A Story in Dialogue.

“Oh I don’t know where it is, Jane. You put the body there last time.”

Challenge: Tell a story in one short dialogue chunkette.

Advertisements

Knowing Your Writer Weaknesses

You never know what you do wrong until someone tells you, or until you do it. That is just how a lot of writing works. Even with critique groups you’re left pulling things apart yourself to figure things out.The broadest question is How to Write? and from there we get How Do I Become A Better Writer (#writelife #writerwednesdays) There’s a reason for that. Writing is a skill that is intuitive and learned, one of possessing talent and crafting skill, one of cultivating your best traits and minimizing your worst. It is easier said than done at almost every possible level. So it pays to spend more time figuring out your weaknesses especially for beginning writers and writers who have primarily written their craft for themselves. Doing the introspection, self-reflection, and criticizing yourself isn’t easy. You have to step away from your work for months if not years to even see how much you have or have not improved. But no matter what we can and must pick apart our writing somehow.

For the last few months I’ve been working on a novel, and truthfully something about it has felt off the whole time. I love the story. I love the characters. I love the central conflict. However something has constantly seemed off. So today I pulled out my book on writing guide: “Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft” (The international edition) by Jane Burroway. I sat down at my desk and began to go through the book. I knew what worked so I stayed away from the chapters on characterization and focused on the other chapters. I reread old notes in the margins, and began highlighting chapters as I reread them. Why? Well the book is pretty damn great for giving you plenty of comparative examples of what to do and what not to do from both published and purely example based writing. It doesn’t speak in absolutes, but pulls from dozens of writers and pieces to give you a concise break down of how to write well, how to write compelling stories, and how to convey theme without sacrificing anything. And I went to the section on filtering.

Yes, I the “show don’t tell” critique queen, have a drastic problem with filtering. Filtering is between showing and telling. For example “She looked out the window and she saw him standing outside her building”, when for the whole paragraph we’ve been in her head so “Outside her window he stood on the stoop of her building, waiting”. Instead of relying on the reader to be smart and follow along; instead of allowing for direct action I present the filters like “seemed”(been using that one alot) “saw”. I don’t just show you what the character sees and that’s a problem. Honestly that is probably why I do it with others. Subconsciously I do know I have a deep struggle with using filters instead of conveying direct action. Why? Honestly it’s a natural inclination, but its also it is the result of careless readers in critique groups. You gotta pick them well people. I spent an hour or two reading the book again, carefully searching for my answer and now that I have it I’m taking action not just by editing, but by rewriting what I’m editing so it is more present, more in the moment, and direct.

It’s hard to be direct as a writer just like it is hard to confront our problem areas directly. I was very lucky that I picked up that book and managed to follow my instincts into what was plaguing me. I didn’t just fall on the page, but I’ve lived with my writer self for long enough to seek out my faults. Why? Because I was in those critique circles to begin with. As much as I did get some perhaps misinterpreted advice in regards to how to clarify who is what and what is in whose view I did get advice. Solid advice and reactions that allowed me to see where I could improve as a writer. Some people really are able to identify those things on there own, but even still other’s input allows you to see how others read. You need that feedback (and you also need to give feedback too because it does make you a better writer, but that’s another subject).

So what’s my point?

Take time to understand your weaknesses, and don’t be afraid to seek them out. Sometimes a writer can be positively wrong about something in their piece. We think the best part is the worst, we think the most nonsensical section is clear as day, and we even second guess out instincts. The only chance you get to know those weaknesses and address them is by digging deep and figuring them out. Get books on craft and read them. Join critique groups. And don’t be afraid to reread your pieces. Most importantly…don’t be afraid to edit. Sometimes out weaknesses are charming and add a particular character. Hell sometimes our weaknesses are so out shined by the good they don’t matter. But no matter what you owe it to yourself to take time to better understand them.

Do you want to know more about filtering? Do you want to know more about my erotica and romance writing?  Ask me below, or just share you thoughts on knowing your weaknesses whether in writing or in life. I have plenty of advice both about writing and about life on this blog, and I think so far I’ve shared one thing…for writers both are deeply connected. We gain a lot by talking and exchanging. So go fill up that comment box!

Music: Depeche Mode’s The Things She Said.

 

 

Stark and Colorful Silence.

Churning emotions bubble forth,
Too much silence in the noise,
Everything stark,
Colorful only because of yearning,
Pulses pounding turns to pressure building,
Thudding, laughing, with the beat of blood,
And the heat that pierces through much and mud,
Leaving him and I and us together,
Alone,
Then together,
Breaths speeding in unison,
Bright red, yellow like wheat, and black like ravens,
With that subtle sort of blue that highlights the dark,
As scream through our hearts,
As the crowd listens.
As the sweat stains sheets and clothes and sofas,
As they laugh.

As they die.

Everything stark in perfect clarity,
Super heightened superficiality,
Fuck it and enjoy it.
Means everything, but ignore it when
The Light Comes Up And
The city is full of empty noise,
But for a moment there is an excited silence between,
Lovers…between…enemies…between breaths.
The spaces between the pulses.
The spaces between the buildings.
The silence between the screams.

So What Is The Difference between Love and Hate?

In Response to: “Racism and Intersectionality in YA Fiction”

I found this thoroughly interesting Post from The Paige Turner Blog featuring an essay on Young Adult lit and feminism written for their class…and I couldn’t help but read and write a response to it! Give it a look over if you like.

I absolutely loved this post and I wanted to do a thorough response to it, a sorta “Dear author” moment because this essay demands proper attention and response. I pick apart a lot of the arguments here and take issue with many of them, but that serves to point out the thought provoking nature of this piece. There are a lot of good points here that simply don’t satisfy me….but I love this piece regardless. I hope the author doesn’t think I’m just shit talking because I’m an asshole because I’m trying to give their arguments the time, dedication, and attention it deserves even from an opposing and critical viewpoint because that’s how we all grow and engagement on these topics matters to me and my life as a woman and a feminist. I will also add I wrote this with my hands shaking from a sugar crash.

Here’s what I wrote in response:
Wow your essay is absolutely fascinating and I’d love to pick your brain abit because as a recent grad I’m totally missing the college world…

You say “Collins thusly reinforces the detrimental effects of having a character that, on the surface level, seems to be an inspirational character, but falls short of the racial divide.” I think you make some salient points, but miss some of the goals. Here the suggestion is Katniss being read as white is the problem as is her relationship to the black characters of the book. I think the stronger argument is that in the movies “olive skin” becomes a very specific type of white manifested via Jennifer Lawrence. But addressing the book writing you are most certainly right that Katniss becomes a white savior, which is especially fascinating in the context of the backlash of so many readers being forced to realize there reading Rue as white was wrong.

A minor weakness in your argument is that you acknowledge this while still claiming it is the genre and thus the authors fault for the audience assumption of Rue’s race. YA or any genre is not so much as fault as you can say the industry around it, and your argument would have been stronger if you clarified that the industry and its standards are different than the genre and both are different from the audience, while they still inform each other. The author attempted to bring diversity into YA, but the problem isn’t YA but the assumption of whiteness as the default state of being in every story. Though Rue’s depiction is still problematic in some ways, the author did something write in casting Rue as innocent, hopeful, and pure when black skin generally means that won’t happen. In a way that’s why the audience didn’t make that connection, society and the industry simply don’t do that. Innocence is pure and purity is white, and this book said “No” and the audience didn’t catch it because of media in all forms and genres saying Black people aren’t as innocent and pure and sweet as white people.
The biggest failure of the first book and film is a lack of time characterizing people outside of Katniss, which is one part the narcissism often present in YA, but very much is a reflection of white hegemony. Rue’s life only gains meaning in relation not only to Katniss, but being a representation of Katniss’s sister Prim, which truly denies Rue’s existence. Much like how women are shoved in the metaphorical refrigerator(just look up women in refrigerators if that reference eludes you). This is the most recurrent problem I see in YA literature, where most often characters of color are simply an extension of white protagonists. Even in things like The Princess Diaries white side characters are more likely to be described as individuals than non-white characters whose primary function is to be there for diversities sake more so than to have their own life and character. Rue exists to die for Katniss to rebel. It’s a shame because it eerily mirrors the now-outdated but still impactful 1930s and 1950s film/book An Imitation of Life where the light skinned and dark skinned black women are sort of sacrificial lambs, where their significance only occurs under white protection and approval which manifests as a black woman’s ideas being credited to a white woman and that black woman serving the white woman under the guise of being friends. Its sad that things haven’t changed so much.

As a fellow writer, I’d say avoid statements like “Bella Swan, again, a white female character, who has zero redeeming qualities, is put in the middle of the conflict between the vampires and werewolves,” unless you explain why you feel she is this way. You have to prove everything you say and back it up, and this is a opinion that is written in a way that lacks academic authority. I’d recommend say “Bella, again a white female character, who is written as being passive, lacking strong characterization in her personality, having a life beholden to two men, and ultimately is just an author/reader insert is put in the middle of the conflict between the vampires and werewolves”. The book is popular for a reason so when you write a bit more authoritatively and point out specifically what you mean you can really convince people of that opinion. And this would set up a great argument too. I’d respond to the Native Americans as Werewolves point, by agreeing, but also saying that it is in a way an exotification teetering on positive stereotypying, which still has a negative impact. The werewolves are almost more “spiritual” and consider themselves the protectors of the “natural”, which is an obvious stereotype…but it is presented as almost alluring via what’s his nuts(sharkboy). Yet even his being a jealous guy is a manifestation of a “savage” emotion.

Further, while it may serve you paper you suggest having insults thrown on the basis of “dog and mongrel” is reinforcing hegemony, which inadvertently suggests acknowledging bias and the hatred bread from it is inherently problematic, whether you intended it or no. You say “These subtle messages that are being sent in YA fiction are extremely harmful to the audiences, because it shows them that this type of behavior is acceptable and goes beyond the realm of a fantasy book; that it can be repeated in real life.” But this is a great leap without context. Showing that it happens doesn’t make it acceptable, and it can be repeated in real life. Pretending it doesn’t leans towards the far more harmful “I don’t see color so how could I ever be biased” willfully ignorant mindsets that allow bigotry to truly propagate. This argument  feels contradictory.

While I truly do like this essay there is a certain judgmental nature to it, and I don’t mean that as an insult, but the bottom line of this essay is feminists don’t write YA, read YA, and if you’re a feminist you should stand opposed to it. The nature of literature of any kind is far more complex than that, and I sense the author know that, but is sacrificing it for the sake of this paper. The core belief of feminism is female choice and rights…and to be judged fairly, but it seems unfair to say Kristen Stewart or any actress playing Bella could never be a feminist. I don’t know it feels like if I said Leo DiCaprio must be a racist for playing Colonel Candy in Django Unchained. It feels like the suggestion is every feminist must not read/like/or  recommend Twilight and other YA series, which is a problematic argument and ultimately unfeminist in itself by dictating  the choices of other women and feminists. Ultimately this essay begins to fall apart because it falls into the trap of promoting restricting stories which many anti-feminists and racists take as what progressives want. You suggest that having two women fight each other is anti-feminist, which is suggesting that every woman should sit around and sing peace to the world. That seems reductionist and ultimately consigns women to limited roles in text. Ultimately this essay does a lot, but it  drops to ball with broad sweeping statements in order to prove its point which hurts its own arguments. I say this because As a bisexual woman of color I find myself repeatedly saying “No that’s not the problem because that puts women in as much of a box as anything else” and I don’t say it because your wrong…but because you say X is inherently wrong. The Allegiant series is wrong for having two women fight against each other, is your assertion, but saying that is problematic too. The question is how these things are done and handled.

Much like the problem of Rue being there to bolster Katniss, the problem is a lack of characterization, motive, and principle. Men fight men all the time and it isn’t a problem because men are often depicted as just being people with motives, passion, and ambition. They are complex characters not obligated to stand together or alone, and that’s how all characters should be. The solution is saying this troupe or plot is inherently anti-feminist. That’s reductionist and can be anti-feminist in itself. The solution is saying “This is why this doesn’t work. This is what makes these ideas bad”. That’s what I want to see more of and that’s what I wish this essay like so many others did more of (hence why I stopped reading The Mary-Sue unfortunately).

In short this essay and its arguments would be more convincing with specifics about why these things are problematic instead of saying they’re wholesale problematic. By just saying this white girl saves this black girl, that YA is the problem without separating the industry from the author from the audience, by just saying women fighting each other as men watch is the problem you make broad sweeping statements that limit stories and are honestly a wee bit offensive to other feminists, and quite frankly miss a lot of what is wrong about these issues. It is not that they exist. I’m a black woman the white hierarchy exists and I live it. Acknowledge it. That doesn’t mean the author is endorsing racism or anything by recognizing it. It fact I welcome it because that is my lived experience, and so long as it is done in a thoughtful way it is usually fine. The problem with YA is ignorance, and a fascination with white cis-gender femaleness so when authors do try to do more they make exotic Native American beasts, they make a black girl a symbol not a character, and we all lose. When you refuse to acknowledge people as characters, as feminists, and feminism as complex, as how women/other marginalized people relate to characters as complex you ultimately cripple a good portion of your argument by doing the progressive version of what you critique. And to be honest a lot of this paper reminds me of talking to white people who just don’t get the difference between showing black people all as the same stereotypes and acknowledging that there are black people who live in the ghetto. If this was acknowledged as a core issue this essay would have soared.

BUT the fact that you were willing to tread in these waters at all, and dig into many of the problems of the YA industry, genre, and audience demonstrates a thoughtful intelligence that makes me excited to read more. The wonderful thing about the internet is being able to engage with so many wonderful thinkers and people.

Concrete: Warm Up Poetry

Concrete.
Smoking as ash dusts over its surface.
Lacking a human touch.
Too afraid to breathe.
Too afraid to run.
Undead earth.

“Fuck”.
The only words in the apartment as they rut like animals.
Grunting, screaming, moaning.
The wet needing openness of lust,
fills with every loving thrust.
Another kisses her mouth,
He grabs her hair and lifts.
From her to his lips.
From her to her to him.
The lonely three in a concrete city,
Finding solace in each other as
fingers find soft and yearning sacred grounds and,
Tantalizing brown and white and red flesh,
She counts the bruises on her neck.
He counts the scars on her shoulders.
She simply screams beneath them both.
Their love is not some ephemeral thing.
Not some weird toy.
Not some sinful thing.
It is simply one thing in a maze of concrete,
And empty houses next to empty homes.

Poets for Peace

I saw the Poets for Peace hashtag and figured it was the very least I can do not to contribute to this collection of community poetry on the increasing violence of our world. We can all be better. Do better. Dream bigger. We can come together regardless of who we are to swallow our pride and make a better tomorrow for us, for our loved ones, and for the world. We are always stronger than hate.

il_570xn-1052662942_cy9v
Available from LisaWhitehouseart on Etsy. Very lovely shop. Remember to buy small business.

Eagle

“I dreamnt out loud last night”,
That is what the eagle wrote,
Of peace and life, and joy.
But then she awoke with her father’s arms
Around her.
Smothering.
Anger?
No. Love.
The eagle flew. Her wings tucked beneath his.
The sky cracked black and read.
The stink of the black waters filled the air.
Birds who claimed to be eagles fought other,
Eagles,
Other
Breeds
Other birds, yet both still bleed.
She dreamnt one night…
She cracked the sky and fire drummed out.
Not god or fury or vengeance.
Just fire. Just rage. Just rightous anger.
And it stormed and stormed until the rivers
Overflowed.
Dread?
No. Happiness.
And the blood washed out the sky.
And the other birds and eagles and creatures.
Were washed out and away too.
She dreamed when she next saw them…
she dreamed they had better things to do.

When she awakes the sky is still black.
She is flying.
Her father’s wings are wrapped around her.
Salty air fills her nose.
Rotten sweat covers them all.
She is flying.
She knows not where she goes.
But one day she will fly through the storm,
And she will become the storm.

#PoetsforPeace

Never His Lady, but I was His Ferret. Poetry under Polyamory

Unique.
It is an over used word,
But every blue moon,
When the stars align,
And your wireless internet holds,
And you’re aching to be noticed,
And that someone interesting notices you,
You find something truly unique.

What we had was unique.
Love and Sex and,
Chemistry,
Words and hurt and,
What was once certainty.
It is broken now.
By my hand.
By my lips.
Twice by my body,
When it arched with pleasure,
When it quivered in pain.
Some days are harder than others.
Some days I can barely breathe.
Some days are easier.
Some days I just dream.
Of what? Of other things that could never be…
I could never give you what you need.
You could never give me more than what I want.

Before I was his lady,
I was his ferret.
I tried to hide the pitch black clouds in my eyes,
The sorrow in my sighs,
The youth in my mistrust which ultimately turned to lust.
Great big smiles and corny pun filled jokes,
Recipes for left over egg yolks.
Science things and history,
Inside jokes because “well you know me,”
I scampered with my words,
Sprawled in glittering images for your eyes,
Joined your little world with my fur well groomed,
Observed with quiet trainable adoration,
And my intentions? More than light.
They were right.
they were right…
Never thought it would end this way on a weary autumn night.

You see,
I kept things cool until truths got too hot.
The heat blasted and I sweltered,
As you gave it nary a thought,
It had nothing to do with you really.
Needless drama. All my making.
Accidental self-destruction,
A common cause of animal disruption,
I jumped from a shadow filled floor,
To a sweaty place near the ceiling,
Stepping on that thermostat, turning and turning and turning and turning and turning
With every struggling step.
It had nothing to do with you really.
Senseless drama. A trifle of my making.

Your little ferret knew who should win,
You,
but you did not. Instead you found no one can.
A ferret dies in too high heat,
Our systems run and then combust,
Or just give out as we wilt and rust.

Ferrets are tricky animals.
Cute, a tad odorous, a tad amorous, a tad…
chaotic.
Before all these terrible things,
Before all my missteps,
Before all my misdeeds and loves,
I was his treasured pet.
Before I ever knew his name,
Before I ever played this newer game,
Before the slipping in the wet snow-rain,
I became his pet.
Whenever I see red I think of you,
When I see purple it happens too,
I just wish I knew what to do,

But wishes mean nothing.

Little rhymes? Just words.
Little lies turn to just desserts.
I never was his lady.
I never loved him quite the same.
I never called him “baby”,
I never took the blame.
Yet no matter what one unique thing remains,
A noble burning pang…
A unique tie to heart,
A sign we were never the same.
The differences that excited us….
The pitch black lust that ignited us…
A ferret, most curious, and a man unlike most…
Now both have nothing with which to boast.
And yet…and yet this defies other lover’s chains.
I never was his lady, but I was his pet,
I never knew him truly, but I was his broken ferret.
Some days are harder than others.
Some days I can barely breathe.
Some days are just easier.
Some days I try not to dream.

-For K