Men and women?

I’m musing on gender issues in my stories again. I’ve had some issues with “bad” stereotypes in previous stories and I’m pondering whether I’m about to stumble down that path again.

I want my female protagonist to be rich characters with depth and personality, and with the strength to carry their own stories forward, like people in the real world. That’s my goal, and it shouldn’t be so difficult now should it – at least it oughtn’t be, but who knows…

As a way to develop my characters a little bit I did a series of behind the scenes monologues with them (here). I pretend the characters are actor playing themselves and I have them hold a monologue about their role in the story. It was good fun.

I started with Roy, as he’s the first one to show up, then Alene, and Toini last. Roy’s male, Toini and Alene are female.

All three monologues loosely follow the same pattern. The character introduces themselves and then they describe their place in the story. What I found is that both Alene and Toini use Roy as a way of defining their place in the story.

I like to think there are good reasons for this. It fits with how the story is laid out and designed. It just feels a bit off – on principle. I want my female characters to be their own people, and they are, but even then I ended up having them describe their place in the story using the male character as their point of reference.

Am I overthinking it?

Yes. I’d say I am.

Both Toini and Alene are their own people and they carry their own stories. They’re more than backdrops for Roy’s story – a lot more in fact – and they know it. This whole rant is more a reflection on the topic as such. Am I letting my female heroes define themselves by the male hero?

I hope not. I don’t think I do.

I think there’s probably a line between where you describe your place in a story in relation to the other characters, and where a women describes her place in life in relation to a man. It’s a thin line, and I may be skirting close to it, but I think I’m still on the “right” side of it.

Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, or bonk me onna heid for being overly concerned with something that’s not an issue. Either is fine, really.

Men and women?

Twenty done – sort of

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I finished the second scratch of the outline of Werewolves On A Train today. I still have a bit of work left before this phase of the outline is done, but it’s a milestone reached all the same.

I now know what will happen in each of the three acts of each of the twenty stories I’m planning to write.

Before I began this phase I had nineteen stories planned, and now I have twenty. One of the latter ones turned out to be a little bit too complex for my purpose. The whole idea of making this a series is to write a lot of short and simple stories in order to practice my storytelling. Each story is about one thing, but there was a story which turned out to make a lot more sense as being about two things, so I split it into two stories.

Overall, I feel good about being done with this part of the outline, but…

I have some doubts about the last two stories. They’re going to be quite difficult, and they’re going to be almost all talk and very little action. All the other stories have a certain amount of action to them. They’re fairly easy to understand. There’s a conflict of some kind and it needs to be resolved. The conflicts are simple, and they’re solved by actions.

Bad guys in the way? Beat the bad guys. Bad guys on your tail? Run away.

Simple.

The last two stories are not like that. They’re where everything comes together and where everything that’s been left unresolved is finally being cleared up. It’s not much, but it’s all stuff that can’t be fixed by running away from someone or beating someone up.

Not that that’s all that’s happening in all the other stories, but for simplicity’s sake let’s say it is.

The last two stories are mostly about people talking. It’s unlikely to be interesting if you don’t know the backstory of the characters involved. So I need to make sure my readers know, and remember, the backstory. There are some facts about the characters that are important at the end that don’t really factor in all that much throughout the other stories.

I also want the stories to be such that you can pick them up and read them as standalone stories, without having to have read all of the previous ones. I think I’ll be able to make that work with the many of them, but not with all, and definitely not with the last two. It’s not a high priority goal, but it’s something I’ll try for at least.

Next Up?

The next thing I want to do is to write down a list of all the promises for all the stories. I only recently got my head around the concept of promise, which is basically the promise that the story makes to the reader about what the reader will experience if they keep reading.

I’ve written down the promises for all the stories as part of the outline, and now I want to put all the promises in a list. I’m thinking it’ll be interesting to get an overview of what kind of stories I’m writing.

I also need to finish up the trope lists for all of the stories. They turned out to be really helpful in how they summed up the stories as little building blocks to create the story with. I did it for the first seven or eight and then I stopped because finding all the tropes took a lot more time than writing the rest of the outline. I still want to do it though, but that’s for tomorrow.

Twenty done – sort of

Project Update: Werewolves On A Train

Yes, my new project is called Werewolves On A Train. Yes, I know it’s a silly name.

It was originally supposed to be a novel but after some deliberation it’s now a series of short stories. This is probably a good thing. The current plan has the series as consisting of nineteen parts, and I’m thinking it would have been a bit of a chore fitting all of that into a single novel.

Work on the project is progressing pretty well, and while it’s still early I’m feeling good about it. Good enough I decided to start sharing my project notes. The series’ outline is available as well as the outline for the first seven parts. I’ve also included the template I’m using for the shorts as well as some comments about the thoughts behind it.

It’s not super exciting, but it’s a good way for me to keep accountable. I’ll be updating the page as new content becomes available, and I may or may not post about it here too when I do.

The page itself can be found through the silly little site menu in the upper right. You can also just click here.

Project Update: Werewolves On A Train

Soundtrack for a Fading Champion

Whenever I start on a more serious story project I put together a playlist for the main character that reflects their personality and how I see them. Once I have a number of songs selected I pick out five signature songs and list them in a blog post along with how they relate to my character.

This time the character is Roy, a werewolf wrestling champion at the end of his career, and these are his signature songs. First is a short spotify playlist, and then there’s a youtube video of each song along with a few comments about how it fits the character.

1. Clawfinger – Bigges & The Best

Roy’s a world class wrestler and this is his theme song. He’s tough, merciless, and confident. He knows he’s the best. No matter what the critics and the press and the rising stars say, Roy know’s they can’t beat him. He’s just that good – just that tough.

2. The Phantom of the Opera

This is about the mask the phantom wears. It’s about what he hides from everyone else. There’s the obvious public face of Roy the wrestler – the persona represented by the previous song. But, there’s more than that to the mask. Roy also hides a dark secret that no one knows and that few have even seen hinted at. He hides it, and hides it well, for if people knew, they’d see him for more of a monster than just a werewolf.

3. VNV Nation – Beloved

This video is for the original version of the song, with a very sweet little animated video to go with it. However, I’d also recommend the orchestral version (Allegro Grazioso) which carries a lot more sadness in its sound, and as such is more fitting.

This song represents Roy’s love for Toini, his childhood friend who was killed in action so many years ago – and he still loves her just as much.

4. Depeche Mode – Wrong

Roy may be a world famous wrestler and multiple times world champion, but his life hasn’t been easy, and it’s not what he wanted. He’s made wrong decisions. He’s been in the wrong place at the wrong time, hung out with wrong people and said the wrong things.

Time and time again. Wrong.

Sure, he’s got fame and money, but he’s alone and disillusioned. Bitter. Cynic. A consequence of all that’s gone wrong and all he’s done wrong.

5. Empathy Test – Here is the Place

There’s also a charming live version of this song here. It’s well worth watching, but I’d recommend familiarizing yourself with the album version first.

Of the previous songs, three are of a failed and miserable past, and one is about a fake public persona. This is the song for the future Roy dreams of. It’s about going home to where he came from and to where he belongs. It’s about nostalgia and it’s about having somewhere you belong and where you’re safe.

Final Comments

There are plenty of songs that qualify, but didn’t make it. I could easily have picked five tracks by VNV Nation alone.

As a character, Roy is pretty sad. He’s had a tough journey, and he’s close to giving up, but he’s not a quitter. He’ll keep going. Stubbornly, stupidly, until there’s nowhere else to go and nothing left to do. He’ll deal with it when he gets there. That’s just the way he is.

Sort of, I think…

The story’s still being planned. The real writing has not yet begun.

Soundtrack for a Fading Champion

None Down, Nineteen To Go

Recently I decided to split my big massive novel into shorter stories and try and tell the same tale as a series of stories rather than as a single long one. I expected to have twelve stories for the main tale and then a few extra as flashbacks and fillers.

I’m now done with the first preliminary outline and I’m up to nineteen stories – including one flashback that I believe is necessary to explain what drives one of the main characters.

That’s a lot of stories to write, and I should get started. Today. Now.

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That was yesterday, or the day before.

It’s really big though. Starting is difficult. Always is.

So I’m writing this blog post instead. A little update on where I am and what I’m doing.

The plan for now is to start doing detailed outlines of the stories. I’ve got rough outlines for what’s happening in all of them. I need to start making decisions about details. Instead of my outline saying something like “Roy and Alene have an argument and get very upset with each other” I need to define what the argument is about, what positions Roy and Alene have, and why they get upset with each other.

At least I think that’s what I need to do. It makes sense to me to do it like that. Then once I’ve done that, I’ll move on to the next story and once I’m done with all of them I’ll start writing actual prose.

But right now, maybe I’ll just sit here for a little longer. It’s warmer than I’m used to. I’m tired and a little bit hungry. I’m low on energy. I miss winter, and autumn, and early spring. Once they come around, I’ll miss summer again.

I guess I’ll read the outline of the first story and see what I need to consider for it. I’ve gotta start sometime.

None Down, Nineteen To Go

Me, On A Stage

Today, for the first time ever, I stood in front of an audience and read a poem I’d written. It was also the first poem I’d written.

And by “first poem I’d written” I mean the first one I’d written on my own initiative, for myself, with the intention of trying to say something. I’ve written poetry in the past, back in school, and once or twice for a song-book while at uni, but not like this.

This was, for want of a better expression, for real.

It was really good fun. I’d do it again. I was nervous as a really nervous thing, and afterwards I had to sit down, take a few deep breaths, and drink real deep from my pint – and even then it took me a while to calm down.

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I’ve thought about poetry for quite some time. Thought it’d be fun to try. Thought I’d enjoy it. But until now I’ve not done more than thought about it. I did that book, and it’s in the poetry category, but it’s not quite the same. It doesn’t work off the page. The small black words and the big white paper is a part of the experience. It doesn’t work when read out loud – other than as a series of silly puns.

This was different.

This was me standing in front of a group of people, most of whom I’ve never met before, and reading a poem I’d written. I really really enjoyed it.

And what about the poem?

I didn’t have much time, and I didn’t quite know what to do, so it’s a poem about me standing in front of an audience and being nervous about it – which is what it was. It worked really well, but I don’t think I can ever do this one again.

I’ll write another one for next time. I’m so looking forward to there being a next time.

Me, On A Stage

I Ran Very Far

It’s almost a week ago, and my legs are still a little bit sore. Not nearly as much as they were, but I can still feel they’re tired.

Last Sunday I took part in Cork Marathon.

I only did the half marathon, but it’s still the longest race I’ve been a part of – ever. I’m a little bit proud. I still feel like I could, or ought to, have done better, but if I’m to be honest I was spent when I crossed the finishing line.

It’s not realistic of me to think I could have done better than I did considering how exhausted I was towards the end. The last two kilometers went purely on will power. The brass band playing at the last bend before the end perked me up a bit and pushed my strides a little longer, but that took the last ounces of energy I had.

The walk home was slow and dull. It’s a good thing I live only a few hundred meters from where the race ended or I’m not sure how I would get home. I got there though. I did my stretching, showered, ate, and then slept for two hours.

The rest of the day I didn’t do much at all.

It was tough, and the last quarter was really boring with all the flat straight roads, but knowing me I’ll do it again next year anyway.

I Ran Very Far