Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Girl Like Me

On some subconscious level it seems inherently natural, I think, to presume that authors who are male write male characters, and female authors write female characters. Or at the very least, that they should be most comfortable doing so--should be able to just slip right into the skin of a same-sexed character like a good pair of jeans.

I used to believe it; as a teen I'd read a book (say, Lirael or Sabriel by Garth Nix) and get perturbed by the fact that a guy was writing from the point of view of a girl. How does that make sense, I'd think? Isn't that ... weird? But at the same time I was writing male point of view characters along with female ones and it wasn't weird for me to do. Just other people.

(J K Rowling originally went by initials, rather than her name, because the Harry Potter books were theoretically aimed at boys. And boys don't read girl authors.)

Over time, and maybe this is weird, I've become more and more comfortable writing male characters and less comfortable with female ones. As a kid I liked a good, convincing heroine. Somewhere that disconnected and I got convinced girls didn't make good heroes. Maybe it was Phillip Pullman's Golden Compass series, because, sorry, but I read the first one and enjoyed the adventure, but positively hated the heroine. I could not identify, when writing, as a girl.

Or maybe it was the fact that I was home schooled for a handful of years with two brothers as my main source of interaction--and with bad memories of the girls in grade school who could be angels one minute and demons the next. I never liked girl things, like hair or clothes or dolls, even when surrounded by girls. Make me play house and I'll kill you because, fool, I actually had household chores to do. They were not worth pretending about.

Pretending was for fantastical things; unicorns and fighting dragons and adventures. Not  folding clothes and cooking tomato soup.

So, by logical extension, if girls either made tomato soup or became really annoying heroines, I'd have to be a guy. No need to psychoanalyze me too much because none of these thoughts were ever articulated even to myself. I just felt out of touch with being a girl.

Whenever I start thinking about a story, even today, I almost instinctively formulate the main character as a guy--exceptions come largely when the character has to be a girl for the story to progress. I'm a little more in touch with being a girl now than I was, say, ten years ago, but still ... old habits. I'm comfortable in the mode of heroes. And yet whenever I sit down to write a story where the main character's female rather than male, it's strange to realize how it is different. There's a mental shift that has to happen for me to get inside a girl's mind. It's kind of uncomfortable, and weird, and when I'm writing it can be somewhat painful, even. But when I go back and read, these stories are all right. Not bad--nothing wrong with them. But once I finish writing a heroine and move on to a hero, things flow so much more smoothly.

I do hope, at some time in the future, to get over this barrier, whether it's actual or mental, and to be able to shift from hero to heroine without pause. I am a girl, right? So I should be able to write a girl like me.

Sure. Only problem is, that turns out being a guy.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Late-riser's plague

I like the idea of waking up early--really early, like 6, and going out for a jog in the brisk morning air, and then coming home awake and alive and invigorated and getting to work and dashing off five or six pages of wonderfully amazing writing as I blithely drink my morning coffee.

Except that I've never been an early riser, and I work nights so this great idea doesn't seem as great when I'm finally getting to bed around 1:30 ... And there's no way I can jog down my street that lacks sidewalks, especially when it's cloudy and miserable outside. And at 6 it's pretty dark 'round these parts, too, most of the year. So what do I do instead? Flop out of bed around ten and slouch stiffly to the computer ... and wait for inspiration to strike. I know what I want to get done today but haven't even got around to opening my word processor and it's almost lunchtime. Well, maybe another cup of coffee and the gears will start moving.

If I'd woke up at six, though, I'd be done by now. Maybe this thought is distracting any belated progress I could possibly make at this point.

I have a list of a half dozen things I wanted to get done this month, with only two marked off and we're 2/3 of the way through September. And I go back to school on this coming Monday. Maybe it's time to start getting serious?

Maybe another cup of coffee.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Internets are good for you!

In the past week, and perhaps for the first time, I have proven to myself the usefulness of the Internet. How? Well, by using it. And not just to look at funny cat pictures and to listen to music and to read randomly.

Instead, I have learned ...

-How to fix the keys on my laptop damaged as casualties in a fly-hunt gone awry.

-How to clean my cloth high heels at home. And make them un-stinky.

-How to make banana bread (or, about 35 different variations on how it can be made).

-How to cut and color my hair at home.

And thus you have my projects for the upcoming week in a neat, tidy list. Feeling pretty empowered here. :)

I've never had short hair in my life and yet, for some time, have wanted to hack off all that I have and go for a pixie cut. A thought which terrifies not just a lot of people I know, but also, to some extent, me. What if it turns out wrong, I thought? What if I don't like it, it's a disaster, and then I have to wait six months, etc, for it to grow out again? Six months is exponentially longer than it sounds with a bad haircut. So, yes, I've had it cut drastically, but only to a bob. Taking it in stages, you see.

I don't suppose anyone would come up to me and say, "God, that's regrettable," about my current cut and yet, I've had a lot more compliments than I think it deserves. Even when I went for fast food today, the girl ringing me up behind the counter recognized me then complimented my cut. Wow! I thought. She recognizes me and I don't come in but once every few months. She's got a SCARY awesome memory!

I think I was honestly impressed over flattered, but, then again, flattered that I was worth recognizing in the first place. I suppose having aspirations to become an author, I often think of myself as rather anonymous to the rest of the world. Then again, I work a customer service job--hundreds of people see me a day. Scary to someone who likes the thought of anonymity...

So yes, it has been cut. Next, to color it obnoxiously blond. Then to see how many people tell me THAT's regrettable. ;)

What I'm reading: at the moment, a book that's meant to self-improve me. Or something. Finished reading a Hawkmoon novel by Michael Moorcock that moved so fast I'm still a little dizzy--I just gotta say it, I prefer Elric since he's not quite as noble-minded and nothing's wrong with that. Also finished reading some beautiful but plotless comic books--ah, but we come to picture books just for the pictures, right? Actually, I like pictures in my real novels, and I like real plots in my comics, too.

So, on to see how my projects turn out. And to see if I can dissuade my hubby from taking me to see Snow White and the Huntsman for one more week ... ! See y'all!

In my defense...
--actually, that's just about how it happened ...

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Thing about Germs is ...

I've been sick for the past, oh, week. It's what happens when you're in contact with people on a daily basis and they're breathing the same air you are. A Russian Roulette of germs or something; really, it's just bound to happen.

I didn't really mind being sick; I had a runny nose and sore throat and not much energy, and that was about it. No big deal. The problem for me was the fact that my brain was also not functioning all that well so that, even though I had ideas I wanted to get down on paper (er, computer screen) they were not coming out. And anything I did write sounded pretty lame. Either because it was lame, or just because I was so sick my brain couldn't distinguish a good word or sentence from a peanut. I'd be just fine with having a cold if only it wouldn't melt my brain into a useless fondue of blahs.

So I spent three or four days pretending I didn't really want to do any writing and thought maybe I'd do some editing to get some more stuff sent off. No luck. Editing with a melted brain is as effective as writing algebra problems with a pencil in your mouth while hanging upside down. Flat-out arduous.

Perhaps you can see I'm a little bitter with those germs.

So I surrendered that idea and just read some books and watched some movies and listened to some music. And laid flat on the couch so my cat could use me as a cushion and I could use her as a hot-water bottle. It worked out in everyone's favor.

**In times of ailment this fuzzy little beast can be used--quite happily--as a piece of thermoregulatory equipment**

I'm better now. Pretty much. I think. Sheesh, I hope. My cat is wondering what happened to our beautiful arrangement of her getting to sleep on my face.

At least not everything I'm working on at the moment seems totally lame.

Then again, that could be the germs talking ...