Monday, September 23, 2013

I Solemnly Swear You are Up to No Good: Transitioning Tokens

You've all heard of the token black guy, right? You know, he's in movies and sometimes books to add diversity. "We may be a group of white heterosexuals, but look, look, we know a black person!" Riiiight. And if it's a horror movie/book, we all know who's going to be the first to get axed.

We've come a long way from the token black guy. It can be a chick, an Asian, an Indian, or the more recently popular, the token gay guy. I'm all for diversity in books, no matter what form it comes in, but it's a little disheartening when the diversity comes in the form of the token: clich├ęd, quiescent, and apparently useless.

My current WIP is diverse, but it isn't multicultural. I wish it was, but that's just the nature of the beast and I feel no need to change it. They're all American teens, even though I have two biracial characters (Black/White and Iranian/Black) and a Polynesian. My southern sweetheart is a lesbian. Am I going overboard? Maybe. But I don't think so. This is how the world is now. Some settings call for an all white cast, but more often than not, that isn't the case.

If your story is set in a NY city high school, is there a reason all your characters are white and as straight as a raw spaghetti noodle? You may be tempted to write what you know, but trust me, there's no magical information you need to know to add diversity. I've been friends with all different types of people, and although their parents may be a little unique (coming from a YA standpoint), and some of their customs a little odd, on the day to day, they weren't some mythical creature to learn about and study. They were just as typical and unique as blonde haired, blue eyed Jane down the street.

Multicultural stories are awesome and take a little research, but diversity can come in all shapes and sizes and shouldn't be shied away from just because it's in the realm of what you don't know.

Now that that's out of the way, there's another token that's making his way on the scene and it's driving me crazy! I read a lot of YA because that's what I write (and bygum it's frickin' entertaining!) and in a number of books I've read recently, there's a teenage genius. Don't get me wrong, I love a smart character (hello, Hermione Granger anyone?) but the smart character is starting to serve a different purpose. The I-am-smart-and-have-a-big-vocabulary-and-this-is-the-only-way-I-can-show-you purpose. Ugh. You know typical teenagers don't use words like panacea or equanimity, but you want to show that YOU know those words. What do you do? Throw in a character who uses big words and says smart things all the time. Oh look, now you know I'm smart. Riiiight. No. Now all I know is you're a grandiloquent (I can do it to) ass who threw an inconsequential character in the mix just so you could toot your own damn horn. Stop. Now. We all know what you're doing and it's annoying. If you can't help yourself, don't be so obvious about it and for the love of Godiva Dark Chocolate, give them a purpose! Don't make them stand around the entire novel prattling away about how it's so hard to be so smart and use such impressive vocabulary.

Thank you and goodnight (actually, it's noon, but yeah)! 

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Killer Within

In honor of it being Friday the 13th and in early celebration of Stephen King's 9/24 release of Doctor Sleep, I'm going to waver from the usual Poetic Friday post. I know, I know. Go wipe your tears. Take deep, calming breaths. Poetic Friday will return next week at it's regularly scheduled time.

Doctor Sleep 

Over the years, I've become a big chicken. 

No, not that kind of chicken. I'm talking about my inability to sit through a scary movie without peeing my pants. If I'm watching TV, I'll cover my eyes if a commercial preview for anything remotely scary comes on.

I don't know what happened. I used to be able to hang tough. Not once hide my face. And nightmares? Psh! Who cares?

Freddy, Jason, and Michael Myers were my peeps. R.L. Stein, Dean Koontz, and Stephen King, my BFFs.

Then something happened. I have no exciting, traumatic story to tell. I got older. I got yellow. My sister is STILL trying to get me to watch Insidious. Uh, yeah right. Not going to happen.

But for some reason,  I just couldn't part with one of my BFFs. Yeah, Stephen King and I are still two peas in a very whacked out pod. What's bizarre is that he's the one who scares me the most. I'm not talking about murderous cars, or psychotic clowns, or even ax wielding fathers (although they do scare the bejeesus out of me).


I'm talking about the deep, dark places he takes us to. The places that has me people watching for days and wondering what the guy in the impeccable suit and tie is capable of. Human nature is a dangerous place to examine, and King knows how to weave a tale that brings out the killer within, in a scarily believable way. He makes us want to board up our windows and lock our doors...and he has us begging for more.

Take Under the Dome, for example. The actual dome was nothing, it was the things that went on inside the dome, the actions and reactions of the people who were trapped, that had me terrified and a little afraid to go to sleep at night. He does it in The Mist as well. Of course the mist is scary (the unknown always is) but the scariest thing is what isolation does to the people, bringing out their inner demons.

Monsters, ghosts, ghoulies, and whatever else you can dream up, I promise you there is nothing like the thing that could possibly live inside us all. I pray I never have to find out. And for your sake, I hope you don't either.

If you haven't read Under the Dome, you should. It's classic Stephen King at his finest.The TV show? Uh, not so much. I tried to watch but I couldn't get into it.

Anyway, reading is much better than television, but I'm sure you know that already! Happy Friday the 13th!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Day to Remember

We go about our lives, the day to day hustle and bustle, and things start to blend. Did I have spaghetti on Monday or Tuesday? Was that last week or the week before when I went to the car wash? When did I last talk to my mom on the phone?

They blend. We forget.

Some things, some things are seared to our brains and etched in our hearts, that we will never forget. I can barely remember what happened on Monday of this week, but I remember twelve years ago to the day, in its entirety.

I remember what I was wearing. I remember running out of my dorm room and into the common room to gather with the rest of my classmates in front of the TV. I remember the looks on their faces. The silence. The tears.

I remember the resilience. I remember the strength, the kindness, the unity.

I still have the candle from the vigil.

We still remember. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


I have no idea what's going on with me, but it's been super hard to find inspiration and motivation. I haven't written in almost a week, which is just nuts! I've worked on my query, so I guess that counts, but...not really.

I plugged away at my MS for four months, and I finished it, over three weeks ago! I was so hyped up about my edits, but then something happened. I don't know what it was. Aliens. Pheromones. Radioactive Spiders. Who knows, but what I do know is I need to get my butt in gear but I have no idea how.

I thought reading would help, but no. Six books later (The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Paranormalcy, Dualed, Graceling, The Goddess Test, and The Iron King) and I still haven't found that push I was searching for.

Should I battle through it and write anyway? Should I wait for it to pass? I have 82,000 words just waiting to be sliced and diced, added to, and made beautiful, but absolutely no motivation. Even knowing Miss Snark's First Victim's Bakers Dozen contest is coming up is not even enough to get my butt in the chair.

I promised myself I'd start in on it after Labor Day, but that day has come and gone and then some, and the crickets are still chirping. I blame it on lack of sleep, my two year old, house work, a crappy weekend job, and whatever else I can think of.

But it's all me.