Why Trump’s Words Matter to Women, and Why They Should Matter to Men

 

First of all, I am going to quote the leaked tape from 2005 directly, and I am not going to censor it. If you’re offended by reading exactly what the potential President of the United States said, don’t read on. This article is not for you. But I believe it’s important to see it in black and white, so that the full horror is visible and unadulterated. I do not believe in saying “he who shall not be named”. I believe in naming evil and claiming back the good.

The words spoken by Donald Trump on that tape from Access Hollywood in 2005 are more than vile. They are more than disgusting. They are advocating for rape culture and sexual assault, and they should be not only offensive to men and women alike, they should solidify in any voter’s mind how unqualified for the role of President Donald Trump really is.

When Donald Trump said “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful – I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. Don’t even wait”, this was not just “locker room banter”, as so many of his defenders claim. Yes, I accept that guys talk about women behind closed doors. At least, a certain class of man does. But even if that’s true, that doesn’t make it right, and it doesn’t excuse it. The fact that many men (I will not say all, so put away your “not all men” hashtags) in this county are desensitized to the point they think this kind of speech is “normal” is part of the problem. A big part of the problem. Women are not sex objects. Women do not exist to be oogled. Women do not exist to fulfill your fantasies and to be leered at by you. Normalizing does not make it right, it makes it worse.

In the same video, he openly speaks about trying to sleep with a married woman. “She wanted to get some furniture. I said, I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture… I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there.” This single line shows that Donald Trump sees women as prostitutes, money-eating machines who owe a man sex for goods and services rendered. Married, not married, it doesn’t matter. Women are expected to offer up sex at the drop of a hat, just as long as they are properly compensated for it. Does that not make you mad, men of America? It should. What if that was your wife? What if that was your mother, or sister, or aunt, or cousin?

What if he was talking about you?

What if he was hitting on a man relentlessly, expecting a man to give up sex for furniture?

I’ve heard this be defended by men saying, “A woman could talk like that about me, and I wouldn’t mind.”

That’s because you’re coming from a place of power still. You’re coming from a place of power. What if you were powerless? What if you were told “I’ll buy you furniture, you’ll give me sex, or I’ll ruin your career.” What if you were told, “I’ll compel you to have sex with me, and when you report it as a rape, the police will ask you what you were wearing and why you were alone with him in the first place.” I’m not saying that’s what Trump said directly or indirectly, what I am saying is that is the attitude of the majority of men in power in this country.

Step away from your privilege for a moment, I know it’s hard, and imagine being a woman in this situation.

Step away and imagine a woman you love being this powerless.

Then, look me in the eyes and tell me it’s locker room talk.

Look me in the eyes and tell me a man has the right to talk about me like this

Look me in the eyes and tell me that it’s okay for a Presidential candidate to believe he can grab me by my “pussy” without consent.

Look me in my eyes and tell me I’m being too sensitive.

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Review: Don’t Think Twice by Sarah

As the film ended and the lights in the theater came back on, the couple sitting in front of me kissed.
It was a simple, spontaneous gesture; a sharing of life, of love, of intimacy.
That’s exactly what this film is, and that is what it so clearly inspired in the audience. In that moment, they weren’t sharing a PDA. They were simply sharing a moment.
A quick summary of the plot: An improv group in New York City is disrupted when one of its members (Keegan-Michael Key) gets a shot at The Big Time, a slot on Weekend Live (a clear Saturday Night Live stand-in). His rise to fame is quick, and everyone is hoping to ride his coattails.
The only problem is, his coattails aren’t big enough for everyone.
Who is going to get left behind, and who is going to land their dream job?
It would be so easy for this to be a film about a ragtag group of losers who are looking for their break to stardom. On a base level, perhaps that’s what it is. Except, it is also much more. It would have been easy for Mike Birbiglia, the talented writer and director, to have made these people pitiable and pathetic. It would have been easy to have made it a story of fame corrupting and twisting everything good. It would have been easy to make it a rags-to-riches story. But, Mike Birbiglia didn’t settle for easy. Instead, he made a complex, beautiful, and funny film about adults growing up.
Sometimes, the showboat gets rewarded.
Sometimes, the rich get richer.
Sometimes, the ones who need it most have to let go.
Sometimes, that’s just the way life is.
And, sometimes, maybe that’s okay.
At its heart, this is about friendship. These people love each other and are for each other no matter what. They also hate each other, bicker, endlessly mock each other, and are simultaneously ridiculously proud and insanely jealous for every good break anyone else gets.
Their chemistry on-stage and off-stage is natural, funny, warm, and engaging. The audience is immediately drawn into their warm friendship, and we want so badly for all of them to get exactly what they want.
Of course, that’s now how life works.
That doesn’t mean there can’t be happy endings, they just aren’t the endings you expect.
The stand-out performance for me was definitely Gillian Jacobs. I’ve been a fan of hers since Community, and it was an absolute joy to see her get to show her full range. She imbued her character with depth and warmth, vulnerability and strength, and grace and humor. The scene where she has in Improv an entire scene alone on a stage is funny and heart-breaking. Her transformation throughout the film as a glorified fan of Improv who participates but is uncertain of her own place in the world, to the expert who teaches and even sacrifices for her art form, is touching and subtle.
Perhaps more than anything else, this movie understands comedy. Some of the jokes land, some don’t. That’s just the way comedy works, you throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. What’s important is that you have your friends to fall back on.
Some of the sketches we see on Weekend Live (there aren’t a lot) are great, some don’t go anywhere, but it’s all things you would reasonably see on Saturday Night Live. There aren’t any of the false-ringing, heavy-handed sketches of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.
This film also doesn’t make any bones about comedy being an industry. Those who have made it leave people behind, because those who are worthy break through and those who aren’t flounder. You can’t make room for everyone, and if you’re not careful your own place on the top of the heap will be in jeopardy. Key does a great job portraying coming to terms with this reality. His character is a jerk sometimes, sure, but he’s not a villain. He’s a good guy just doing the best he can.
So far, for me, this is by far the best film of the year, and it’s one of the best films about comedy ever. Mike Birbiglia also wrote and directed Sleepwalk With Me, and between these two features, he is my new favorite filmmaker. He understands people, he understands life, and he understands why the things that make us laugh also make us cry.

“What About the Boys?” by Sarah

The last twelve months have produced at least two amazing female-driven blockbusters (Star Wars: The Force Awakens and now Ghostbusters), and there are more to come. Putting it as politely as I can, this has led to many… colorful debates online about the value of female-driven scripts.

Isn’t it enough already?

Don’t girls have enough heroes now?

What about the boys?

Don’t BOYS need people to look up to?

The short answer is, yes. Of course boys need someone to look up to.

The longer answer is, no. It’s not enough. Women, people of color, and every other overlooked minority population needs more exposure. Diversity in entertainment is GOOD.

Let me explain my story a little.

Growing up, I wanted to be a boy.

Now, I did not want to be a boy because I had gender identity issues. I wanted to be a boy because from all the books I read and all the movies I saw, it looked to me like boys just got to have more FUN!

I loved everything swashbuckling and knightly. King Arthur was a personal favorite. I wanted to badly to be a knight of the round table. Why? BECAUSE THEY GOT SWORDS, DAMNIT! They got to save people and defeat dragons! They got to DO SOMETHING! What did Guinevere get to do? Cheat on her husband and basically destroy Paradise? How is THAT fun? (I’m speaking as a child saw the situation, of course there are more nuances to her character… but when you’re seeing it on screen as a child, this is what you see.)

I also loved Robin Hood. He was an archer! He could hit any bullseye from a million miles away. He stole from the rich and gave to the poor. He was a HERO!

What did Maid Marion get to do?

Fall in love.

Get kidnapped.

Yell and scream a lot.

Get saved.

That’s not me.

I never wanted that to be me.

The more I saw women being nothing but Damsels in Distress, the more I saw the MEN coming in to save them, the more I wanted to be a dude. Why wouldn’t I? If I was a boy, I would get to be the hero. I would get CHOICES. I would MATTER.

The only modern women I really saw in cinema were the stars of romantic comedies. I enjoyed these movies, but there weren’t women I wanted to be like. They weren’t HEROES. They essentially fell in love, and having a man in their life just fixed all their problems. I can barely even remember any of their names, they are completely interchangeable and generic. And that’s fine for what those films are, but when then those are the ONLY women I had to see on screen, there’s a problem.

The other women I saw on screen were the Bond Girl types, the femme fatals who existed to be leered at by men. The women who dripped with sexuality and betrayed everyone at the drop of a hat. What I learned as a child was that as a woman, I mattered only if a man wanted to make out with me. I mattered only if a man decided I mattered. If he didn’t pay attention to me, if I was (God Forbid!) ugly or undesirable, I wasn’t worth his time, and hence I wasn’t worth anyone’s time.

My value came from what men thought of me.

I didn’t like that.

I didn’t want to be a woman like that.

I wanted to be a boy.

James Bond was a boy, and he got fun toys and got to save the world.

How is that not better?

Whether intentional or not, as a child, these were the messages I took away from the stories that surrounded me.

Being a girl was inherently worse than being a boy.

Being a girl meant being passive and not getting to fight for anything.

Being a girl meant waiting to be rescued.

Being a girl meant falling in love with whatever guy paid the most attention to me.

Now, what about the boys? Are there negative messages bombarding boys? ABSOLUTELY. Is there toxic masculinity out there? You bet. Should this be fixed? YES!

But, boys have choices.

Boys have heroes.

Boys can be the hero.

When will it be enough?

When I don’t have to write this article explaining why it’s not enough.

Why Kate McKinnon And Kristen Wiig Are Important For The Future of Women in Cinema By Sarah

 

First of all, we’re going to be talking about Ghostbusters (2016), so if you have a problem with spoilers, stay away until you’ve seen it.

And, go see it.

I was not sure this movie would be good. The trailer left me a little numb, truth be told. But, within thirty seconds of the film starting, I had laughed. Out loud. Twice.

That’s more than I generally laugh the entire 90 minute runtime of most comedies.

So, in short, see Ghostbusters. It’s fun. It’s funny. And, it’s important.

The entire cast is amazing. Each and every woman plays her role perfectly and is charming, witty, and amazing. I loved them all. But, for me, Kate McKinnon and Kristen Wiig have two specific moments that are not only completely badass, they are absolutely some of the most important moments of the year for women in cinema.

The first moment is McKinnon’s. If you’ve seen the movie, you know exactly what moment I’m talking about. In the third act, there is a giant ghost-busting-ass-kicking fight. McKinnon licks her supernatural sixshooter, and takes on what seems like a hundred ghosts on her own. She just obliterates them in amazing fashion.

That, right there. That was important.

Why, you may ask?

First of all, because it was awesome and actually elicited a cheer from my crowd. A raucous, spontaneous, CHEER. But, beyond that, it is important because she is a woman who, in that moment, is standing up and taking control. She’s not wearing a skimpy leather outfit while doing it. She’s not trying to look sexy. Her boobs aren’t perfectly accentuated in a halter top. No. Her hair’s a mess, she’s in a dirty jumpsuit, and she’s just going to kick asses and take names.

Most movies fall into the trap of thinking a strong, female character needs to be in a Catwoman-type costume. I’m not saying there’s no place for tight leather and whips, and I’m not judging that type of strong female at all. What I’m saying is, there are OTHER ways to be strong. There are other ways to be confident. In this moment, Kate McKinnon showed the world she could defy every Hollywood cliche, and she could still be the sexiest woman on Earth while doing it.

The second moment that is important for the future of women in cinema belongs to the fabulous Kristen Wiig, who has been a comedy hero of mine since before Bridesmaids. Her Katherine Hepburn impression on SNL won me to her side from minute one.

Ms. Wiig’s moment is slightly more subtle. It is also during the final fight scene. Her friends are all in danger, crushed beneath a giant, very familiar-seeming ghost. Then, out of no where, BAM! The ghost explodes, and standing there is Wiig in her full glory. She gets an amazing, Indiana Jones-style hero shot. An actual, real life, honest-to-God HERO SHOT where you just stare are her in her awesomeness and soak it in.

She’s a woman.

She defeated this ghost.

She didn’t wait for a man.

She didn’t give up.

She didn’t run.

She is the hero. Accept it, love it.

Again, she is not in a negligee. She is not accompanied by a love interest. She is not in a Princess Leia slave outfit. She is just there, also in her jumpsuit, also radiating pure womanly radiance in a way we just don’t generally get on screen.

Again, I am not judging the heroines on screen who are more overt with their sexuality. There is a place for that brand of feminism, too. What I’m saying it, this film dared to embrace a DIFFERENT brand of feminism. A brand of feminism that often goes overlooked in Hollywood because it might seem less glamorous, but after all, feminism is about the ability for ALL women to choose their fate, to choose how they live out their femininity. Neither McKinnon nor Wiig sacrifice an iota of womanliness or femininity. Theirs comes from their characters, their depth, their quirks, their smiles, and their determination.

It was glorious to behold.

So, take note, Hollywood.

Women are here.

ALL women are here.

And we’re not going anywhere.

You Got Time (But We Don’t Got Time for You Piper): Orange is the New Black Season 4 Recap and Review – Episode 1 – Work that Body for Me

Plot Synopsis: Season 4 picks up right where season 3 left off, with the ladies of Litchfield celebrating their short-lived freedom in the lake.

Well, almost all of the ladies are enjoying their freedom.

Alex is being strangled in the garden shed.

We all cross our fingers and hope this is the end.

Unfortunately for the audience, Lolly saves her, in the process beating the guard to death. Uh-oh. Can you guess what the over-arching story of THIS season is going to be? Just when you thought there might be a season NOT revolving around Alex and Piper.

Anyway, Alex and Lolly bury the body. But not before chopping it up. Gross.

Piper has now decided she is “Gangsta. Like with an ‘a’.” She feels she has earned some respect, and she’s going to get it.

Of course, she’s still Piper. No one respects Piper.

Caputo gets a new batch of guards from Max to help replace the ones who walked out last season, leading to the lake voyage. They prison also got an influx of new prisoners, so there is a huge over-crowding issue. The guards from Max are some scary-ass dudes. The guards hired by Litchfield are under-trained, but the Max guards are INTENSE. Especially Piscatella, who Caputo immediately takes a shine to.

Romances are blooming all around. Soso and Poussey. Suzanne and her crazy fan, Kukudio. All are fighting for the title of “Who will they finally spend more time on than Alex and Piper?”, because we instantly like each of them more than Piper and Alex. Kukudio is clearly even crazier than Suzanne, and her nickname is Crazy Eyes.

No sign of Larry the entire episode.

Thank God.

There is also no sign of

Piper reads a Nick Horny book.

We don’t know which one.

Don’t take Nick Hornby away from me, Piper. I like him. I don’t want to have to hate him because of you.

There’s a new prisoner: Judy King, a cooking show magnate clearly based on a cross between Martha Stewart and Paula Deen. She gets stuck being processed while everyone else deals with the new influx of prisoners.

Piper tries to establish dominance with the new inmates.

She fails.

Of course she fails.

But she still manages to make us hate her.

Poor Poussey tries to talk to Judy King, her hero, but can’t get a word out. She’s adorable. And oh so gorgeous. Seriously. Who else makes sweats look that good?

I guess I should mention that the assassin that Lolly kills for Alex isn’t really dead, so Alex re-kills him. Frieda sees the body and helps them cut it up and bury it over the yard.

Analysis: Overall, not one of the strongest eps in the show’s history. No real classic moments, no real tension. Even the Alex killing the assassin scene, which should have been full of tension, fell pretty flat. The cutting up of the body came across as more unrealistic and “that would never happen in prison”, even a minimum security. I understand this series has a lot of those moments, but really. Honest to God, that shed is the worst. Why would prisoners be allowed unfettered access to ANY PLACE? Much less a freaking SHED with TOOLS THAT CAN CUT UP A BODY? I don’t see it happening.

Not much in the way of character development. No flashbacks. This episode really is just setting up the rest of the season, and it doesn’t do it all that well. If the bulk of the season is going to revolve around Alex and her body, then I’m not that interested.

None of the people or storylines we care about are being touched on. No mention of Sophia. Not much Red. Thankfully, we’re spared much of Daya, who has become kind of annoying over the last few seasons. She’s far from the wide-eyed, innocent, adorable woman who had a sweet romance in season 1. They really crapped on that romance.

We’ll have to wait to see what the rest of this season holds, but so far I’m not too optimistic.

Why Ed Rooney is Not The Secret Hero of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off by Sarah

The Internet loves nothing more than positing ridiculous fan theories about our favorite movies. Usually, these fan theories boil down to someone is actually dead and/or in a coma from a certain moment onward, and the rest of the movie is just a dream. With the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, however, there is a fan theory that I find deeply disturbing.
This fan theory basically states that Ed Rooney is actually the secret hero of the film. In this theory, Ferris is a sociopath-in-training, luring his friends to The Dark Side with no qualms about destroying their lives. He lies without remorse, steals, uses people, and seems to have little to no actual emotion about anything that happens. Ed Rooney, on the other hand, is the put-upon school administrator who is the only person who sees Bueller as he really is. He’s just a man trying to do his job, trying to save his students from the bad influence of a future serial killer.
Ferris Bueller, as a character, doesn’t hold up as well today as he did in the 80s. That’s undeniable. He comes off less as charming through modern eyes, and seems more like a spoiled, privileged brat. However, these character flaws do NOT make Ed Rooney the hero. Ed Rooney is in no way, shape, or form a good educator. He is not trying to do his job. Ed Rooney is a bad person, a bad educator, and a villain in every sense of the word.
“He’s just doing his job,” is the central argument of this fan theory. That would be all well and good, if anything he does is actually part of his job. Checking up on students who called out sick? Maybe. Speaking condescendingly to that student’s parent and heavily implying they are negligent and out of touch? Absolutely not. Besides, if he was so concerned with Ferris’s attendance, why did he wait until the ninth absent to call? Why not call on the eighth? Or the seventh? Or the sixth? The answer is simple: He didn’t call because he doesn’t actually care. He’s not out to help a student, he’s out to nail a kid he hates.
From the very first moment, the hatred Ed Rooney has towards Ferris is palpable. He can’t even say his name without spitting it like a viper. Disdain drips from every syllable. That is not the attitude of a good educator. His goal is not to help Ferris, as he makes clear time and time again. His eyes gleam with the thought of “bringing down Ferris Bueller”. His goal is to ruin his life, not to hold him accountable. Again, if the goal was accountability, where was the call to the parents on the eight previous absences? Rooney wants Ferris to fail, not just at school but at life. He wants him to get held back, to not get into college, to not have any success. This is not the attitude a man who is “just doing his job” should have. This is the attitude of a true villain.
When Rooney thinks the young man is on the phone pretending to be Sloane’s father, he says horribly inappropriate things to him, not because he doesn’t realize he’s speaking to a student but because he believes he is speaking to a teenager. There is no justification for ever speaking to a student like that. That is not an educator trying to do his job, that is an educator who has lost sight of any sense of purpose.
Additionally, Rooney shows little to no concern for any other student in his school outside of Ferris Bueller. When he personally witnesses Sloane kissing her “father” (actually Ferris) in a way that heavily suggests an incestuous relationship, his response is complete and utter indifference. “So that’s how it is in her family,” he shrugs and walks away, back to his life. He does not follow any of the standard abuse reporting procedures that every educator are required to follow, as mandated reporters. Rather than wasting his entire day tracking down a student whose parents have already given him an excuse for being absent, he should have been calling Child Protective Services. Educators can lose their jobs, their licenses, and potentially even serve jail sentences for ignoring signs of suspected abuse. That is part of your job, Ed Rooney. Do your job, sir.
If you’re still not convinces Ed Rooney isn’t the real hero of this film, also consider how many laws he actively breaks just to trap this one kid in one lie. Is Ferris Bueller the only student who has ever skipped school? Of course not. Has Ed Rooney gone after all of these students with equal fervor? Nothing in the movie indicates he has. He is focusing all of his ire on this one kid. Targeting a single student for extreme punishment is not “part of your job” as an educator. Letting personal feelings into your discipline practices is not “part of the job”. Breaking and entering, assault, and animal cruelty are not part of your job.
In short, if you don’t like Ferris Bueller as a character, that’s fine, but do not over-compensate by assigning positive attributes to Ed Rooney that don’t exist. Nothing about his character is reflective of an educator concerned with what is best for his students, or with being a good educator and doing his job at all.

 

 

MAY’S WINNER – SARAH’S PICK: The Dancing Seahorse by V.L. Marsell

I selected this month’s short story, written to eventually be turned into a picture book for children, because it’s a simple yet inspiring tale of sticking with something, even when it’s hard. Something all writers know about, I’m sure! It’s a good reminder to be yourself and never give up!

The Dancing Seahorse

By V.L. Marsell

Serena the Seahorse is the odd one of her family.

She is rainbow-colored; everyone else is just plain orange. They never really treat her like she’s different, but she still feels like she doesn’t belong.

Some of the other sea animals, however, do make fun of her because she is different. This makes her sad. It was because of this that she prefers to be by herself.

Places where no one else can see her are her favorites.

She is afraid for anyone to find out what her secret love is. She was afraid they would make fun of her.

Serena loves to dance.

She goes to a little alcove in the more shallow water—where she could hear the music playing from the beach. First, she starts swishing her tail and moving her head from side to side, until she gets into a rhythm. Then she begins twirling.

One day, without her knowledge, one of Serena’s sisters follows her.

She is curious as to where Serena goes every day after Fish School ends. Savanahh watches in amazement as her sister begins fluttering and twirling around. She doesn’t know what to think. It is strange and beautiful at the same time. She watches her for a long while before heading home.

Savanahh wants to tell her parents what she had seen. But she was afraid that if she tells their parents, Serena will be mad at her.

She already knew that Serena feels out of place because of how she looks. But if the other sea animals know about her dancing, maybe they could see how special and talented her sister really is. Maybe she can even talk Serena into entering the Fish School Talent Show that’s taking place next week.

Later that evening, Savanahh tells Serena about following her and watching her dancing. Serena feels sad. Because once the other sea animals find out, they would make fun of her more often.

Her sister tries to reassure her and tells her that she needed to enter the Talent Show. “Everyone should see how beautiful you dance,” Savanahh says.

At first, Serena is scared to let anyone see her dance. But the more she thinks about what her sister had said, the braver she feels.

She didn’t tell her sister, but she decides to enter the Talent Show.

On the day of the Talent Show, Serena is terrified, but is ready to dance. From where she stands, she can see her family. When she swims out on stage, she sees all the other sea animals watching her and she almost swims away.

But she doesn’t.

She musters all of the courage she has inside and she starts to swish her tail. Then she closes her eyes and just dances. She forgets about everyone, pretends she is in her secret alcove, loses herself in the music of her mind, and dances with all her heart. When the music stops, she opens her eyes and sees everyone clapping.

After the show, when the winner is announced, Serena couldn’t believe her little ears.

She WON!

The next day when she goes to school, everyone tells her how beautiful she had danced. From moment on, no one ever makes fun of Serena again.

And she dances every day.

 

V.L. Marsell wrote this for her friend’s granddaughter, Serena, who is a dancer and loves seahorses. She is working on a novel and other short children’s stories. Her previous short Christmas story published on UpwriteLadies is being looked into for publishing.

Mother’s Day

Whether you want to admit it or not, Mother’s Day is a day fraught with raw emotions. It’s a day that is meant to honor our mothers, and the truth is they deserve that and so much more. Mothers are awesome, and they need respect and honor every day of the year.

That being said, this Sunday there will be people who are missing their mothers. Nothing is more difficult or painful than losing your mother, and this day will bring up all of those emotions all over again.

There will be people who are sitting in your pew at church, trying to hold it together while they watch the little children give their mothers gifts and hugs and kisses.

Of course mothers deserve those things. No one’s saying they don’t. No one’s saying don’t celebrate and observe. No one is that much of a monster.

I’m just talking about those women who are forgotten. Those women who are silent. Those women who would never speak for themselves, because the last thing they would ever want to do is shift the spotlight from mothers to their own pain.

But, just because they’re silent doesn’t mean the pain isn’t real.

I can’t speak for all women. I am not all women. I am me. And personally, I have no real issues with Mother’s Day. It’s always been a fine day, because it’s not about me.

It’s not for me.

I’m not mother.

I never had a chance to be a mother.

That chance was taken away from me when I was ten years old. I’ve known from that young that it just wasn’t in the cards for me. Sure, there’s always adoption, an option I heartily endorse and value, but telling a woman “Well, you can always adopt” is like telling someone, “Well, you can always just use your left hand when I cut off your right hand.”

Sure, it’s possible.

But it sure as hell would be nice to have to option of using your right hand.

I’ve grown to accept this over the years, for the most part. It’s part of who I am, and I’m generally okay with who I am.

But, it’s a process of grieving. A process of acceptance. It isn’t something you’re told and you just nod and say “Okay. No kids. Sure. That sounds great.”

If you’ve never been told that, you don’t understand.

You just don’t.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

There are parts of your life that I will never understand.

That’s just life. We all have something we have to deal with. This is my thing. Your thing is yours.

A lot of women out there struggle with it more than I have. A lot of women have gone through miscarriages and years of infertility treatments. A lot of women have gone through pain and tears and frustrations you will never understand.

You just won’t.

It’s their thing.

Not yours.

I’ll never fully understand, because I guess at least I knew since I as 10. I never had that spark of hope that it could happen for me. It was just part of my life that never existed, so how can I miss it? It’s like a phantom limb, you know it’s not there, but sometimes you can still feel it itch. Just a little.

Sometimes, it hurts. A lot.

It just does.

So, please. Appreciate your moms on Sunday. Love them. Honor them. Revere them. Have brunch with them.

Maybe just remember that sitting next to you might be someone who is in pain.

And that pain is real, whether you see it on their faces or not.

What Makes a Compelling Character? Part II

Last time, we focused on writing dialogue for your character. Today, we’re going to talk about figuring out who your character is as a person.

A lot of times, you won’t know who your character is when you start writing them. You might know one or two of their dominant personality traits, but the odds are you will discover the shades and nuances of their personality during the writing process. This is not only okay, it’s wonderful. Writing should be as much a process of exploring and learning as it is a process of merely dictating to your readers what to think or feel.

It is okay if you begin knowing one thing about your character and nothing else. For example, you may know your character is a smooth-talking con artist. You may know they are a soldier struggling with PTSD. You may know they are a kind, patient teacher. Starting from one point and building up from there is a great way to begin the process, as long as you don’t leave their entire personality at that one trait. Writers tend to write flat, uninteresting characters when they mistake a single trait for an entire character. No person is one thing and only one thing. No one is all noble and good all the time, and no one is generally all evil all the time. There are nuances to humanity, and a character without any nuance will feel two dimensional to your readers.

For many writers, it is easier to write a character if you “base” them on someone in real life. Sometimes, this means basing your character on yourself. Now, there is nothing wrong with giving your character some personality traits that you have, or that your family has. The danger, however, is when you don’t go any deeper than that. If your character is merely a stand-in for yourself, you won’t be able to objectively find their flaws and downsides. You will be so concerned with the audience liking your character that you will try to make them flawless and perfect. Not intentionally, of course, but it will happen. That’s when the dreaded Mary Sue label pops up. Your audience is smart. They’ll catch it. Don’t take them for granted, and don’t try to fool them.

Please note, this does NOT mean that you just tack on something like alcoholism or a drug addiction to every character just to give them depth. That is not depth, it is lazy writing. Whatever flaws your character has must grow organically out of their core. Any “turns” a character takes, such as a villain having a moment of nobility or a hero falling from grace, have to make sense for who they are and who they are trying to be.

You’ll know you’re on the right track when your character begins to do and say things you would never do. When your character can wholeheartedly believe and defend a position you disagree with, you have a fully fledged character and not a Mary Sue.

  • Sarah

What Makes a Compelling Character? Part I

Perhaps one of the most difficult things to do when writing is to create a compelling character. Think about it. What are the most common criticisms you hear about characters from various books or movies? I know the ones I hear a lot are:

* “That character wasn’t likable.”

* “I didn’t understand their motivation.”

* “I didn’t care what happened to them.”

* “They didn’t feel real to me.”

* “They were such a cliché.”

It can be difficult to avoid these pitfalls in your writing. The truth is, there is no real shortcut to writing a compelling character. It will take a lot of trial and error on your part as an author, but it will also be so rewarding in the end when you finally nail it.

The best advice I can give you is from my own experience. It may not work for everyone, but I’ve found the following techniques are a good place to start. Today’s advice for building a character will focus on writing that character’s dialogue.

First of all, you have to get a “feel” for how your character speaks. This goes beyond simple things like dialect or accent. It’s about gaining a deeper understanding of how your character would form a thought, and then how they would express that thought with words. Are they terse and monosyllabic? Are they verbose? Is proper grammar important to them, or are they more loosey-goosey and free-flowing? Are they logical and practical, or more emotional? Do they get directly to the point, or are they more poetic and abstract? Do they find a punchline in everything, or are they more serious and deadpan?

The reason this is so important is that your audience gets to know your character through their dialogue. Dialogue is central to understanding a character, and understanding a character is central in forming a bond with that character.

The best way, in my experience, to get to know you character is to write two-person conversations. This is a simple exercise that won’t take you very long, but it can yield some great results. Take the character you want to create and put them in a situation with someone else, then just write what they talk about. For example, interacting with an airline employee or at a job interview. By limiting the scene to two, or at the most three, people you cut out distractions and are able to hone in on what makes this particular character unique.

These conversations don’t have to end up in your final story. In fact, they probably won’t. No one but you will ever see them or care about them. That’s not the point. The purpose is just to let you learn who these characters are and how they interact with each other. You can’t share your character with your audience until you know them yourself, and you can’t get to know them until you have actually written them. You won’t realize a line of dialogue rings false until you know what false for that character is.

That’s it for this post, but believe me we are far from done talking about characters! Please like us, share us on social media, and check back in for more! Subscribe to our RSS feed to get automatically updated when we post!

  • Sarah