In literature, the protagonist endures many hardships and heartbreaks. As readers, we root for them, hoping that everything works out well. These hardships come in various forms — a villain, a bad boss, a war or battle of some kind, an unrequited romance. There are many possibilities. Infinite ones.
My favorite protagonists are those whose biggest hardship — their worst enemy — is themselves. How do you escape from conflict when it’s constantly there, staring back at you in the mirror?
Just kidding. I don’t avoid mirrors. I’m a hottie, after all.
I’m kidding again. Gosh!
Anyway, that is one of the central themes in my YA, Ever Yours. The other themes are jealousy and unreliable imagination (yes, I meant to say “imagination”). I won’t go into details, but my heroine’s way of dealing with her problems is to… I’ll leave it at that.
My WIP centers on toxic friendships and sibling rivalry, and my third book deals with an unfinished business. All of these books have heroines with one thing in common: they are their own personal villain, and only they can destroy it (or embrace their inner bad guy, whatever the case may be).
So how do you create a character like this, and how do you keep them from crossing the line between flawed but relatable and complex but evil? It depends on the message you hope to send out. My girl in Ever Yours is the former, the one in the WIP is the latter. Not sure what the third one will be yet.
If you have a compelling coming-of-age story stirring within you, why not spice it up with an anti-hero? What are your views on them? Send me your opinions via email in the Contact Form.
In the meantime, here’s one of my favorite Crazy Ex-Girlfriend videos, the one where Rebecca wonders if she’s the bad guy in the story. Let me tell you, that “I’m the bitch in the corner of the poster” part hits a little too close to home. (Cliché, I know.)
Behold! Here’s one of those I’m-too-lazy-to-write-a-blog-so-I’ll-just-copy-and-paste-a-bunch-of-quotes posts. (Panting from writing that thing alone.) These aren’t all of my favorite quotes, but they reflect the myriad of thoughts and emotions I have been through lately. Right now I’m happy — hence the laziness? (I’ve actually been busy, which is why I’m letting other writers do the thinking for me.) Enjoy!
The very essence of romance is uncertainty.
Never close your lips to those whom you have already opened your heart.
I knew, in the silence that followed, that anything could happen here. It might be too late: again, I might have missed my chance. But I would at least know I tried, that I took my heart and extended my hand, whatever the outcome.
Sarah Dessen, The Truth About Forever
The very first moment I beheld him, my heart was.
The thing under my bed waiting to grab my ankle isn’t real. I know that, and I also know that if I’m careful to keep my foot under the covers, it will never be able to grab my ankles. — Stephen King
We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories. — Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
I have waited for this opportunity for more than half a century, to repeat to you once again my vow of eternal fidelity and everlasting love. – Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love In The Time Of Cholera
I guess that’s what saying good-bye is always like–like jumping off an edge. The worst part is making the choice to do it. Once you’re in the air, there’s nothing you can do but let go.
Lauren Oliver, Before I Fall
And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.
Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
Sometimes people put up walls, not to keep others out, but to see who cares enough to break them down. — Banana Yoshimoto
When someone leaves, it’s because someone else is about to arrive.
— Paulo Coelho
I can live alone, if self-respect, and circumstances require me so to do. I need not sell my soul to buy bliss. I have an inward treasure born with me, which can keep me alive if all extraneous delights should be withheld, or offered only at a price I cannot afford to give.
— Charlotte Bronte
If only there could be an invention that bottled up a memory, like scent. And it never faded, and it never got stale. And then, when one wanted it, the bottle could be uncorked, and it would be like living the moment all over again.
— Daphne du Maurier
If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it. — Toni Morrison
Is it me, or do most movies and TV shows have at least one writer character? These writers vary. Some are successful columnists or bloggers, while others are struggling writers, and then there’s the rare mega-bestselling author.
Here’s my list of favorite films about writers. (Please visit the IMDB website for additional information.)
NOT ANOTHER HAPPY ENDING
This oddball Scottish rom-com features a tortured writer and her love/hate relationship with her cute but insufferable editor. Tension ensues. She even gets writer’s block just as she’s about to wrap up her second novel.
Pros: Scottish accents, quirky characters, a writer who “worships her own pain,” starring Karen Gillan (my favorite Doctor Who? sidekick).
Cons: Unrealistic portrayal of the publishing world. (Example: a huge, Oscar-like awards show where she wins the “Best New Writer” category.)
A “mockumentary” about a Los Angeles-based writing group. Things get messy when the prettiest member of the group lands an agent and a lucrative publishing deal in (almost) quick succession. A couple of characters go as far as to stalk literary agents in a vain effort to catch up.
Pro: Great satire; all writer stereotypes are covered; hilarious characters, especially “John K. Butzin”; darkish humor.
Cons: Unflattering portrayal of literary agents (and famous authors).
MIDNIGHT IN PARIS
A Woody Allen film featuring a Hollywood screenwriter and literary hopeful enamored with Paris. At the stroke of midnight, he is whisked away to the 1920s, where he parties with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso. He also flirts with a beautiful French girl, the polar opposite of his wealthy and demanding fiancee.
Pros: Time-travel story, gorgeous Parisian views, crisp dialogue; Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams are (very possibly) playing a fictional Woody and Mia (Farrow, his first wife).
Cons: What are the odds that he’d meet all of those famous people? Then again, what are the odds that he would travel back in time? Never mind. It’s fun.
THE GIRL IN THE BOOK
Dark tale of a New York publishing editor-slash-aspiring writer and her haunting past involving an experimental author.
Pros: Great character development, sad twists and turns, dysfunctional relationships.
Cons: Disturbing depictions of statutory rape.
A CASE OF YOU
Fed up with churning out books based on big-budget films (novelizations), the hero wants to work on a serious novel, with no success. His luck changes when he meets his muse at a Brooklyn café.
Pros: Oddball comedy, great depiction of Brooklyn.
Cons: Facebook-stalking a girl you barely know just to get her to like you is super creepy (and a weird premise for a rom-com).
Bestselling author of the “Detective Knight” series decides to switch to Literary Fiction, with disastrous results. His luck changes when he reunites with his college sweetheart. The problem? She’s married.
Pros: Awesome ensemble cast, witty one-liners, great NYC depiction.
Cons: Main character is super whiny. Dude, you’re a successful author with a beach mansion in the Hamptons (from the film franchise) — STFU!
And there you have it. These are (mostly) indie films, but they’re the ones I binge-watch whenever I’m in the mood for a “writers’ flick.” Which ones are your favorites? Comment on Twitter if you have recommendations.
Now and then I get this email question: What is Café Girl Media?
Café Girl Media is a PR venture in which I visit various small businesses — mostly coffee shops and bookstores — and then spread the word through various networks. I also unite these indie booksellers and café owners into said network, our version of “you scratch my back and I scratch yours.”
This is a commission-only project that has reaped little financial gain so far (just starting out), but it is something I hope to expand during the next couple of years. (Plus, the complimentary coffee never hurts. ☺)
What does this have to do with Parisian dreams, you ask? Well…
My five-year goal includes opening up a Parisian-style café that serves authentic European coffee. I have been to numerous coffee tastings (yes, they exist) and I hope to have the free time to travel to Paris and Queenstown, New Zealand next year, where I’ll do lots of coffee-tasting.
My WIP features a novelist-slash-Euro-style-coffee shop owner, which tells you just how passionate I am about this — almost as passionate as being a writer. Almost. Let’s hope I won’t have the same outcome as the characters in my book.
Hope that answers your question. As a bonus, I’ll plug this wonderfully realistic YA novel set in Paris (pictured below). I’m still reading, so I can’t review it yet. Liking it so far though. Until next time.
Great stories stem from personal experience. And pain. Lots of pain. And heartbreak. And social commentary. And observations. And…
You’ve heard them all. Some might say that the best writers had bad childhoods. Others say that their dysfunctional relationships may have factored into their journey toward a writing career.
But what if you’ve never been through traumatic experiences or heartbreak? What if you’re the super-cool extrovert that everyone looks up to?
In that case, you suck and I hate you. Just kidding. The truth is that writing stems from a stubborn desire to do so, and you write because you can’t not do it. And if you pursue a writing career and don’t give up on it…
So don’t let stereotypes define your career goals and passions. Whether or not you’re super-dork or mega-chic, your voice and ability to resonate with the human condition — in whichever form — are the main ingredients for great writing. And remember: the industry is subjective. One person’s trash is another person’s powerhouse. Just ask Stephen King.
Here’s a Rachel Bloom video that reminds me of my heroines and, in turn, me. This song is so relatable that it might as well have been written about me. (I wish I had a puzzled Patrick-slash-Seth Green in my life though!) It’s funny, like all her stuff, but the character’s despair is beautifully shown in the lyrics and in Bloom’s delivery. Also, pay attention to the piano players. There’s a hilarious twist in there. Enjoy. 😉
Writers have expressed fear of Amazon reviews. Let me rephrase that: writers have expressed fear of BAD Amazon reviews. They ask themselves: How would I cope? Would the reviewers be mean? Could I email these reviewers and tell them off? They probably don’t get it. They don’t get it, bunch of [insert insult here].
I’ll try to answer those questions as best as I can.
How would I cope?
That depends on whether or not you have thick skin. The truth is you have no choice but to deal with it, especially if you hope to succeed as a writer. You’re afraid that the bad reviews might keep people from buying your book. Yes, it’s possible, but if they’re intrigued with the premise, then the bad reviews won’t matter. I can tell you for a fact that bad reviews have never kept me from purchasing a book (unless it’s a subject matter I would have shied away from anyway). Keep this in mind and you’ll be fine.
Would the reviewers be mean?
Yes. No other way to put it. There are lots of mean people out there. Have you visited Facebook comments sections lately? Nastiness reigns in those pages. My advice? Dust it off and move on.
Could I email these reviewers and tell them off?
I suppose you could, but why would you? Do you really want to pick fights with strangers just because they dislike your novel? Don’t do it. Maybe they’ll like your next one! Never burn bridges. Besides, you don’t want to be known as Psycho Author, do you?
They probably don’t get it. They don’t get it, bunch of [insert insult here].
This is a natural reaction. We’re all human. But don’t dwell on it. They might not get it–or they might simply not like it, period. Instead of getting upset, double-check the reviews. If the criticism is consistent, then perhaps it’s best to work on improving that area, and then apply it to your next project.
Oh, and I know what you’re thinking…
Actually, buttercup, I do know.
Once upon a time, a girl fresh out of college wrote a contemporary romance novel, found an agent and released it under a pseudonym. It did well for a couple of years, but then said girl realized that she needed to continue to experiment with her writing in order to find her (true) voice. So she put her career on hold and did exactly that. Now she’s ready to take on the universe (yay!).
On Amazon, I received 235 user reviews, 11 of which were one-star reviews, and another 11 were two-star reviews. I’m not going to reveal the title or my pen name, for this was written a decade ago (2006, to be exact) and I’ve moved on from it, but in order to show you my personal experience with this topic, I will post some of the reviews here. (Details like my pseudonym, book titles and character names were concealed. Typos belong to the reviewer.)
Three one-star reviews:
This book is truly awful. Absolutely everyone in this book manipulates our heroine.All for “her own good” of course.She starts out being lied to by friends and her “hero”, when she finds out she is crushed and reacts like anyone would and backs away. Eventually she attempts to move away at which time her “friends” of course jump in to manipulate her some more all while she’s feeling so very grateful for their help and understanding.When she finds out they have lied to her AGAIN she just kind shrugs and says “oh, you guys!!!” There is not a single person in this book that she can trust. Not one. They ALL have in some way conspired with this “hero” to deceive and manipulate her, apparently to teach her to open up, trust and allow herself to love.WHAT!?!?! Somewhere there is a woman that will read this book and think that maybe her abusive husband is really a romantic hero and she just just be more accepting of his rule. YUCK.
I really hate books where the author has characters constantly yelling at each other instead of speaking in civilized tones, especially in public. They’re in a coffee shop and Hero propositions Heroine. She gets up to leave and as she reaches for the door he thunders, “Sit down!” It’s as if the author thinks using words like screamed, bellowed, and shouted sets an intense scene, when all it does is make the characters come across like immature teenagers who don’t know how to control themselves. (Note: this wasn’t the only review that pointed out that my characters sounded like teenagers.)
This was crap. Poorly written drivel. I felt next to nothing for the characters and when I felt something it was disdain or anger.
Now on to my four- and five-star reviews:
Hard to put into words how this book made me feel. It was for me a very very emotional ride. The hero was gorgeous and successful, but was one selfish, arrogant, nasty, controlling, mean, JERK (or so it would appear). The heroine is gorgeous and smart, but a bit of a mess, weak, and has little, to no self esteem. Their relationship starts out on shaky ground when [Hero] wants [Heroine] to “court” him to get him to sign up with the company she works for. He makes a proposition she cannot refuse. Since she has fantasized about him, she decides to take him up on his offer. That’s where the roller coaster ride in this story begins. All I can say is I was an emotional mess by the time it ended. However, I thoroughly enjoyed it and am finding that is one of those books you can’t help thinking about when it’s done. You can feel [the heroine’s] struggle and pain and I just felt so sad for her. I hated [the hero] through about 80% of the book, but he was one of those characters that you loved to hate. Although it was intense, and sad and somewhat depressing through alot of it, in the end, it was one of the most satisifying books I’ve read in awhile. If it makes you feel all those things, it’s a good book, right?
This book was so emotional. I’m not the best book reviewer, usually i can’t put into words exactly what a good book in my opinion actually is…I’m guessing very emotional, sexy, fast-paced and easy to follow because I absolutely loved this book and it was all of those in one. The characters are so hot, the heroine is a kick ass woman with some deep rooted trust issues who falls for one in the same as herself…I cried through much of the book because she was almost a martyr like so many women tend to be, so her heart was in turmoil as was mine….this book is def. NOT FOR THE FAINT AT HEART, it’s an emotional rollercoaster that will have you burning some serious midnight oil, completely transfixed and unable to stop turning pages. My only complaint is that it had an ending…
WOW! I definitely want to read more from this author. Totally enjoyed the relationshiip between [Heroine] and [Hero].
Well developed storyline, blended with romance and a believable plot. This was an all nighter for me. If you’re a fan of [comp authors], you have to read this book!
I purchased this book on a chance that the reviews were accurate about this book. The book turned out to be true to most of the raving reviews! It was a great read with lots of twists and turns. The characters in this book are complex and challenge your mind as well as draw you into wanting more about their present as well as their past. I couldn’t put the book down after the first three chapters! The romance is hot of course but it is the story of the main two characters that keep you turning the pages! Unfortunately I can not find any other books by this Author at this time but she is one that I will be following for her next work! I would highly recommend this book for the [comp titles] fans.
(Note: this is my favorite review.) I don’t know if I can adequately describe how much I loved this book. I. Loved. This. Book. I couldn’t put my Kindle down all day because I HAD to finish it. Nothing got done around my house until I found out what would happen with [H/H]. A lot of women will relate to [Heroine]. I knew immediately she was afraid of being hurt, but most of all committing. I loved how she struggled to stand up to [Hero], while dealing with her feelings for him. I did not dislike [Hero] as it was clear he had an agenda also. I wanted to yell at him for playing his game with [Heroine] and my heart ached for her when she struggled with her newfound feelings. There is plenty of angst throughout the book, and the resolution is not easily reached. I rode the emotional roller coaster with the characters- I laughed, ached, cheered, and was turned on by their intense attraction for one another. Yes, this book is hot. The author has provided [the hero] with an english accent……nice! There are many emotional awakenings, and they aren’t always easy in this novel. But they are superbly written. [Pen Name] takes the reader along for one hell of a ride and I was all too happy to get sucked in.I recommend this one particularly if you like a big plot with your hot, hot romance. If you want a strong, but somewhat screwed-up heroine, and one sexy, dominating hero then this book is for you.
There were 158 four- and five-star reviews total, with 7 three-star reviews. The reviews were consistent throughout. Was I upset with the bad reviews? Did I think they were mean? I’d be lying if I said that they hadn’t struck a nerve, but I wasn’t upset. It comes with the territory. Not everyone is going to love your book, and that’s something you’ll have to accept. Pay attention to the reviews — good and bad — and focus on the things they like about it as well as the things they dislike. The bad reviews (as well as the good ones) made me realize what I knew all along: I’d make a better YA author. I’d also be better at writing thriller/suspense with gothic elements, since I focused so much on setting and plot twists and conflicting emotions.
Like it or not, reviews make us better writers. It also helps us decide what readers want. I was told that this romance novel would not be so well-received, which is why it was placed as “midlist,” but it ended up surprising everyone. It exceeded expectations, which made me happy. Never underestimate readers. They’re awesome. 💕
And that, in a nutshell, is how you should handle user reviews — whether it’s on Amazon or a popular blog. Open up your mind, heart and ears. You might just surprise yourself. 🙂
I love dark humor, especially in literature. The darker the theme, the better, more so if it’s peppered with risqué humor. Initially, I drove my inspiration from an author named Amanda Filipacchi, but lately I’ve been quite taken with TV actress Rachel Bloom.
My novel, Ever Yours, has some dark humor here and there, most of which comes from my protagonist’s interactions with her Bestie #2 and her uncontrollable urge to spew out nonsense whenever she’s in an uncomfortable situation. I added these things to humanize her, and because teens can be quite uncouth from time to time.
Sorry, but you kind of are. Anyway, women who engage in dark humor are great, mostly because it’s so unexpected, especially when it’s done well.
Rachel Bloom is my favorite satirist-slash-surrealist-slash-just-plain-awesome-chick right now. I’m obsessed with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and her indie satires on YouTube. Her YouTube material is much darker than the stuff on her CW show, which is why I highly recommend subscribing to Racheldoesstuff. (And no, this isn’t sponsored. I wish it were, but it’s not.)
Her video “Die When I’m Young” is super-risqué — so much so that I hesitate to post it here. Instead I will post “Jazz Fever,” which features Seth Green. I love the dark humor, but I also love the 1920s costumes. The production value is truly spectacular. Enjoy and let me know how you feel about dark humor and darkish plots in general in my contact form. See you soon.