Writing Cripple Characters

Hello, hello!  I hope all of my US and Canadian friends had wonderful independence days!  Mine was quiet.  It was spent writing this and playing mindless games, because I was a little tired and didn’t feel like doing anything else.  But that’s not what I’m here to talk about today.  I wanted to tell you all a bit about the protagonist of my current series-in-progress and why I chose to make her cripple (this is my preferred term, so if it offends you… sorry, not sorry).

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I wish I had cupcakes.

Garnets and Guardians is the first book in my Demonic Jewels (working title) series.  The series follows Bailey Donovan, a thirteen-year-old who has recently been diagnosed with Limb-Girdle disease, as she struggles to cope not only with her illness, but also with moving to a new town and the dark discovery she makes there.  Despite everything, she remains fairly stoic, which occasionally causes drama within her family.  And yes, unlike many protagonists in the fantasy genre, Bailey’s family remains whole and supportive.

So, why did I choose to write about a young girl who is newly cripple?  I’ve actually heard a lot of theories on this in various workshops.  The one I get the most is that I’m writing what I know, or that Bailey’s a fantasy version of me, or similarly weird things.  In a lot of ways, she is like me.  She doesn’t do well with emotional displays and she likes to handle things her own way.  But her disability is nothing like mine, so she has to cope differently, which really means she’s a completely separate person from me.  There’s also the theory that I write cripple characters because they are few and far between in genre fiction and I want to see myself reflected in these genres I love.  I’ve covered that before: yes, diversity is important, but I (personally) don’t need or want characters to be cripple in order for me to identify with them.

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Apparently, this is a thing?  Interesting.  Chose to share because of number 3.

All of that is great and I’m sure it’s why some people choose to write cripple characters, but it’s not why I did.  Honestly, I just wanted to write about a hospital full of demons.  What better way to do that than to give my protagonist a chronic disease that forces interaction with such a place?  Yeah, I chose a disease within my realm of understanding, but that’s only because I hate doing immense amounts of research.  So, for me, writing a cripple character has less to do with crippleness itself and much more to do with what fits the story and me being too lazy to look stuff up.

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Writing is hard enough without the research.

Have you ever written a cripple character?  Did you do so for the sake of diversity or was it just something you wanted to try out?  Have you wanted to write a cripple character but chose not to?  Why?  No judgment here, so feel free to share your thoughts and stories and reasons below or on my social media pages!

Form Rejections

Hello, hello!  Last Thursday, I sent out a few of the queries I was talking about in my last post.  Friday morning, I woke up to a form rejection from one of the companies that declare a no from one agent is a no from all of them.  They didn’t even take the time to personalize it with my name or the title of my “material,”  and the signature wasn’t from the agent I addressed my query to, but instead from an associate agent.  It had been sent at 8:04 in the morning.  I thought my first agent rejection would be devastating, that it would be so much harder to take than all of the other writerly rejections I’ve received.  I was wrong.  A form rejection that basic was pretty much the best first agent rejection I could have asked for.

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Cute animal memes help.

First, I suppose I should explain what a form rejection is for people who might not be sure.  It’s basically a vague letter turning you down.  Most of the ones I’ve gotten have an “it’s not you, it’s us” vibe.  They start with a firm no, usually followed up by explaining that your story doesn’t mesh with what they’re looking for, and ending with something along the lines of “feel free to submit to us in the future.”  Most of them are polite enough to include your name and the title of your story, at least in the realm of magazine/ezine rejections (not sure about agent rejections yet).

What do form rejections mean to me?  Honestly, they tend to be an indication that my story didn’t even make it out of the slush pile, that it probably didn’t even make it to human eyes (and I might be entirely wrong, but it’s what I like to think).  The places I submit to get hundreds of submissions a week.  There’s no way they can read each piece and give them the attention they deserve.  Slush readers weed through the ever-expanding piles and do their best to pick pieces the editors will enjoy or grab names that will bring in more readers.  I’m guessing a similar process occurs in the agencies.  I might not appreciate the whole process, but I understand it.  As writers, rejection is a part of the game and we can’t question each one we get.

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Okay, but only for a little while, then back to work.

So, yeah.  A barebones form rejection from an associate agent was exactly the kind of rejection I needed.  It doesn’t mean that Garnets and Guardians is unwanted trash.  It doesn’t reflect on my writing in any way.  It simply means the agency wasn’t hooked by my query, if they even read it at all.  And that’s okay.  I’m more worried about when the rejections get personal, because then I’ll know it’s my fault.  I might start getting really discouraged at that point.  Until then, I’ll just keep writing and submitting and collecting my rejections.  That’s all I can do.

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Don’t let the rejections get you down!

How do you feel about form rejections?  If they get you down, do you have any kind of ritual to help improve your mood again?  Feel free to share any thoughts, stories, questions, or whatever here or on my social media pages!

Dreamscapes And Stories

Valentina RemenarHowdy, howdy!  Did everyone have a nice Thanksgiving?  I must admit that I had a lovely day with delicious food and great company.  As for today’s post, I wanted to talk a little about dreams and how they influence my writing.  Why?  Because a couple of friends wanted to know if I remember my dreams and, if so, do they affect my writing in any way.  The short answer is: occasionally.  The dreams I do remember tend to be boring every day type things (usually just conversations with a random person) or terrifying nightmares that I bury deep down inside my mind.  There’s rarely anything between the two.  But, it’s the in between that usually become stories themselves.

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Dreams by Valentina Remenar.

Most of the time, my dreams fade away as quickly as they come.  If I do remember anything, it’s usually unintelligible garbage that I ignore or, if I’m having issues with a particular story and I’m getting desperate, I sift through in the hopes of finding some magical answer.  I’ve never had anything happen that’s as fabulous as the image above, but my dreams can still be pretty cool.  In other words, while dreams are neat and sometimes helpful, they aren’t an integral part of my writing system.

If I’m lucky, I’ll find an answer to a plot problem if I really focus on a certain part of a dream.  The most recent example I have is actually from last night.  I was having one of my stupid conversation dreams (I don’t even remember who I was talking to), and the only topic that stuck out to me was a random mention of Medusa.  I’ve been trying to figure out how to insert some more hints at demons and monsters early on in G&G, but I was stuck at a part in chapter three that I had no clue how to tweak.  A version of Medusa’s powers will actually really help me out there.

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Snakes are fun.

 In extremely rare instances, I’ll come away from a dream with a story idea.  I can actually only think of two off the top of my head.  I even wrote a little synopsis of one to help me remember it:

Dream Idea – Nick has no luck with animals. The one pet he had as a kid died, and his mother refused to give details. He constantly feels like he’s being watched, and has nightmares of nothing but blood. Little does he know that two factions of shifters are after him to be their savior. One wants death and destruction, the other wants peace. Which one will win his allegiance?

This was written after a bigger story started formulating in my head.  The dream itself was actually just a kid playing outside with a puppy that ended really bad with blood and yelping and sadness.  And there were two pairs of glowing eyes in the bushes on either side of the yard.  It was weird and creepy and memorable.  I got distracted by other stories, though, so I haven’t worked on this one.

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I hope not.  My nightmares tend to be recurring.

 So, I guess my dreams influence my writing sometimes, but not as much as other things.  Daydreams, on the other hand, play a huge role in my writing.  But that’s a topic for another time.  What about you?  Do your dreams influence your creative processes?  To what extent?  Leave your thoughts and comments here or on my social media pages.

The Most Common Writing Advice And Why I Disagree

Howdy, howdy!  I hope everyone had a fun and safe Halloween, and got tons of candy (whether you went trick or treating yourself or stole it from your kids/nieces/nephews/siblings/etc.).  Today, I want to ramble a little bit about some common writing advice that I really disagree with.  If you’re a writer, chances are that you’ve heard this statement at least once (and probably way more than that): write what you know.  On the surface, it sounds like common sense.  If you don’t know about something, how can you write about it?  But so many people take it too literally.

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No one wants to read about that, Calvin.  Unless the guy is transported into each show, then maybe.

 On the one hand, some people argue that the saying refers to emotions.  We’ve all experienced love and hate and happiness and anger, so our characters should too.  I agree with that reading of it to a point.  Characters need to express multiple emotions in order to be well-rounded.  My issue with this explanation is that we all experience and express our emotions differently, so our characters should too.  For instance, when I rage, I stew in my own thoughts and plot revenge.  I don’t really know what people who scream and cuss and break things are thinking or feeling.  Does that mean I should only write characters who stew?  No.  It just means that I have to work a little harder to understand and flesh out my characters who are screamers.

On the other hand, there are the people who think writing what they know means writing about things they’ve done or stuff that’s happened to them.  I actually started writing Garnets and Guardians because people kept telling me to write what I know.  I know about spending your childhood in and out of the hospital.  But honestly, that’s boring, so I threw in demons and references to different mythologies and a protagonist with a disease that’s fairly different from my own.  These are things that I knew little to nothing about.  Hell, my protagonist can walk.  I don’t even remember what walking feels like.  Does any of this mean I shouldn’t write about these things?  No.  It simply means I have to study up on them.  Writers enjoy research (supposedly).  It’s half the fun of writing.

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It’s kind of like that.

 I guess if I were to rewrite the quote, I’d probably go with something like “write what excites you.”  Not in a porny way, though.  What I mean is, if you’re super interested in writing about a guy who has to fight ice giants while climbing Mt. Everest, but you have no idea what mountain climbing entails, go out and learn about it.  Sure, once you learn about it, you know it, and thus the original quote applies, but it’s still up to you to study these things in the first place.  If it drives you to research something, it’s worth writing, even if you have zero experience with it.  So, write what you want.  Learn things.  Don’t limit yourself just because you’re inexperienced with something.

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Because Odin. And election day is soon.

 What’re your thoughts on “write what you know?”  Is there any common writing advice that you disagree with?  As always, feel free to share your thoughts and opinions in the comments or on my social media pages!