Why I Buy Poetry.

Previously, a post mentioned how reading poetry can make any writer better at their craft.  Today I’m going to tell you why that is, and why that fact makes me buy poetry.

I buy poetry books every once in a while because I love them, but also because think they can offer a number of lessons of how to construct stories and evoke feeling. A workshopping buddy of mine told me that she believes people can be taught craft, but not how to tell a story. You have to learn story telling on your own. I am inclined to agree. The very nature of poetry makes me inclined to agree because poetry can violate all the rules of craft but still support a powerful story. A poem is as versatile as a piece of elastic. You can use it to hold a crown in place, to make pants more comfortable, or to make a foot tambourine(that’s a thing I learned that existed last night). The nature of a poem is something you can alter into whatever shape you need. The accouterments, whether they be crown or tambourine or the elements of the story telling and the evocation of feeling, are an essential part of crafting a story.

When you know how to cut, define, hide, and comfortably place elastic you have learned skills you can apply to nearly any fabric. Yet elastic is a structural component, what catches your eye is how the accouterments are presented. Does the crown look janky as hell? Does the rhyme scheme break without,pardon the pun, rhyme or reason. Knowing Iambic pentameter won’t necessarily make you a good poet. Hell it could make you a worse one if you only follow those rules. But knowing how minimalist elements produce vivid clear imagery that moves you in a poem using iambic pentameter is something you learn by consuming poetry. And when you don’t look at the pentameter, when you look at clear word usage, or even page formatting you learn far more about story telling than reading some novels or short stories. Writers often focus on writing craft over story craft when even the best writers should expose themselves to the craft of story telling. Poetry reading is an excellent way to do that. You learn how to convey the raw story in a dozen or more different ways.

In that last post I told you:

I am proud to say I write great dialogue because I read and wrote poetry starting from 10 years old. Actually maybe even younger I remember reading Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings at some point with my mother’s help. How did poetry help me write dialogue? A good insult should be as sharp as a good poem and just as heavy with the punctuation. A proclamation of love that, I believe, has the most effect can be as simple as one line when you craft to context well. Poetry has done a lot of me as a writer, as a human being, and I know I’m not alone.

Dialogue is poetry. The stupid things we often say can be poetry especially if we’re clever. When I write a powerful moment, especially in a script it is closer to poetry than prose. If I have character who has finally had enough say “I hate you. Go away” to another it can be powerful. But it can be more powerful to have them laugh with tears glistening in their eyes and say “Loving you is hell. Just let me be free.” Poetry also has a lot of contradictions, long verses interrupted by  short ones, odd comparisons, and both broken and praised conventions. The sheer variety can show you so many tricks to showing emotional reactions, foreshadowing, and character building in neat little ways. More so than with  novellas, where a period is in a poem or whether that poem uses periods tells you a lot of information. Read some of my poetry here and all the punctuation and line length is intentional. Why? Because even the punctuation has to do work in a poem.

Poetry has so many forms and variations, but I promise you even the variations you can’t stand have moved some one else’s emotions. There will be poems you won’t understand. Some poems may simply not be meant for you to understand, and that’s ok. Regardless, reading poetry provides a guide to understanding story telling and story crafting. Not the craft of writing, but the craft of learning to tell a good story. You can spend $500 on a seminar, download $100 worth of ebooks on writing, and learn every grammar rule by heart. None of that is going to make you a better story teller without a diversity of reading. They can help you learn the craft, and understand how to convey things in a improved way.

BUT reading poetry gives you examples of how to convey emotion, setting, story telling, and how to line craft in beat by beat punches. Even the longest poems have an economy of words and structure vastly different than novels.

Specifically, the lyrical nature of poems can radically improve your writing in specific genres. Experiencing poetry especially as a romance or horror writer can vastly improve your story telling. Why do I say this? A good horror story should sing like a poem. Do you know why so many children’s rhymes are morbid? Besides as a coping mechanism, there is something pointed about morbid things. They don’t require long explanations. I joined wattpad and have been reading some great horror stories, but have been coming across far more awful ones. The awful ones lacked feeling, suspense, scene, and sense of character. But let’s look at a lyrical example of a good horror story:

Lizzie Borden took an axe

And gave her mother forty whacks.

When she saw what she had done,

She gave her father forty-one.

Were you surprised I used that one? In four lines we have a character, an event, and a conflict/realization, and then a choice. Slow it down and have children skipping rope to it and gets even more morbid. There’s a beautiful simplicity to that rhyme and the fact that this story has been told as a children’s jump rope rhyme even adds to the character. You have a woman who “whacks” her mother with an axe, and then the line is she sees what she’d done. Whether you think she did it in anger or not doesn’t matter because she saw the blood, the gore, and then not only killed her father but did so more violently.

We spend a lot of time critiquing flowery language and purple prose, but sometimes we misunderstand why. The problem is when flowery language detracts from a story or reads as fake. If flowery language reads wrong it comes across as an insincere way for the author to show off their talent. Good poetry flows, and good sentence should flow like good poetry by the last revision of a piece.

Lyrical poetic language isn’t about how many ways you can describe the night’s sky though it can help you diversify your descriptions. It isn’t about ego though I will say a lot of poets love to show off their egos in their poems. Lyrical poetic language is a means to tell a story in an immediate way to get a reaction, which is something many authors struggle with. It’s hard and let it be said that you may not always get what a poet is trying to do. It may not work for you. Still when written form a sincere place poetic language is incredibly potent. Understanding that potency is something that can greatly add to any written word. It pushes you to think in a different way than short stories and novels. The best thing a writer can often do is have exposure to everything under the sun. Not to copy, but to learn from.

That is why I read poetry. That is why I feel all writers should pick up a poetry book every blue moon. You can learn so much about how to craft a story.

 

Check out my two releases:

Suffer too Good and Dirty Honey on Amazon.

 

Does Poetry Sell?

I’ve been debating releasing a collection of erotic poetry I’ve been adding to for the past…nine years? And as I’ve been thinking about it I  wondered..do you guys buy poetry? I do on occasion, but more and more I have begun to wonder if poetry only sells if you are lucky enough to end up in the New York Times. Plenty of other writers have had success as poets, and poetry publishers.

Nikki Grimes,whose published 50 books over the course of 30 years, had a pretty honest perspective about selling poetry that I find very realistic:

To be fair, if you are a poet, it is highly unlikely that you will become wealthy working in this genre, no matter how well you hone your craft. That much is true. But chances are, you already know that. I would wager that most writers, keen on this particular genre, aren’t looking to make a killing in the marketplace. They simply have a penchant for the lyrical line, and a passion for metaphor. Like me, they pen poetry because they, quite frankly, can’t help themselves. Poetry is in them. It’s part of their DNA. Poets don’t value their work in terms of fiscal weight, and that’s where we differ from agents and editors.

No one alive should ever expect to break bank via publishing. It’s just not how it goes, but you can be comfortable. Besides poetry is about the feeling, the intent, and inspiring others to feel and see in new exciting ways. But here is the catcher. I am a poet who likes to have food and ,ya know, live.

As I’ve researched poetry publishing it is becoming clear that it’s a gamble, no one knows either way how it could go, but ya know what? Don’t act like you’ll make money. Act like you’ll do what you love. That’s…hard to do sometimes.

Still the world would be lesser for a lack of poetry than an overabundance. Poetry, like music, can do things in a line that thousand page novels fail to do in 400 pages not because those 400 pages are ineffective, but because the minimalist nature of a poem can do things in ways novels simply can’t do. In that way poetry offers an exceptional learning opportunity for writers of all kinds…which I will detail in my next post. For now let me say that poetry is incredibly important for writers to read and comprehend. You don’t have to like all poetry, but reading a diversity of poetry can sharpen your skills at conveying feeling, producing imagery, and understanding line structure.

I am proud to say I write great dialogue because I read and wrote poetry starting from 10 years old. Actually maybe even younger I remember reading Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings at some point with my mother’s help. How did poetry help me write dialogue? A good insult should be as sharp as a good poem and just as heavy with the punctuation. A proclamation of love that, I believe, has the most effect can be as simple as one line when you craft to context well. Poetry has done a lot of me as a writer, as a human being, and I know I’m not alone.

So why do we let it go so under appreciated? Why do people hesitate to spend $5 on a book of poetry that could effect them as deeply as 400 pages? Times are tough for many people. Yet even still there is so much we could do if we embraced poets more.

No one should ever expect to get rich off of writing. If you read those “I made a Bajillion $$$ Writing Ebooks” articles and believed them I’m sorry. There’s a reason a ton of those articles reference Stephen King or J.K Rowling, and not hundreds and hundreds of other writers. There’s a million of us. Yes, some are better than others, but this field must be about passion. Whether you write to market or no you must display some kind of passion because $$$$ doesn’t just fall into your lap; because you may write 30 good books before ever making $500; because so many authors haven’t been “discovered” until after their deaths. Writing is a cold hard mistress, and I’d say poetry holds a steel tipped whip.

But we can make it softer.
If we consume each other. If we’re willing to take that risk and buy a random book of poetry, if we’re willing to say our emotional and mental labors are worth something.

We have to create and contribute to the market as both buyers and writers. We have to recommend books and poets to build excitement and appreciation for poetry.

 

Check out my two releases:

Suffer too Good and Dirty Honey on Amazon.

suffering-too-gooddirty-honey-final

Why Self-Publishing Hits a Snag: Branding Your Booty, and by Booty I mean “Treasured Gifts”.

How do you brand yourself? Over and over anyone who is pursing something creative or business orientated is told to build a brand without a singular person really getting into the nitty gritty of how you figure that out. We can certainly identify branding, but building it is a hard complicated thing. Worse plenty of people make brands and then come to hate them later. One media critic I know wishes he hadn’t put every single thing under his original brand because now his articles and videos are nestled under that identifiable identity. So there’s a lot of pressure from a lot of different angles to approach branding well and in a way that benefits you long term.

Yet we get told to just make a brand. Seems kinda stupid, doesn’t it.

Much like people telling self-published authors to “just blog” your way to marketing, there is a lack of deeper advice or exploration into what a brand is. It is just one in a long list of what you need to get your butt in gear to do. As I explained in in this post the question is always where and how to start. All of my life I’ve had difficulty taking information and synthesizing it into an actual plan. As I’ve researched the nature of branding I find myself really beginning to understand that hard work only takes you so far. What makes or breaks you is planning and luck. For some people that comes naturally, but even though I now try to over plan, so that I have every single thing in place, ideas can fall by the wayside. Being a self-motivated person is hard and being your own employee is even harder. This whole branding thing is difficult and hard to plan when no one is offering solid or consistent advice. When you’re a kid the chances of someone telling you to start your own business or telling you that writing is essentially being an independent small business owner are slim to none. People don’t teach you how to market. You’re just focused on becoming a better writer or trying to just pass math class to even think about those things. But now comes the pressure. Now you know you don’t have to always work for someone else. So what the hell do you do?

Well, before you do anything you need to build a brand. What is a brand? It is a combination of traits that immediately allow people to say “Oh that is [your] work”. It is a logo, a combination of colors, fonts, visual imagery, slogans, design pieces, the presentation of the product you make, and the product you make itself. A brand is who you are and how you want to be known. Where Wal-Mart rolls back prices I “give intellectually stimulating and steamy erotica”. Ask yourself who you want to be, and then ask if you may need a pen name if you want to be too much. You build a brand by making yourself and your product something people can recognize and associate with you. 

As a writer I want to be recognizable, but even more than that I know how frickin hard it can be to find what appeals to you. As I’ve been researching and researching ebook self-publishing I’ve discovered how fucking repetitive advice can be, but I’ve also realized that repetitiveness extends to branding.

comp3
These two are more different than most covers. Some are almost exactly the same position as Twilight.

Mimicry Ain’t Flattery Honey or Anything at All.

In facebook groups I find other authors parroting great advice in the worst ways. In the last several days I’ve looked at seven different self-publishing groups and found dozens of authors of all levels stressing the importance of a book cover. That is great advice! Where can you go wrong? It is the first thing people see. It is supposed to sell a person on what may be inside and if it fails you’ll likely flop. They’re not easy to do. Some cover artists charge upwards of $200 dollars for a cover, which is more than most people like me can ever afford to spend. I’m in my early twenties, working retail part time, doing research work to bolster my resume, and every few weeks I do low cost consulting. I may do a lot, but it doesn’t show in my bank account.

A book cover? That runs too high, but I will pay $60 for an independent artist to do a commission. Plenty of people are in the same boat, and convince themselves they can get by with whatever. I know I tried to do the same thing until I started really researching book covers. I did a little test where I pulled 70 book covers in the genres for each book I was about to release. Then I asked “Which 10 would I buy?”. Most were shit. I’ll be honest. most indie author covers were shit, and when I turned to these groups I saw it without question. I asked what I liked and hated with each cover in my genre and among indie covers it always came down to the author’s branding. What do I mean? If you look at a new product what is it you ask yourself? Does it look like or sound like something I can trust? Does the author logo, the cover, the blurb, all contribute to a feeling of confidence in the consumer. When you make your blog does the layout inspire confidence? Do the images evoke feelings of copy pasting or a well structured choice of images(stock or no) that enriches or ads structure to the page? All of those questions are things we ask without even realizing because we don’t waste our time or money or anything.

Those groups on FB and elsewhere were 110% correct that covers matter.

But the next advice people were giving came down to this little “gem“:
Make your cover, the face of your brand, look like everything else. Don’t copy, but make it look similar, and by similar I mean as close to humanly possible to 40 other books in that genre.

3-2bbook2bcover2bdesign2btips2b-2bbook2bmarketing2b-2bauthor2bbranding2b-2bnook2bpromotion2btips
Good covers, won’t claim they are not, but ,except for two elements, these are paint by numbers.

That trick is as old as time and in a world where a thousand people are launching a venture every day that may be some of the most misguided advice I’ve ever heard. Maybe I’ll change my mind once I have a few books online, but the fact is you can pull basic design elements that you believe work…but how many paranormal romance stories with shirtless men, pendants, and tramp stamps do we fucking need?

More importantly what good is paying that $200 for cover or even the $60 for an illustration to edit into a cover if it ends up looking indistinguishable from the crowd. If nothing is is making your book stand out how can anyone notice it? Stock imagery makes creating ebook covers, art for presentations, website pages, etc. incredibly easy. There is nothing wrong with using stock, pulling common elements, or using another piece for reference. Certain elements wouldn’t be used if they didn’t catch a viewer or reader’s interest.

However, by not adding anything unique you dismantle your branding. The picture of Winter and Twilight evoke similar imagery, but even those two differ in font size, placement, and use of color enough to simply say “We’re both aimed at this audience”. But so many covers go farther like the paranormal romances above. With nothing new you make yourself look like every other person out there. To those who may not be into anime they all look the same, but to fans? Those who care about quality know the signifiers of copy pasted poop.. Even if you make a quality product, a fascinating story of humanity in animated form…if it looks like generic anime(and it is unintentional) it will be lost among the masses. I’ve scrolled past a thousand manga, anime, comic books, regular books, VHS, DVDs, video games, novels, short stories, and other things because nothing about it stood out.

But don’t think I’m just talking about covers because this applies to every step of producing a product!

It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about book covers, animation styles, burgers, printing services, or vapes….If. Your. Brand. Is. Generic. No one will buy it, and if they do it won’t be in the sales you need unless your product really gets attention. Even if you give it away, you will severely cut yourself off at the foot. You can’t just be a cheap knock off of Nicholas Sparks or Stephen King. You can be influenced by them, you can do a take on a concept from them (loosely), you can be compared to them, etc. etc. But don’t sacrifice originality or uniqueness in the hopes that someone will go “I’ll just read this one”. If you blend in with the crowd you may end up with a group of adamant fans, but more likely then not you’ll still be standing against the wall with your 4 fans instead of in the center of the room drawing more people to your wit and intellect. There’s nothing wrong with being against that wall, but if you don’t want to be there, if you want to sell your product, if you want to grow then you have to attract people with more than copy paste ideas and branding.

Even if your brand is “I do the same thing as Michael Bay…except better”. You’ve made your brand the “better” brand and more “confident brand”. You may do something similar but you aren’t just trying to deceive people like a knock off Transformers movie in Blockbuster. If you do that, r accidentally come across as doing that then no one will trust your name.

transmorfers-transformers-2
One of these is not what I meant to click on Netlfix…

Research, Critique, and for the Love of God get Yourself Together!

Now does this mean you have to go way out there? No. When you’re creating your design, style of presentation, and what not you have to find a balance that makes you comfortable between originality and making it so your audience knows what they’re getting. Very few vampire books should have a cover font of Comic Sans, but it could be done. Your food truck probably doesn’t need to be puke green. You have to understand your market. Not just to sell or get views or what have you. If you keep pushing your videos, blogs, or images without understanding what keywords people search for or terminology used by those in your audience you can easily miss people who would love your work.

More than anything else you have to understand your market in order to understand what you’re making, what defines your product, and then you can really make an excellent brand. It sounds crazy. We all know what we market and we build the brand to that. Well, you are part of the market. If you think people are coming to you for thoughtful advice, when they are coming to you in part because of your tone you could make a mistake by listening to a viewer that critiques you. If you’re writing articles on yoga and clean living when a million others are too what makes you unique? Does your culture, your religion, your background, your style, your energy, and your sense of humor pull people towards you? It seems like a question people hate to ask but it matters. I follow a plus size black yoga guru because in her I see my body potential. She gets my struggles and since I know I will never be small (and never want to be) seeing her gives me knowledge, comfort, and feedback that I don’t get with other yoga bloggers. Does that mean I don’t read or watch anything by anyone else? Not at all, but she has centered herself and her brand around what she knows…her body, her life, and her struggle. That allowed me to connect with her. What allows your clients and audience to connect with you?

unnamed-213
This is original, simple, elegant, and eye grabbing.

So How Do I Put This All Together?

When I began this venture I wrote down several ideas for blog titles, facebook urls, and most importantly decided what I was going to write and why. I needed a basis of who I wanted to be seen as, what I know I do best, and what can I do. You need that too, and below I’ll help you figure that out.

The next step? I began reading and researching. First, I looked at the process other writers had experienced and basic advice columns like “Top 5 tips for indie ebook publishers” (Spoiler there’s like 40 of those). That gave me a knowledge base to move from.

Then I looked at other author’s pages in my genre and took notes on their platforms, layouts,  what I liked, and did not. From that I wrote down what I hated and would never have despite not knowing what I wanted. Then I took pictures and screencaps of what I adored. So far I understand this…I hate romance covers. 80% are just stock art and while they’re fun they don’t fit my style. Now that being said I did pick up themes and traits that would immediately let you know if my book was romance, an erotic romance, fantasy, or drama. More than that I figured out what immediately caught my own eye even in things I hated.
In short I learned not only how individual authors branded themselves, but genre branding. 

Genre branding isn’t just about books, but anything you do. If you work in marketing how do people see your signature? Do you always use pie charts of a particular color scheme? Do you begin presentations in a particular way? Do you always push a particular type of campaign? No matter what you do you have a brand. A brand is just the business equivalent of knowing people. If I’m your friend and you’re walking down the street you’d identify me by my physical “brand”: Tall, black woman, with afro, blue jeans, t-shirt and suave ass jacket walking in a particular manner with a particular energy. You’d be shocked to tap me on the shoulder and find someone else with my exact sense of style, color of hair, or way of walking staring back at you. It can and does happen, but if you really pay attention and take a look the chances of it happening are very slim. Even if that happens you still associate me with that brand. You say “Oh well that woman was like Rosie.”

That is the power of a brand. Dean Koontz is a well known and love author…but he will always be like Stephen King to many people. That’s not bad. In fact that comparison helps his business because it gives a positive measure.

Branding is about a measured uniqueness without compromising yourself. You figure out what works for others or for the type of product your making. As I said I looked at book covers in my genre. I looked at other websites. You figure out what you hate. I can’t stand the overly beautiful people and stock imagery. You figure out what you love. I love an elaborate original image filled with emotion…or a minimalist piece that leaves you intrigued. You then figure out what you want…then cut it down to its barest elements. Then you run with it.

For Example…(Suffer too Good is available on Amazon The Black Hat Society is TBA soon)

suffering-too-goodblack-hat-society-final-w-bun

So What is the Take Away?

Part of the reason it is difficult to give branding advice is because once you get past overt traits you do have to dig into what you simply see as normal about you and what you do. A blogger, even me, can’t help you figure out your most unique or interesting traits without speaking to or knowing you. That is why I’m doing to give you the branding cheat sheet I’ve been using for the last few months.

Here are some things to consider/ask when building your brand:

  1. Why am I doing what I’m doing?
  2. What am I doing that others aren’t doing? (For me I feels it is telling realistic, diverse, and complex stories)
  3. What gap do I want to fill?
  4. What do I want to add to the world, the market, and people’s lives?
  5. What colors do I wish to use with my brand or have associated with me? What colors are common in my product area?
  6. What images do I want to be associated with and what fit my products?
  7. What do I want people to think of when looking at my font? Which fonts are over used? Which fonts are over used in my product sphere?
  8. What makes my product, my stories, so unique? Is it the world? Is it the characters?
  9. What symbols, logo, product, or person have products/presentation/brand that I really love?
  10. Google “worst book covers”(“Worst fonts”, “worst drawings, etc.) and look at the legitimate ones.
  11. Google “best book cover”(“best logo”, “best colors for X”) and look at the legitimate ones.
  12. Read blogs, websites, forums, and facebook groups that focus on your subject and products.

When you go through these questions start asking yourself why you responded how you do. For example hating a particular color or having a protagonist who hates that color could be reason enough to not make the font that color. For any and every reason you can say X or Y, but you best be able to explain it because then you better understand what you feel and how others may interpret your choices, yourself, and first and foremost your brand.

Here is an author who really has some good advice:

Check out this author and learn from their advice. They are realistic, knowledgeable, and have experience in marketing which is very VERY useful.

Until next time…

marvel-comics-retro-love-comic-panel-crying-it-s-all-over

Forgive Me

I put aside your name.
I cast you out in the name of
Love. 
What thing have I done?
What crime have I committed?
A great sin weighs on my soul.
Cast out the name of love in the name of
rhapsodies made in easy weightless bliss.
Cast out the feelings and the spite.
A great heaviness clings to my heart.
What can I do to undo this crime?
What can I do except accept the crimes I committed
Destruction.
I cast you out in the name of weakness for other weakness
I put aside your name.

For K.

(Can you tell I’m a trained Shakespearean actress?)

Motivational Mondays!

Can you believe in yourself while acknowledging your limitations? I think a lot of people assert that you cannot when the reality is, so long as we are fair and compassionate to ourselves, we truly can. We often forget to be kind to ourselves because we notice our flaws more than we ever realize. We must accept critique with grace, but remember to never let those critiques define us or undermine our self-confidence. No one is perfect, and we must not only recognize that, but accept it as part of our reality as we grow as people. It is hard, but the effort is worth it.

#Mondayinspiration#MotivationalMonday #advice #writelife

Excerpt from White Hot Room Draft

 “‘This wasn’t planned’. That wasn’t true. It was planned but Lita never imagined it could go this far.”

 Offered a chance to explore her deepest and darkest fantasies with her most trusted friend, the confident and handsome if somewhat unpredictable Jon, Lita finds herself submitting to things she could never imagine. However a world of self-consciousness has held her back for so long that going through with it may be harder than she ever imagined. This only gets harder when she realizes Jon’s love is as intense as his dominant side. Love and lust can be frightening things, but anyone worth their salt knows one is far easier than the other. Will she succumb to her fears of the unknown, or surrender to the wiles of love, passion, and the depths of submission?

A Lita Loves Tale. In fact this is the first of this realistic and sensual series!

The Lita Loves Tales are an erotic fiction series for a mature audience. White Hot Room features rough intimate scenes of bondage, spanking, flogging, curvaceous women, male domination and female submission. The Lita Loves Tales proudly proclaims to be a series with interracial romance and intercourse without any odd racializing found in other stories. Sensual, hot, and tinged with Miss Ruthers desire to capture the complexities of sex and intimacy White Hot Room promises to bring something new to e-readers everywhere.

White Hot Room

One thing was certain about Lita and that was nothing was 100% certain with her. Her father used to tell people that the “2.99% of uncertainty will get you if you aren’t careful”. Though she liked her comfortable life and usual routine, something in her always managed to surprise people…even herself. Still every single inch of her was no better than a pile of nerves in that hallway despite the fact that deep down she yearned for Jon to take her to another level; another level that lined up with odd thoughts that always lurked in her dirty mind and made her feel not just good, but like living fire and also the calmest ocean.  Tonight came as one of those little astonishing circumstances, one of those little moments that fell under the 2.99%. Lita hoped things would go smoothly, but they hadn’t even started and fear glued her in place. So much remained unknown and could only be known by exploration. That gave way to anticipation which meant nerves and hesitation. With every ounce of trepidation that resounded inside her as she looked at Jon there was this grand sort of rush building in her stomach. Nerves. Part of her liked the nerves even as another part of her felt like fleeing. This moment would never come around again. These nerves. These sensations. These thoughts. All of it made for a powerful part of the game they were going to play, and she had to play it. She said she would and she knew if she didn’t she’d regret it for the rest of her life.

Something told her she had to savor everything rolling around inside her, and that meant, in their mutual silence, reminding herself that sex didn’t get them there.

This game always seemed to be about sex, but it was so much more intimate if it was done right. He told her that “I don’t just play with anyone…I can, but it’s not the same, but I’d like to try with you,” but he didn’t seem to believe she’d say yes that night. There in the hall the joyous look in his eyes remained tempered by the sort of nervousness she’d only seen him have when their friends kept hinting at getting him an ‘epic’ birthday present despite their funds. He didn’t want to get his hopes up and yet…hope was there lurking around in his eyes. Still he remained composed, watching her, meeting her gaze with his own.

“I worried you would choose…not this.” He motioned to himself and then from his back pocket pulled something out. A split second later Jon held up a dangling patent red collar. The glimmer of light reflecting off the shinnying faux leather made her heart skip. “Or this.”

Warm Up #2

Belle by the River

Without her money, her family, her career, or her gifts Belle knew she had one thing that out shined all those trivial matters, and that was her wit. In the hot southern sun men and women toiled, but she and Miss Marie made smarter and less moral choices. They had that luxury, but they did what they could for those who did not. That may not seem very connected to you Yankees, but I can assure you it was. Belle had a way no matter what. She knew how to use what she had even if she had nothing. As Belle walked towards the river’s edge, carrying her umbrella she looked the pinnacle of southern gentry despite her dark skin.

Most white folk kept clear of her outside of Miss Marie’s. It was mostly because they feared her, but they’d never tell you that. Them fearing that tall slight thing with the umbrella? Ha. But it was true, as true as anything else in this story. Belle, in her fancy dress with a parasol in one hand knelt down, put the parasol under her chin then took a handful of river mud and shoved it in a jar she’d been carrying. The fishermen on the banks got chills at the sight. No one understood her magic, but they knew enough.
We all did.

il_570xn-332514381
Available on Etsy from Krystna81. Truly Amazing work support #smallbusiness @https://www.etsy.com/listing/98608714/oil-portrait-art-of-african-american

Why Self-Publishing Marketing hits a snag (Part One)

Riddle me this, dear reader, how many articles on publishing e-books have you read that actually give specific advice? I have read roughly 50 articles and one and a half books. My rough estimate is about five or six of them actually break down the advice they give. Don’t get me wrong I get why that happens. As a writer you want to give advice that can be applied to numerous situations and ,let’s be real, you want to keep some tricks in your pocket despite wanting others to succeed. However after reading these articles I just have been left with an overwhelming feeling of their own inadequacy. Once again I’m not saying these articles lack all redeeming value. I have found them incredibly helpful in my self-publishing journey. However they say to “market” and that “marketing” includes email lists, blogging, facebooking, and joining forums. Now that last one I think is the easiest for me, as a techie, who joined her first forum as a young teen to understand. However I just gave you the sum total of what 90% of those articles I’ve read advocate. The rest of those articles are usually all persuasive speeches convincing writers, who notoriously hate marketing as a group, why they should market. When you take out the having to convince people that those things matter. Yeah, it sums it up.

So I’m left with a question, perhaps you’ve thought the same…”How should I and do I do any of those things?” Now, this post is going to focus on blogging from this point on, but I can and will get into those other things in the future. Oh I’m excited for it dear reader.

“Well, What the Hell Do I Blog?”

I often believe that these article authors tell you to blog without specifics in an effort to keep their ideas from influencing you and from becoming too common if their article should become popular. However by not explaining why blogging works beyond “you develop an audience who likes what you do.” you do a disservice to a certain extent. How do you blog as a writer? I do not claim to be an expert, but I can claim to be an avid blog reader and a writer who has been paid for guest blogs and essays.  There is a method to blogging that begins with being Organically You even if you are presenting a particular brand of you.

As a writer you do have to present a brand that has a theme and/or message. That theme can be “Let me take you into my life, so you can understand my books better,” or “Here is a blog about salsa and OH YEAH I wrote a book about it…here it is,” or “I have ideas and thoughts about nerd culture that you may like.”

Startup Stock PhotosSo here you begin. You figure out what blog would best serve you as an author and what you’ll start writing about to begin with. I know that must be confused because I asked what you write about. So I’m going to explain with an example. I write short stories and novels that tend to be very romance centered if they are not romantic or erotic books. So from there I began researching blogs and how blogging works as marketing.

On Marketing.

The trick is you can’t so much marketing. You are producing. Don’t blog forty posts about your book in one week, but do blog about the process of writing, about exciting scenes or character, and about overall joy you find in writing. The key isn’t to market, but to 1) convince people your content has value 2) Producing content that has value 3) Producing content that has value, which then invites people to your priced content by demonstrating value thus convincing those people your priced content is worth it. Your goal is to enjoy yourself personally, but the goal in regards to your career comes down to this formula:

Production= Demonstration +/- quality = Content Value which is <, >, or equal to your persuasion

Or another method of breaking this down:

(Demonstration +/-Quality)= Convincing*Word of mouth = Sales

That gets you to the bottom line. When you understand those things you aren’t “selling out” you are understanding how money, audience, and your writing work together. Sales in that formula can be equal to reads or downloads. It doesn’t matter.

Now what is that content going to be? Well it does vary, but for writers quality content relevant to your subject matter is paramount. I detailed this earlier but here are examples of what writers can blog about:

  • How to write
  • Their writing process
  • How to get through writers block
  • How their personal life impacts writing
  • Reviews of other stories/books
  • Short stories
  • Serials not suited for publishing (which can eventually be gathered into a book)
  • Writing with family and other obligations
  • Prompts, writing challenges, etc.
  • Story boarding
  • Politics can even work if you’re willing to go there and tread carefully

That list is my reference, but I will tell you it is no where near all I will and can blog (or have blogged on not defunct blogging sites.). Within every single one of these categories I can list three to five specific articles I plan to produce here. You are a clever person, and you will no doubt be able to build on this list and go beyond it.

 

mayawriting
Idols like Maya are also RL Goals.

 

**I carry a little notebook with me and I often jot down blog ideas, titles, or prompts that would add to this blog. Sometimes I’ll give some of them away to interested friends or people I feel would be better suited to write**

On Blogging Personal Life Details.

Plenty of articles say blogging or making statuses about your life is unprofessional, but that depends on what you write and your relationship with your audience. I know very successful writers who blog politically all the time. I know others who blogged politically and half their audience dropped. Same thing happened with blogging about their kids. It really varies. My belief is that you have to set limits in regards to how much you blog about your life, when you blog about your life, what events will make you blog about your life, and if blogging about your life is helping to build your persona and/or demonstrate to the world who you are. Blog honestly, in moderation unless you are consistently putting out twenty articles of content or five photo albums of content (read VALUABLE content) a day. I’m not an overtly open writer. I am very private. I live quietly. But I will tell you sexual interests OR what is outside of my sexual and how I use them to inform my story because that is part of my writing process and I want to give you an inside peek. You do have to draw a line about how much of your life is open to the public and how much the public wants to know. You will only know that by taking yourself seriously as a blogger and putting yourself in the shoes of your readers.

All this being said you can and should vary your content a bit, but make sure your readers know what to expect. I had a tumblr for a bit, and the problem with tumblr is that it is too much, too entertaining, and it becomes very easy for even diligent tumblrites to begin sharing things beyond the scope of what their blog originally focused on. One artist I used to follow got into an argument with a good friend of mine over child rearing. That artist, whom my friend still vaguely respects but not vice versa, lost 40% of her followers. Not because some of those followers didn’t agree with her, but because they didn’t follower her for her feelings on raising kids and quite frankly they didn’t like how she responded to my friend. My friend, as a result, got a ton of “pity follows” that turned into 100 or so real follows because she began reblogging other artists in place of the one who bad mouthed her. One stuck to a theme and the other stuck to a theme…but less so. That friend ultimately began reblogging a bit too much and lost 60 followers. You should never be afraid to be forward and honest.

You should be aware of how people can react to what you say, do, and reveal about yourself. That isn’t political correctness or paranoia. That is being smart.

The internet is fickle as hell, but the reason is because people are inundate with constant information. We all have to pick and choose what does and doesn’t irritate you. Your best bet is to be consistent, however don’t be afraid of changing things up, inform your readers if your expanding your subject matter, REACH OUT to those readers for input, and then listen to what is happening in response to new content.

As bloggers we have to give interesting content from perspectives that feel honest, content that hooks a reader, content that offers insight, content that presents the person we want people to know, and we as writers can’t just tell each other to go blog. Blogging is hard. Coming up with regular content is hard.

djc58e1hwsr4pqwofwyi
Always brainstorm. Ideas are just a word away.

That is why I’m offering this…if you want help figuring out how to blog then message me, leave a comment, or shoot me an email. I will be your brain storming buddy. I will be your extra set of eyes. Every single writer needs that, and though I’m doing this journey alone I want to help others feel a bit less so. This is just one article, unproofed, unedited, because I want you to see me for who and how I am in regards to this subject because I am not perfect. I am not the best blogger. I am not the most articulate person. However, I am a friend if you will let me be one. This article isn’t the last on this subject, and it isn’t the last response to other articles on how to market. This article is merely one in a series. It may not be every day, but there will be more.

 

Disconnected from Happily Ever After? Are Fairy Tale Endings Too Out of this World

For a long time there has been debate about what makes a book fit into the romance genre, and a large part of that has been predicated on the idea of happy endings. This has always fascinated me because I do love happy endings, but I find myself struggling with them as I’ve gotten older. I don’t think I’m alone. In my lifetime I have participated in over ten different workshops for writing in all genres, and in my recent observations of what people write and enjoy there is something happening. As a social scientist and part-time psychologist I have begun to notice that ,on average, happy endings seem more acceptable and believable to older members of a workshop. However people who would be classified as Millennials (or perhaps more broadly people younger than 33) tend to give more critical opinions on stories that are tied up with a neat little bow. Oddly enough millennials can readily defend and understand why those endings happen, and generally speaking they do defend them (unless a person is a stereotypical ThatGuyinYourMFA type). There can be debate, understanding, and even agreement on the ending. However the reaction from those under 33 tends to be one of disenchantment. It is as though the happy ending just doesn’t convince those readers to embrace it, accept it, and believe in it no matter how they love it. I can’t help but wonder if there is a change in our perception of happy endings based on how we see our own potential happy ending and that of those we relate to. If so then this can’t be ignored. b7c92d1ae2a844883ffca09e53f1695b_xl

My theory is that happy endings do feel false to a lot of people who went through and were affected by the recession and the economic downturns of the last 15 years  in the U.S. Much like the Great Depression the affects of going from relative stability, even immense wealth, to instability leave lingering affects. Younger people have a deeper skepticism of capitalism, and in much the same way after the Great Depression many young adults redefined capitalism(because they assumed socialism was bad) or drifted towards socialism in order to get worker protections. Whether it was unionizing, demanding fair work hours, or demanding better pay and insurance these ideas became accepted as common place in many minds. The national perspective accepted ideas that ensured stability even if they were considered “red” by redefining them as simply worker rights, status quo. Regardless of how you feel about that the fact is people changed. Death of a Salesman is an American play that reflects a lot of those changes. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof does just about the same in different ways. These aren’t just plays, they reflect the life and times of their author and thus the world. Why? When society experiences a trauma, or perhaps a general wide spread disappointment, it manifests in what we make. As authors we should be aware of how it manifests in how we, and others read.

1473171307-2
This is pretty much the mindset I think a lot of people my age have at the moment

What manifests in our response to love stories, to happy endings, and everything being tied up in a neat little bow may be our disbelief in that being possible anymore. My mother moved out on her own at 19 and got a job. She got a soundproof apartment, a car in her mid twenties(she lived in a city so didn’t really need one), took regular vacations, and had a large group of friends who did the same with ease. That isn’t possible anymore unless you get a great job and/or come from a family where you have high inheritance(parents can help pay bills, buy you a car, keep you on insurance, buy your kids clothes, can watch your kids, etc.).

The world we are moving through and the experiences we have disconnects us from characters who may be 25 with a sprawling one bedroom loft, working as an assistant to a CEO, who then meets the perfect man. She’s never had to really worry about rent. Chances are she’s never had to worry about much of anything beyond her personal relationships. I can’t even buy myself a car, so how much can I believe in love always winning? How much of a positive response can I give you in our writing workshop when I’m a barista with a degree in clinical psychology? With all those things how can I respond to your book without a voice going ‘That’s just not possible anymore. Its not realistic and I don’t believe it’? As writers this may very well be what we’re fighting and it isn’t the readers being self-centered. This mindset is about the readers believing in your story and the possibilities within. If they do not they will question it, not with the knowing and loving laugh many women have given romance books for generations, but with world weary and jaded skepticism.

book-covers-teen-fiction-popular
“Geeky” and “Nerdy” books are as popular as ever maybe there’s a reason.

It isn’t that millennials have gotten weak or weaker than people in the past. Every single person in every generation thought that about the next generation. You and your parents aren’t unique if you’re rolling your eyes at this article. That whole reaction serves evolution. If you think a bit less of youngsters then it encourages you to do everything you can to help them move forward and get stronger. Unfortunately, people use this excuse to get upset over the fact that young people are sick of pretending everything is fine all the time. We care less about decorum, formality, and more about facts, honesty regardless of consequence(not inherently good), and wanting to change the status quo. It isn’t that more people have anxiety per se. No, we probably have the exact same levels of anxiety post-depression young people had combined with national war fatigue. Why do you think so many people are invested in what was once considered nerd crap? It is all escapism. In fact I suspect that many of the stories that ended happily that my peers call unrelatable wouldn’t get that comment if they were transported to the future or an Adventure Time like landscape. In a world of super humans a well executed story of love triumphing no matter what may just be believable because happy endings may just be super natural to us normal humans in a world of divorce.

Let’s Get Real

1382764781432944787Books provide a level of escapism, but there caveats. There may be a stipulation that things don’t feel ‘real’ once you turn your brain on, and that’s what all authors should want because if I think about your book I’m going to talk about your book. What do I mean by feel ‘real’? Well, I mean your story doesn’t always feel relatable even if the story was over all satisfying. Even if your goal is to put up a bit of wall, or dabble in the surreal there has to be a certain level of penetrability in your book. For romance stories it 100% has to be there.

From home ownership to student loans there is a sense of immobility in my generation that is often baffling to those who are outside of my generation. While some people feel we need to go back to a mythical golden age others simply have stopped believing that doing your best and being good enough means anything. Truth is my generation followed every step we were told. We finished school in record rates, went to college in record rates, and then found ourselves underemployed and called lazy whiners for asking why. We’re disenchanted.

Are Young People Just Jaded?

It is possible that younger people overall are more drawn to angst or cynicism? Truthfully, I believe that is the case. As you become more of an adult you realize, if you have lived a relatively stable life, that the adults around you don’t know everything, can lie, and are just trying to live their lives as best they can.That is very jarring and before you accept that you begin to question and distrust everything people told you to be true. However that doesn’t explain how dramatic the difference  from what I can see. Essentially you realize adults are people and change is inevitable. So sad endings, angst, ambiguity, and stories that end with melancholy become more relatable as you navigate the world. They become expected and relatable resulting with you connecting with those stories.

telegraph-guy
A real photo of the writing process.

The Importance of Telegraphing Your Love

One of the most important things to do in writing is telegraphing. You have to subtly and carefully telegraph the happy ending and fluffy side of stories ahead of time. The possibility of the theory that young people have pulled away from romantic happy endings due to experiencing the recession, loan debt, educational shifts, and current economic shifts being true makes subtly telegraphing your stories possible directions even more important.

I will be the first to say that I could be completely wrong in suggesting a feeling of disconnect exists between one generation and the concept of happy endings. Maybe the response from people my age is how we respond to different character relationships in different stories. I’ve heard from different writers that some people respond AGGRESSIVELY to characters not getting together. That isn’t an age restricted thing because when a story doesn’t do what you believed it would or doesn’t do it well the story doesn’t feel successful to you. As writers we have to do everything we can to make sure as many people as possible find our stories successful. If it doesn’t work out some people completely decide the book they otherwise adored basically betrayed them. That isn’t something I do, but you can’t deny it is a disappointment.

Sometimes it is because they believe all romance stories should end happily because that is just what the genre does. Sometimes it is because they believe this romance story was moving towards a particular happy ending. I don’t think it is a matter of the author deceiving the reader, but ultimately everything I’ve spoken about is expectations.  People want what they want, and you have to make sure they know they’re going to get, or that their not getting what they want will make sense.

the_graduate_ending_shot_elaine_and_benjamin_on_busPlenty of stories I see in workshops that end happily set the reader up for one or two endings. The thing that always makes or breaks a story is how well an author sets up the conclusion they choose. You can end a story anyway you want, but you damn well better make sure that you make that ending make sense. If two characters commit the ultimate betrayal they can’t just get over it because it is convenient. The ending of The Graduate isn’t a legend because it is sad. It works because it understands expectations, and ends the romance with the reality the film built towards: “How can this story end happily?” you wonder throughout the film, and the director nods and says “It can’t. Not really”.

How Do Expectations Work?

The trick is that expectations don’t just start with a book, but with the author and the world they live in. How many times have you assumed an character was the same gender as the author? How many times have you avoided an erotica novel by a man? All of those things affect our expectations. Numerous times I’ve been told by non-black people that my characters didn’t seem black or that they didn’t realize a character was black because they broke expectations. That is my intention, but when something like that happens with the plot we have to understand why. What expectations are people bringing to our stories, to your stories? How can you begin using those expectations and subverting them?

9780385322133
This book broke my heart and made it worth while

Caroline B. Cooney’s Janey Series has a long woven love story throughout, and **SPOILER** in the third book(I believe), The Voice On the Radio, the protagonist’s love interest betrays her trust by taking the intimate details of her life and using them for fodder on his college radio show. The core of this is also that she expects people to know that being separated from a partner due to college is added stress to a relationship. It isn’t out of character for him, we have that expectation, and their relationship came about and flourished under stress but ,now, her life is consumed by that stress. The themes of the series are about the angst, the lies people tell young people, and deceptions we make ourselves believe. So when we get to book three his turn is well telegraphed, and not unexpected. So you don’t necessarily begin to root for their relationship to work out. After all the actions they take constantly keep you from believing a full fledged happy ending is possible. The reason this book still works over a decade later is that it like many well loved stories builds an expectation…and concludes the lover story on neutral ground. What keeps this love story from becoming the romance book of the series isn’t the greater mystery elements, but those expectations .

Idolizing Love as an Alternative to Reality.

fantasy_escapismNow, I do think feeling social, economic, political, or basic life pressure can in some circumstances spark a very strong gravitation towards happy endings and ideals. When you examine rap lyrics from different eras you find a glorification of an ideal life style. Violence isn’t just tied to feelings of alienation and telling where people came from. Just as often violence isn’t itself the object of admiration. What is the subject of admiration is power and freedom which is paralleled in the sound and lyrics of heavy metal. The often superficial notions of money(not wealth), cars(not quality), women(not relationships), loyalty and acceptance reflect a strong desire for an ideal. When we look at romance novels, films, and even poetry we often see an idealize state and narrative. The latter is that “Love conquers all, all we need is love, and when we have each other we have everything” and the state is “Happily Ever After”. In the black community there is a strong gravitation towards romance novels because they promise us a look at Black people being in love, and living that narrative. People often don’t realize that until fairly recently black people holding hands inspired thoughts of sex, sin, and immorality, because we were, and to a certain extent still are, interpreted as hyper sexual. In part because of that the idea of a loving black relationship, especially due to welfare reforms in the ’70s that essentially pushed black men out of the household, isn’t seen as normal on its own. Reading those stories provides a look into hope, into vicariously living through characters we come to love in situations that are far more interesting and dramatic then our every day lives.

So What Does This Mean?

I don’t know. I really wish I did. At the moment my feeling is that we’re between a rock and a hard place. Escapism and happily ever afters will always draw people in. I’m not saying those things are going to go away, in fact they may become more prominent, but how your readers interpret and respond to those things may happen in ways we can only begin to expect and understand. Those are things we have to think about. Things that may affect the entire meaning of what we write. As I said I don’t claim this to be 100% the truth nor the truth for everyone everywhere, but my experiences in workshop, my own life, and that of those around me lead me to these conclusions. When we write romance we should keep this in mind regardless of the genre because not only does this impact our writing, but it does say something about where an entire generation of people are emotionally and how they may perceive the world.

Now what do you guys think? **If I made any editing errors please politely inform me. I only got one set of eyes…two with my glasses. Have a great one readers!

Writing Your Knots Too Tight, or “more on why joy isn’t in literature”

Why do so many people disparage happy endings as a general concept? Why is it such a cardinal sin for romances to end happily and why do so many writers think their hipster protagnoist passing out in a gutter is so much more valid? Well no one seems to be asking, “What the hell does this story actually need?”…more importantly What’s the problem with tying up your story’s end too tight? Isn’t happiness a good thing?

There is such a thing as a story tying up way too nicely with too happy an ending. 400 pages of struggles suddenly skips a few months and everything is resolved somehow (I’m looking at you Jennifer Weiner’s In Her Shoes. I do love her though). Everything works out in the best possible manner for everyone and “All’s well that ends well”. Trouble is we know that isn’t how life works, and you know not every story calls for a happy ending even if you love it. When things get tied up too neatly you get three responses people either embrace the sappiness for pure satisfaction, raise a brow but accept it, or respond with full on eye rolls followed by questioning your writer cred. While other writers have mentioned getting negative reactions for not making happy endings, this post is going to focus on the other side because for some reason tidy endings come across as more scrutinized. I don’t think any of these reactions are wrong, but I do think the validity of negative responses hinges on one thing beyond personal taste: There gets a point where the book doesn’t support a happy ending. Sometimes a book doesn’t actually build towards one. Sometimes you get half way and the last arch of the story is obviously hastily put together. You can’t help but feel like you didn’t get your money’s worth or,if you’re kind, you just wish it were better.

h2-tie-a-bow-09
Most romances want to be this neatly done from start to finish, but most aren’t otherwise they wouldn’t be interesting. 

When the whole story is perfectly tied up in a neat little package and has a nice little bow that is one thing, but when the package is all lumpy that bow won’t really fit especially if its two small for the package you made. Your story has to support its end, and for all the well loved and consumed romance novels in the world…very few of them actually do this.

 

Let’s Get Serious?

drkwg
Any chance to use Darkwing Duck I will take with GREAT joy.

So why do people roll their eyes at romantic happy endings? It isn’t just them being sappy if that was the case then most people would move on and not feel the need to drag story endings. If that was the case romance wouldn’t necessarily be treated like the genre of the brain dead. For some reason happy endings make people feel like the author just isn’t being authentic or just hasn’t really written anything of note. Of course this gleefully ignores 90% of beloved literature has romance plots regardless of if that is an intense center focus aspect of the story. So why? Aren’t literature and book geeks smarter than this?

No. Not really….ok I’m half joking.

I mentioned this in a previous post (Disconnected from Happily Ever After?) but it is  relevant to romance, and any literature aimed at women. There I talked about the outside pressures affecting endings, but long before economic  shifts people rolled their eyes at happy endings and balked at the stories with them being more than entertainment. The distaste for happy endings can be tied to the view of woman orientated literature as being of lesser importance  because that literature tends to focus on relationships and “frivolous” things. Men are traditionally considered more “logical”, action driven, and less people orientated. It’s all biased thinking though differences across averages suggest relatively minor differences in relationship building and gendered responses to them.Mostly women are socialized to be more focused on relationships(all kinds). We also get called over emotional, etc. etc. Male focused stories and authors are assumed to write about less “frivolous” more serious happenings and female focused stories are assumed to be shameless author inserts with a lack of imagination and over emotional style. As a result stories with a heavy focus on dramatic relationship elements, especially if they’re by women, usually get side eye for not being “real literature” by old fuddy duddies of all genders.

“The romance genre”, a dusty professor assumes,”does nothing except offer entertainment instead of intellectual thought.”

8-animal-house
“Now let’s talk about this book I love because it amuses me even though it bores all my students every year…”

Bullshit, of course, but it tends to be taken as true. Ignore the fact that romances allow women the ability to explore romantic and sexual journey’s we’re often told we shouldn’t or can’t  have. Regardless of gender they can reflect ideas of how you can conduct a good(or bad) relationship, offering riveting story lines, and make you feel a thousand different emotions, etc. However, the tendency for romantic stories to result in happy endings often leads people to conclude those endings can’t be taken seriously. They’re automatically frivolous, unrealistic, and idle feminine wishes. “Mary-Sues, self-inserts, reflections of fantastical, petty, and female selfishness , and not the huMAN condition, blah blah blah more bull shit blah.”

Serious is not synonymous with realistic, but we often use those words interchangeably when talking about writing. That itself probably is a reflection of gendered thinking that we should get out of. The serious isn’t frivolous, and so the serious is realistic. Its a bit of a leap, but it seemingly follows. You can have a happy ending but it is strongly tied to the romance, the female, genre. It isn’t real…just a day dream for bored housewives.

tumblr_inline_ncmzlyjxb31rkqtlkMeanwhile proponents with good reason often defend the value of entertainment, the benefits I indicated, and assert that having a sad or neutral or even ambiguous ending just for the sake of it is really a reflection of ego and faux “depth”. They question the fundamental assumptions of traditional literature and undermine their premises. In a way Jennifer Weiner, who talks about this often, is kind of punk rock for doing that as are those on that side of the argument. Plenty of writing classes are filled with faux depth and assertions that the Tom ending up drunk in a hotel room is far more “real” and human then Betty getting happily married. Its such a troupe the “edge lord” and MFA hipster novelist are often joked about in inner circles. Hell check this out twitter. The joke is real and for a reason. Let’s be real every generation has people, usually men, like that who then in turn have dictated what stories and story elements have value. Luckily people of all genders are calling the BS out for its shallowness. Still with that out of the way we’re left with one thing…

Both sides of the argument often focus on the concept of endings ,for any story, as having to be neutral, happy, or sad instead of endings fitting individual stories.

We say the ending is bad, but we don’t go back and understand why. If you don’t understand why you can’t write better next time, you can’t learn from someone else’s failings, and really you end up making blanket statements about the concept of endings without story context.No ending is inherently good or bad, but if things are put together too neatly then you end up in a weird place

4f5dd4e8f00059df888476866ee5d8e6-1000x669x1
Isn’t it cute how our families tricked us into loving each other again despite any real relationship problems we had?

Nothing sparks more eye rolls than Shakespeare. A beloved male author whose stories are prototypical “wrap it up in a giant red bow” stories when they aren’t tragedies. Still he was considered a masterful play write whose works are held up as a standard of writing and reading. However that doesn’t necessarily mean he goes unchecked by those unimpressed by old Willy S’s rep. As a trained actress who has surrounded herself with people interested in his works and other actors who participates in performances of them there is a general consensus regardless of age  or gender that the stories tie up ridiculously neatly. I can still remember reading and watching Much Ado About Nothing in high school. Kids of all races, classes, and background collectively rolled their eyes and almost every response to the story my teacher got from the most to the least interested student was about how “ridiculous everything falling into place seemed”. Once again the problem was that when the story breaks down the pretty language, which was foreign to many, couldn’t convince them the story was good. Willy didn’t convince them, and those who plop on happy endings instead of crafting them will end up being just as unconvincing.

When you get past the Willy worshipers ,who are usually the same people suggesting happy endings don’t really belong in literature and romance stories are rarely is ever literature, you find a ton of people who think his works are too neat.

At the end of the day Much Ado has two characters who have come to hate each other, who are manipulated, a scheme by an angry prince to dispose his brother, a grave misunderstanding created out of pure spite on an issue that to this day can end with girls being pushed out into the streets, more deception, and then…everything works out. You can’t really write Much Ado to sell in 2016 unless you’re actually working on a version of Much Ado. The sudden solution to everything appearing like an angel from heaven doesn’t impress readers who are inundated by narratives and have literally millions to choose from. For the rare few they can weave gold with  a single word, make doves cry, and the skies weep! Then there’s the rest of us who do the best we can.

Write What The Story Needs Not just What You Want!

If you’re crafting a narrative you build a base where the audience understands your characters like you want, where the plot flows like it needs to, and where you are without question writing what the story demands. I say that last part to you a lot. You are writing a story in your head and it is yours, but that story still can make demands. You can break convention, but you must do so artfully where it seems like your intention. That’s why people say don’t break the rules until you understand them because otherwise your audience can’t separate mistake from intentional action.

cindy43_zps33a1709a
This is what your forced happiness feels like.

My problem with In Her Shoes is that the happy ending is there because the author wants it there. She forces that metaphorical shoe to fit at the end when she, the reader, and the characters haven’t actually earned it yet. Without earning it there is no tangible satisfaction. It comes out of left field. It comes with little preparation. It comes like someone threw a puppy into your house. You might want it, but shit that’s not only inconsiderate but unsatisfying because (the puppy’s fine) BUT YOUR DAMN WINDOW IS JACKED AS FUCK. But you got a puppy that makes you feel warm inside, so shouldn’t you be happy. Maybe. Not if it isn’t a puppy you did not want, did not ask for, were never prepared to take care of, were never prepared to get, or it just doesn’t fit with anything that is going on in relation to how you get that puppy(a puppy doesn’t fix a broken window).

If you establish a world of terror, characters with a thousand different problems, and a tone that just does not serve to make your readers believe a pleasant solution is possible than your happy ending won’t feel real. Your story can telegraph happiness and still feel real, but it can’t ,without any warning, do a 180 at the end so almost every single problem gets solved. Your book may be excellent, well written, perfectly proofread, and almost perfectly well executed until the ending. What the reader will remember is the dissonance of that random ending. They will remember it not making sense that all of a sudden everything fits together so each heart break is forgiven, every couple is happy, death is mourned the forgotten, new jobs are destiny, old jobs are saved, and peace is restored. Most of all they will remember none of it ending as it really should as established by how you wrote the story. If you establish sadness without establishing hope and resolution then your writing will feel like you couldn’t bear to end the story on a less sad ending. When that happens the feeling your story gives off is one that makes the end see thoughtful, inauthentic to the rest of the story, perhaps rushed, and most of all completely out of place. Worse is that some people will question your skill as an author. Truth be told I haven’t looked at another Lauren Beuke story after Zoo City because the last half was…unsatisfactory to say the least. I may pick up another book and try again, but what I remember is the ending. This goes to show the importance of establishing your story in a way that feels correct to your audience.

notwhatiwanted-3-1024x480
Your review page if you don’t craft your story well…ok even if you do chances are you’ll get one or two of these but not a downpour.

I’m not advocating for the idea that you can’t choose anything. We’re writing after all. In fact what I’m saying is you do have a choice based on the obligation you’ve made to tell the story. You can choose to tell it one way, to add certain elements or subtract others. You dictate the story, so you have to dictate it correctly so the audience grasps not exactly how it is going to end, but the possibilities of that ending. At the end of the day that is the problem audiences tend to have with endings once you get past the emotional response. They just didn’t believe how the movie ended. They couldn’t resolve the dissonance between the rest of the story and what a writer established and the way the story ended with everything being tied up neatly. Things were shit 30 minutes ago in the movie. Two issues ago these characters weren’t even talking to each other anymore. Over the last 260 pages we watched the main character’s lives nearly crumble, be belt back up again, and then fall apart in a way more severe than what happened at the movies start. How is it in the last 15 minutes, last seven pages, last ten pages that everything is ,not just resolved, but fixed?

It is one thing to leave the reality of exactly how the sausage is made out of the kitchen and just serve sausage, but it is another to start making the sausage and end up serving everyone a nice Caesar salad. 

healthy-italian-sausage-pepper-salad-final
If you’re going to give both you better make sure they look right on the plate and taste good 

You need to write what you love and what you believe the story should be. I’ll never tell you any different, but you need to always ask yourself if any of that relates to the story your actually writing. If the ending of your story gets tied up at the end with complete happiness for the main characters when you’ve set up a story of constant heartbreak without much in the way of hope or possibility than the neat little bow on that boxed Caesar salad of an ending is lopsided…and you haven’t given anyone anything they really want to sink their teeth into. And when you do that the audience may decide to sink their teeth into you instead.