Strong Female Characters

I’ve been hearing a lot lately about strong female characters.  One comment was about six months ago from a beta reader who mentioned that a particular scene in my book made the female character (who had previously been so strong) seem weak.  My first reaction was:  “But, but, but…”  And then I looked at a few things.  There were some word choices in that scene that I obviously hadn’t realized were creating the wrong impression.  I changed those and it made a huge difference.

However, the actual events that played out in that scene weren’t things I wanted to change.  AND I felt they were exactly true to the character.  Yes, she’s a strong character.  Yes, she is independent and capable.  That doesn’t mean circumstances couldn’t be out of her control.  Which is exactly what is happening in that particular scene.

Which led to a few questions…  Aren’t there times when even strong characters are in over their heads?  Isn’t that when they show the most strength?  Does being strong mean you are always sure, confident, and under control?

My answer to all of those is that strength may not be just in the moment, but how you deal with that moment, what you learn from it, and how it influences future decisions.

And strength is different for different situations.  For example, in “Pride and Prejudice” Elizabeth’s strength was not going to come in fighting armed bandits.  She was confined by the world she lived in.  She had to be strong in her own circumstances.  On the other hand, a modern heroin might not have Elizabeth’s strength to make decisions even in the face of social disapproval and family concerns in a world where those were paramount.

I guess the point of all this is that your character has to be strong in their own way, in their own world, and in their own time.  As long as they’re true to who they are and act in a way that doesn’t make the reader say something like “well, she was a believable character until…”

A little bit of everything…

So this past weekend I was able to attend the LDS Storymakers writers conference.  It was really good.  I attended some interesting classes and met a lot of great people.  Here were a few of my favorite people to hear: James Dashner, Jeff Savage, Sara Megibow, and Dave Wolverton.  They all had great things to share.  James and Jeff talked about the “hook.”  It was really interesting, especially since James read his query for “The Maze Runner.”  Sara talked about the process of publishing and it was very insightful, albeit a little overwhelming when she mentioned how many rejection letters they sent out last year.  And Dave did a class on resonance.  It was fascinating and I learned a lot from his discussion.

On a completely different note, I had a beta reader who read my book who came up with the best comparison.  She said HEIR was like Shannon Hale meets Prince Caspian.  I couldn’t have said it better!!!

And finally, I think I’ve had a great idea for what I’m going to write next.  It’s a concept that’s been floating around for a while in my head, but I didn’t quite know how to add that something that would make it unique.  I hope I’ve found the answer.  It takes a dystopian theme of the characters’ reality not actually being reality and inserts magic instead of technology.  We’ll see how it turns out.  🙂

Wow I haven’t posted in a long time!!

No, I haven’t died or anything.  I’ve just been busy.  But I have a few tidbits of promising news to share.

First, a few weeks ago The Knight Agency did a contest via their blog where they were looking for new talent.  I randomly got picked as one of the 125 people who got to send 3 pages of their manuscript.  Then I got picked in the top 25.  I got to send ten pages.  Then I got picked in the top 15.  I got to send three chapters.  I did not make the top 3, but I was still very encouraged.

Second, I’ve had two full requests so far on my manuscript.  I’ve already gotten a rejection on one.  The second agent emailed me, apologized for the time it had taken, and asked if I’d found representation yet or if they could have more time.  So, there’s still hope.  And there’s still agents I haven’t heard anything from.  Fingers crossed.


Yes, I’ve gotten four.  I just have to keep reminding myself that that’s all right.  Every book isn’t for everyone.  If you don’t like fantasy, you probably don’t want to read my book.  If you do…well, then I hope you’ll love it.  And I have to admit, I wish I could get someone to read my whole book and then tell me they don’t want it.

Which leads to what’s worrying me lately…that my query is good, but something is missing.  I write fantasy.  Fantasy has certain themes.  Mine isn’t an exception.  Soooooo, I’m worried that my query is great at giving a synopsis about what the story is about…BUT it doesn’t adequately convey why mine is different, unique, worth reading.  I’m going to think on it some more before I send out anything else.

I’m finally done!!!

I’ve spent the last week getting my query ready.  It is possibly one of the most terrible parts of writing.  I do feel pretty good about the query I ended up with, however.  I think, after a year of trying, that I finally grasped the idea of a query.  Before I was trying to hard to put in interesting plot points and side notes, instead of just focusing on Ethan’s story, why it’s unique, and what makes him do what he does.  Hopefully it will work.

Along the same lines, I sent out my first 8 queries yesterday and I’ve already gotten two rejections.  Oh well.  That’s just the name of the game.  You can’t let it get you down.  Every book isn’t for everyone.  You have to find the agent who loves your book as much as you do.  I’m hoping with all the time, effort, writing partners, and beta readers that I’ll be able to do that.

When a scene writes itself…

So, after a few weeks of either me or one of my kids being sick, I think I’m finally going to finish the final edit.  Hooray. 

Among all the other things I’ve realized during this edit, I’d like to add one more.  One of my beta readers had made a suggestion about a particular scene.  She wanted part of it to be longer.  At first I wasn’t sure, but I think that might have been because I didn’t have a good idea of how to do what she suggested.  After thinking about it for a while, I finally had a great idea.

I started writing and it was going great.  I was feeling the characters.  I even thought of one thing to include that I think adds a little more emotion.  Strangely enough, however, hardly any of what I ended up writing was exactly how I’d planned it.  I thought things would go one direction and while the basic idea of the scene didn’t change, the direction it took to get there was completely different.  And better.

I guess the lesson is that sometimes writing just writes itself.  Now that does have a caveat:  You do have to have a general idea of where you’re headed.  But sometimes, especially after you’ve really gotten to know your characters, they have a way of telling you what they want to do instead of the other way around.

10 Things About Me…

I’ve had a couple of writer/blogger friends who have done this and I got tagged…so here goes.

1.  I have a wonderful husband who I’ve known for 16 years and been married to for 13.  We have four beautiful children, two boys, and two girls.

2.  I majored in History with a minor in English.  Then I went to law school.  I actually passed the bar!!! 🙂  But, my oldest daughter was born premature during my third year and I wanted to stay at home with her, so after the bar exam I have never worked (at least in the legal field:)).

3.  During college I was on the Brigham Young University Ballroom Dance Team.  This was one of the funnest things I’ve ever done.  I got to tour the Western United States, England, Finland, Russia, Lativia, Lithuania, and Estonia.  Becasue I’m so short (5’1″) I was on the Latin team.  Our greatest accomplishment was winning the British Formation Championships in Blackpool, England in 1998.

4.  During college I also spent a summer in Israel and Egypt.  Talk about amazing!

5.  Other things I love to do:  play the piano, read (obviously), sing, watch movies, and eat chocolate.

6.  Until a few years ago, my kids had 13 grandparents that were still living.  (The reason it’s not twelve is because my maternal grandparents got divorced when I was one and my grandfather remarried an amazing woman who I get as a bonus grandma!!).

7.  I’m the oldest of six kids.  My husband is the middle child of seven.  We have huge families and it’s a lot of fun.

8.  I totally drive a mini van.

9.  I love Disney.  I have been to Disneyland too many times to count.  And even though I live in the west, I’ve been to Disneyworld ten times.  We just got back from a trip to Disneyland in October with the kids.  It was so fun.

10.  It’s always been my dream to write a book.  Hopefully it’s about to come true.

An observation about world building…

I know I haven’t been around for a while and there are lots of reasons for that:  kids, vacations, cleaning, and yes, rewriting.  I sent my book out to three beta readers and they gave me great feedback.  As with any criticism, I really look hard at all of it, even the stuff where my first instinct is to say “NO!!!”  I’ve found, however, that sometimes the criticism I hate hearing the most has merit.  That’s not to say I change things exactly how someone might suggest, but I might change them in a different way that still addresses the problem at the root of the critique.  And that is what I’ve been doing for the past month or so.  It took a lot of time just thinking about what to change and what not to change — which is how I approach rewriting.  I might spend weeks, or even a month, just thinking about possibilities.  I run them through my head and examine all the consequences.  I’ve found that if I do it this way, it actually takes less time to rewrite in the end.

One thing that has particularly stood out to me in this round of revisions is how much more depth gets added to my story every time I do a rewrite.  The characters evolve, more emotion comes out, and descriptions get more visual.  But perhaps the biggest thing I’ve noticed this time is that the world I’ve created has gotten so much more three-dimensional.  Every little detail adds so much.  And most of the time they’re not even big things.  A sentence here or a comment there can add enough to indicate an entirely untold aspect of the world.  When I go back and read through some of these I get so excited because the world feels so real. 

My plan is to fininsh up the big parts of the rewrite today.  Then I’m going to send the biggest part back to a few of the betas and see what they think.  During that time I’ll work on some of the little things I need to polish up.  Then it’s time to polish the query and start sending it out again.  I’ll keep you updated, but wish me luck.

Book Review (kind of): “Graceling” and “Fire” by Kristin Cashore

For those of you who haven’t read these books yet, you should.  Even if you don’t like the traditional medieval-feeling fantasy.  I’m not going to do a big detailed review here, but I did love these books.  They are especially good if you like strong female characters.  Keep in mind, however, as one of my beta readers pointed out, that they both take a little while to get into.  There is a lot  of set up.  I, personally, didn’t find that a problem.  But I love this kind of book, and I am used to how they are written (there is a certain amount of set up and world building).  I also love that there is a good deal of romance involved.  In my mind, any book without a good romance isn’t as fun to read.  But that might just be me. 🙂