Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Starting Over, Or So It Seems

I finally tried Monday to get started back on Wraith of Talera, and I realized that the layoff while I was in Cross Plains, and then taking the next few days off to do some other writing I had deadlines for, had brought me to a dead standstill on the book. In fact, reading over it I thought to myself, “man this sucks.” That’s probably not a completely accurate feeling, but I need to really hit it hard tomorrow and try to get back into the mood. Maybe I need to conceptualize the story a bit better. Layoffs are just killers for me, and take so long to recover from. Anyone else find the same thing?

Another of my pet peeves has raised its weary old head again, as well. A heroic fantasy story with an effeminate male villain was criticized. The person doing the criticizing assumed immediately that the villain was homosexual, even though it never said so in the story. The point that bothers me is that, so what if the villain was homosexual? You can’t have a homosexual villain? That’s ridiculous! Does every villain have to be a white, heterosexual male? I can see that it might be an issue if every villain was drawn as homosexual, or as black, or as freaking Irish for that matter. But it’s going to get pretty “vanilla” if you can’t occasionally have a villain of some non-white, non-male, non-hetero persuasion. The truth is that villains come in all flavors, and writers should be allowed to work with that variety.

Don’t forget that Book Roast is still going on. It’s been great fun so far, and I won Bernita Harris’s book.
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48 comments:

Jon said...

Hi Charles -

Most of the villains in your own work seem to be reptiles and demons. Just what do you have against other life forms and evil supernatural entities? ;-)

Seriously, if *all* of a writer's villains are negative stereotypes then I think the writer has a problem or is taking sloppy short-cuts. If *all* of a writer's villains are different and interesting then I don't care what race, sex or orientation they are.

- Jon

Rachel said...

Sounds like you're stuck in the slough of despond with that book. You need some fresh water to flush things out and get it going again.

Randy Johnson said...

It sounds like the critic's prejudices were leaking through.
It reminds me of something I read on Dayton Ward's blog. Some commentator was bemoaning gays being in some the Star Trek novels, said they didn't belong there, then admitted he hadn't read an ST novel in years. Strictly prejudice for no rhyme or reason.

Bernita said...

My villain *may* swing both ways. - probably because I worried about that very thing, being damned and accused of a prejudice.

Will get it off to you this week, Charles. Great answers!

Greg Schwartz said...

Charles,

Congrats on winning the book! I say, whoever the villain ends up being, go with it. Nobody really listens to critics anyway.

Sidney said...

Hope you get going again!

laughingwolf said...

grats on the win!

layoffs are a bitch for me, too... so are traumatic rl incidents, esp when they hit like hailstones

as for antagonists, forget the damn critics... if they don't like how you write, tell em to do better! grrr

really into 'cold in the light', methinks ye may have some talent, laddie! ;) lol

Demon Hunter said...

Charles,
Congratulations! I barely win anything. Bernita's writing is superb. Happy reading.

I'm holding my own contest, so stop on over. :-)

Monique said...

Yes it can be hard to get back into a story you are writing. Specially when you have been doing loads of other stuff. I know the feeling.

Villains eh? Sorry, I laughed out loud when I read that. It's so ridiculous! (Note to myself, file it somewhere in your head for future use).

Sarai said...

Taking a break from writing seems to make it that much harder to start back up. Currently going through that right now. I am hoping I will find the flow again but until then I am cleaning up somethings and working on plot points *g* so maybe something good will come from the break!

Gabby said...

The story I'm currently working on was started quite awhile ago, and it took me a little bit to really get into it again. What helped me (as I think what it seems you're going to do) is to think about the story, specifically plot points that I hadn't really thought about (given the already-established universe I'm working with). Even if I don't get much time to write lately (the last few days), at least I can still think of the story and where I want things to progress. Good luck! I know you can get back into it! (FYI, not that I have ever done this, but my husband listens to this podcast called Writing Excuses, and he always mentions little things to help me that he's gleaned from this podcast. Maybe you could check it out. I mention it because he mentioned that one of the guys on the podcast mentioned how Neil Gaiman would call him and mention how the current book he was writing was awful -- so, it happens to all of us! ^_^) Sorry to ramble.... O_o

SzélsőFa said...

Lay offs can boost one's fantasy....

Re: homosexual villains/main characters - wtf: who cares.
As long as the writer keeps a delicate distance...uhm....you know...but the same goes to heterosexual behaviour as well....
I'm not into advertising homosexualism, but showing it appropriately to fight against stupid prejudices is all right by me.

Charles Gramlich said...

Jon, I guess I have to come clean about my dislike for reptiles. I was raised that way and it's been hard to overcome. ;)

But I think you're exactly right about the "all of a writer's villains." The danger from a writer's standpoint is that too often some readers judge a writer by the first story they read, and if they happen to read a story with a black villain, say, they may decide the writer is a racist. It's silly to me, of course.

Rachel, I think you're right. Although more, I'm stuck in slough of summer blahs and everything is a bit tasteless at the moment. I have some plans to shake it up.

Randy Johnson, I think it was the critics own stereotypes, yes. I'm shaking my head over that Star Trek critic. I don't quite understand how folks can be so... I can't even think of a word for it.

Bernita, don't you hate being accussed of something you're not just because you're trying to shake up things with some variety? Great book roast. I enjoyed.

Greg Schwartz, critics smitics! LOL. Yes, I'm looking forward to the book.

Sidney, I know I will eventually. It's just a matter of doing the work.

Demon Hunter, looking forward to your contest. I'm headed over soon.

Monique, I need to get out for a walk, clear my head probably.

Sarai, I tend to fall back on doing non-fiction when I've got a fiction block. I find it so much easier.

Gabby, I remember from times in the past when I thought a work in progress was awful. I think it happens quite a bit to writers and I know not to give in too strongly to the feeling. Work through it is what I have to do.

Szelsofa, it's just as biased really to "avoid" having villains from a minority as it is to make every villain from that minority.

Heff said...

A possibly homosexual villian, eh ? What's his name ? "Ass Bandit ?"

SzélsőFa said...

Absolutely, Charles.
But again, suppose your novel has 100 characters. You just can not take a statistics diagram and tailor the proportion of blacks/whites, homo/heterosexuals according to the statisctics, can you?

But I'm not argueing with you at all: I just brought another 'funny' example.

Jennifer said...

villains can be whatever the author wants - as long as they're Eeeeevil! lol


I loev to take breaks. Every summer I take a two month hiatus from writing. This year, I started early (sort of forced upon me by fate) - it's been two months since I've written, and I'm starting to wonder if I will take my summer break or not. Unually I READ all summer.
(vacation is sacred)
;-)
Sam

Travis Erwin said...

Hang in there. I too tend to struggle after I stray from a story.

etain_lavena said...

Hey Charles....some ppl are just narrow minded idiots....dont give them attention, numnut:)

HUGZ
D

Lisa said...

I definitely suffer from an inability to get back into the zone when I've been away from my work for a day or two. I'm still pining for the time over Christmas and New Years when I was on my best roll.

I'm kind of laughing about the criticism over a gay villain. Patricia Highsmith's Tom Ripley was one of the best!

CrazyCath said...

Charles you are so right. But it is a sad fact of this world that "minority" groups (and that word "minority" is a complete misnomer) cannot be depicted in negative ways for fear of accusations of racism, sexism, ageism....

Go on and break the mould! (Please!)
Have a fat, black, homosexual, over fifty villain. Go on. I dare ya!

Thank you for your comments at mine - especially the last one which I take as high praise indeed coming from you.

Charles Gramlich said...

Heff, I considered that but thought it telegraphed the punch line too much. ;)

Szelsofa, agreed absolutely. It should be organic, developed as you feel it, but it shouldn't have to follow any specific rules.

Jennifer, my problem is that summer is the primary time when I have to write, and a few breaks like Christmas. I do find myself letting things slide this year a bit more than in the past though, and maybe I need the break.

Travis Erwin, thanks. I know it'll come back. But I hate when it's gone.

Etain, good to see you. I hope is all is well. Great new poem you have up.

Lisa, there have been some good ones, for sure.

Charles Gramlich said...

Crazycath, maybe that's the secret, give my villains ALL the minority characteristics. My mind is thinking already.

Erik Donald France said...

Hey man, good luck getting back into the flow with the novel.

As for villains, there's room for all kinds. Certainly in "real life" such is the case.

steve said...

I remember my wife commenting that when Star Trek had its first black guest star, ("The Ultimate Computer") Roddenberry and Co. "had the decency to make him the villain." A tragic and brilliant villain, but a villain nonetheless. Making a gay man a villain seems to me more respectful than making him ineffectual.

I agree with you on taking off from writing The next chapter of my WIP has been half-finished for the past two weeks.

Donnetta Lee said...

Wow. What an archaic prejudice. Hard for me to imagine.

Shake it off and get going! You can do it.

Donnetta

Steve Malley said...

Writing is such a weird, idiosyncratic, near-damn-mystical process, I'm not sure any of us can advise anyone else.

Writing every day works for me. Even if it's two paragraphs on Post-Its, the story keeps some momentum.

The work is NOT as bad as you think. It never is. You may have gone off-course a bit, but that's correctable. Trust not your feelings, they are false friends trying to pull you from the True Path.

Or something.

Steve Malley said...

And re: villains, Tommy Knowles asked me to say he agrees, and to mention that a man can be gay without being swish.

Travis said...

Geeez! If we're all writing the same kind of villain based on the same kinds of old stereotypes, then what's the point?

ivan said...

Ah muy interesante.

I used to hang around with a comic book store owner in Toronto's Markham Village, the late George Henderson, who had at the time driven his family to outrage by producing a novel titled. "Homo Hot Pants."

I interviewed George on the subject of comics, and he had said, though probably gay himself, "Comics are a way through which talented homosexuals communicate with each other."

I think I quoted him in my Toronto Sunday Sun article and he assured me he would burn the newspaper office down.
But then he reprinted my story in his zine, and seemed to remain a friend.( I had had him photographed in a Superman outfit).
Cape and Tights!

Well, as a kid I used to thrive on comics, like probably the rest of the folks here.
But there was no compunction to back up on lightbulbs.
Not sure if that's PC.
It does amuse me though, as a product of the Fifties, that being gay is somehow equated with piety.

writtenwyrdd said...

Congrats on winning Bernita's book.

It's a dangerous point when you hit that "this sucks" moment. I tend to shift to other projects when I hit that point, and it's a bad bad habit, lol.

ChrisEldin said...

Hi Charles,
Regarding the hiatus. I've had a long one, and am running scared....

It's probably not too bad once you actually sit down and write though. Right? hoping....

I've never read a book with a homosexual villian, now that you mention it. It does get dull....
Great point!

And thanks for the shout out!! We can tell from the stat counter that lots of people are coming over from here (as well as Bernita's)!!

Charles Gramlich said...

Erik, after a walk this evening I think I've solved my problem and can start moving forward on the book again.

Steve, I also remember hearing that Denzel Washington got criticized for playing a villain so well in Training Day but he made some similar comments about not being limited to just playing good guys. And he won an Oscar.

Donnetta, I think I'm seeing my way forward now.

Steve Malley, I thought your use of that characteristic for your villain in "The Poison Door" worked out excellently. Normally I do work on a paragraph or two every day, but when I was off in Texas for four days I just couldn't do it, and then I had other stuff piled up when I got back. But I've got some progress planned for tonight.

Travis, I agree completely.

Ivan, political correctness is doing some serious damage to free expression.

Writtenwyrd, I let myself do that when I came back from Texas and I've been paying for it the last couple of days.

Chris Eldin, glad that some folks from here are coming over. That's good to hear. I see you're getting lots of comments. I'm definitely having fun with the roast idea.

Barbara Martin said...

Layoffs from writing can wreck havoc on my WIP to where I wonder where I was going with it when I stopped. Although I have a chart that outlines a basic plot line, there are no specifics detailed. This is because I write those details and then phrase them into the chart in a location I hope they fit. If not, they are cut and pasted somewhere else.

My first manuscript was like this: puzzle pieces sewn together. I had no chart until I was over 2/3 in and then had to re-arrange everything.

Then during the layoffs from MS #1 I kept thinking I have to tweak that and change this...it's just not quite right until my editor told me to lay off, submit it somewhere and forget about it. Start on the next one.

Although, Charles, sometimes you need to take a break when things aren't working out between characters. There have been times while reading a book, that a phrase springs an idea for me that will fix my problem.

the walking man said...

Ever seen an effeminate male fight? From what I have seen, you better bring a lunch. Tenacity is a good word to describe it.

The layoff thing, edit what you have and go on. So what if it changes towards some direction you did not anticipate. Your chi is flowing again.

benjibopper said...

it always takes me a little time to return to a project after a layoff, but if i stick with it, re-read and get back into what i've written, i can usually manage.

villains, like heroes, should be diverse. sometimes even queers get a case of the crazies.

Charles Gramlich said...

Barbara Martin, yes, for me it becomes a bit of reconceptualization. I think I've got the right ideas to proceed now. Just gotta hit it today.

Mark, typically I tend to take a day or two and kind of do a lot of walking and thinking, and that usually gives me the answer to how to continue.

Benjibopper, definitely re-reading helps me return to a focus.

BernardL said...

I agree with every point you make here, Charles. Layoffs from either my shop or writing take varying amounts of time I can’t spare to get in sync again. I’ve experienced the ‘this sucks’ moment with a piece, and had to drop it altogether until writing something new allowed my returning to the scene of the crime. Your point about the deluge of ‘straight white guy villains or else syndrome’ jabs straight across the entire entertainment world. If books, TV, or the movies need a villain not likely to attract a protest, drop in the straight white guy. :)

SQT said...

Why should a villain's sexuality make any difference in whether or not they make a good villain? That's a bizarre prejudice.

laughingwolf said...

just saw today, on the spine of 'wings' it sez: 'swords of talera'

all copies like that?

Gretchen said...

Have to agree about the villain. Who really cares who a villain loves? All I care about is how truly devious and cunning he or she is. :)

Charles Gramlich said...

Bernardl, thanks for visiting. I'll start making regular stops by your place. I definitely want variety in my villains.

SQT, I only think it is a problem if "only" say black people were ever pictured as villains, but if there is a mixture and variety then it is more realistic.

Laughingwolf, that information was sent to the publisher but it looks like they haven't changed it if it's still showing up on something just ordered. I'll email them again about it.

Gretchen, exactly. Let them be villainous, and other than that I don't care of their gender, preferences etc. Thanks for visiting.

laughingwolf said...

it does not affect the book, but is confusing... thx

X. Dell said...

Perhaps the question that the critics are raising is "Do all homosexuals have to be fay?" The villain aspect probably just adds more fuel to the fire, but if the villain were unstereotypically gay, I don't think that anyone would have a problem. If the villain is untypically heterosexual, and this is clear to the reader, again, I don't think anyone would have anything to say.

laughingwolf said...

ah, ladies always recall better ;)

Charles Gramlich said...

Laughingwolf, yes on the ladies.

X-Dell, I think that could be an issue, which is why I never made any statement as to the actual sexual orientation of the character. The critic assumed he was gay because he was a bit effeminate, and because his sister accused him of being gay. But it was clear that the sister and the villain were trading insults so whether her statement was true or not was unclear.

CrazyCath said...

You and my other half are "Ford Mustangs". OMG I know you better than I thought! lol
That is slightly worrying....
(Bet your Mrs. is a Mazda like me yeah? Perfect combination. Now that would be fun if us four got together...)

Shauna Roberts said...

Even when I write every day, I have trouble getting started. It's like a shoving a boulder over the edge of the hill. It's hard work to start, but then things start rolling and by the end of the day I'm going at a great clip and only stop because my husband is hungry and wants his dinner.

Your story about the person who jumped to conclusions about your villain brings up an issue i've struggled with. History and anthropology show us that men and women affect all sorts of dress and mannerisms. Yet when one writes a story in which someone (usually a man) does not meet 21st century American behavioral standards, the character is interpreted as a wimp, or a boor, or a homosexual, or something else he is not. Even though people are reading fantasy, many want to see characters that would fit comfortably in modern-day America. Your effeminate villain would have been right at home in the court of Louis the 14th.

Charles Gramlich said...

crazycath, Lana hasn't taken the quiz yet but it'll be interesting to see what she would be.

Shauna, if I'm writing steadily I don't usually have much trouble getting started because I begin by rereading and polishing yesterday's work. Thanks for making the point about how readers insist on putting their 20th century values onto characters in stories. That's an excellent point.