Monday, December 26, 2011

Unexpected Christmas Joys

It's Boxing Day here in Canada, which means a chance to recover from the copious amounts of food consumed yesterday, and to enjoy all of one's new presents. 

In a surprising twist, one of my most engaging presents this year came from an uncle & aunt who normally send generic gift cards. On the other hand, perhaps it's that I am easily engrossed in open ended puzzle type activities, and therefore enjoy the rare earth magnet 'buckyballs' they sent as presents.

But the most meaningful present I received this year was a Staples gift card from my mom. Yes, you heard that right : my mother got me a gift card to an office supply store, and I am ecstatic about it. 

As you probably know If you've read much of this blog, I am an aspiring author. As such, I keep a notebook and pen on me near constantly, and use them a lot during class. And while notebooks and purple ink pens (the most creative kind!) don't exactly break the bank, the costs do add up, and I fund it all myself. 

Compare this to my sisters hobby - shopping - where my dad and stepmom regularly take her on sprees for no particular reason. For reasons I won't go into here, me asking for a similar handout from them isn't a feasible option, and I've expressed my sadness over this state of affairs to my mother in the past. To know that she listened, understood, and is trying to make it right means the world to me.

While I received some neat gifts at my dad's house, none of them came close to matching that feeling. Still, being back here after nearly four months of semi-estrangent hasn't been as bad as I thought it would be, and I'm really enjoying spending the time with my grandfather, even if he doesn't remember it from one hour to the next. Despite his memory issues, he has no trouble kicking my butt at ping-pong.

This Christmas, I am thankful for my mother's kindness, my grandfather's sense of humour and the snow that finally arrived. Over the rest of break, I am looking forward to spending time with friends, going cross-country skiing, and catching up on sleep. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good life :)

Monday, December 19, 2011

My New Obsession: The Book of Mormon

No, not the actual religious text, but the Broadway musical by the creators of South Park. I turned on the car stereo Friday night and “All-American Prophet” came on at full blast. I was flabbergasted - a total WTF moment - but then I was intrigued. Trust me, if you ever turn on a car stereo that is always set CBC and hear instead an epic song that starts talking about digging in your backyard, golden plates & angels, you will also be supremely confused.
But I was also in love. I got home and immediately starting listening to the songs on YouTube. I discovered a lot of crude language and crass humour, but there was so much more to the show than that. The show is a huge parody of both religion and Broadway musicals, but the former is sweet - Matt Stone called the show “an atheist's love letter to religion” - and the latter is more of an homage.
Basically, The Book of Mormon’s point is that religion is at it’s best when it is local, community-oriented, and not taken too seriously. In terms of former Broadway musicals, for me the two most obvious take-offs are “Hasa Diga Ebowai” and “You And Me (But Mostly Me)”. Have a listen and see if you can guess what songs they were inspired by.

In other news, I heard “the Kijiji snowblower ad guy” on the radio early in the week, with the exciting news that because of his Kijiji ad, he’s gotten freelance work and more recently a legit job offer. He’s some sort of accountant type in his day job, and hearing about his random success reminded me that giving up on your writing dreams is foolish, no matter how foolish you think the dreams themselves are.
“You are the only one in the world who can kill your dream.” — Jim Butcher. That’s my desktop background right now, because for writers at least, it’s absolutely true.
Harkening back all the way to last week…. remember all those critiques I was so excited about? Well, some of them have come back, and it kinda sucked reading them. I knew my story had issues, but having them all laid bare like that was not fun. It’s good for me, and good for my story, since now I have a direction for revision, but it was certainly unpleasant.
On the bright side of writing this week, I did pseudo-finish another story of mine. I had a sparse plot outline, but instead of writing through from A-Z and ending up with all sorts of extraneous crap, I decided to approach the writing in a totally new way. I wrote whatever scene I felt like writing, in whatever order was most convenient, and skipped the boring bits. I now have all the important scenes written, and can fill in the blanks without being held back by useless filler.
Before I go back to my useless French homework, in case you didn’t already realize, I’ll reveal that “Hasa Diga Ebowai” is a parody of “Hakuna Matata” from The Lion King and that “You And Me (But Mostly Me)” draws heavily from lots of Wicked’s song in terms of musical and melodic motifs.
Off to listen to it some more… goodnight all.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Why you should read my book!

Reason #1: Lots of other people want to!
Okay, I know that’s not really a good reason, and I’m the last person to ever do something because ‘lots of other people do’ but I couldn’t resist.
A week ago I posted a request for a critique on the NaNoWriMo website. Such requests go in a specific forum, and depending on genre, in a specific thread. There’s lots of people posting and so lots of competition for readers/critiquers. In fact, the mod specifically says not to expect “immediate, enthusiastic response.” And yet that’s exactly what I got.
In one week I received five - count ‘em, five! - requests to read We Who Are About To Die, my NaNo novel from last year. I’m flabbergasted, and so excited to get so much - and such a variety of - feedback.
But it has led me to wonder… Does this mean I write a decent hook, that I could write a decent query? Or is the NaNo site just busy, busy, busy? But people have lives, and if they are asking me to take up their time, it’s because they want to know how the story ends. I can only hope my prose lives up to their expectations.
In any case, other than that super exciting news, I have a few quotes from my life to share with you today. Nothing earth-shakingly hilarious, but I think my sister and my math teacher are hilarious. 

About two years ago, on the insistence of our step-sister, my sister and I both read Evermore, which is basically Twilight without the originality that made Twilight a fun read. (Please don’t hate me for saying that… I know they’re no good. But I had fun reading them.) In the midst of ranting about how much Evermore sucked, my sister summed up one of the supposedly “climactic” moments of the books as follows:
And then she just randomly burst out of the class and everything consumed her so she drank some more vodka.
Yes, that’s the kind of book it was. Don’t read it.

My sister also likes to make comments about a friend of mine who is basically a genius. He also owns a water-resistant green jacket.
(A few nights ago)
Me: [name] would know what I mean
Her: [name] is a robot… or possibly an alien.
(awkward pause)
Her: Well it’s true…
(I start writing all this down)
Her: It is…
(I keep writing)
Her: Oh you’re such a jerk!
(she shuts up to make me stop writing. A few minutes later…)
Her: Well what other explanation do you have for his inhuman smartness… and scaly green jacket!
Tonight, she had a good laugh at my expense:
Her: I had fun decorating the christmas tree last night. Did you?

(a long pause as I continue doing my homework… finally I clue in and remember what she said)

Me: I enjoyed decorating the christmas * tree too.

*Her: That’s nice. (yes, she started talking right in the middle of my sentence)

(I look at her funny, unsure if she was being sarcastic)

Her: I decided to answer early to make up for you answering late.

As for my math teacher, he is a happy, friendly man who grew up in Lebanon during the war. (I don’t know which one, just that they were being bombed all the time.) He started school two years early, and was in university at 15 and a half. Due to a shortage of teachers, anyone in university could teach, and so at 16 he started teaching - classes of 18 year olds!
I really admire this teacher, because he puts as much effort in as he expects us to. And he has an amazing accent and ESL (english as a second language) turn of phrase. I don’t write as many of his words down as I should, since I’m busy learning math, but I do have one:
Why cannot we do that?
I’m going to miss him next semester, but I think I’ll come back if I need help with calculus. He's really a great person and a great teacher and I hope he knows how much I appreciate that.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Easy Part of Writing

When I try and badger my friends (and, I’ll admit, even acquaintances) into doing NaNoWriMo with me, the most common refusal I get goes something like this: “I’m not creative… I don’t know what to write about… I don’t have any good ideas.”
I never really sympathize with them, because for me, ideas are the easy part. They come from everywhere - I couldn’t stop having story ideas if I tried, not even if my life depended on it.
Take last night, for example. I was in bed for the night, knitting while I waited for my brain to slow down, and just letting my mind float. I had read Rampant (by Diana Peterfreund) over the past few days, and my thoughts drifted back to the scene where a man discovers that one if his daughters isn’t. There’s a magical test, that determines if girls are virgins of the right bloodline, and since this young girl is a virgin… the conclusion is obvious.
I felt sorry for the girl, minor character though she was. I hoped her father would tell her she was still the daughter of his heart. I wondered what kind of father wouldn’t - an overly proud one, perhaps? Then a scene came to my mind, unbidden: a man telling someone he raised and loved as his daughter that although she was the daughter of his heart, she was not the daughter of his blood, and that’s what mattered.
I asked myself why would it matter… What if she was supposed to be the man’s heir, and had failed just the bloodline part of her trial? What if she then had to be exiled? I abandoned my knitting and sat up quickly scribble down some notes.
Daughter of my heart, but not of my blood. And in this case it is the blood that matters. Katy has trained her whole life to rule Rivendale after her father (book smarts, etiquette and fighting skills). But to be officially heir, she must pass trials on 20th birthday. The announcement is that she aced everything skills but failed the bloodline test - her mother slept with someone else. Her younger brother will thus be heir if he passes in a few years (looks like dad so no blood doubts).
She offers to marry a cousin with her “dad’s” blood but the code/law is that failures must be exiled from their home estate for 2-5 yrs. She can live there again after, and her dad says she will always be welcome, but they must follow the code for now. He gives her her horse, plenty of food, supplies and money, and she leaves at sunrise the next day. Her father says he will miss her but she might find good use for her time away and find her blood father (since her mother died when she was little so they can’t ask her). Armed with a magical direction finding token (blood calls to blood), Katy sets off to find her true father and find out why her mother slept with him.
I might not end up writing this story, but the idea called to me so strongly that I had to write it down. My ideas come easily, but I have trouble sticking with an idea, and getting the words on paper (NaNoWriMo excepted). I want the words to sound like the story feels in my head, and that’s impossible - at least right away.
I’ve mentioned my story Fire before, and my plans to expand it to novel length. NaNoWriMo delayed me, but I’m going to post chapter 2 in the next couple days. With Fire, my goal now is to stop worrying so much about matching my vision with the reality. If I focus more on simply telling the story, I’ll get stories written, and the flowing prose will come.
Click here to read Fire's second chapter. I hope you like it.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Chancellor’s Award Stress (and a Christmas song!)

 Last Thursday, I got the super exciting news that I was nominated for the Queen’s University Chancellor’s Award, a scholarship worth 36 000$ over four years. At some high schools, being nominated is just a matter of talking to your guidance counsellor, but at my high school, it meant filling out the entire nine page application and competing with 25+ students for two spots.
Understandably, I was over the moon when I got the news - and then almost immediately incredibly stressed. I had to find someone to write me a reference, and then get my OUAC application done. On top of everything else that was looming.
Thankfully my cross-country coach agreed to write me the letter, which I hugely appreciated, since she knows me best out of everyone I considered asking, and the OUAC application was just basic personal info.
Then I did my three hour French exam today, and handed in my lab report, and yesterday I built my spring launcher, so those three things are out of the way… but I still need 5000 words to finish NaNoWriMo, and I should study for the three math tests I have this week. This is, of course, on top of regular schoolwork and other projects and summatives. I’m just glad today is over with. The week has to get better from here!
In any case, tonight I finalized my application, and tomorrow it goes off to Queen’s. Hopefully I receive one of the awards. Engineering tuition is expensive, but 9000$ per year would just about cover it. My mom’s happy about that, but to be honest, I’m more excited about the fact that Chancellor’s Award recipients are automatically guaranteed a single room in residence. Yes, I’m just that introverted and worried about cleanliness. What can I say? I need my space.
Today’s post may not be that interesting to you, whoever you are, but it was seriously therapeutic for me - I was a lot more stressed before I realized how many of these tasks I actually have knocked off since Friday. So thank you, whoever you are, for providing the motivation to write this.
Before I go, I want to recommend a Christmas song, since although the snow we had last week had melted, I am totally in the mood for Christmas music. The song is Christmas At My House, by Jessie Farrell.

Monday, November 21, 2011

When I was in elementary school...

Let me open with a confession: When I sat down to write this post this evening, I had absolutely no idea what it would be about.
In other news, after a 5000 word day yesterday, I’m finally caught up with NaNoWriMo, but at the expense of my homework - and the last thing I want to do right now is study math. That’s not to say I don’t like math, but I’m behind in my studying even though I understand everything we’re doing, and I really ought to be doing that instead of this…
So I guess I’ll just share a few things from my past week. On Saturday two of my friends and I cooked epically for our French class “gastronomie” project. It went wrong in a lot of little ways - par for the course when you’re cooking something for the first time. We realized after simmering the soup for 45 minutes that we should have been adding things in starting at about 20 minutes… oops!
At one point (after the first round of clean-up, while we were waiting for the soup to simmer), my best friend told me about this cross-country skiing coaching/training clinic she had attended that morning. She had been told that boys are more competitive, even in training, so they push themselves to go further, faster etc… whereas girls are more cooperative. They don’t want to leave their fellows behind, or race ahead. In life, that might get the group further, but in training that doesn’t help you in the slightest.
Leaving aside for the moment the question of whether this difference - if it exists at all, which I’m inclined to say it does - is genetic, sociological or some combination of the two…
My first thought was - that’s not me at all! I’m a guy, in yet another respect. And it’s true in a lot of ways. I want to be faster, to show people up, to make them work to catch me. I want to win.
Although on my school cross country teams I’ll stay with the stragglers if we’re doing a warm-up job, that stems from leadership and responsibility (aka not wanting to lose anybody on the run). I agree that perhaps showing leadership that way is more (stereo)typically feminine, but I’m not doing it to make them feel better. And if we’re doing a training run, where speed is important, my training comes first.
But I’ve seen the “girls are cooperative, boys are competitive” mantra played out again and again in every sport I’ve participated in. When I was in elementary school, I tried out to high-jump for the track and field team. One day I had an appointment after school when the girls’ try-out was, and so I went to the boys’ try-out at lunch the next day. Perhaps it was just that I had few close friends trying out, and the “popular girl” and I weren’t on the best of terms, but I enjoyed the boys’ try-out a lot better than I had any of the girls’ ones.
What I liked best about the boys was their lack of fake-niceness. The girls were super encouraging to everyone, but this was a try-out for goodness’ sakes! Everyone in the gym was competing for one of two spots. They would clap after a bad jump, but inside, like me, most of them were thinking “my chances just got better.” (that’s not just me… right?)
At the boys’ try-out, my attitude, the one I’m pretty sure most of the girls had but hid, was evident. Good-natured laughter greeted every fall, and occasional jeers if someone messed up really badly. At the same time, no one laughed at the “challenged” kid when he tried (disclaimer: I don’t know the specifics, but he wasn’t fully there, that’s for sure).
Among the boys, there was a different kind of sports friendliness, one that felt a lot more real to me, and I loved it. In the end, I earned one of the two spots to compete for my school (towering over most of the competition helped) and had a lot of fun at the team practices. But I’ll never forget that feeling of fitting in with the guys… especially since I have rarely had that feeling, before or since. That, however, is a discussion for another day.
For now, back to math. Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Number Two Reason NaNoWriMo Rocks

There are a lot of reasons NaNoWriMo is amazing, from permission to suck on the first draft, to the support you receive from writers around the world.
 In my opinion, the second best reason NaNoWriMo is awesome is the existence and amazingness of the forums. In particular, the Reference Desk forum is always a great source of amusement and inspiration.
A quick check this evening revealed questions about:
    • milking a pregnant goat
    • how long it takes a body to decompose to the point where you can't tell how it died
    • what kind of things in an office building you could shoot with a gun and make explode
    • guy’s first romantic/sexual experiences
    • history’s most epic speeches
Some of the questions are funny, some are serious, some are thought-provoking… all are good ways to procrastinate!
On the NaNo site there are also forums dedicated to specific regions, age groups and genres. I was poking around the Fantasy forum a few days ago and found a thread entitled How Can You Not Know That? (aka Fantasy Terminology We All Take For Granted).
While I laughed my way through the long list, I later realized that every group or micro-culture has it’s own specific terminology, often incomprehensible to anyone else.
Fantasy terms include simple nouns and verbs such as mage, scrying, dryad, selkie, and concepts like true name, the good folk etc… It amazed me to think people wouldn’t know these.
So I decided to conduct the highly scientific test of asking my mom. She knew what a mage was, didn’t have a clue what scrying was, and kinda knew what a score was. Here’s a rough transcript of that last conversation:
Me: “Okay, so do you know what a score is?”
My mom: “Yes, but only because of Lincoln. Twenty years, isn’t it?”
Me: “Twenty anything, actually.”
My mom: “Well, I only know it from the declaration of independence.”
Me: “It’s not the Declaration of Independence Mom!”
My mom: “Well, whatever it was with Lincoln.”
Me: “The Gettysburg address?”
My mom: “Yes, that’s it!”
Me: “I didn’t even grow up in the US! You took American history!”
I am a dual Canadian and American citizen, but having grown up in Canada, I think not knowing the origin of the phrase “four score and seven years ago” would be forgivable. In my mother, a naturalized Canadian who studied Lincoln in school, it’s simply hilarious.
In any case, fantasy is only one of the dialects I can comprehend, and one that among my friends isn’t really that obscure. What they don’t know about, however, are writing and in particular fanfiction terms. I’ll use POV in my note-taking and have to explain it to everyone who sees it. To me, POV reads “point of view.” Likewise, MC is “main character.” Other terms, like slash, het, one-shot, lemon etc… will result in blank stares, followed by my often awkward attempts to explain.
On the other hand, I still don’t fully understand my best friend when she talks about sailing, or another friend when he goes on about biking, so I think it must all even out in the end. As always, I wish you all, whoever you are, a happy week. If you’re doing NaNoWriMo, what are you doing here? Go back to writing right now! Err… I mean, good luck, keep up the good work.
Oh yeah, and the number one reason NaNoWriMo rocks? Because it’s writing a novel in 30 days!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Recommendations from a Busy Wrimo

Have you noticed how nearly all of my blog posts happen just before midnight? No? Well then I’m glad, and kinda wishing I hadn’t pointed it out. Since I have, I might as well offer the time honoured excuse of being a procrastinator.
Which is certainly part of it. But really, it comes down to this: without goals I work poorly, without deadlines, not at all. Which can be a problem, because when the line between important and urgent becomes blurred, and self-imposed deadlines conflict with exterior deadlines, my tidy little plans fall apart.
At least, in the midst of not doing so many things I need to, I am doing well with NaNoWriMo. As of this writing, I have eleven thousand and some words, although still no clue how the main characters are going to stop the bad guys. That's NaNo for you!
Other goals aren’t going so well, like getting eight hours sleep for a week. But remembering that goal does tend to make me sleep more, so it is serving a purpose.
Because I’m too tired from school and NaNo to come up with too much more to say, I’ll end by mentioning a couple of songs I’ve had on repeat over the past few days.
Scarborough Fair, a folk ballad whose opening lines (”Are you going to Scrborough fair?”) you probably recognize. Plenty of different versions have been recorded. This one is by Simon and Garfunkel, from the movie The Graduate. I chose it because it’s 6+ minutes, and it’s convenient not to have to restart it so often. Plus it sounds really cool with all the overlap, although if that’s not your cup of tea there are lots of other simpler versions out there.
If you like Scarborough Fair, there’s a really amazing book called Impossible (by Nancy Werlin) about a girl who has to lift a curse based on the song. I actually read this book by accident, when I was looking for Graceling (by Kristin Cashore). On my library’s website the Graceling cover was shown on Impossible’s page, which was seriously unhelpful. Anyways, both books are really good and I totally recommend you read them.

A Drop in the Ocean, by Ron Pope. I was at a get-together for my high school hockey team on Friday night, and this came on from one girl's iPod, and it just struck me. It’s a really pretty song, and I can relate to a lot of what he’s saying. This isn’t my favourite version, but the recording he made with The District doesn’t seem to be on YouTube.

Wish me luck with the next week of NaNo!

P.S. Did you notice I'm posting this a whole three-quarters of an hour before midnight?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Eve of NaNoWriMo!

     It’s October 31st, and I am so excited I can barely think. Not for candy, like when I was little, or for partying, like so many of my fellow teenagers, but for an event entirely unrelated to Halloween.
Tonight, when the clock strikes midnight, October ends and NaNoWriMo begins! It’s a month long endeavour that challenges writers from around the world to write a 50 000+ word novel in the 30 days of November.
I’ve done NaNo (as we WriMos call it) the past two years, going from a clueless novice to prepared (or perhaps the word is forewarned!) veteran. Recently for a scholarship application, I encountered the following question: “Describe a time you challenged yourself by taking on a task/project you felt was beyond your scope and capability at the time. Why did you do it?” My answer: NaNoWriMo. What follows is my mini-essay on the subject.
I've always loved to make up stories - what kid doesn't? - but the summer before grade ten I took this love to the extreme when I signed up to write a novel in a month.
It's called National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and participants challenge themselves to write 50 000 words in the 30 days of November. I had never before even finished a story outside of school assignments.
Since NaNoWriMo exists in a student's version as well, there's a recommended word count goal for those in grade ten: 10 000 to 25 000 words - less than half the adult goal. But I was determined to reach 50 000 words.
I hadn't realized how busy I would be that fall - running cross-country, and playing hockey and ringette. I rarely arrived home before 5 or 6 o'clock. I was busy and stressed with schoolwork as well, and thinking about NaNoWriMo didn't help.
But something magical happened on November 1st. Suddenly I wasn't an overburdened student anymore - I was a writer, I was a novelist! Cheered on by new friends (fellow novelists) from around the world, I wrote at lunch, in class, when I should have been doing my homework and late into the night. I wouldn't let myself go to bed until I had my daily 1667 words written. I don't remember sleeping so little before or since.
It was a grueling month, but on November 29th, 2009, I finished my first novel. I was incredibly proud of myself, but the strongest feeling was of profound relief: the ordeal was over! But it was too late - I was already addicted. Since that first NaNoWriMo, I have written 3 more novels, and have expanded into scripts, short stories, songs and poems as well. I have even placed well in and won writing contests - locally and internationally. All because I was 'foolish' enough to think I could write a novel in a month.
Tomorrow, the insanity begins yet again, with NaNoWriMo 2011. Not that I know what I’m writing yet…. My original intention was to write a sequel to last year’s NaNoNovel. But We Who Are About To Die was, to be honest, fanfiction of my life. It wasn’t bad (and yes, I have an objective critique to back that up), but this fall I’m in such a different place emotionally that I’m not motivated to follow up with those characters.
So I started looking at other plot bunnies, those gathering dust in the back of my mind. I rejected a coming of age fantasy, a modern day romance with heavy religious overtones, and another fantasy story (Fire) that I’m still working on, but that I want to devote more care to.
I ended up choosing to write a novel based on a single snippet of an idea: that “Code 31” is an unofficial extra code meaning “Not my fucking problem,” but that the main character disagrees with his commanding officer and ends up with responsibility for an injured prisoner. That’s all I started with.
Now, of course, I’ve got more of an outline - well, to be honest, I have more worldbuilding than outlining, and even that is sparse. I do have enough to notice that my world is very much like that of BSG, with founding tribes that are believed to be myths, and advanced technology. But in my world, the ancient tribes’ descendants are alive and kicking, with special (but as yet unspecified) powers.
My preparation for November didn’t include much planning, but I did suspend all my book requests at the library until December 2nd, trying to minimize distractions. And I have all the write-ins marked on my calendar. I’m so ready, so excited!
If I didn’t have an important and very unfinished presentation due tomorrow, I’d stay up all night writing, and screw the exhaustion that would hit a few days later. I’m a novelist, I’m a writer, and I adore NaNoWriMo!!!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Characterization in a Gendered World

Since I seem unable to keep the same emotional state and/or type of relationship with this one particular boy for more than a week or two at a time, I’m going to try and wait a few months before saying another thing about him here. I really don’t think the world needs to hear/read me whine about my personal life.
Instead, I want to rant about “strong female characters.” I was inspired by an OLL (Office of Letters and Light - the people who run NaNoWriMo) blog post about “strong female characters,” which prompted me to find a rant I read a year or two ago on the same topic and post a comment linking to it.
Check out either link, although in particular the latter, for a lot longer and more in-depth look at the topic than I will provide here. To be honest, I’ve left this post too late to write very much. But what it all comes down to is that good characters are well-rounded and developed characters. Gender is just one of their many diverse attributes that combine to make them unique, interesting and flawed. Stereotypes get boring very quickly.
That’s not to say that every female character (or every male character, for that matter) should be totally different from every other character in existence - that’s not even remotely possible. They just need to be believable. An all powerful super-villain needs to have a logical source for his or her power and a good reason for being so evil. By the same token, the bad-ass ninja who takes the villain down needs to have a reason for wanting revenge on said super-villain. A good reason for wanting to, a good reason why they stuck with it, and a good reason why they succeeded - whether the ninja is a man or a woman.
Too many writers forget this all-important fact, and come up with an all male plot, only afterwards adding in a token female character or two. I’m sure every writer has been guilty of that at some point, but it’s not a forgivable sin in a professional, and the problem is most evident in Hollywood movies (and a certain Hollywood-esque genre of book), where the writers are most definitely professionals.
Have you ever heard of the Bechdel test? It’s simple and effective, and a shocking number of movies fail it. The test is composed of three simple questions. Does the movie contain:
-> Two female characters?
-> Who have a real conversation?
-> About something other than men?
I prefer a slight variant on the original test where the women must be named characters, and even then for the movie to truly pass, the named characters should be more than cardboard cutouts. But let’s face it: getting a movie to pass the most basic test in the first place isn’t easy.
It’s not that there are no movies/books/tv shows that pass the Bechdel test. It’s that way too much of the mainstream media we consume unthinkingly on a daily basis fails the test. What kind of message does that send future writers, future leaders, future anybodies? What kind of world is being portrayed?
Before leaving you with that question to ponder, I want to promote one of my favourite characters of all time. Her name Jacky Faber, and she is a well-rounded, flawed and intensely believable character. She’s the main character in the Bloody Jack series, and in the first book (~1800), she joins the Royal Navy disguised as a boy, figuring it’s better than starving or begging on the streets. That’s a solid, real motive that anyone could have.