March Articles

Here are a few articles I came across in March.

In keeping with our recent character theme, let’s start out with some thoughts on The Six Defining Characteristics of Strong Female Protagonists. I was hesitant about this one at first. Like Joss Whedon*, I think the term “strong female character” has gotten a little out of hand. I was pleasantly surprised, however, to find the author of this article say, “I believe there is a tendency to confuse strength with acting like a man. I don’t want to read about women who act like men, or men who act like women. I think a character’s strength can be measured by his or her ability to get my attention, make me empathise with, and care for, that character, and then to drive the story to its conclusion.”

The six characteristics outlined in the article can apply to strong characters of either gender. (I almost said “any” gender, but unless you’re writing some really fantastical sci-fi, “either” should pretty much cover all bases.) I think my favorite characteristic is the first one mentioned: “She has a story goal that defines the narrative arc. She has to get possession of something, or relief from something. There have to be important consequences if she does not achieve her story goal.”

I am decent at writing characters with goals, but this idea that there are important consequences if the goal is not achieved is one that I find very enlightening. I recently re-read a portion of the Getting Into Character book (Another shameless plug! What can I say? It’s my favorite book on writing technique.) that was talking about Action Objectives and the 4 D’s (Desire, Distancing, Denial, Devastation). In it, the author uses the example of The Pearl by John Steinbeck, and how the protagonist, Kino, has a very specific desire for a very specific goal.

Kino doesn’t simply want to sell the pearl he has found. He wants to sell it for a good price and pay for his son’s medical treatment and a better life for his family. I think that is part of what makes the story so effective. The tragic ending is tragic not because he abandons selling the pearl but because his goal of healing his son has such an opposite outcome. Read the story if you want to find out just how tragically it all turns out…

On a much lighter note, here’s a list of 22 Apps and Tools Every Writer Should Know About. That may be an exaggeration, but some of them, particularly the prompt generators, look pretty useful. I own and regularly use Scrivener and feel it’s worth every penny. If anyone has used Evernote, please let me know; I’m interested in trying it.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with this fun answer to the question Should You Write About What You Know? This comes from a blog for beginning writers, full of Writing Tips and other encouragement for those who may be young or just starting out writing.

*(Whedon, known for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Toy Story, The Avengers, and other film and television work, is famous for answering the question, “So, why do you write these strong female characters?” with the answer, “Because you’re still asking me that question.” Watch or read if you’d like to know more about that speech.)

Happy Writing! And Happy Spring!