Monday, March 31, 2014

A to Z Blogging Challenge!!

In my last post I said I would announce my theme for the challenge in my first post of the month tomorrow. I lied.


So! Tomorrow is the first day of April which means it is also the first day of the A-to-Z Blog Hop! The challenge is simple: write a blog post every day of the month excluding Sundays, each post moving through the alphabet starting with A and ending with Z. Its a great way to meet some new bloggers and get a few new visitors to your blog as well! Think you'd be interested in joining us? There is still time to sign up here!

Some people choose themes for their blogging challenge and then create posts for every letter of the alphabet according to that theme. This year I have decided that my theme will be....drum roll please...


Every day I will post about a favorite character of mine according to the first letter of their name. Now for some letter this means I have a difficult decision to make. There are a ton of characters I love that start with the same letter, but I'll have to choose only one.

I'm so excited to participate in the blog hop and I can't wait to see what other bloggers decide to post about this month! I hope you'll join me as I travel to some of my favorite worlds and explore some amazing characters.

Are you planning to participate in the A to Z blog hop? What are your themes? And do you have any character recommendations for me? :)

April Goals!

Normally I will post goal updates on the first of the month, however the A-to-Z bloghop begins tomorrow so I already have a post planned and I didn't want to crowd it!

First, the walk of goals for March:
  1. Finish at least one book that is NOT for a class
  2. Write another 10,000 words of my still sadly untitled WIP
  3. Post at least once a week to the Diaries (I've decided that perhaps my initial goal of twice a week was a bit ambitious given my course load this semester; so lets try again!)
  4. Start role playing as Tegan and Ariadne on Tumblr  to get to know them better
I unfortunately did not complete any of these goals. I am only about 2,000 words short of my 10,000 word goal,though, so that's not too bad! I didn't get the response I was hoping for with my role playing goals and that does require another person. Maybe next month.

Hopefully April will be better! Its the last month of the semester so my goals are reflecting the fact that I'm about to get disturbingly busy with final projects.

Goals for April
  1. Read at least one book (lets try this again...)
  2. Write another 10,000 words of my WIP
  3. Complete the April A-to-Z Blogging Challenge!
I'm super excited for this year's A-to-Z challenge! If you haven't signed up yet there is still time! Sign up and join us! I have a theme prepared that I will unveil in my first post tomorrow :)

How did March go for all of you? And what are you goals for April?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Finding my Eddard Stark


((are they gone yet?))

Okay. Where were we?

I am roughly 32,000 words into my still untitled why work in progress first draft. Now, I consider my first drafts to be more like outlines than actually drafts. I'm not really planning ahead much. I'm just typing and seeing where the story takes me. I know while writing that most of everything I've written will probably be taken out or changed during revisions, but the point right now is to get a basic plot written out and to start figuring out who my characters are and where they are going. This works for me, or at least it seems to be so far. However, this style does have its draw backs.

Since I don't plan ahead, I periodically hit lulls where I'm just not sure where to go next. I also end up writing pretty shallow first drafts using this method, which is of course fine because that will be fixed in revisions, but it is also frustrating sometimes because I start to feel like the story idea itself is lacking something. When you don't take much time working out character development or plot lines ahead of time, you end up with a series of events just sort of strung together without much of a driving force. Or at least I do. Or I did. Right now.

I've gotten caught up with figuring out where point A and point B are and how to get from one to the other and as a result haven't been giving much thought to the true driving force behind my main story. So over the past few days I have been thinking about how to remedy this, and I've found a useful way of thinking about it that I thought I would share with you all!

I need my Eddard Stark. You see, Ned Stark is the center of everything. Yes there are multiple plots happening around him, all of which play an important role in the story, but for the most part everything revolves around him. He is sent to King's Landing to become the Hand of the King. He knows he must unravel the mystery of what happened to the previous Hand, and that he must figure out how the Lannisters are involved. He learns the truth about Joffrey, about Cersei and Jaime. His imprisonment starts his son Robb on the path to war with the Lannisters. Throughout the first book it is his search for answers, and his actions after discovering the answers, that keeps the story moving forward, steadily climbing towards the single event that sets everything into motion: his execution.

Ned being beheaded is a catalyst. It starts Sansa's story of being a prisoner in King's Landing, doing everything she can to keep herself alive even if it means marrying the boy who ordered her father's death. It starts Arya's journey north. It ends all possibility of a peaceful resolution between the Lannisters and Robb Stark.

I need my Eddard Stark. I need the storyline (or lines) that all other storylines revolve around; the center of the spider web; the driving force of the story. Thinking about it this way has helped me to decide which characters' storylines are trying to be this force, and how to expand them. Once I started thinking about it this way it became clear to me that two of my character's run parallel to each other, and that it is their journeys that will ultimately push my story forward. And now that I have started to figure that out I am even more excited to finish this draft and start revisions so I can realize this vision.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Feminism Friday: Paying Attention to Agency

Today's Feminism Friday (it may or may night be past midnight here oops...just roll with it) is a challenge from me to you. I challenge you to read through your stories paying close attention to the agency of your characters, particularly your female characters. Not sure exactly what agency is? Allow me to explain.

Agency is defined as a person's ability to act and speak for themselves.You can also think of it as the direction of action in reference to a given person: is the person acting or being acted upon?

Lets look at Disney, for example.

On one side we have Princess Aurora aka Sleeping Beauty. She spends a good portion of her story asleep waiting for a prince to come and kiss her awake. She is about as close to a 0 on the agency spectrum as you can get. She is incapable of acting for herself and relies entirely on the actions of the prince. There is also the creepiness of being kissed by a complete stranger and having absolutely no choice in the matter.

On the other side we have Mulan. Mulan makes the decision to disguise herself as a man and runaway to join the army to save her father. She is repeatedly encouraged to give up by the male protagonist, and repeatedly refuses to give in. Over and over again she uses her own strengths, namely her intelligence and quick thinking, to save both herself and her companions. Even more interesting is that it can be argued that she has very little agency in the beginning of the movie; she goes with the flow and does as she is told without argument. In this way Mulan is a particularly excellent character in terms of agency because we as viewers get to watch her claim it.

Now that you have at least a basic idea of what character agency is, I challenge all of you to consider you're characters and what type of agency you have given them. It is exceedingly common for women, real and fictional, to be denied agency; female characters are very often acted upon by their male counterparts and used to further the plot of the man's story rather than being an active participant in their own stories. This is very problematic and it needs to change. And the first step to changing it is to become aware of it.

One way to do this is to consider the type of verbs commonly used with your characters. Are there any patterns of certain types of characters having more action verbs than others? Are certain characters always doing the action and others always receiving it?

I hope you will accept my challenge and please share your results in the comments! Did you notice any characters lacking agency and if so what might you do about it?

Friday, March 7, 2014

Feminism Friday: Lets Talk About Sansa Stark

For anyone who doesn't know what Feminism Fridays are please read my introduction post that can be found here!

Having grown up largely on American popular culture, I am no stranger to weak female characters.

According to television my greatest aspiration in life should be to find a man and get married; I will of course be hopelessly confused after achieving this because according to all the movies that is the end of my story.

According to basically everything my purpose in life as a woman is and always shall be to further the character development and plot of the white male protagonist who I'm probably desperately in love with. This makes me particularly nervous because this character is also on the top of the "Most Likely to Die" list.

No, my friends. I am no stranger to 2 dimensional female characters who are basically nothing more than plot devices in the male protagonist's story. And as someone who is all too familiar with this pattern I must ask

Why do people spend so much time hating on Sansa Stark?

I have been noticing for awhile that people seem to be misunderstanding the concept of a "strong female character," and while I think the term is partially to blame for this, I think false feminist ideologies have also played a role. Many people seem to be under the impression that writing a strong female character means giving the girl a gun and calling it good. It means she does not have a romantic relationship with a man in the story. It means she is physically strong and does not need anyone's help to do anything.

Not only is this not the definition of a strong female character, a character with all of those traits is just as likely to be 2 dimensional as a character who gets married and becomes a dutiful housewife.

The definition of a strong female character is not- or at least should not- be so basic as whether or not they protect themselves physically. The definition of a strong female character is a fully developed character with a life and story of her own; a character that does not exist merely for the purpose of furthering the male protagonist's story. They can be a housewife with 8 kids, a kickass warrior, or anything in between.

We don't need a world full of Wonder Womans, though don't get me wrong I would love to see more women like her too! What we need is a world full of all types of fully constructed relateable female characters. The female population of the world is amazingly diverse, believe it or not, and we need a world of fictional female characters that reflects that. That means a world full of women like Mulan and Wonder Woman, but also a world full of women like Sansa Stark.

Sansa has been called a stupid and annoying character. She has been accused of being just another weak and useless female character, a pawn in the Game of Thrones. She is attacked for being so desperate to marry Joffrey and become queen, for being so stereotypically feminine, especially in comparison to her much more obviously "feminist forward" younger sister, Arya. All of these attacks, I would argue, are entirely unwarranted.

***Spoilers Ahead: if you have not read through book/ watched through season 3 of the series, I suggest you turn back now!***

In response to the attacks on her being "too feminine," I have to ask how anyone in the eyes of feminism could ever be "too feminine." You are literally attacking her for the same reasons men have oppressed women for centuries. The whole point of feminism is to say "women can be housewives, but they do not have to be; women can be warriors, but they do not have to be." We cannot start telling our girls they cannot want to be a princess; we just need to start telling them they don't have to want to be a princess. Women like Sansa exist in the world and they deserve to have well-written characters to relate to as much as anyone else.

In response to the accusations of her being annoying: Yes, she is sometimes. Haven't you ever heard of a character flaw? I would also argue that she becomes considerably less annoying the further into the series you go, which I believe would be referred to in the real world as growing up.

Moving on. Yes, Sansa started out exceptionally naive and hopelessly determined to marry her beloved Prince Joffrey. She was also 11 years old when the series started (slightly older in the television series; 13 I believe). She was raised as a Lady of Winterfell and was taught from a young age that one day she would be married to a nobleman of another house; this is what she wanted, what she had dreamed of since she was a little girl. Is it really any wonder that she would be so anxious and desperate to please Joffrey considering how she was raised? This is not the marking of a 2 dimensional plot device of a character; this is a character whose backstory clearly explains why she is the way she is.

Even more importantly, Sansa has undergone drastic character development since her introduction. She is no longer the naive little girl who blindly does as she is told. She has become an insanely intelligent young woman who has so far succeeded in keeping herself alive, which is more than much of her family can say. As
Cercei said:

Sansa is playing the game as best she can, and she is doing quite well. More than once we have seen her intelligence, especially when dealing with King Joffrey. My personal favorite was this little gem:
"Of course you'll be in the vanguard. They say my brother Robb always goes where the fighting is thickest, and he is only a pretender"
She knows Joffrey cannot fight. She knows he has no intention of leading his men. This is a deliberate insult that Joffrey must ignore because acknowledging it would mean acknowledging that he is less of a king that Robb. Even better, she is trying to manipulate him, to convince him to join the vanguard to prove himself a proper king in hopes that he will get himself killed. This is not the line of a weak plot device. This is the line of a brilliant character.

In short, we have seen Sansa go from this:

to Joffrey telling her: "After I raise my armies and kill your traitor brother, I'll give you his head as well."
and her responding:

At one point Tyrion even offers to try to get her out of her engagement to Joffrey and she refuses, insisting she is "loyal to [her] beloved Joffrey." She watched her father be beheaded for disloyalty to the crown and she has no intention of following him. I think Tyrion sums in up when he says

Sansa is an amazing, intelligent, well written female character. She wears long dresses and is an excellent embroiderer. She does not wield a sword, but she has a sharp wit that has been successful in keeping her alive. She shows us that it is possible to be both exceptionally feminine and exceptionally strong, that we do not have to choose one or the other because they are not mutually exclusive. I want more characters like Sansa Stark.

There are real important battles to be fought in the realm of female representation in fiction. Sansa Stark is simply not one of them.

What do you think about Sansa? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Too Many Stories!

When people ask me why I write, I say because I must.

I write because there are so many voices in my head trying to get my attention, constantly.
I write because there are so many stories bouncing around my mind every single day.
I write because if I let them just sit there they will consume me and I'll end up looking like Kevin Tran in his first episode of Supernatural.

And that is not a pretty sight people. And so, I write.

The problem is, I can still only cater to one story at a time. This has been an ongoing struggle for me, especially in the past few months since I have been so dedicated to writing a little bit every single day. I'm still interested in the story I've been working on, and I'm still enjoying writing it and exploring the world my characters have introduced me to, but there are still these little whispers in the back of my head saying "follow me, I'll show you amazing things too."

And I just can't help but to get a tad curious...

There are so many ideas floating around in my head and all of them are so interesting and I just want to write all of them right now! But of course I can't. So far I have forced myself to set aside any and all other ideas to just focus on my current project. Prior experience has taught me that if I let myself jump away from a story idea to mess with a new one for awhile, I'm probably never coming back to the first one, and I'll probably jump to a new one again a few months after that. This is one of the major reasons why I have never finished a draft of anything ever. And that is something I am bound and determined to change this year. This year I will have a revised manuscript ready in time for #pitchmas! Maybe even two if I'm extra dedicated!

But the fact that I'm not letting myself go off and write these stories does not stop them from coming; it seems like I have a new one every day. I think I need to stop watching new anime for awhile. I don't know what it is about anime storylines, but I always end up with tons of new story inspirations after I finish watching one and Attack on Titan was no different. (that anime is seriously amazing ohmygod maybe I'll post about that later!) But even then, the stories continue to come. And I continue to not be able to write about them.

I imagine a lot of writers share this problem. What do you do to keep focused on one story when you have so many more fighting for your attention?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Coming Soon: Feminism Fridays!

I have decided to start a weekly meme dedicated to discussing the problems of- and celebrating victories for- female representation in fiction.

Every Friday I will be posting something related to this theme, be it a feature of a great female character, an analysis of a particular story, or discussing a problem related to girls and geek culture (of which there are sadly many), and I would like to invite anyone interested to join me!

As I discussed in my earlier post, "On the Diversity of Fictional Characters", representation matters. Studies have shown over and over again that a primary way children internalize ideologies such as racism and sexism is through popular culture, which means if we want to see real change being made, popular culture is an important place to start.

Please note that this is not meant to be an attack on any of the stories, characters, or creators that get featured in these posts. Many- probably all- of my favorite stories have problematic messages in them; this does not mean we stop reading/watching. It is necessary that we hold story creators responsible for the messages they are sending, but that does not mean we cannot enjoy the stories they are telling.

I hope there is some interest among other bloggers to join me on this project. I will be including a linky list in my posts every Friday for other bloggers to post links to their own Feminism Friday posts. I also hope that this will encourage intelligent, respectful, and much needed conversations on the topics brought up.

I'll see you all Friday!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

March Goals

Okay so as you may have noticed from my lack of existing at the Diaries, my goals got a little off track last month. But, of course, that is the beauty of making goals instead of resolutions; as long as I keep working towards those goals I never actually fail!

I am very proud to say that despite everything that has been going on in the life of Katie over the past month, I have stubbornly stuck to my goal of writing every single day. There were many some days that I wrote less than 300 words, but the point is I have made some progress every single day. And after two months of writing every day I have written more words of my current WIP than I have ever written on any project before. My current total stands at 25,240 words. It might not be much to some people, but for me this is a huge accomplishment and I am so proud of myself for sticking with it!

Now then, onto my Goals for March!
  1. Finish at least one book that is NOT for a class (its embarrassing how difficult this goal will probably end up being..)
  2. Write another 10,000 words of my still sadly untitled WIP
  3. Post at least once a week to the Diaries (I've decided that perhaps my initial goal of twice a week was a bit ambitious given my course load this semester; so lets try again!)
  4. Start role playing as Tegan and Ariadne on Tumblr  to get to know them better
Do you have any goals for the month of March? I'd love to hear them!

And What do you Want to do with a Degree in that?

I had a bit of an exciting moment tonight on my journey of learning to love and be confident in who I am, and seeing as how it is related to my love of fiction and writing I thought I would share it with you lovely people.

I spent all day today applying for scholarships. And for one of the scholarships I had to submit a one page essay discussing my future education and career goals. I almost did not even apply for this scholarship because I always assume that as soon as people read “English History double major” they stop listening, assume I'm worthless, and move on. I avoid the question when people ask what I want to do with my degree because I know that even though it matters to me, society as a whole largely considers is useless. I have a very hard time articulating the importance of fiction in relation to our society to people who don't understand, and this has made it very difficult for me to ever talk about my future plans with people who don't already just get it.

But I applied anyway. And for the first time I was forced to articulate exactly what it is that I think is so worthwhile about my area of study, why it is so important to our society, and how I wanted to use it. And now, for the first time ever I know exactly why its so important. I know exactly what I can offer society and I know how I plan to make that contribution. 

For the first time I feel confident answering the always insult-intended question “and what are you going to do with that degree?" And it feels really, really good.