The Tumblr Post that Started a Debate on Race and Writing

Normally, I’m not one to start an online debate with another blog, but while scrolling through Tumblr a few days ago, I came across this post.

(Credit: www.thewritershelpers.com)
(Credit: www.thewritershelpers.com)

I immediately shared the post with the other contributors here at the blog, and we, along with many other Tumblr users, had a wide range of thoughts regarding this piece of advice.

(Credit: www.thewritershelpers.com)
(Credit: www.thewritershelpers.com)

Before I begin, I think it’s only fair to say that there were also many Tumblr users who shared their support of The Writers Helpers, the Tumblr blog which handed out this advice. According to these users, the account admins were not being racist, but simply honest.

(Credit: www.thewritershelpers.com)
(Credit: www.thewritershelpers.com)

In case you were wondering, I fundamentally disagree with the original advice offered by The Writers Helpers. Do I think that the admins of this blog (or “S,” the specific admin who responded to the question) are racist? No. I do not. However, the statement—the advice itself—advises writers to treat their own characters’ races as unequal.

Women are People: Who Knew?

Two-dimensional characters aren’t merely results of poor writing; although, they can be. You can spot them right away. There’s the femme fatale, the bad boy, the cat lady, the everyman, the damsel in distress, the jock, the farmer’s daughter, or the sidekick. Shall I go on?

While they can be predictable, two-dimensional characters often serve to drive the plot along. The women are given to drawing the men into situations that make for entertaining spectacles. The hero saves the damsel from a burning building, or the farmer, waving a shotgun, chases the young man caught climbing out his daughter’s window off the property.

Yet, good writers are the ones who are able to surprise their readers. Mad Men‘s Don Draper, for instance, is a womanizer. When I first started watching the show, I wanted to hate him. He appears to have no shame or morals, constantly sleeping with women who aren’t his wife. But really, he’s so much more than just a womanizer. His story is complicated (I won’t give away any spoilers), and his unpredictability makes him that much more intriguing.

The problem is that female characters in the media aren’t generally as complex. In part, this may be due to the small amount of women in these industries that are actually in a position to influence character development. According to the Women’s Media Center 2013 report on the status of women in the media, women made up only 9 percent of the directors for the top grossing films. From 2011-2012, women made up only 26 percent of the behind-the-scenes jobs in television. And in 2011, women made up less than 50 percent of submissions to literary magazines. At the New York Review of Books in particular, women made up only 19 percent of submissions.

My Brain got Stuck in a Rhyming Loop

When it comes to creative projects at school, my go-to is poetry. I had a big creative project due in one of my classes this past week, and I decided, since it was for Arthurian Romance, to imitate the Medieval French style of poetry. For a week solid, I was spending my nights creating plot and writing in rhyming couplets.

Let me tell you about rhyming couplets.

Door-hinge? I guess that rhymes with orange. Try working that into a poem organically.
Door-hinge? I guess that rhymes with orange. Try working that into a poem organically.

At first, it really isn’t that easy to do. I tend to use a rhyming dictionary when I start out, because my brain isn’t in rhyming mode yet. For the first few days working on an epic, 15 page poem written in eight syllable rhyming couplets, the rhyming dictionary is a godsend. I also use an on-line thesaurus to find words of varying syllables so I can force my thoughts into the eight syllable mold. A thesaurus is also useful in finding words that have the right concept behind them and easy rhymes – for example, the word orange is a jerk when it comes to rhyming, but using a thesaurus gives me all kinds of other options to that dreaded word – warm, flame, gold, etc., which are all much easier to rhyme with.

As time passes, however, these tools fade as the brain starts thinking in rhyme. I’m not kidding – on the third day of working with my project until the day it was due, my brain was rhyming. And so the downside of rhyming started to kick in.

Avoiding Technilogical Errors

I’m not talking grammar, here. I’m flat out talking about crashed computers, power outages, Word having an unexpected error, and the dreaded blue screen of death (for PC users).

I, like other writers, have fallen victim to one of the above and have lost pages and pages of well thought-out work. Generally, I hit control+S like a fiend, but once I encountered the blue screen of death on my old laptop, even saving my work didn’t preserve it.

I had to do a whole system recovery to even get my computer working again, which meant a months worth of work was gone and there was no way I could recover it. I suppose I could have done system backups regularly – like after every writing session, but who has time to do that?

System backups take a ton of time and it’s not a very practical way of always making sure your work is backed up because, and here’s the thing, I was lucky that I was even able to recover my computer to an earlier date and get it to work again. Many people who encounter the blue screen of death aren’t able to recover to an earlier backup date.

Fear not! I come offering some easy solutions to always having the latest, greatest version of your work saved and available.

I know some people out there will say “Don’t use PC’s! Use MACS!” but, hey, MACS are expensive. If you can afford one, or an iPad, good for you and enjoy that expensive piece of machinery. I need a simple word processor and for that purpose, PC’s work just fine.

Alan Rickman Reads

When I read, I don’t hear my own voice in my head. Generally, I’ll hear someone with a British accent. Why? Because I like the way it sounds.

And, after watching some of my favorite movies like Sense and Sensibility or, you know, any Harry Potter film, I get Alan Rickman’s voice stuck in my head. For about a week on out, his voice echoes in my head as the voice of every play, poem, and novel I read.

And now I’m going to get Alan Rickman’s voice stuck in your head too. Youtube – beautiful, wonderful Youtube, has entire playlists of Alan Rickman just reading stuff, like poems and excerpts from novels and plays. My favorite reading, because the only thing I love more than Alan Rickman’s voice is Shakespeare’s works, is Alan Rickman’s reading of Sonnet 130.

Huh?

Language is an interesting thing, isn’t it? Let’s take a look at a few words in different languages and compare the differences.

English Word: Yes

(Credit: Obeygiant.com)

 

French Word: Oui
Spanish Word: Sí
Arabic: نعم
Chinese (Simplified Han): 是
German: Ja
Russian: да

Now let’s try another word.

English Word: Huh

Source: FanPop.Com
(Credit: Fanpop.Com)

 

French Word: Huh
Spanish Word: Huh
Arabic: Huh
Chinese (Simplified Han): Huh
German: Huh
Russian: Huh

Wait–is that a universal word? Yup. Huh seems to be cross-cultural and the one word that everyone, in every language, understands.

Writing Goals: Poetry Addition

April was National Poetry Month. So, of course, on my Facebook page, I posted a poem or two a day. And, inspired by all the poetry I was posting, I tried to write more poems than I usually do.

Now that April’s over, I want to continue pushing myself to write poetry. I’ve written in the past how deadlines work really well for me when it comes to writing, but how arbitrary ones, not attached to a literary journal’s deadline, kinda never seem to have the same effect on my writing.

My new goal is to write two poems a week. Is that doable? Maybe. I’m older and more mature now, so maybe I’ll be able to hold myself to my writing goals. But there are a few other tricks I’m using to motivate myself to keep my writing goals.

First and foremost, I’m telling all of you about my goal. When other people, like my co-blogger Melanie, know about my goals and can ask me about them, I tend to do better at holding myself accountable for my goals. So I’ve told her, and you, that I plan on writing two poems a week and now there’s an expectation that I will be writing two poems a week.

Don’t Judge An Adaptation By The Book

People always say the book was better. It’s ironed onto t-shirts on Etsy and plastered all over Pinterest. Anthropomorphized novels are urging you to buy and read them before you decide to see their cinematic counterparts acted out on the big screen.

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We get it (really, that face says it all) because it’s a slippery slope and if people stop reading then maybe people will stop writing. I struggle, personally, because I really love both mediums—in some ways equally, although for different reasons.

The amount of film—both television and movies—out there that originated from literary works is pretty astounding, but the truth is, sometimes the book isn’t better. And that’s not (always) a bad thing.

That’s probably because literary adaptations aren’t meant to inspire the reader, they’re meant to inspire the director. We simply get to enjoy the fruits of their labor and vision.

Below are just a few adaptations that, perhaps, prove the book isn’t always better. Sometimes it’s just different.

Game of Thrones

Even book purists have admitted that while Martin’s books are packed full of history and some pretty amazing characters and plot lines, the HBO show has, quite possibly, done a better job at telling this story. While the show has made slight changes from the start, Season 5 is going far, far off the books, changing the story lines of some characters completely and ditching new characters that appear later in Martin’s series.

SPOILER ALERT! Sansa’s story, for instance, has been changed drastically. Instead of wandering through the Vale with her cousin, she is off to Winterfell. In the books, Jeyne Poole’s character (who we’ll never meet) travels to Sansa’s former home instead.

But these changes make the show arguably less “boring” for viewers and help push the story forward. With a cast list that’s already quite lengthy, the show expects a lot from viewers with increasingly busy lives (they’re doing us a favor, really). And because the characters from the book—even the ones who are cut—are still serving as the inspiration, book readers may come to appreciate the changes. Some already have.

Stand By Me

This movie was an instant classic—four boys walking the railroad tracks in search of the body of a missing boy. Yet, the story was originally contained within the pages of Stephen King’s short story “The Body,” a story that isn’t as frequently associated with King’s name as, say, Carrie or The Shining.

It’s a 1986 coming-of-age story, but the film has a timeless quality with some amazing performances. Incidentally, “The Body” was in King’s anthology Different Seasons which also contained “The Shawshank Redemption” (an equally stellar adaptation).

Drive

Drive, the movie, is based on the 2005 book Drive by James Sallis. The film takes advantage of the medium, letting meaningful looks and long silences do the talking instead of dialogue. Minor characters in the novel, like Shannon and Irene (Driver’s love interest), are given larger roles in the film, and these characters help provide more depth and connection to the events that unfold.

Plus, there’s Ryan Gosling. Need I say more?

Mean Girls

Mean Girls was a staple of my teenage years. It demonstrates how cut throat teenage girls can be to each other, while helping women laugh at it all a bit. Originally though, Mean Girls wasn’t Mean Girls at all, it was Queen Bees and Wannabees: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and the New Realities of Girl World, a book written by Rosalind Wiseman to help parents understand their daughter’s friendships and conflict.

Tina Fey turned it into comic genius (yes, I’m going that far).

“I want my pink shirt back!”

Game of Thrones: Is Going Off Book Going to Ruin The Ending?

Everyone’s favorite adaptation is five episodes in and running out of source material. This season, as everyone is well aware of, the show is going to go off in its own direction and go off-book.


 
While the series is very loosely based on the War of the Roses which started in England around 1455 with the House of Plantagenet and the houses of Lancaster and York claiming rights to the throne of England, it’s hard to say that the books are supposed to have the same ending as the history they are based off of. So how can the show creators go off script if they aren’t sure how the book series is supposed to end?

Well, G.R.R. Martin told the show’s creators the ending he has in mind. This is where the problem arises—at least in my mind. If the creators know the ending and G.R.R. Martin hasn’t yet written the character’s paths to that point, the show gets to do the path-forging. This in itself isn’t bad, but what happens if G.R.R. Martin and the show create two different paths for the same ending?

Damn, Poetry’s Hard

In Adam Frank’s recent article on NPR, the writer compares poetry to physics. He begins his discussion with T.S. Eliot’s Wasteland, which is 434 lines. In other words, it’s long. For some readers, that length provides something to hold onto a bit longer. An author might claim that more space allows for them to create greater meaning. But for some readers, longer poems can be daunting.

However, length isn’t the only thing that makes certain poems more difficult for some than others. Why someone may not “get” a poem can be for many reasons. In Frank’s article, the writer interviews John Beer, poet and professor at Portland State University. Beer had this to say about the subject:

There are, it seems, as many ways for a poem to be difficult as there are for it to be a poem at all. For most people, a lot of poetry written before the twentieth century will be a challenge: the vocabulary will often be unfamiliar, the syntax may be more complicated than we are accustomed to reading, and allusions, especially to classical learning, abound.