Monthly Archives: December 2017

Predictive Text Chapter

First of all, if you haven’t yet seen Botnik’s Harry Potter chapter written with a predictive text keyboard programmed with all seven books, you should go read it now. It’s the funniest thing I’ve read all year. Then come back and read this post much later, because just about anything will pale in comparison.

I was so inspired that I decided to use Botnik’s app to upload the text of THE TETHERED MAGE and see if their predictive text keyboard could write a chapter of the sequel for me! I didn’t have the time to invest to get good at using it, but here, for your amusement, is my predictive text chapter of an unspecified Swords & Fire novel.

(Note that this will be funnier if you’ve read THE TETHERED MAGE.)

 

CHAPTER ???

I tried another time to leave the Mews without thinking about fire warlocks. I was hoping to find Marcello in the ducal library. Gray walls held nothing more than a perfunctory smile stretching toward disappointment. I maneuvered between rows of sleek men, fishing for young courtiers.

A new voice said, “The Empire depends on our hospitality.”

A disturbing figure that was worse than any doubt of my own limits flicked his fingers through his hair. Prince Ruven leaned against a wall, like a terrible idea.

Ruven smirked knowingly. “I can change your empire.”

I said lightly, “Here I almost missed your presence in my gut.”

Ruven placed a hand on my shoulder, and I gagged. “You should take my kingdom without hesitation, or ambition burns in my heart.”

My throat was nothing casual. “I couldn’t commend you to my mother.”

Ruven chuckled. “So I suppose it could be dangerous to tell her this foolishness.” His heart was done with my mother. He sighed and sipped a little dish of cheese.

My mother glided through the crowd with a spyglass, watching for assassins. Of course she wore a new diplomatic dagger. It seemed designed to keep any trouble from her life, like some foreboding of nine Hells.

I stared at my mother’s things as she sucked down the whole cursed hall. A moment lengthened under the assessing stare of her intrigues.

She smiled faintly at my breeches. “The Mews has secrets, like a terrible idea about your projects.”

She shrugged wearily at my marred design. It seemed designed to tighten my corset without fuss.

I wanted to protest that she knew nothing of my life. “I tried to do something for you. You have no choice about my overly intricate schematics.”

She raised an empty glass. “That must hurt. You should think of Raverra and your duty.”

“You know I wanted to make everything fit in this gown.”

She shrugged. “I could only imagine what you meant. Destruction, undergarments, and your dignity seem bent with powerful magic.”

A moment later, all my friends from Ardence said that my mother was untouchable.

 

***

 

The doge himself occupied my favorite chair at our table. I gestured to the steaming cups already awaiting us on the table, with both hands on fire. It could be anything, at our family dinner.

I stared past the doge, and Zaira lifted her hand in despair. Marcello bowed stiffly, with a grand resignation.

It could never happen that we wanted a quiet moment for private conversation. I wanted to ask him before breakfast to make sure that she wore her own ignorance as a swarm of ants.

The doge said wearily, “A certain unctuous merchant conveyed bodies in his robes to get into your corset.”

My mother would never stand for that.

“You should preclude comfortable trousers,” I said. “Anything that we can spare to keep them from being unimpressed.”

Marcello murmured, “They want to join your family in their ruthless cruelty.” He leaned against my side and hurled a glass of wine from the room.

In my mind, that was mere noises. I said carefully, “To make the empire covered with their power.”

The doge said, “The Empire stands to keep hidden among the Serene Envoy’s mistresses.”

My mind lacked precise control of my anger. I wanted to protest his attention, for his eyes gleamed with a soft echo of his own ignorance. “You should pay more attention to the imperial seal. The imperial palace is not what you truly wish it were.”

Zaira shrugged ruefully. “A few seconds without fear could change the world.”

The doge dictated a long answer. “You’re a trivial terror, for you know why I can hate you.” His elegant disapproval shaped Zaira’s cellars with his bold voice, and Zaira laughed at his face.

She gave me a challenging smile, and Zaira snorted, “I could survive your presence if you weren’t selling meat to the ragpicker.”

He ordered her to make assumptions, or the generals would pounce. His face burned, as if he might argue with her in the foyer of our palace.

Lace cuffs flew out of her coffee, and Zaira hesitated. A moment later, as he gasped in recognition, she tossed a little orphan girl at him.

I stared at war.

Zaira raised her fist and tried to clench the doge in her hand. She slipped a handful of powerful magic in her hair. Fire leaped at his face, as if he expected something simpler than a pure breath.

Zaira yanked the doge from his seat. His brows lifted toward the spreading flames. I tried not to flinch at her reflection, with her dark fire flickering between us.

She tore his heart, fluttering like a pigeon, with her courtly coiffed hair.

Marcello winced as he scooped a handful of shrieking tendrils in his hands. I asked Marcello for a cake, and he spread the city into flame.

Zaira snorted in her hand. Her arm hung over a hundred deaths. A fire gnawed at the stones scattered around the doge’s door.

I was done at last: vulnerability cluttered the floor.


Writing Female Characters

I’ve now had a few variants on the question, “How do you write such strong female characters?” This always makes me blink a bit, because you know, they don’t ask people “How do you write such strong male characters?”

BUT! It occurred to me that maybe I should actually answer this question in a blog post. Because I’m sure there are many writers out there (guys and otherwise) who would really, honestly like to do right by the fictional women in their writing lives, but aren’t sure how.

So here are some handy, friendly tips to help you!

(Disclaimer: This is by no means definitive, opinions may vary, I’m sure I’m missing stuff, etc. This is only a start, and you don’t have to follow every one of these rules all the time. But I like bullet lists, so here you go!)

The 50% Rule:

  • Make 50% of your characters women. This might sound crazy, but is actually how it works in the real world! (And you may be shocked if you stop and think about the overwhelming proportion of movies and books in which this is not remotely the case.)
  • Carry that 50% through to all levels of narrative importance. Main characters: 50% female. Random passerby: 50% female. Etc.
  • Also carry that 50% through all different roles/jobs/etc. Military and political leaders? 50% female. Caring parents, innocent victims? 50% male. Good guys and bad guys? 50% each. Obviously you don’t need to hit exactly 50% all the time—that would be weird—but shoot for it, roughly speaking. If all your generals are guys and all your hapless murder victims are girls, that kind of perpetuates a really creepy narrative.

Great! Just by following the 50% rule, you are already so, so far ahead of so, so many books out there. (Including, to be clear, many I absolutely love.)

Also, I should add that nonbinary characters are extremely awesome to include, too.

Treat Characters Equally:

  • Make your female characters as competent as your male characters. And make them stay as competent as your male characters. Nothing is more disappointing than doing a character intro where a woman seems to be a badass and then she’s just kidnapping bait for the rest of the story. (Glares bitterly at certain anime and also a certain Robin Hood movie)
  • Avoid sexualizing your female characters more than your male characters. (Sure, if your POV is a horny hetero dude, he’s going to be seeing the world through a certain lens, but think about how your female characters are presenting themselves to the world, and make sure your lens as a writer is more objective than your character’s, if that makes sense.)
  • Make sure you have important female characters who have their own role in the story, besides “Mother figure” or “Love interest.” Don’t always define women by their relationship to men.
  • Make sure most or all of your female characters’ backstories and character arcs would work equally well if they had no reproductive equipment. One grows weary of reading womb-and-vagina-based backstories all the time.
  • Relatedly, avoid including rape or sexual assault as a cheap plot device. Murder works just as well to show how bad your villain is or to give your hero a reason to want vengeance. Maybe they could even murder the hero’s male best friend rather than his childhood sweetheart!
  • Avoid sexy=evil (I mean, let’s face it, evil is sexy, but that’s very different than sexiness being a sign of evil). Also avoid pretty=good (and its nasty corollary, ugly=evil). This is not at all to say you can’t have sexy evil people or pretty good people, but make sure it’s not, like, a hard and fast rule in your universe, and that the relationship between appearance and alignment does not come off as causational.
  • Basically, just write your female characters as people. If you could gender swap the character and the story would still work, you’re probably doing a good job.
  • Remember to let your guys be sensitive and caregivers and fashion-conscious and so forth, too, and to portray “softer” male characters in a positive light!

If you’ve written stuff that breaks some or all of these rules, don’t feel bad. These stereotypes have been around a long time, and it’s hard to weed them out of your own brain. Honestly, MOST SFF breaks these rules, including many of my favorite books. (Though not all SFF! A great example of a recent book written by a male author which is fantastic about following these rules is Stephen Aryan’s MAGEBORN, for instance.)

I would loooooove to see more new books that really treat female (and enby!) characters with the same seriousness they treat male characters. If you would, too, perhaps consider these tips as a non-exhaustive starting point to being part of the solution.

GO FORTH AND WRITE AWESOME LADIES!