Identification

At the moment, I’m starting to look into concepts around how readers (and gamers/viewers) connect with characters, or how identification happens.

What-Does-That-Mean-Foreign-Language

There’s a few different thoughts around identification: does the reader want to BE that character? Do they imagine themselves AS the character? Or does the reader hold themselves outside of the character, observing and judging the situations and events?

It’s not as simple as “readers connect with the main character” (and definitely not that the main character has to be likable to be identifiable!). In some books, the main protagonist is the alienated viewpoint. Say, feed by M T Anderson – the main character, Titus, is this solipsistic teen in a highly commercial and capitalistic future. In this future, kids have an internet implant (the feed) in their brain (imagine having thoughts getting interrupted by ads). Except for Violet, who sees the world “as it truly is” without the implant and questions everything. Even though the book is written entirely through Titus’ perspective, empathy and identification goes more to Violet. The book is even dedicated “To all those who resist the feed.”

In film studies, identification is also complicated, with commentators distinguishing between primary identification (with the camera) and secondary identification (the character of empathic choice) (Clover 7-8).

chase

Evil Dead awesomeness. Dem camera moves!

… just as attacker and attacked are expressions of the same self in nightmares, so they are expressions of the same viewer in horror film. We are both Red Riding Hood and the Wolf; the force of the experience, in horror, comes from “knowing” both sides of the story. ~ Carol Clover

I’m still fairly new to looking into video game studies, but in searching for stuff around this topic, I found an interesting study on identification in three ways: avatar identification (roleplay, customisation and escapism), group identification (socialising and relationships) and game identification (advancement and mechanics).

sera2newCharacter customisation is huge for me and how I play Warcraft.

Identification is more than just “I like X”, but is important also in part because of the general perception that watching/reading/playing can influence you, the typical example being that playing violent video games makes you commit real world violence – which I totally reject. fool

Identification is also interesting in terms of genre. For example, with romance, it’s probably safe to say most people assume that the reader identifies with the heroine. And for a while the heroine as narrator was pretty established, however from perhaps around the 80’s this began to change as reader’s wanted to see the narrative from the heroes point of view. Author Laura Kinsale proposed in “The Androgynous Reader” that actually, the romance reader identifies with the hero, as the reader is represented by and also in competition with the heroine. Kinsale argued that “through her own and the hero’s eyes, the reader watches and judges the heroine” (35).

Which leads me onto what I’ve been looking at as a case study for all this: Twilight!giphyOn Meyer’s website, she states that “I left out a detailed description of Bella in the book so that the reader could more easily step into her shoes.” This goes back to the Mills and Boon adoption of “Lubbock’s Law”:

Lubbock’s Law was derived from Percy Lubbock, critic and author, who published The Craft of Fiction in 1921. Lubbock maintained that the best fiction, such as Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, succeeded in part because the author wrote from the heroine’s point of view. ‘to have lived with their creations is to have lived with them as well,’ Lubbock maintained. Fiction, he added, must ‘look true’.~ Joseph McAleer

How Meyer interprets how reader’s identify with Bella was also extended to the choice of casting:

For every actress that has been suggested as Bella in the past few years, there are always a slew of critics that cry, “But she doesn’t look like Bella!” (Which can often be translated thusly: “She doesn’t look like ME!”) To this I would like to say: “Of course she doesn’t!” Bella is a fictional character, and she looks different to everyone. As is the same with every actor who will be cast in the next few months, no one is going to match up with your mental picture exactly—or mine.

Bella’s apparent blandness or blankness of personality was also picked up on by critics as a device for identification:

Unfortunately, the books are tough to defend. There’s no doubt, for instance, that Bella is a remarkably droopy, drippy character, and while her blankness could be justified as a device, enabling readers to identify with her (which has obviously happened to an extraordinary degree), she also has a weird clumsiness, a haplessness that means her vampire boyfriend has to rescue her regularly. ~ Kira Cochrane, The Guardian

Concerns about Bella’s passivity neglect to consider how the books invite identification with the main character. For this to be possible, there have to be certain gaps in her characterisation, but these gaps are designed to be filled in by readers with their own characteristics. ~ Catherine Strong, The Age

As Crawford examines in his chapter on the fandom and the controversy of Twilight, it is often claimed to be bad for readers, because if they identify with Bella (through such claims in fan reviews as wanting to be Bella or wanting to marry Edward etc) then they have a role model who has low self-esteem, is submissive, is passive and all that jazz – but then he asks “does the fact that someone identifies with a fictional character really imply that they view them as ‘a model for [their own] real-life choices’?” The argument against Bella and Twilight is also used for 50 Shades, such as with this article snarkily titled “Christian Grey is not real”. Crawford sees this argument as rather reductive, and also perhaps with implicit discrimination against readers (of Twilight) “because of their presumed youth and femaleness … often seem to be assumed, a priori, to lack the critical faculties necessary to distinguish between fantasy and reality.” This will be no surprise to fans of romance, or even young adult literature.

Dylan-Moran

So TL;DR, there’s a bunch of theories of how identification works, but it’s important to think about because society thinks that identification with fictional characters will lead to bad things, particularly if the work is about about sex or violence or is aimed towards younger readers.

Recommended Reading

  • Men, Women and Chainsaws by Carol Clover ~ A study of horror films from the 70’s to mid 80’s and how identification works (using a psychoanalytical framework) and how it is gendered.
  • Passion’s Fortune: The Story of Mills & Boon by Joseph McAleer ~ A very detailed history of how Mills & Boon became one of the biggest publishing names in the world
  • The Romance Revolution: Erotic Novels for Women and the Quest for a New Sexual Identity by Carol Thurston ~ A slightly older work, on how romance and women in romance were changing in the 70’s and 80’s due to the new wave of feminism.
  • “The Androgynous Reader.” by Laura Kinsale in Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women: Romance Writers on the Appeal of the Romance. Ed. Jayne Ann Krentz. ~ How reader identification works with romances (this is not an academic work, but rather from the perspective of an author of romances – however, quite a few academics pick up on this and extend the work, such as Amber Botts “Cavewoman Impulses: The Jungian Shadow Archetype in Popular Romance Fiction” in Romantic Conventions edited by Anne K Kaler and Rosemary Johnson-Kurek.)
  • The Twilight of the Gothic? Vampire Fiction and the Rise of the Paranormal Romance by Joseph Crawford ~ awesome history of the paranormal romance, its gothic associations, and including a reader response chapter on “The Twilight Controversy”
  • Player Identification in Online Games: Validation of a Scale for Measuring Identification in MMOG’s by Jan Van Looy, Cedric Courtois, Melanie De Vocht and Lieven De Marez in Media Psychology Vol 15.2 (2012).

The Changing Face of the Monster

Over some mocha this morning I was thinking (coffee required for brain function). Everyone blames Twilight for dumbing down the vampire. People right out despise Twilight for changing vampires. They’re supposed to be monsters, people cry out in rage, not lovers! As my focus is also on a monster-turned-romantic-interest, Twilight has some sort of weird interest for me. I don’t particularly like it, I think Bella is weak and the writing not great – but there’s a part of me that knows that if I’d read it as a teenager (probably <15; maybe what would be considered a tween now), I would have loved it.vampires

Vampires had already completely saturated mainstream culture before Twilight. They were domesticated by their commodification. Fred Botting discusses this: the vampire is now a familiar and consumable figure. His references for this go much earlier than Twilight, with Dracula as a superhero in 1962 and the amusing Count Duckula, but especially Anne Rice (he doesn’t specifically mention Twilight in this section, although this book was published three years afterwards, but I haven’t finished reading it all yet!). This has created a new site of identification for the vampire.

“Vampires cease to be threats to individual and social identity and curiously give shape to the unformed mass of desires, cravings and appetites called the consumer” (Botting 41)

So the vampire loses its weirdness.  This sort of goes against a lot of monster theory. The vampire is no longer uncanny – something that was once familiar and has since become repressed (Freudian theory). True Otherness is a return of the repressed. Foucault argued “What makes a human monster a monster is not just its exceptionality relative to the species form … the human monster combines the impossible and the forbidden” (Foucault in Levina and Bui, 5). For Derrida, a monster is something that is unknown, abnormal, it frightens because there is no anticipating it. Once it is known, once the monster is seen as a monster, “one begins to domesticate it” (Derrida in Levina and Bui, 6). In Twilight Edward says vampires could have evolved side-by-side with humans – Darwinian evolution rather than supernatural presence.

“The vampire is warmly embraced, included, naturalised, humanised in an appropriative liberal gesture that is scarcely tenable given the vampire’s historical construction as that which is both most proximate and alien to human identity”(Botting 41)

We know what vampires and zombies are now. We know their weaknesses, we know their  strengths. What is left to explore? As Hildebrand-Burke demonstrates in his post on modern horror, we seem to stick to the past view of monsters rather than looking to the future. Why can’t we create new monsters? Why stick to the 19th century imagery of what a vampire is, or the 1970s-80s version of what a zombie is? Fear comes from change, from what is unknown. Nina Auerbach proposes “every age embraces the vampire it needs” (although embrace might be a bit strong. Every age CREATES the vampire it needs?).

Although Twilight and the books I’m looking at are romances or contain romantic elements (romances = romance is the main plot & must have a happy ending. Romantic elements = romance is supplementary to the story), they change the monster and yet are reviled for it. Most modern vampires laugh at the suggestion that a Christian Cross or garlic can stop them. Is this not making the familiar monster unfamiliar again? They are changing the rules of the game and disturbing the knowledge that makes us safe. Why do we even want to restrict this change?zombies

Recommended Reading

  • Where are all the Monster Books? by Craig Hildebrand-Burke
  • Guide to writing modern horror by Craig Hildebrand-Burke
  • The Limits of Horror by Fred Botting
  • Monster Culture in the 21st Century edited by Marina Levina and Diem My Bui (check the Introduction by the editors, and Domesticating the Monstrous in a Globalizing World chapter by Carolyn Harford)
  • Blood Read: The Vampire as Metaphor in Contemporary Culture edited by Joan Gordon and Veronica Hollinger
  • The Living Dead: A study of the Vampire in Romantic Literature by James B Twitchell
  • The Real Twilight: True stories of Modern Day Vampires by Arlene Russo
  • A Taste of True Blood: The Fangbangers Guide edited by Leah Wilson
  • The Changing Vampire of Film and Television: A critical study of the growth of a genre by Tim Kane

*Images from the Sims 3: Supernatural promotional material

Friends on Radio

This is an interview with my dear friend @SandrAntonelli who is researching women over 40 in romances, and pulling us up on our ageism. Older women have very specific stereotypes, the crone, the cougar, and rarely seen in a romantic light. She’s fought these general stereotypes herself with her two books, For Your Eyes Only and Basic Renovations. Check out her website here.

Another romancey PhD friend, looking at it from the librarians POV is @VaVeros. This show doesn’t have a podcast, but if you click the link above you’ll see all the links and info that Vassiliki talked about. There was discussion about whether libraries are keeping up with the digital age (mostly; yes), about the services they offer (they aren’t just there to loan you books, but offer a range of community events such as reading groups,  mums and bubs groups, even hosting apocalypses).

All the delicious brains, PhD buddy Jodi McAlister (@JodiMcA) frequently does podcasts on tv shows, The Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars. She’s studying romance literature, but also has a passion for theatre. I haven’t listened to the podcasts yet, because I’m very far behind on both shows, but she is bound to radiate her awesome through the airwaves.

Jon Page, bookseller extraordinaire, is also a book reviewer for 702 Sydney every Tuesday at about 10:30am. He talks on all sorts of interesting topics, and pretty much what he doesn’t know about the Australian book industry isn’t worth knowing. He tweets along at @pnpbookseller, and you can check his website here (GO BUY INDIE BOOKS!). The show doesn’t get a podcast, so be listening to the show or follow Jon’s twitter to keep up with it.

Review: Burnt Snow by Van Badham

Burnt SnowBurnt Snow by Van Badham

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sophie is the new girl at school, with a strange and overbearing mother, trying to manage the bitchy popular group and a strange boy who catches her eye. As she reaches towards him, the strangest things begin to happen and Sophie starts to think that it’s not just Brody that is the danger.

As typical as this short summary sounds, the book is nothing what you expect. It is really well-written and a lot more twisted than I could ever explain without spoiling the book. It is quite a hefty read for a YA single volume, just about 700 pages. The plot flirts with danger for the most part before it reveals its secrets. I don’t mind that it took a long time for Sophie to discover more about the world, some books plots just have a switch flicked and suddenly the world changes, this gradual development is much deeper and more emotional for the reader.

Sophie is not the typical YA main character either. Her family is quite more complicated than it appears as well. While she does have her flaws and weakness, she is not a Mary-Sue whose only flaw is she cares too much. Badham has done a brilliant job in creating a character and a love that does not follow the typical simpering love story of most YA. We actually get to see the character grow, beyond just the plot and love interest but actually maturing in herself.

Badham also plays with her references, which I loved. At a costume party, most want to go as vampires with sparkles, to which there is the groaning and rolling of eyes. She doesn’t coddle her characters either, although I did feel a particular situation involving Sophie’s new friends acting out of sorts (for good reason) was dealt with a little too easy.

Again, as is the problem with a lot of good books, is the wait for the next book (although it does not say it anywhere on the cover, it is actually to be part of a trilogy). There’s no doubt in my mind that I will chase after White Rain as soon as it appears (although it says in the book and on multiple websites that it’s coming in 2011, I did manage to find a post on the Facebook as late as Sept 2012 that said it was coming soon). With some minor flaws, Burnt Snow is a strong book that stands out in a genre awash with simplistic plots and even simpler characters.

View all my reviews

Writing, Reading and Publishing

On the weekend were two writer’s get-togethers. Genre-Con and Emerging Writers’ Festival. Both were successful, well enjoyed and abounded in information. Here, I’ve collated a lot of friends tweets from those who were able to make it and shared what they learned!

 

General Writing Tips

Writers should think about what they can learn from every book they read. It’s how editors learn too. @KylieMMason

Write to allow the latent boiling rage against the stupidity of the world to be released. Not for cash. @EmergingWriters

Audience member: writing should be self-rewarding. If you think you’ll be the next JK Rowling you’ll ultimately be disappointed. @EmergingWriters

Writers need to find their own way, do what comes naturally, try different things. Don’t worry about what famous writers do. @KylieMMason

KM you can’t demand perfection of yourself in the early stages. “Suck it and see” – you lose nothing by trying words. @BothersomeWords

KM finds dialogue easiest to write. Initially write Innocent Mage as a script *then* turned it into a novel. @BothersomeWords

“Good plan, grind it out – it’s like painting a wall.” Joe Abercrombie on writing. @AlanBaxter

Karen: the joy of first draft is all the things that sneak up on you. Sometimes takes you to a scene/place you didn’t know was there. Every book develops in its own way; it’s never the same twice. @BothersomeWords

Karen: sometimes people don’t trust they can think of a thing when they need it & they get caught up in pre plotting. Daniel: when you’re writing you spend so much time with things in your head you need outside perspective to make sure things are clear. @BothersomeWords

Karen & Daniel differ on effectiveness of whiteboards v track changes comments to keep note of plot ideas & clues. Karen suspects plotters tend to not trust themselves to run with the story. Daniel likes to post-plot in the 2nd draft. @KylieMMason

ID: Read in your genre. You need to be familiar with writers in your genre. BF: read as if you’re going to be editing BF make sure you keep reading while you’re writing. It’s the only way to keep testing yourself. JC: it’s challenging to be edited. If you find a (received) edit tough, put it away and come back. JC: you must have beta readers. Send them a brief – what your work is and what your concerns are, what you need. Jodi explains the importance of finding the right writing group. Describes trauma of being a SF writer in a literary group. @BothersomeWords

BF: it’s a balance: write what you love, what you *have* to, not what you think will sell BUT consider what will be published. @BothersomeWords

“Be aware of the archetypes so you’re not just -blindly- doing what millions of others have already done” @NarelleBailey

It’s important to be aware of stereotypes & archetypes so they can be avoided or manipulated.@KylieMMason

ID: your opening sentences and pages have to grab people. SF: in ebooks that IS what people are judging from. JC beware of padding. Sometimes opening chapters are the worst and can be what let you down. @BothersomeWords

 

 

Research

Do your medical research. Ask your doctor about effects of actions & weapons. Visit http://trutv.com/library/crime  for real life action ideas @KylieMMason

Involve your friends in fight choreography! Fun for everyone. (disclaimer: carefully!) Don’t forget that people have emotional breaking points even in battle. They cry, sob, scream, etc. Don’t rely on characters having ‘natural’ fighting skills. Most people don’t & have agro without know how. There is always a random factor in a fight, but don’t rely on it to always save your hero. No deus ex machina, please. @KylieMMason

“cliches are often cliches for a reason” so true though, more important to execute in new/interesting ways than avoid completely. @NarelleBailey

 

 

 

Characters

JA research gives you details people don’t think about and give an air of authenticity. Reveal culture/activities. @BothersomeWords

Characters should be people, not chess pieces being moved about for the plot. @NarelleBailey

PM Newton: sometimes you need a character to do something but they don’t feel like a person until 3rd draft. @BothersomeWords

What comes first- character or setting? JA: character first. In fantasy often feels like setting is first. @BothersomeWords

Karen talking about POV – we see/hear/feel from one character’s perspective-that helps the reader ‘place’ the action @BothersomeWords

Give chars negative traits, but reasons to pursue them. Show why they’re stubborn, single-minded, make it sympathetic. (tweeted by @AmieKaufman, said by @HeleneYoung)

Joe Abercrombie: Sometimes, changing character name helps identify character quirks, individuality. Names are important. Nothing like a really rubbish name to jerk you out of a story. @SmartBitches

Learning how stage directions work- how specific they need to be and how clear they are from the associated dialogue. Different options keep reader engaged and emotionally involved. Anticipating action for chrs or in suspense with chrs. @BothersomeWords

Shock your readers with new/different responses from your characters. Make them wonder which response was ‘real’.@BothersomeWords

 

 

Scene

JA being honest is important. Everything in a book needs to be truthful so every metaphor feels real. @Bothersome Words

LA says the language has to be appropriate & proportionate to the scene. Keep dramatic stuff for big events @KylieMMason

Mood v purple prose. How to move past purple? Jason: ‘Somebody with a red pen points out error of your ways’ @KylieMMason

Evocative language is the key. @KylieMMason

Jason user language & sentence structure to create mood; tense scenes get shorter sentences, etc. @KylieMMason

You’re crafting an emotional experience for the reader. Are you using the best words, fresh ways to show gestures etc. @BothersomeWords

Pinpoint and highlight certain moments to make scenes seem real without overloading with detail. @BothersomeWords

Karen explains importance of specific words. Eg: fled; lumbered etc. instant imagery, emotion, characterization Use a single image to convey information. Eg: instead of a page about sweat, hammers, sparks, smiting, etc: smithy. @BothersomeWords

“Said” is an invisible word and is mostly all you need with some exceptions. You can liven up dialogue with occasional descriptors. Hamlet would be boring if no one added flavour. @BothersomeWords

Writing is theatre of the mind. We are visual creatures. But when you’re writing everything visual has to be transcribed in words. You cannot literally translate an action sequence as it would happen on film. Dull to read. You can translate the *emotion* and *experience* so reader can imagine. @BothersomeWords

Flavour, feel & rhythm is important in dialogue. Brush you characters with the vocabulary of the time. @KylieMMason

What is a big scene? Bronwyn: the opening one. Get it wrong & the book fails. Daniel: the scene everyone wants to talk about, not necessarily the one the writer thinks it is. Bronwyn: you have to keep pace moving whatever your genre; keep reader interested. Eg: in crime need a body fairly early on @KylieMMason

How things are done in real isn’t always hey exciting – in fiction is more important that it FEELS true: character, motivation etc @NarelleBailey

Daniel: in an ideal world every scene is crucial; you never set out thinking the scene you’re writing won’t matter. @BothersomeWords

 

 

 

Editing and Getting Edited

Fresh eyes are important… don’t work in solitude, find someone who will read your work and give feedback @EmergingWriters @Andrepeach

Audience member says when she is stuck writing she gets her computer to read it back to her – she does physical stuff and listens @EmergingWriters

How many drafts does it take? SF: diff for each writer and can be different if its first or second in a series.  KM: the first draft gives you something to craft and mould. It’s the equivalent of a blueprint for a new house. @BothersomeWords

JC: editing is not me telling you what has to be changed. It’s your work and editing is a conversation. If editors want to make changes they need to explain why. If authors want to say no they need to explain why too.  @BothersomeWords

 

 

Publishing

Print on demand is a fantastic option for emerging or independent-minded writers… great way to get your work out there @EmergingWriters

Helene: think of changing publishers like changing jobs. It doesn’t have to be a big bad scary thing. @BothersomeWords

Australian publishers often find it hard to sell Australian based novels overseas says @AliceTG (tweeted by @EmergingWriters)

Germany is the workhorse of publishing. Korea huge for non-fix. Japan struggling. Brazil growth region. @ReadNikkiLogan

If you’re looking for an agent, make sure you have a complete book for them to represent. @KylieMMason

I like crowdfunding because I hate gate-keepers, and all their empty promises: Matt Clayfield. @WritingNSW

Gatekeepers do serve a purpose-the reams of unedited beginner writing for sale online now shows that. Needs to be a midground @NarelleBailey to @WritingNSW

“I loved the story you had on (subject) last issue. Wd you be interested in a story about (related issue)?” A good pitch. (Tweeted by @WritingNSW, @Franmolloy)

Send your pitch to ONE place. Don’t ruin your chances for life with an editor by risking two places taking up your story It’s OK to add a deadline – if I don’t hear from you by (date) I’ll assume yr not interested. Date passes, offer it to next place. @WritingNSW

Even addicted gamblers would think publishing was too risky to try. Publishers know every book won’t pan out @SophieHamley, @AmieKaufman

“If you go with a publisher who tells you that they know everything, they’re lying.” Said by @JoelNaoum, tweeted by @AWMonline

Keeping your integrity& vision is important. A lot of publishers are a pain in the bum to deal with frankly: Melanie Lee @WritingNSW

 

Genre – Romance

Subtext in romance is a fun way to play against what’s on the surface, because readers are in on it. @KylieMMason

AC if you try hard enough it sounds true – none of us lived in the regency anyway so *cant* be *true* @BothersomeWords

Bronwyn Parry writes romsus & uses mood to build up fear, thrill & love. @KylieMMason

How much detail? In a romance, avoid large slabs of world re-creations & historical details. @KylieMMason

Bronwyn says love scenes are the hardest to write, they became easier after she realised she was writing love rather than sex scenes. @KylieMMason

 

 

Genre – Spec Fic

JA likes to use the “fantasy world” defence if anyone ever tries to pull him up on inaccurate historic details. @BothersomeWords

JA there’s no comparison to real world experience but you can extrapolate when writing fantasy. @BothersomeWords

JA points out lack of money/commerce in epic fantasy. Frodo doesn’t pay for anything. Sauron doesn’t buy stuff. @BothersomeWords

JA he wanted readers to know what to expect but also wanted to explore social changes and pressures. @BothersomeWords

JA wanted to write something recognizably fantasy, following the rules to a point – so he could break them. @BothersomeWords

Jason Nahrung writes dark fantasy, Gothic, and mood is everything. He starts with an emotional scene & teases out from there. @KylieMMason

A lot of modern fantasy doesn’t include long speeches – but sometimes people need to say a lot! Can get round this by breaking up with argument or *action*. Get characters to move around, use the space, objects etc @BothersomeWords

 

 

Other Genre

Thrillers/horror should give a ‘clean shirt’ moment. Romances, a melancholy moment. Give readers respite from the main mood. @KylieMMason

PM Newton writing about police in 1992 – accuracy would require more swearing than would be readable. @BothersomeWords

Mood at opening of a thriller must be ‘normal’ so chrs can be thrown into a horrific situation. Build a mood to destroy when writing thrillers. @KylieMMason

Did not know that the term ‘Hard Boiled’ derived from romantic tradition which emphasized emotions of apprehension, horror, terror and awe. @Pnpbookseller

Lively debate on dialogue in historical novels. How much modern language is too much? How much historically accurate language? @KylieMMason

Never assume no one will know if you get something wrong, like musical references. Composers often fell out of fashion. So: do your research. Make sure your references are accurate. Even Wikipedia will help with this. The moment a reader hits an inaccuracy or something unlikely, they’re pulled out of the story & you risk losing them. Your characters are of their time. If they behave outside of society’s norms, there will be consequences. Your research is like an iceberg. Know as much as you can but don’t show us everything. We’ll be bored. Resources for historical writers: Write to libraries in places your story is set. Ask for primary resources or local histories. Resources: Pay TV is good, but not the history channel, which is obsessed with aliens & Nazis. But lifestyle, culture channels good. Beware of movies for historical accuracy. Sometimes writers do have to tone down historical facts because modern readers might not believe them. Good dictionaries & atlases will help. Beware the internet. Only use sites you trust as inaccuracies get repeated & thus become fact. To avoid never ending research, get a handle on your period then focus your research on what specifically relates to your story. @KylieMMason

 

 

Selling and Marketing

Blogging can be a great avenue. Don’t think that publishers don’t look at your blog. It can showcase your talent and engagement. @EmergingWriters @Miscmum

Audience member: some writers spend so much time online marketing, how do they find time to write? @EmergingWriters

Helene enjoys social media but likewise has to disengage in order to write. @BothersomeWords

DO talks about publisher requiring website, blog, FB, twitter etc. He obeyed but has had to let things slide to write sequel. @BothersomeWords

JA you need to keep things under control. Other elements come with getting published that will take you away from writing. @BothersomeWords

JA: pick your level of involvement in social media and stick to it. Has run a blog for 5 years and writes weekly. @BothersomeWords

JA you need to be prepared for silence; not everyone will read your book. Not everyone will like your book. @Bothersome Words

In Australia, authors have a 3-mth window to promote new book. After that pubs/bksellers have moved on to newer books. @BookThino @HeleneYoung

By comparison Helene finds it harder to juggle full time work and writing needs. You have 3 months to sell your books if Australia is your market, you need that time to market/sell those books. Means she hasn’t had a holiday in ages. @BothersomeWords

JA describes the soul destroying process of rejections but no feedback. Didn’t know about various writing orgs & support. @BothersomeWords

Thinking about accessibility re author websites is important, says @SmartBitches – re readers with visual impairments in particular. I would add: accessibility is increasingly important for ebooks. @Sjhfletcher

Conversation, not broadcast, and be a person. The two big rules of social media. So says Sarah Wendell @AlanBaxter @SmartBitches

“Social media: As long as you’re there and you’re thinking about it, you’re doing it right.” – Sarah Wendell” @Alanbaxter

Blogging is a hungry beast .. but the benefit of it is community engagement says @altait (from@EmergingWriters)

“If none of you have a blog: start one. It’s easy & worth the hour investment to learn to use these tools” Exploring Digital Space @WritingNSW

Further to that “find people who write like you do”-interact w other bloggers & “indicate you’re part of the family” JenniferWilson @WritingNSW

If your purpose is to get published you have to treat your web presence like a CV. Make it work for YOUR purpose. @Seizureonline, @WritingNSW

 

Guilty Pleasures

Not specifically on undead, but relative to the romance side of paranormal/zom romance!

I’ve read a few comments and reviews on this doco and it’s been mostly negative. That the direction of the documentary shows those into romance books to be pathetic, sad sacks of loneliness or desperate for romantic attention, and ignores the range of romance readers. There’s one at Dear Author, and one at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.

It’s available online at SMH.tv (maybe only for Australian viewers? If you are international, it might not work for you)

Despite or maybe because of the negative images around it, I decided to watch it. I’m still new to admitting I read romance (mostly historical outside paranormals and zombies), but a lot of my friends are romance – particularly paranormal – readers and I do wonder about the difference between the stereotyped Mills and Boon readers and the real readers I know. What is it about the books we like?

So I’ve jotted down some quotes and comments onthings that happened in the doco.

Note: Words not exact because the video was being evil for me and I couldn’t go back to get the words right :S

~

Women make male or neutral pseudonym for sci fi (and other genres) – men make female pseudonyms for romance books

“It’s okay for her [my wife] to read these novels to compensate what I can’t give her” – a reader’s husband

Men must be alphas, have to look imposing, got to present a good physical appearance, got to be fit, never fat. The kind of man every woman would fancy – Romance writer

Mills and Boon readers are usually past the bloom of youth, intelligent, and have steamy determination – Romance writer

Sometimes are accused by ardent feminists of being anti-feminist, of  promising women things that they will never have, which I think is ludicrous. Readers know they are reading a work of fiction, they don’t expect it in real life. – Romance writer

A reader takes up ballroom dancing inspired by the novels she reads. She admits to dressing up specially for her private tutor, but not so for her husband.

‘It gets hotter and hotter’, ‘Why can’t we expect that in real life?’ – a reader and her friend

‘There was a lot missing in my life and that’s why I enjoyed reading the books. I think it’s escapism. You just indulge yourself in them and think ‘wow, I wish that was me’ – A reader

Romance reader who likes ballroom also watches competitions and seems to admire other men who are tall and Harlequin-heroesque, pointing out features of men not her husband that she likes.

Writer takes notebook to cafes and restaurants and will note down snippets of discussion or movements. That’s what readers like, little things rather than big things, little words, little looks.

Of course she likes reading. It’s a harmless past time. – Reader’s husband

You used to get a sex scene that faded into dots … but now it’s very different – Writer

The idea that any fool can write a Mills and Boon is a mistake – Writer

The sex scene must always be in the context of a loving relationship. – Writer

This is all fantasy, it’s not the real world. It’s a nicer world and we want to maintain that image – Writer

That’s why you read the books. You want all that romance … At the end of the day, you live in the real world and everyone has their downfalls.  – Reader

A Mills and Boon book is not just happy and straightforward –  they have to work through trials to get to a happy conclusion – Writer

Why do men find it so hard to say ‘I love you’? Maybe because it’s so trite, everyone says I love you. There’s almost an in-built fear of commitment, they don’t really want to say something that will tie them down. – Writer

She’s an extremist [about reading Mills and Boon]. Militant, feminist. – a reader’s separated husband

The dancing reader is not happy. Her husband has joined her in dancing so she can go in competitions, but she envies those couples where the husband/male teaches the female. The husband is nervous, but excited to be working with her.

Women are more interested in relationships and talking about relationships than men. Women like to be told things over and over again. – Writer

We’re all yearning for love … I think a fraction of 1% get to meet their true love. It’s so powerful it’s unstoppable. You have to believe in that.  – Model

In every book I write there is a development in the character. The person at the end of the book is not the same as at the beginning, they’ve both learned something about themselves. – Writer

Mills and Boons create an excitement in my life … but it’s not something I’m setting my heart on, because real life is about different things. It’s about romance in your self, that will save you. Relationships will come and go … but it’s the relationship with yourself and how you develop that – Reader

If you think it is getting a bit stale, you have to throw something in there – Reader’s husband

We celebrate, in every Mills and Boon book, the emotion of love which is in everyone’s lifes – Writer

Real life begins where the Mills and Boon ends – Reader

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After thoughts:

So a lot of this was about true life love and relationships and not just the romances. It feels a bit awkward to have watched someone else’s unfulfilled relationship.

I’m not so sure that reading the romances gave the women an unachievable relationship to desire as the film seemed to suggest. They wanted to be respected, to have some fun in the times they spent together and to enjoy each other’s company and work with their passions.

I didn’t think there was enough breadth in the film – there was no happily married/together couple of which one reads romance, there had to be something lacking or different in the relationship. The people were set up to be seen as trying to live in their own fantasy world, but I didn’t feel that’s what was really going on. Also, the restriction of only connecting with Mills and Boon romance – there are soooo many other imprints and publishers and types out there.

And none of them seemed to read or write or model for paranormal romance. Mores the pity, because I think it brings a new dimension in. I particularly love when the female is the special paranormal, and the male is lesser aware of the paranormal because all too often, it’s men as alpha weres/head vamps and women as the humans. Where once a woman had to be a lady to marry a lord – and there’s more than enough stories about lower class women and higher class men – it’s about changing an entire life-state, not just being able to pick nice clothes and not insult a royal guest. Could argue that romance is the same all around, it’s just paranormal types  ramp up the problems that can be had in any normal relationship. Still, I think it’s a missed opportunity to show only one kind.