Friday, August 21, 2015

Do Certain Writing Genres Stereotype Men and Women? By Connie Vines

Round Robin Blog Hop.  August 22, 2015

Today Topic:  Do you feel certain genres stereotype men and women?  Why do you think that happens? How do you prevent it in your writing?

Fact: Certain genres are looked down upon.  Comics, mysteries, and speculative fiction are all derided as formulaic, escapist, and without literary worth. However, based on my affiliation with RWA for over two decades, I think, romance suffers the worst of this stigma.  People who read romance aren't just reading worthless escapist fantasies, they are doing it because they are women who couldn't get a man -- cat ladies who would rather live in books than in the real world, and who possibly can't tell fact from fiction. I’ve heard it all.  (It makes no difference that I’ve garnered numerous literary awards, was nominated for the National Book Award and Frankfurt eBook award).  I hear the same disparaging remarks.  With this genre, I often meet people who don't just judge the books -- they judge the reader, and the author too.

It is often argued, “Romance novels are feminist documents. They're written almost exclusively by women, for women, and are concerned with women: their relations in family, love and marriage, their place in society and the world, and their dreams for the future."  Are these topics not relevant to society as a whole?  Is the continuation of the family unit (past and present interpretation) not beneficial to men and children alike? Or, is the real reason for the stigma NOT because of the genre itself--but because the this very successful genre is dominated by women?

Do I feel certain genres stereotype mem and woman?  Is it stereotyping, or simply writing to the needs of the reader?  If a reader picked up an Inspirational Romance/Suspense, etc.  The reader is looking for a different experience (at that particular moment) than someone who is shopping for story set in heat of “Desert Storm”.

Why do I think stereotyping happens?  Not digging deep enough when ‘casting characters’ or developing a scene is often the reason.  However, the writer may have developed a particular style, and therefore, a reader base who demand this ‘experience’ (author’s voice).  This is why I, as well as other authors, will chose a pseudonym.  Why? Because if one reader base with a preference for ‘action and witty banter’ does not say, “What the heck?” when she thumbs though one of my ‘I’ books (first person, told from the hero/heroine’s point of view) which tend to be more introspective.   
How do I prevent stereotyping in my writing?

When you are doing your “casting call” for secondary characters, or create a situation, don’t be lazy.  What will your character look like?  Why not have a serial killer go out in the morning, instead in of the during the night?  Who said a serial killer must be male?  Or a bodyguard tall and muscular?

Try using different adjectives instead of the first ones that pop into your head. By juxtaposing new combinations, you can create a unique voice. A person who grew up in the suburbs of Southern California of the 1980s will have a completely different speech pattern, list of buzzwords, and manner of dress than an individual who was raised by an Aunt in a blended family in a gritty northeastern city.

The femme fatale is a standard character in crime and noir fiction, but put a twist on it. Strong women need strong men.  Strong men need strong women.  Make your characters evenly matched. 

Remember, it is your story, your voice.  Your story whatever you want it to be.  Look at the genres you write or plan to write.  Then find a way to twist, update, or mix-up that genre to make it your own.  Build on the mythology, fairy tales and fables you know, and make them contemporary and new.

Clichés and stereotypes happen when an author is being unrealistic about character portrayal. Emotions, situations, goals must be gained by observing life in the real world.  Life is not reality T.V. or a soap opera.  Life can be boring—but show some day-to-day action anyway.  People have families, meals to cook, a job to pay the bills. Reveal bits of character build emotion and tension pull your readers into your story. 

Sprinkle in what you know in your story.  Your heroine can share your hobby-- be it your love of fly-fishing; or your lack of skill in walking a straight line while wear kitten heels. Look at the world and use it to enhance your story.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this month’s topic.

Stop by the other members of this month’s Round Robin Blog Hop to see what they’d written.

Happy Reading,


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Negative Traits = The Perfect Villain by Connie Vines #Sunday Snippets #08/16/2015

Looking for the perfect, or not so perfect, villain for your story?

Finding a hero, well that is perfectly simple.  A dash of Prince Charming, a sprinkle of Albert Einstein, a quarter cup of Fred Astaire, a hint of Hans Solo. . .well, you get my drift. A quick whisk or two and TADA!  You have a hero!

Not so, with a villain, that is an entirely different cup of (hemlock) tea. 

Deeply flawed, and driven by: dark forces, questionable morals, a wounded soul, or simply bad fashion sense, villains must connect with readers in some realistic way.  A strong villain forces the hero to step up, demanding more moral fiber than he, the hero, knew that he possessed.  Remember, there is no “Happily Ever After” without the twists and turns supplied compliments of the villain!

Remember unless your villain is a serial killer, or the embodiment of pure Evil, he—the villain, must possession a rich and complex character and past.  He must be a worthy antagonist for protagonist (aka: Our Beloved Hero).  So, how exactly do you plan to come up with the perfect villain?

I like to start with back-story (of course for most of the novel this is known only to me). I pepper hints and drop in a few clumps of info.  Later, the reader will say, “Of course!  I should have guess sooner!” The reader may harbor sympathy (which I like to develop in my Tween stories).  Everyone can relate to an event, which made a profound change is his/her life.  Sometimes this even makes a person better/stronger.  Other times (as in the villain’s case) it drives them to the edge of insanity, or damages them beyond (mental/emotional/physical) recover.  However, in the beginning, the story all about the hero.

It is not until the middle of the story; we appreciate the villain’s ability to set those nasty plot twists into motion.

Your villain can be your hero’s mirror.  Oh, you can go for the classic blonde vs brunette, if you are looking for campy.  Or, you can look to character traits.  The hero may be shy, fearful of horses, and a back-words sort of dresser with a gentle way with those in need.  While the villain is confident, articulate (with a sexy accent), owns a stable of show-horses, wears Armani suits, and (at times the veil slips) he sees gentleness as weakness.  He discovered as a child, only the strongest survive!

Give him quirks, sensitivities (remember the movie “Red Dragon”), an awareness of himself. Your villain must evolve also.  He may escalate into pure Evil, or see the light.  Or, perhaps, reside somewhere in between the two places. 

Remember to open his old wounds.  Something, be it a place, event, smell, or sound must trigger his behavior.  Show the villain trying to avoid a situation, event.
I can’t divulge too much about my “villains” due to the manner in which they tie into a story’s plot.  However, I will give you a hint, or two.

Whisper upon the Water, my YA/Tween novel set in the late 1880s in a Native American boarding school deals with the aftermath of the Indian Wars.  The story also addresses the way the children were treated and forced to become “White”.  My villain is Sister Enid.  The reader will discover that Sister Enid as a story of her own.  My romance and romantic suspense novels, Lynx and Brede (Rodeo Romance Book 1 & 2), also have carefully constructed villains.

My next BWL release, is an anthology, Gumbo Ya Ya has five separate stories.  And, a myriad of delightful villains to boo and hiss at! 
·        “Marrying off Murphy” my villain is a friend who shoves my hero into an ‘unwelcomed situation’. 
·        “Love Potion # 9” brings us two villains: “element of magic” and. .well, that’s enough of a hint. 
·        “A Slice of Scandal” is a murder mystery where villains abound. 
·        “The Ghost of Gombi Island” we have a pirate, a ghost, and a witch on the high seas (I will let you ponder the villain’s identity.)  
·        “1-800-Fortune” (a T.A.R.A. and Fool for Love, finalist). Brings us an unnamed villain (at least until the final pages—remember, no peeking when you purchase the book).

What character traits.

Or what I’ve discovered usually irritate me, and, consequently, my hero the most.  Remember, just like the menu at “Denny’s” you can mix or match your selection.
Abrasive, Antisocial, Catty (one of my personal faves), Confrontational (perfect for a co-worker when combined Catty and Devious).  Or, Obsessive (no wait, that’s me!), Paranoid, Perfectionist, Self-Destructive, Vindictive.  These are just a few traits, I am certain you can name many, many more.

Does you villain need the limelight? Alternatively, does he prefer to hide in the shadows?  Does he have a driving need to belong? To be loved?

Your villain did not just crawl out from beneath a toadstool. 

Write that backstory and make certain your villain is the worst that he can be!
Thank you for visiting the Sunday Snippets blog today.

Connie Vines

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Sunday Snippets #8/9/2015 #Sunday Snips

I spent my Saturday in Brea, California with the members of my local chapter of Romance Writers of America socializing over lunch, congratulating the RITA winners and finalists and discussing the business of writing.

I thought I'd share a a bit about the topic of 'crafting my novels' in this week's topic.

Research or Over-Research – So, Where Does a Connie Draw the Line?

Every writer knows even when writing a nonfiction novel: making it up requires research.

Storytelling means that the mind of the writer need to research never stops. Isaac Asimov once said he was writing every minute he was in the shower; in the shower, he was only thinking about his writing. In the same way, research for my novels has become a part of me.

Romantic Suspense requires its writers to be reliable witnesses. Contemporary Romance requires its writers to pay special attention to details which enhance the emotional connection. Biting humor/chick lit requires the writers to take contemporary events and spin them off kilter.  While young adult/tween fiction requires a lighter touch-- with a connection to the teachable psyche and the future of humanity.

Most writers try to strike a happy medium when conducting research, leaving enough wiggle room with reality to spin a good yarn. Yet research has a cumulative effect. Once you start, you don’t stop.
You can already guess where I fall on the research graph: once I start, it’s difficult, if not impossible, for me to stop conducting my research.

So, here are few of my research questions (Gumbo Ya Ya: an anthology for women who like romance Cajun): can a true gypsy (real medium/fortuneteller type) foretell her own future? What does a television producer do during the course of her day—when she’s key suspect in a murder investigation? What does it feel like to be on a pirate ship during the 1600s? Does time travel hurt? Bachelor Auction--what goes on during a Bachelor Auction? How does one concoct an accidental love potion? And, lastly, from my next “Fun and Sassy Fantasy” series: do gargoyles really know how to fly?

Remember research is not story. Trivial facts gathered from a variety of experiences can change the course of a future narrative.

Growing up in a career naval family gave me an almost inherent knowledge of the sea and maritime history. While residing in San Diego, California I visited the “Star of India” (16th century sailing vessel) moored at the harbor. My husband, being from Louisiana, made Cajun country and New Orleans frequent vacation destinations, and gave me ‘instant atmosphere’ for my setting. While I reside within driving distance of Hollywood, Universal Studios and the like, aside from a short internship in theater makeup technique, I am not a ‘go-to-person’ in all things Hollywood.

What am I to do?

I went to a local Starbucks, ordered a tall Pikes blend (1 Equal--yes I know it's bad for me, and a chaser of nonfat milk), selected a table by the window and plopped down my iPad, pulled a chair near my table and conducted a Google search. Alas, Google is not the Oracle of Delphi. My next step was to log on to the local library Web site where I selected related research materials and reserved them for front desk pickup.  This I knew, would not quench my search of knowledge.  With a heavy sign (knowing what weekday traffic was like) I decided to participate in a SoCal tourist day at Universal Studio (tour and City Walk).  I paid careful attention to all things visible during the freeway drive, my impression of the back lot and studio history.  I also interviewed employees and tour guides, and park visitors. Later, while grabbing a quick snack and the “Hard Rock Café” I spied the red carpet being set-up for a movie premier.  Yay, pay dirt! A few more questions, observations, and a few interesting true stories (no names mentioned) told in passing, and I was good to go.

Will everything I discovered end up in my anthology?  Most likely not.  Have I completed my research on the above mentioned topics?   Since my husband frequently asks if my office is a satellite branch of the public library, I know if I’m not researching this topic I will find another point of interest.

Reading isn’t a spectator event. 

By reading you experience life.  The more knowledge you have, the better-equipped you are to tackle any challenge you’ll ever face.

No matter know much stress you have at work, in your personal relationships, or daily life, it all just slips away when you lose yourself in a great story.

This is what I, and every writer I know, works to create for a reader--a cast of characters who become your friends, and a story that leaves you clambering for a sequel! 

Happy Reading,


My fall release: BWL, Ltd,
(Books We Love).
Art work by Michelle Lee

Please visit the other authors' participating in the Sunday Snippets Blog Hop:  (Janet Waldron)              (Ginger Simpson)              (Tricia McGil)  (Vijaya Schartz)

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Sunday Snippets by Connie Vines # SundaySnips # 08/02/2015

Welcome to this week's Sunday Snippets!

Please enjoy of snippet or two from my novella,  "Here Today, Zombie Tomorrow" book one of my Sassy & Fun Fantasy Series.

"I wish you would let me help with dinner," Meredith said, pulling herself back to the present.  "I feel guilty just sitting here doing nothing while you do all the work."  Being a vegan, Meredith found her transition of zombie-hood, particularly exigent.  Brains, human or otherwise, had never been on her menu--now, protein, in fowl or bovine form was a requirement of her reanimated state. Difficult though it was, she had to come to terms with the change.  After discovering an underground support group whose members met monthly in a banquet room of a coffee shop near the I-10, she was thankful she didn't require human protein like most other Zombies.  However. . .

Happy Reading,


To download a copy Here Today, Zombie Tomorrow
click on these purchase links.

Remember to stop and visit the members of the Sunday Snippets Blog Hop! (Tricia McGill) (Vijaya Schartz) (Jamie Hill) (Ginger Simpson) (Juliet Waldon)