Because You’re Still Asking Me

This post is approximately 450 words. Some of them are Joss Whedon’s.

When people hear I’m writing a book, they’re usually curious about the story. Of those who survive the tempest of enthusiasm that results from a writer describing his work, many are surprised that I’ve chosen a thirteen-year-old girl as my hero. A quick glance confirms that, yes, that answer came from a forty-something man.

skeptical hippo

And while people are intrigued, I can tell that some are searching for a way to politely comment on the oddity of a forty-something man writing about a teenage girl. Yep, I get it. Looking at many movies, video games, and comic books of the last few decades, they can be forgiven for expecting that a fantasy story will feature manly men and scantily clad women in impractical armor. And while I admit I’ve enjoyed some of those things, the world doesn’t need more of them.

Quite the opposite: we need more tales about strong girls and women to counter the unnatural misogyny that pervades our culture. I believe so strongly in this, I’ve spent the last 18 months hunched over a keyboard, trying to bring these types of characters to life.

It reminds me of a meme featuring writer/director Joss Whedon. I’ve seen variations over the years, but they all say this:

Because you're still asking me that question

I love this quote. It speaks to the ridiculousness of the question and the mentality behind it. It’s not that idiots are asking, rather it’s people who aren’t thinking critically. To Joss, it’s like someone asking him how he walks across the room: he simply walks across the room. And people marvel at the novelty.

They marvel at the novelty of a strong female character. In the 21st century. Sigh.

The quote is probably nearing ubiquity, so I doubt people are still asking him. But the mentality hasn’t gone away. I see it online daily, and sometimes it seems like we’re going backwards as a society. It feels like people are desperate to hold onto an unfair gender advantage.

To combat this, we need more strong female characters in every kind of storytelling. I’m putting my money where my mouth is by devoting my book series to this. I want to contribute because it’s the right thing to do. I want to hand my nieces the first book and tell them I wrote this with them in mind. And I want to say the same thing to my sons and nephew.

I want my readers to understand, as Joss so eloquently put it, that “recognizing somebody else’s power does not diminish your own.”

Take 8 minutes to watch his wonderful speech:

 

–Mike

Enjoy what you just read? Leave a comment or like the post and we’ll ensure that you see more like this!

© Michael Wallevand, June 2017

Sanding down the rough spots

This post is approximately 500 words.

I speak regularly with others about writing, many of whom love the idea, but don’t have the desire. As such, it can be challenging to find common ground – common understanding, I should say – when we talk.

I’ve found that analogies are helpful and I’m always looking for a good one. Today, as I wrote and re-wrote a chapter-end that I lamented about nearly a month ago, it occurred to me that sanding wood might be a strong analogy.

If you had woodshop in school or you’ve done a home improvement project, you’ve likely done a bit of sanding. I’m not much of a craftsman, and I always have rough spots on cut wood. So I’d sand-sand-sand-sand-sand, and then feel the spot. Sand-sand-sand-sand-sand, feel the spot.

sanding

I learned early on that focusing only the one spot led to more uneven places on the wood. Perhaps I sanded too far down or accidentally used a different grit paper. To check my work, I would place my hand a few inches before the sanded spot and run my fingers over the entire surface, beginning to end, feeling for consistency. Sand-feel-repeat.

I do the same thing in my writing, though I’m unsure the two things are connected. Maybe unconsciously.

The aforementioned chapter-end was a single paragraph of about 120 words. Mechanically, that’s a rather simple thing to edit, but as I tweeted in May, it wasn’t a great end to the section, much less the chapter. It certainly didn’t make me want to immediately start reading the next chapter, and I’m the goram author.

Each time I touched it, I went back a few paragraphs and re-read the whole ending. Edit-read-repeat. It’s a technique I’ve used in all my writing for years, including the piece before you now. Here are three benefits I appreciate:

  1. Maintains consistent feel and tone: You don’t want heavy emotional passages accidentally transforming into happy scenes.
  2. Ensures word variety: If you used the word ‘bewildered’ in paragraph 7, you wouldn’t want it to repeat in paragraph 10.
  3. Prevents a surprise plot device: You probably don’t want your ending to include something that comes from nowhere or to have accidentally removed a key point for which your reader needed resolution

However, both sides of my analogy share a similar danger: that of removing so much, the piece is reduced to something unusable. While it might be easier to salvage a mangled paragraph than a block of over-sanded wood, in either case, I’m usually inclined to scrap the affected part to start over.

The current evaluation of my chapter-end is what led to this quick blog post. I’m finding myself close to the point of starting over. I have three little mysteries that don’t feel like they’re compelling enough together, and none are strong enough to stand alone.

Time to get back to some literary sandblasting.

sandblasting

For future you and me: it’s the end of Chapter 18. When you’ve eventually read that and this, let me know what you think.

–Mike

Enjoy what you just read? Leave a comment or like the post and we’ll ensure that you see more like this!

© Michael Wallevand, June 2017

Writing Is Pre-writing

This post is approximately 400 words.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a writer, you’ve probably heard the phrase “writing is rewriting”. This is absolutely accurate. I’ll probably write a future post on this, but for now, I wanted to establish that I am talking about something different here.

writing thinking2.jpg

When the hours of the day are comprised of varying combinations of family, friends, work, and other activities, writing time can be limited. Precious, really. The last thing you want to do is take that jewel and toss it down the drain.

Many writing efforts are like that. If you’re a writer like me, you’ve logged hundreds of hours staring a blank screen, jaw and fingers slack. It’s frustrating to think you’re squandering that rare opportunity to conjure some magic from a keyboard.

But what if you could take that wasted time and expend it elsewhere? Continue reading

Who’s writing the great American novel? Not me.

This post is approximately 500 words. I wrote it 8 and a half years ago when I was between jobs and somewhere between hopeful and hopeless. I share it here to illustrate the thoughts a writer has before THE INSPIRATION hits.


December 1, 2009: I sometimes wish I were writing that kind of novel, but mostly I’m glad I’m not. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a fine thing to write an important work that stands the test of time. I hear from other writing friends who think they’ve got some…thing, that they’ve got that great novel inside their brains. But they’re slaving and grinding at the keyboard and apparently not enjoying themselves along the way.

I just don’t have that idea in me, driving me along like a merciless taskmaster. Continue reading

Paths of Imagination

This post is approximately 500 words long. That’s about a word for every friggin’ marble I’ve stepped on.

marbleworks2

Benji and I recently played with our Marbleworks set from Discovery Toys. Think of it as a cascading bobsled track for marbles that you assemble in any configuration you desire. Place one in the funnel at the top and it follows your path all the way to the bottom. This wonderful experience develops creativity in kids (and reignites it in parents).

Our construction approaches vary. Sometimes, Benji just gives me pieces. Others, I try to work in something creative, like every level is the same color. The basic approach is the same: funnel(s) at the top, finish line(s) at the bottom, fun raceway in the middle.

And (he says, appreciating the segue he’s created), this is analogous to writing a story. Continue reading

Writing Update: May 12, 2017

This post is approximately 300 words. Two months later.

I’ve been talking with some writers and conducting some interviews lately, and it occurred to me that I’ve been ignoring this blog. However, I didn’t realize it had been TWO MONTHS since I’d posted.

clint disappointed

That’s disappointing.

March was busy and April flew by ridiculously fast. And now we’re halfway through May. The good news – for those interested in the book – is that I haven’t been idle. At least four more chapters have been cut-up, torched, and polished, and a few more have also gone through the writing wringer.

The editing and re-writing hasn’t been easy, however. For me, I’ve spent most of the first two-thirds of the story setting things up and slowly painting my hero into a corner. Now I’ve got to untangle that web and see how she saves the day.

SPOILER: Continue reading

Writing Update: March 12, 2017

This post is approximately 600 words.

Last night, the clock on my computer screen read 11:48 pm. Including the last two hours, I’d spent six or seven hours yesterday working on Chapter 14, a 4000-word section which in hindsight, should have had a working title of “The Long Walking Chapter Full Of Exposition”.

I required this chapter to do a lot of heavy lifting for the story: the one being told in the current book, but also in the greater overall tale I wanted to tell throughout the series.

My characters began to understand that there was more going on than a simple adventure story filled with monsters. Additionally, readers needed to know that our heroes had just one choice for sanctuary, but the destination might be only slightly less perilous than the wilderness. I had backstory about the place and needed a thorough-enough depiction so I wouldn’t have to keep describing it (I’d rather establish a scene early and as we go on, allow readers to recall as little or as much detail as they wanted to enjoy the story). We also meet two secondary characters and a few tertiary ones.

Oh yeah, and I needed to continue the character development of my three heroes. Whew.

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The Last Shard (modified image of Devils Tower)

Continue reading