Thursday, February 06, 2014

Mary Sue's, Sexism, and Self Insertion

I've been noticing a pattern lately. Namely, all my recent MCs (main characters) tend to be male . There are reasons behind this, I think, that has a lot to do with how women are portrayed in media and books in general.

There are certain things that having a male character seems to let you do. One, you've got less chance of being called out on Mary Sue-ing things. (A very good essay on why the whole Mary Sue concept is less about audacious wish fulfilment and more about girls not being allowed to have wish fulfilment here). You can pretty much guarentee the absence of a love triangle by having a male POV character. You can have them do more with less justification.

But these issues weren't initially something I considered. For me, the real issue, as I saw it,  was self insertion. The first couple of characters I wrote were pretty much me. It was classic Mary Sue tropism, but without the fanfiction. Now, I believe there are plenty of male Mary Sues out there, but they get called on it less. They get away with it more (especially the whole "everyone finds me attractive thing". I'm not sure that happens an absolute heap for both men and women in real life). But I did have a significant issue with just putting myself in the books.

And I knew me. Me wasn't interesting, I wanted to be in the heads of other characters. So the first thing I did was change the sex. Bam, instant other character culture shock. I had to figure all this stuff out, and I basically had to learn how to create a character from scratch, something I hadn't been doing before. Then I went and made an old man my next MC. My currently WIP has a 32 year old guy as the MC. All distinct, different voices.

All well and good. Those were my initial reasons for writing from the male POV. But now?  I know how to do characters. I know how to build them. I know how to not self insert. But still, I cringe at the idea of going back to female characters. Why? Because I feel people will point and say "it's just you."  Or - "there's no way society would let her get away with that" or "wait, she finds both these characters attractive, I don't like love triangles (even when there is no triangle, it's just an observation she's made)." Guys are allowed to find umpteen girls hot and not have issues with angst. There's... certain ideas that are ingrained into my mind when it comes to the standard female and male characters are held to. Especially in Sci-fi and fantasy. For example, I found myself doing it again the other day - searching down urban fantasy novels with male protagonists because I knew the chance of cross over into paranormal romance (which is something that's not really my kettle of fish), was next to nill. I made all these presumption about the strength of the plot based upon the character's sex.

Now, this may just be my issue, but I wonder sometimes. I didn't suddenly wake up and have all these presumptions in my head, they happened somewhere along the way while I was reading and writing and looking at reviews.

I really need to give my self permission to write female POV characters again. And stop trying to freak out about what everyone else will presume. But it's hard, given I myself make those presumptions. If I make them about my own female POV characters, and I know I'm not self inserting, what will other people presume?

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Flash Fiction: A Recipe for Heartbreak

A Recipe for Heartbreak.

It's a small measure of hate. Half a shake of rosemary for all the years he strung you along. An ounce of his blood, a nice drop of wine from a organic place. Preservatives will mess with the spell-work.

Feel free to drink some of that wine while you're letting the start of the potion simmer.

Next comes the ingredients you'll actually have to go to the apothecary for. I recommend going before you drink the wine that's not going into the potion. Going after you've drunk it can land you in a jail cell, and all your hard work of the night before will be burnt away. If you're lucky, your anti fire charms are all strong and have been recently refreshed by a specialist practitioner.

Start again. The dragon tears will be the most expensive. Feel free to curse the fact that you didn't buy them before you had to post bail for your drunk and disorderly charge.

Start again. Maybe measure and line up your ingredients. Then, if you didn't get enough blood for a second shot, go out and find some more.

He did, after all, call you a crazy bitch, so feel free to go all out. From experience, I can recommend a good nose bleed to assist in collection. Act like you didn't mean it after you cast the spell, hold a tissue to his nose.

Burning the blood and collecting it's essence works just as well as the fresh stuff.

So start again. An ounce of blood, some preservative free wine. Let it bubble away until all the alcohol has faded, and then add the dragon tears. One drop for every time he said he loved you. If you can't remember how many times he lied, half a cup should do. Put half a cup in just to make sure. Next - apricot juice. Three slices of ginger - peal it with a spoon, you get more ginger, and you're less likely to cut yourself given how much alcohol you will have drunk by then.

Believe me. You'll regret it if you try and peal it with a knife. You blood in the potion will just cause swearing, and more drunken tears. Maybe a cracked tile in the kitchen from where you fling the pot at the wall. Maybe a burnt table top from where the potion washed out over the dirt ridden bench.

You probably haven't cleaned for a while by this stage. Or maybe you're one of those women who cleans to avoid things. Maybe you're a man with the same problem. Huh. I hadn't actually thought about that before now, but either way, be careful not to use a knife. You'll regret cutting yourself.

That man has already caused you enough pain without you adding to it. Believe me, I know.

Stir the potion once clockwise, twice counter clockwise. Recite the day you met, the day you first had sex, the day you fell in love. Burn the images of those days in your brain.

Let it simmer. Cry. It's okay to cry. Only you, the organic wine, and the potion will remember this.

Once you can smell the ginger, snap open three pods of cardamom, and chuck them in. Leave it after this - just turn it off, step back, and leave it to cool. Drink a hangover tonic while you wait for this. There'll be one in the basket by the door. Along with some chocolate, the bracelet your father made for you when he found out I was pregnant.

When you are sober, child, go back to the potion. Now you prick your finger. Add a drop of blood. Just one. Step back, pour the whole thing into a Tupperware container, and say these words:

"I mourn thee, and what could have been, here."

Then every day you wake up feeling like you've been ripped out from the inside, every day you wake up thinking of him, every day you wake up wishing you'd never met him, add a single drop of blood. Your pledge will bind you - whatever hate or grief you feel in your day will be stored away until you open up that Tupperware container.

It will lessen over time. It will get easier. And on the day the potion turns clear, take it, and offer it to him to drink.

This is not an unknown potion. He will know that you are healed. The whole world will know that he has betrayed you, because this only works when you are betrayed. They will also know that you are stronger than his betrayal. Take a flask, hand it to him in a public place, and walk away. Go home. Pour your own cup of the potion. Light a sandalwood candle. Take your friend up on their offer for a massage parlour's gift certificate. Drink your potion.

And live, my child. This is how I survived my one true love betraying me. It only works if that love is a man, these things are unfortunately gender specific (Your sex, however, will not matter. Odd that it works that way.)

If you turn out to be the type to fall in love with women though, I can not help, son or daughter of mine. You'll have to ask your father about that one. He had a similar potion to this that he used on me. Right after I handed this one to him.