won the Academy Award, as it should, but let me ask you this, when “Happy” comes on the radio, can you resist the urge to dance?  I didn’t think so.  In writing, however, is happy a term that is used too much?  Not enough?  Misunderstood or mistranslated?

I finally watched the season finale of Once Upon A Time yesterday and (SPOILERS) for those of you who watched Elsa walk out of that labyrinth and reacted as I did (with complete and utter joy) you were probably pretty happy.  But what about the characters in the show?  I happened to have had spoilers laid on me before watching and I new they were introducing Frozen to the story, so by the time I reached the end of the episode, I was focused on other things.  I could not stop thinking about what Emma had just done in bringing Maid Marian back from the Enchanted Forest.  I was devastated!


The picture above is a still from the finale and just look at the “Evil” queen’s face.  Pure elation!  She is finally happy.  She has her son, Henry, and now she has finally found true love with the man she saw in the prophecy which stated that this man would be her one and only.  Not five minutes later she walks into the diner to find that Emma, in a Snow White move to save some poor innocent soul, brought back someone who was supposed to be dead.  Robin Hood and Regina have both lost their loves, he lost his Marian and she lost the man she loved when her mother killed him.  They bonded over that and were able to heal through each other.  Then this happens and all their hopes (well, Regina’s hopes at least) are shattered.


Now Emma not only altered the past, she has now altered the future because Regina is back to being as unstable as she was when she was still the Evil Queen.  She became that way because her happiness was taken away so who’s to say that won’t happen again.  So while the audience is overjoyed at the arrival of a new, and very popular, villain in the Ice Queen, the characters are slightly uncertain about how to work through their latest bump in the road.

How important is happiness to characters?  If you’re George R.R. Martin, clearly it is not essential at all, but for “normal” writers, how happy do your characters have to be?  How happy should they be?  Stories must maintain some level of reality to them and we all know life is not fair.  Sometimes it is the character’s misery which causes them to take action.  Because happiness is something everyone wants, it is something for which they fight tirelessly, thus becoming the whole premise for the book or film.  Often the character does not even know that they need that happiness.  The movie for which the song “Happy” was written, showcased a character, Gru, who thought he was happy with his three little girls, only to discover that he still had room for a little more joy when he married his spritely red-headed partner.

Ask yourself how happiness drives (or doesn’t drive) your characters, either as individuals or as a collection.  Once that happiness is achieved, can it be removed (as in the case of Regina) or is it permanent?  This episode prompted me to examine this claim and I am forcing myself to not toss it around so easily.  I don’t think I could be like Martin and throw it to the wind but happiness is something all good characters deserve but it should be well-earned.


Mothers in Literature

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers, grandmothers, and mother figures out there today.  I have had my share of women in my life who have served as additional mothers as I hope most of you do as well.  Literature and film are riddled with moms, most of whom inspire us to be better people.  So the question I pose today is a simple one; who is your favorite mother in literature and/or film?

My favorite literary mom would have to be Molly Weasley from Harry Potter.  Of all the moms out there, this might sound strange to some, but think about it.  She had seven children, all of whom could not be more different from one another.  They lived life on a strict budget but still managed to have family dinners and Christmas always consisted of handmade, thoughtful gifts (even if they were ugly knitted clothing items).  She suffered the near loss of one son, the loss of his twin, and even killed for her daughter.  She practically adopted Harry knowing he had no family of his own.  Bill was turned into a werewolf, Charlie handled live dragons for a living, and Percy worked for a politician who put the whole family at odds with the magical government.  If anyone knows what it is to be a good mother, it’s this woman.  Not to mention she has the best line in literature.

My favorite film mom is Christine Collins played by Angelina Jolie in Changeling, directed by Clint Eastwood.  The film was based on true events when Collins’ son Walter disappears one afternoon.  The corrupted L.A. police department of 1928 place a young boy in her custody claiming that he is her son.  When she refuses to believe them and insists the boy is not hers, she is committed to an asylum.  This heartbreaking story about a mother’s emotional and political fight for her child is so powerful and Jolie’s performance even earned her an Oscar nod.

A few honorable mentions to moms are also in order.  I think my favorite mother “moment” in film would be Sally Field’s breakdown at her daughter’s (Julia Roberts) funeral in Steel Magnolias.  No parent should ever bury their child, and Field’s performance in that scene was so believable and striking that I had to mention it today.  This is another example of the beauty of well-written mother characters.  Brave, the 2012 Oscar-winning Disney animated film, is the perfect mother-daughter movie.  It is proof that teenagers will always be rebellious but when mothers and daughters work together, they can learn so much about one another and appreciate each other more.  I know that’s what happened with my mother and I.  Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Hester Prynne from The Scarlet Letter is also a runner up for me because she was publicly ridiculed for her decisions but never once did she reject her child.  In fact, Hester learned more from her daughter than she probably taught and although it was an unorthodox relationship, it helped Hester heal and forgive herself.

What is your favorite “mom movie”?  What mothers in literature speak most to you?  I for one am grateful for my mother’s influence on me.  She encouraged me to read and write (and still does) and made me into the person I am today.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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