Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sunday Dribs and Drabs

So, I totted it all up this weekend. I've made over $750 writing this year.
In other words, I've made about an extra week's pay.

"Showdown at the Yellowstone River" is finished and edited to death.
We finished the synopsis this morning and the blurb is killing us.

"Frosted Hearts" has a July release.

And I've been thinking of writing without stereotypes.

Stereotypes are shorthand. We use them because they simplify the information we have to deal with on a day to day basis. Some are true, some are less so.

For instance, people who see me on my day job see a very tall, very heavy white woman with short hair, battered work boots, and well-worn grubby jeans. No makeup, no jewelry, and I'm climbing out of a semi.

There will always be several automatic assumptions
1) I'm a lesbian (appearance)
2) I'm probably conservative (truck)
3) I'm not too bright (truck and size)

Only the first of these is even half-way true. But because of prior experience and media images, people never get as far as the cognitive dissonance between the first and second.

The problem comes when trying to write without stereotyping.
How do you handle characters of color, without making them cartoons, or too white?
How do you avoid making women into insane shrieking harpies, if they're villains, or good and pure angels, if they're good, or devouring sluts if it's erotica?

I think the answer is in motivation and characterization.
Every character needs to have enough personality that they have real wants and desires.
They pursue these desires.
This drives the plot and their interactions with other characters, who have desires of their own.

Right now, I'm working on a piece with a female villain.
Sarah Brown presents herself as Lady Sarah, although she has no right to the title. She's Lord Edward's jilted fiance and wants him back. She has money. She wants him for his title and his sexy body. She knows he doesn't love her, she doesn't care. She wants to marry him anyway.

To this end, she knows she has to tease him back to her, so she tries besting him at everything, in order to intrigue him. She knows Lord Edward has no use vanity or silliness, so she tries for ruthless competence instead.

The problem is conveying this in the little we see of her, all of it through the biased eyes of Charlie (Lord Edward's secretary). She has him kidnapped, to ensure Edward's pursuit and good behavior. She seduces him for her own amusement. She bests Lord Edward at the scene of the prize, and slanders him in the London papers as payback for a wild-goose chase. (is it a slander if it's true?)

Charlie, obviously, thinks of her as a spider. But I want the readers to think of her as a real, strong-willed woman, with desires of her own, even seeing her through Charlie's warped lens.

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