My interview in Marie Claire was published today.
Read about my perspectives on asexuality in “The Opposite of Sex”:
“Wow, what a Sue!” is thrown around a lot these days in literary criticism. It’s always insulting. It always implies that the author did something wrong. And if it’s applied to an amateur or developing work, it generally means the author needs to do something to reduce the “Sueishness” of the character.
The problem arises when any character who’s exceptional is labeled a Sue. But wait, don’t we like reading about extraordinary people? Having a character who’s truly unique in her world can’t be the mark of incompetence, can it?
Recently, in a completely unrelated-to-writing forum, I received a nice message from someone who appreciated one of my articles online, and she added this at the end of the message:
Also, your webcomic rocks. Actual plotlines and character development? Yes please.
After I thanked her, she said a little more about it, mentioning one of my characters in particular:
Too many stories—especially webcomics—are filled with cheap action and universe-spanning prophecies, but the whole thing is ruined by the one-dimensional cardboard cutouts the author pushes around. I’m especially in awe of how you manage to handle Ivy—with all her unbelievably Mary-Sueish characteristics—in a way that makes her realistic and likable. Seriously… how do you manage it?? I try to work with characters that have half her Sueishness and every time they wind up devouring half the story like some sparkly black hole.
So, I thought about it. Hey, how do I manage it?
The character she’s talking about is indeed in the red as far as Mary Sues go. I’ve been well aware of that for a long time. To give you some idea:
At this point in the webcomic story, my character was a two-year-old, so she’s too young to really do most of the Sueish things people in her situation are prone to doing (e.g., angsting, being sought after by people who are drawn in by curiosity or attraction or greed, making some kind of Epic Plot based around superpowers, etc.). But she’s still got a LOT of the warning signs of Suedom, and yet the compliment above suggests I’ve managed to avoid the pitfalls somehow. Well, what’s up with that?
Here is my somewhat rambly and surely incomplete guide to making your characters not suck, even if they are, by some definitions, Sues:
I EDITED AND THE BOOK GOT SHORTER.
This is unprecedented! Hahaha.
Written in my journal December 30, 2007:
“I’m thinking a bunch of it might be cut later. This is a special case and all, but I’m not sure how many people want to watch my character go to the hair salon.”
Verdict from others:
Mom: The hair salon part is BORING. You need two paragraphs about that, tops.
Rob: There was one part I thought was really slow and unnecessary. It’s this part where she goes to the hair salon?
Uh . . . surprise. There are also two other scenes just like this (though neither of them are a whole chapter long, so this was public enemy #1), where I went on for a long time just dilly-dallying over a concept.
So I seem to have made it to FIVE YEARS with my webcomic, Negative One. I updated every single Friday. Without ever being late or missing an issue. 261 issues. 16,186 panels.
So I’m feeling pretty awesome about it and elected to celebrate.
I made a cake, received some gifts from friends, and collected a bunch of fan art from readers. And I made a tribute video for baby Ivy. You can see it all on the Five-Year Celebration Page (offsite at my webcomic, though).
Really struck out on Finding Mulligan queries in 2009.
Agents queried: 24.
. . . Most of the form rejections contained the phrase “publishing is a subjective business.” Well, I hope so!
One of the rejections said this:
If I may offer a tip, you may want to consider your word count as this genre is usually more like 70,000 words.
The guy who rejected my three-chapter partial had this to say:
While I thought the premise to be unique, I just did not get enough sense of the paranormal. Along the same lines, I simply did not find myself drawn to the characters as much as I had hoped to. It seemed as if the story was lacking a depth that I wanted to see in the early pages.
Hmm, boo. Though I will say I’m surprised to see disappointment over lack of “the paranormal” because my book isn’t paranormal. I’m still using this advice to try to make my stuff better. I’m continuing to tweak and edit here and there.
I’ve been picked to be one of the representative asexual folks discussing asexuality issues in the upcoming feature length indie documentary (A)sexual. Today was my interview.
The producer decided to include me because I suppose my videos on the ‘Net are important enough to the outreach for the movement. I’m happy they decided to do that, because I like having an opportunity to make my voice heard and contribute my unique strands here.
I had three production crew members in my apartment this afternoon: an interviewer, a photographer, and a cameraman. (Well, they all did more than that, but those seemed to be their main functions while they were with me.) And the first thing they did (after setting up HUGE LIGHTS and clipping one of those shmancy microphones on me) was videotape me videotaping myself.
My interview in The Daily Beast was published today.
Read about my asexuality perspectives in “No Sex? No Problem.”
I am pseudonymous as “Ivy” in the article, because most of my asexuality awareness stuff is done under my pseudonym.
Oh my dear lord. I just did a word count on what I’ve got so far of the first Bad Fairy book.
It’s like 115,000 words already. PART ONE IS 115,000 WORDS. And there is still a lot to do before I can close the stupid thing. Delia! You’re only ten years old right now! How the hell do you have this much to say about your life??
So I’m rewriting Bad Fairy as a trilogy. The book does not naturally divide into three parts, unfortunately. Its original version was in five parts of unequal length. The new version, Book 1, is protagonist Delia’s childhood and education.
Bad Fairy is a Sleeping Beauty retelling from the bad fairy’s point of view, but the princess isn’t even born yet in the first book. Book 1 is entirely about her fairy school years. Is Delia’s magickal education interesting enough to carry a story? I don’t think it was originally, though I did receive the following ego boost from my friend Jeremy while he was reading the bit about her elemental studies:
Bad Fairy is gonna get revamped as a trilogy now. It’s about time.
The original version, telling the full life story of Delia Morningstar (Sleeping Beauty’s “bad fairy”), was 255,000 words and nobody would want to take that on. But there were a lot of problems with the idea of revamping the book into three parts, and the most important problem is that there’s nowhere that it divided naturally. I’m actually going to have to rewrite it completely so each volume is a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end, and a conflict and resolution.
I already know the shape of the first book; it’d basically be the main character’s life up until she graduates from circle (which is the fairy version of school in my book, for those who haven’t read it). I plan to invent more conflict within the circle setting, more competition among the girls I guess, and of course my little Delia will really enjoy that. (I can’t say the same for her circlemates. Haha.) If I can invent enough of a conflict and resolution in the first book—ending with my main character having come out on top only to have it mean nothing in the scheme of things—I think it could be a satisfying book one of a trilogy.