Title Revelations

Today’s Daily Prompt was: Measure which again is fortuitous. As I’m embarking on a new project in order to gauge and measure feedback on my writing. This is a new ambition, to create an entirely fiction ebook and publish it, setting it out into the world.

In my feverish excitement to start a new project, I’ve set myself some targets. The first will be realised today as I confirm the title of the project. Tadaaa! Then next month, I hope to reveal what will be the cover of the pending e-book. All things going to plan I should be able to confirm when the manuscript is complete, edited, reviewed and available. Eeek! Pressure is on! Especially as, although I’ve been very dutiful with my writing this week – I havn’t written as much for the new project as I intended to. I owe myself a word debt and I’d like to close that gap today. Wish me luck! I certainly have not spent the last hour flicking between youtube videos and then deciding to write this blog instead…
The schedule for this project was always going to be tight, am I’m sat here, writing now thinking oh my. Oh I really need to move those chapters along and get going if it’s going to come to fruition… I don’t want to write, or edit, or beta, and then edit in a panic. However, if my current lack of diligence continues, that’s where I’m going to be. Agh!
Right. I mean it. I’m going to write, I’m going to do it now. I’m going to start with 250 words and then I’m going to make myself a cup of tea. Then I’ll try another 250 and hopefully ease into what I owe the project. By the end of this weekend (thank goodness for long weekends!) I aim to be four chapters further into the text. That’s it. My newest goal – four chapters by the end of the weekend. I’ll let you know how that goes…
However, what I’m sure you’re all desperate and eager to know, is what I’m calling this project? I’m sure I’d like to know!
It’s called:

The Poisoned Well

Ooooooh, you say. Oooooooh!
The Poisoned Well will be approximately 50,000 words in length and perhaps a more commercial YA fantasy novella then I perhaps naturally write. It follows the journey of Lyris as she tries to complete her Quest and return home.
Here is an extract…
The twist of tunnels was endless and the first shout of alarm was raised. The echoed growl lifted the hairs on her arm and the back of her neck. Lyris couldn’t remember how far they’d dragged her through the dark or how long it had taken to wind through the abandoned mine. Were they lost, or did her rescuer know where he was going? Fright gnawed at her belly and made her legs tremble but she persisted. Scrabbling through the ceaseless pitch, tripping over uneven ground and arms stretched out; her fingers bruised along the craggy walls. When it seemed they’d been scrambling for hours, the air started to twist with sweetness and the suffocating damp began to fade.

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Aesthetic – Strip it away

 

I like to write about things that are important to me.

I saw today’s prompt and I was excited. So excited that I’ve raced home in order to try and express my response in a slightly more logical, accurate and researched method than my usual ad-hoc ramblings.

Woman in fantasy writing, who are they and how are they represented? As a child I fell in love with Dragonlance. A mouldy paperback of the Dragon’s of Autumn Twilight by Margerat Weiss and Tracey Hickman was what sealed my love for Fantasy. I’d already explored Narnia (thoroughly), Hobbitton and the Hundred Acre wood and Harry Potter hadn’t arrived yet. So here was this book, for adults with all the things I loved about the computer games I immersed myself into: Daggerfall featuring most prominently.

However, as a young woman the main heroine of the saga is Lauralanthalassa. Now, not to discredit this character who grew into the Golden General, Dragon-Flying, Army-Leading incredible powerhouse – but for the entire first book of the initial series she is defined by her beauty. I love the writing of Laurana’s introduction, but it’s all aesthetic. She’d an elf, she achieves an untouchable ideal of beauty by her very race. Not only that, but Laurana is the epitome of womanhood, no trace of age is upon her. Even the mage who see’s decay, looks upon the elf-maiden and sees beauty for the first time.

Now I fell in love with Laurana – but I really wanted a sword. Before she becomes the general she needs to be rescued and protected – a lot. She’s a fairy-tale princess, although not necessarily passive. After all, she decides to follow her true-love instead of waiting for him to come back; and it is this decision that propels her into adventure.

But after I fell in love with Dragonlance, it felt like I spent years searching for a heroine that I could aspire to be. I could never reach the ideal beauty of Laurana and I really really wanted a sword. I wanted to be a knight if I’m honest, and I couldn’t find that story in any of the books I was reading.

I was seventeen when I picked up a copy of ‘First Test’ – By Tamora Pierce in the library. I read it, sat between the stacks whilst my parents did the weekly shop in the supermarket over the road. I still remember shivering with excitement, barely able to read as I was pulled into this amazing world and this story that I had wanted, so badly, for so long, to read. It was like when you watch Peter Pan, then spend all day jumping off the sofa trying to fly – hasn’t worked so far, but I might keep trying. I checked out the entire series and within a day had finished it off. I had to go back to the library over the weekend and took out as many of Pierce’s book as I could. Here were heroines who go to be girls, and be knights. To speak to animals and yet…they could still be girls.

Natalie Babbitt calls fantasy “the most wrenching, depth-provoking kind of fiction available to our children’.”[1]

My desperation was to find a strong, female role-model that I could identify with, and that’s what I want to write.  As study was conducted by Laura Solomon, who analysed 45 fantasy novels for children and young adults. This is one of the results:

Statistically in the books studied: “In Alternate World/History fantasy, beauty is a defining trait for 25% of females.”[2]

That’s it. For a quarter of heroine’s beauty is their defining trait. They don’t get to be brave, intelligent, they don’t have hobbies, talents or skills – they’re pretty.  What’s worse, is if you’re not pretty in the story then you fall at the other end of the spectrum and you’re a hag. In stories, how much emphasis is placed on appearance? It’s something hard to avoid when writing, because you want the reader to be able to visualise your protagonist. However it feels as though there is something deeply harmful in only allowing our young woman to be either an epitome of beauty, or a hag.

“Certainly most children will not describe themselves as ugly, making those at this end of the spectrum unlikely candidates for close reader relationships. Females noted mostly for or only for their appearance fall at the other end and, while some readers may relate to them (and many girls wish to be them), these types of depictions only strengthen society’s message that beauty is all-important.”[3]

I want my characters, male and female to be defined by more than their appearance. I want my readers to engage with role-models that offer ways to deal with a complex and changing world and to come away with a sense of hope; that no matter how crazy this place gets – it’ll be alright.

Here is a brilliant article about writing strong female protagonist and how we’re loosing them. When an inevitable aesthetic is stripped away, I want it to be clear to my reader that their heroine could never be replaced by a floor lamp.

I also agree that being a strong, female protagonist doesn’t mean that you can’t like pretty dresses and make-up. Readers, especially our young adult readers, should be able to engage with characters that they feel represent them or they can identify with, no matter what race, gender identity, sexuality or disability. There’s another amazing series of articles here if this is something you want to carry on reading about.

[1] AUTHOR Solomon, Laura

TITLE Images of Women in High Fantasy for Children and Adults:  Comparative Analysis.

PUB DATE1998-10-00

Solomon, Laura. “Images of Women in High Fantasy for Children and Adults: A Comparative Analysis.” (1998). – Page 6

[2] Ibid., Page 15

[3] Ibid., Page 16

My Response to the Daily Prompt: –Aesthetic