Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Real Problem with Dystopias

I recently read this post about the problem with dystopias. I'm not trying to pick on her or start an Internet battle, I'm just providing a counterpoint. I see this a lot on Goodreads, Amazon, book review sites, articles, blogs, etc...where people dislike a dystopian novel because they find aspects of it "unbelievable."

Well, of course they do. It's fantasy. It's not intended to be real, so I think the real problem here is that the people who nitpick the validity of a dystopian society just don't get the genre.

Obviously, no one really thinks that society will put children into a fight to the death, or that one day we'll be eating ground up people, or that a virus will turn humanity into flesh-eating monsters. Dystopias aren't meant to be realistic, they are meant to magnify a problem of today by putting it far into the future and making it into the worst case scenario. It's a practice of exploration. A satire of sorts.

Americans today watch a ridiculous amount of reality television. Amazing Race, Survivor, Fear Factor...those are all shows that place people into exciting and dangerous situations, and while the contestants struggle to find food, or transportation, or chow down on a scorpion, we're sitting on our couches, munching popcorn, with our eyes glued to the television. How could this possibly get worse? Oh I know, make it a show about children trying to kill one another. What happens then? You can find out in the Hunger Games.

Or 1984. One of my favorite dystopias, which was the focus of the article above and is often said to be true to today. Obviously not all of it is, and Mr. Orwell did not intend it to be. It was inspired by the Tehran Conference. But take a look at some of his ideas in the novel: people subjected to constant advertising, a shrinking middle class, being constantly watched by the government...um, hello, Patriot Act.

Granted, this post is completely biased. I love dystopias. I love to read them, write them, and watch them. That's kind of why I'm writing this. It hurts me when I see bad reviews for books I loved simply because the reader found it, "unbelievable." It's fine if you didn't love the plot, or the characters, or the writing, but don't hate it because you can't stretch your imagination.

To you I say, "Give dystopias another chance," and quit trying to look at them as fortune telling. They're not. They're science-fiction. If you can allow for fairies and vampires and aliens, then try to make room for dictators who watch your every move.

*getting off soapbox now*

Monday, May 12, 2014

Writing Exercise: Explaining Bad Behavior

I wanted to share a quick writing exercise with you that everyone can do most of the time. Living in Rhode Island, a place where driving borders on anarchy, I frequently get the opportunity to stretch my character development skills and keep myself from launching into road rage.

When someone cuts me off, or runs a red light, or tries to change lanes into me, or cuts across three lanes of traffic to make a freeway exit, instead of cursing and honking, I make up a story as to why they might be driving so badly.

Maybe the woman driving the BMW, weaving in and out of traffic, just remembered she left the stove on. This is the third time she's done it this month. Not to mention yesterday when she left the garage door open, or Thursday, when she forgot to clean up the orange juice she spilled and came home to a swarm of ants on her kitchen floor. She just can't seem to get her head together since her father died, and if she doesn't get home before her husband to turn off the oven, assuming her house isn't already on fire, she'll get a bruise on her ribs to match the one already on her arm.

See? Not only have I exercised my creative muscles, now I feel bad for that woman, and I'm rooting for her to get green lights all the way home instead of shaking my fist out the window.

And you don't have to wait until someone blows through a stop sign in front of you to do this. You can do it for the anonymous commenter who leaves a nasty message on your blog, or the woman in the grocery store who cuts in front of you in line, the man who blatantly slams the door in front of you even though your arms are loaded with bags.

Just take a second, breathe, and try to come up with an explanation for why he might have done that.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

What is Feminism?

Did you guys see what Divergent star and soon-to-be the Fault in Our Stars star Shailene Woodley said about feminism?

Oy vey.

"I don't consider myself a feminist because I love men, and I think the idea of 'raise women to power, take the men away from the power' is never going to work out because you need balance."

Although Shailene has excellent taste in movies, she has no idea what she's talking about.

From Wikipedia: Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, cultural, and social rights for women.[1][2] This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. A feminist advocates or supports the rights and equality of women.[3]

Feminism isn't about dragging men down. It's about bringing women up, to, um, reach a state of equality. All I can do is sit here and shake my head and hope young ladies do not use Ms. Woodley as their source for information about women's rights...or fashion.

Monday, May 5, 2014

My Agent Wishlist

I know we're not supposed to talk about submitting, and I won't really, I'll only say that it's a trying process for the somewhat sensitive and deranged creative types. To keep myself sane, I remind myself that publishing is subjective. What's right for one isn't right for another. So I started thinking about what I would want to find in my slush pile if I were an agent. And a lot of people will be glad that I am not an agent.

Rachel Menard - Literary Agent with Completely Made-Up Agency

Rachel Menard received her degree in marketing from Arizona State in 2001 and after a decade-long career in web marketing and product design, published her first YA novel, MY FIRST NOVEL, which went onto great success in Japan. She joined the Completely Made-Up Agency in January of 2014 and is actively building her client list.

She is looking for young adult paranormal romance, thriller and speculative fiction with strong heroines who have a great voice. She is not looking for girls who constantly find themselves in peril and need to be rescued. She does not want heroines who are gorgeous, but don't seem to know it. She wants characters who are gray, not good or bad, not smart or foolish, but a little bit of both, characters who are REAL.

If there is a romance, no love-at-first-sight or borderline abusive boyfriends. Love triangles are acceptable as long as the feelings aren't forced. Do not bother submitting epic fantasy, dystopia, vampires, werewolves, vampires, angels, or fairies. She is looking for new. If your book fits into these very limited categories, you may email her your query.

That's my agent wish list. What would yours be?