Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Insecure Writers Support Group #1: Licence To Kill


Insecure Writer's Support Group is a blog hop hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh where us totally insecure writers can get together and share the things that are making us go argh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
       Hmm...where to even start this month. I suppose that given this is meant to be my The Hunger Games appreciation month, I'll talk about a theme that has been bugging me on my writing journey for a while now. The concept of YA books (in my case YA dystopian more specifically) and killing people/things.
       You all know I worship the genius that  is Katniss Everdeen (I choose to ignore everything that happened in Mockingjay) but sometimes, when I have my super critical book reviewer pants on, I start to wonder about how unrealistic it is that Katniss doesn't ever go on the offensive unless she's given no choice. Kathy from Read This Instead and I had a brief discussion about this and it's got me wondering whether or not readers would be much less sympathetic to a character if they dispensed with the goody two-shoes and went out for blood.
       Even Peeta and Gale could be considered plot devices to support this idea (Peeta being Mr Con and Gale being Mr Pro). And readers seem to have responded in a way which suggests that they'd rather not have their heroes taking out the bad guys Terminator style.Everywhere I look, it's Team Peeta all the way.
      Sadly, I am not in this majority reader group and I'm worried that this will trickle down to my own characters and they'll end up being hated for their offensiveness. Maybe it's because I'm much more A than YA these days. Maybe I've been brainwashed by the insane amount of action movies I watch and I'm desensitized to violence. Perhaps as a second generation child of war, I just don't buy the whole stand up for yourself but don't get your hands bloody stance.
       Then there's the whole confusing grey area that is YA paranormal where it's okay to have the heroes kill as many vampires/werewolves/angels as possible but as soon as they harm a human (no matter how badly the human deserves it) it's all "you shouldn't have done that."
      So help me out guys. Which camp do you belong to? Does it disturb you when an MC takes matters into their own hands? Or do you prefer to keep it clean?

39 comments:

  1. I honestly could care less if it's a goody goody or...a baddy baddy? ha! I just want a good story. I love the male characters who kill people, unless they're doing it just to be a horrible person (and sometimes I like it even then, if they're hot enough) For females, I like it all, but I like for there to be some thought behind it. Dont just run around doing stuff and you have no idea. At least have a goal in mind!.

    Dont be worried. The fact that you feel your book goes against the grain is a good think. It means people will be able to read it and not feel like its just like every other book out there.

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    1. It feels like everything is do these days is against the grain Sherre! But I am totally open to it now. Sometimes I am even sympathetic to the baddies if the reason they're doing something seems plausible.

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  2. The most important thing for me is that I like the MC. They can be strong and agressive, but it better be for a good reason. It can be protecting others. I'd say write what your heart is dictating. Think about it, we even like the thieves and murderers if we believe in their cause.
    Go. Create. Inspire!
    Play off the Page

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    1. I so get what you're saying about readers liking thieves and murders if we believe in their cause. Look at how popular the show Dexter is. I'm just worried that people won't like an MC because they're very offensive. Can't please everyone I suppose.

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  3. Well, I suppose with YA, there's a fine line. Most YA MC's aren't violent unless provoked or necessary to survive or protect someone. Adult MC's would be more believable in this aspect.

    Personally, I'm more Team Peeta, as you say. I guess it's because I always imagine myself in the character's shoes, and I'm not that type of person who would want to do something like that, even if I believe it is the only way for justice.

    Not that you shouldn't do what you like. Why concede to the majority just because you want to sell more books? Write what you need to write for the sake of your story being told the way you WANT it to be told. And no matter how I feel, I'll still read your work because you're awesome and I've enjoyed what I've read so far by you. :)

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    1. Jessica, you're always the voice of reason :) I really need to get out of stalking mode and just write what I want regardless of what the general consensus seems to be.

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  4. Hi there. I am #94, popping in from Alex's blog, and a new member of your blog.

    I write YA myself and one thing I like about the category right now is that there is no real formula ... the writer can explore a vast number of topics. I like my YA dark. I like aggressive characters, though there must something sympathetic about the character and a reason for the aggression. In addition, though I LOVED the Hunger Games trilogy, I was disappointed with Mocking Jay because Katniss became more like a passive symbol of the rebellion then a proactive character. Just my humble opinion.

    Feel free to pop by my blog. I'm trying to get a writing support group e-Magazine started where aspiring and established writers can get their work printed and provide constructive feedback to each other. Cheers!

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    1. I felt the exact same way about Mockingjay. which is kinda the inspiration behind this week's insecure rant. Yes I understand that Katniss doesn't want to be a part of the war but she just let herself become this passive person when really she was the one who started it!

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  5. I'm not a huge fan of violence just for violence. So if the MC is pushed to retaliate, I usually prefer that. Then again, in my writing world, the people don't kill demons. Yeah, I'm a demon-hugger. : )

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    1. Ha! That's awesome Emily. I'm thinking of writing a demon hugger book too. Demons get such a bad rep. And I'm tired of humans picking on them.

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  6. or me, gratuitous violence is like gratuitous sex, boring and unnecessary. but that said I want my MC to be strong in his/her convictions and sometimes that means killing/dying for them, especially in paranormal/fantasy.

    Write your story/heart and don't worry about the rest. Personally one of my major problems with 'The Hunger Games' was that she ended up with the wrong guy. Just me.

    Nice to meet you, 'Obcessed'. I'll be back.

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    1. I can't put in too much graphic violence because it's YA but I still want the option of having my MC break out if she can't take it anymore. don't get me started on Katniss ending up with the wrong guy!!

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  7. I'm with you. I don't know why but my characters are always flirting with the fine line that divides good from bad. Mostly, they turn bad and a common thing in my stories is that bad things always happen to good people. And they don't fare well. My first novel has been known to cause shock among a few readers expecting the classic nice ending where every good soul is saved and the bad ones pay but not by the hands of the hero. I don't know. That's not what I think the world really is. Sadly.

    Anyway, nice to meet you and thanks for stoping by Diary of a Writer in Progress.

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    1. I'm starting to feel like it's takes a certain kind of personal experience to appreciate that darker sides of life. I just think flirting with darkness is so much more interesting than always being in the light.

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  8. Well, I don't read a whole lot of YA, but I so get where you're coming from. Like you, I take a much more realistic stance and approach. I not only think characters, especially good ones, should be flawed, but they should be human and do human things, meaning, they are sometimes selfish and stupid and mean and wrong and can be total a$$holes to the ones they love. But then again, and this is exactly what I posted about for the IWSG, these qualities can make them too provocative, and, for some reason, that's not always a good thing. I wish it was. God, how I wish it was.

    (I'm a new follower via the IWSG)

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    1. I don't understand it at all Nancy. Characters in YA are often selfish and stupid and careless to the point where their actions get others harmed or even killed with not many repercussions. Yet if they decide they've had enough and take matters into their own hands, well then there has to be something wrong with them. I just want depth.

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  9. Hey there, nice to meet you. Just stumbled in from the IWSG and I like your voice and the look of your blog. So todays post...What is your insecurity? You certainly voice your opinion about YA fiction. I don't really have an opinion on that. I am however bored with violence and action for actions sake alone :)

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    1. I appreciate your honesty. I don't mean that I just want my MC to go about killing indiscriminately. But I just want an MC who is able to stand on their own two feet.

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  10. Thanks for stopping by my blog, and at least I know this isn't a breakdown of some sort. j/k On the subject of License to Kill- I agree-it is ok it happens sometimes : )

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    1. Thanks! I'm glad to know I'm not the only one out there who thinks it's okay.

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  11. Oh my hell! The little do gooder types irritate the hell out of me! I like a character willing to be offensive. ESPECIALLY when they're in a position where they NEED to be offensive! Argh! I'm sure in YA it's not proper to encourage teens to "act out" but still. I say go for great offensive characters and let all the stupid defensive only ones die...cause they will!

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    1. Jenny! I totally adore you. Those are my thoughts exactly. I like good people but not the ones who sit on their pedestal poo pooing the people who are doing the dirty work to keep them out of the violence.

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    2. Well I'm glad we share this opinion. I'm a little shocked at other people's comments. Good grief! Judge much?

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  12. This is a really hard question to answer! In all honesty, I think it really depends for me. A lot of the time, especially in real life, I'm definitely a clean and no violence kind of girl and I usually sympathize better with characters who only kill to protect and not just to kill. But there are some times in a book when I want to yell at the character, "Why did you let him go?? He's going to come back and try to kill you anyways!" See? Dilemma! x)

    But I actually have to admit that I don't mind violence in books as much as would probably be healthy for a 15-year-old girl LOL! For example, Buffy killed all sorts of demons and I still think she's kick-butt awesome. Same with all those other slayers or hunters or Shadowhunters out there! And it's actually really true that it's only when characters start killing humans that people start to hate it too. I never really thought of that before! Maybe we're just defensive about killing humans because that's what we are? Haha I'm not sure!

    I really like this new meme, Lan! Really glad that you're participating! :) <3

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    1. I think I confused a lot of people with my mention of Terminator! I don't want my MC going around killing random people for no reason but I don't want my MC to get panned by reviewers because she's strong enough to fight back. Don't worry Mimi, you're nowhere near as bad as I was when I was your age!

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  13. Hey Lan, this is a great discussion point. You bring up some really good points. I personally wonder about our media's proclivity to solve conflicts through violence. As for Katniss never taking the offensive, she wasn't the only character who did that. Rue never went on the attack. Neither did Fox Face. I'm not sure that Katniss never taking the offensive makes her better than other characters; I just think in the situation, that's the way she responded. This arguement could possibly be supported by the fact that other characters also responded to the situation in a similar way. Just my two cents! Thanks for bringing up a fun discussion point!

    Oh, and for the record, I try to forget most of Mockingjay myself! :)

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    1. That's my pint exactly Camille! All the characters who never went on the offensive were considered the good guys. But the poor boy from District 1 who killed Rue was an innocent as well though I' say there would be people who wouldn't like him because he went in for the kill instead of sitting there being defensive. I just think Katniss was very harsh in her attitude in Mockingjay.

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  14. To me, it's not about whether the killing is offensive or defensive, I'm bothered by how much there is and how it affects the MC. To like a MC, I would want them to keep their kill count low and for each taking of a life to affect them deeply. I still watch the show, but it's hard for me to see the main characters of The Vampire Diaries as the good guys when they've killed tons of people (even though these have mostly been defensive killings) and seem to shrug off every death around them. It's like...What's the difference between you and the villains? I can only root for a MC if they come across as having real human emotions.

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    1. You've really given me something to think about! I completely agree that how a killing affects the MC is tantamount to how I feel about them. Which is another reason why I couldn't identify with Katniss in the last book as well. I didn't feel her emotions were realistic.

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  15. Well, I think you answered your own question when you said you are a 2nd generation child of war. Right there, you have something inside of you that not many other people have. It's experience that the rest of us writers lack, and it's the realism of what it means to be so directly descended from the ravages of war. If this is WHO you are, then you have to write that into your work.

    I'll tackle this from another angle. I just finished the video game walkthrough Asura's Wrath, which is a brand new Japanese game. In it, Asura is the MC and he spends the entire game just beating the crap out of everything that pisses him off, but everyone loves this game and him. Why? Because they can see that he is a victim of the bad guys who are making his life miserable and stealing away everyone that matters to him. When the audience can clearly see the reason for the character's anger, they don't fault him/her for having violent tendencies. They want justice served before anything else, and as long as the MC's punishment is just and only just, they root for them to succeed in dishing out the hurt.

    I think you have a unique upbringing and you need to find a voice for that. If you don't see the world as rainbows and kittens, then don't force your writing to be like that. It should reflect your unique vision of the world. It should be a window into your own world. And, your audience will sympathize when they can see that you are human and can relate to you as one.

    I hope that all makes sense....

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    1. You should be a teacher Cathy! Or I should have come to you with this question to begin with and saved myself all the heartache. Sometimes I think it's very dangerous to unleash my unique vision of the world onto people because I can have very little empathy for weakness without action. I am so violent in my reactions to everything but you are so right about it being from my background. I know so many people from recently war torn countries who wouldn't even blink at the kind of violence I'm talking about in my books.

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    2. @Lan: You're welcome! You can learn so much from Japanese video games (LOL).

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  16. So ... you're complaining that Katniss is a decent young woman who doesn't do violent stuff unless she's forced to? Who doesn't let herself be manipulated even by the supposed good guys, once she realises what they're doing? This ANNOYS you? :-)

    If I can't care about a hero, I don't enjoy the book, and I'd find it pretty hard to care about an aggressive character who is happy to kill others. A Katniss of this kind might as well have been a Career Tribute.

    Katniss is strong and brave; she doesn't HAVE to go out ass-kicking to prove it; she showed her courage by the illegal hunting and then sacrificing herself for her sister, right at the beginning. And Peeta is a boy who showed his decency from childhood on. Gale might have been the boy she ended with, but not once he started the terror tactics.

    Write what you want, but if you want to sell it, it needs to be something kids will read.

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    1. It's probably safer for me not to get into the semantics of THG because I could be here all night. But as usual, I never take my own advice so here goes:

      I'm not complaining that Katniss is a decent young woman (although I'd have to severely disagree by the time Mockingjay rolls around), more that her actions are passive and her motivations mostly selfish. I don't hold any of the children in THG responsible for their actions. It's so easy to get into the trap of labeling the Careers as the bad guys but they're a product of the Capitol. It's like blaming an abused animal for lashing out at its master.

      IMO Peeta is by far the most selfish character in the whole book. He is completely single minded in his pursuit of Katniss forsaking even his own family. Everything he does, he does for so called love of Katniss and I'd bet if she died he'd lose his mind and would retaliate in a manner that turns someone from a hero into a villain. Or he'd just surrender in defeat. It was so clear that the Capitol wouldn't react to anything but violent opposition an yet he still kept advocating peace. To what end? So that he and Katniss could be together while everyone else suffered?

      Unlike Peeta, Gale has had a harsh upbringing without the luxury of being a baker's son with both parents alive. He's had to look after his entire family for longer than he can remember. We get to see so very little of his motivations that it's easy for people to discount him as cold and his actions as "terror tactics." Einstein wrote a letter to the President recommending the creation of the atom bombs that killed millions of people yet he's still considered the most prominent scientist of our generation. Katniss never gave him a chance so we'll never know if he suffered for his actions but I can bet that he did. When Katniss was busy protecting herself in the District 13 raids, Gale was off saving her sister and their cat. He saved the survivors of district 12 and he had the strength to carry on and try to build a better world when it was all over. I sincerely hope that he and Joanna Mason somehow ended up together and happy because they were the only two characters I felt anything for in the end. I am the last person to condone war and violence because every day I see it's effects, but on the other hand I'm so grateful for people like Gale because without them, I probably wouldn't be alive either.

      So, now that I've gone off on a huge tangent, I'm going to try and write what comes natural to me. If the kids don't like it (and I bet some of them do because diversity is great like that!) then too bad for them!

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  17. Hey Lan! Sorry I'm late getting to your post. It's now a long list for the IWSG.
    I like both but probably lean towards the ones who aren't afraid to go after what they want. (And sorry, I don't read young adult, so can't relate to those books.) Perhaps that's because I'm guy, so the aggressive disposition is more natural. And that's a tough balance. The main character in my books was aggressive, driven, and sometimes difficult to like, especially in the beginning.
    Go with what feels right for your character.

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    1. No worries Alex. I'm surprised you got around to replying at all. That list is huge! It's interesting that you remember the guy factor. I am a certified tomboy and most of my friends are guys so that might explain the blood lust. I'm definitely going to go with what feels right from now on.

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  18. I don't really like it when the main character in YA book is too easy to go to violence. They're too young to be exposed to blood and war! Call me naive, but I don't like it when people under eighteen years old are used to killing. Adult book is different case. They're adult now, and they're free to do anything they want. I don't mind reading bloodlust characters in Adult books, but it's big problem for me when I find them on YA books.

    Great topic you make it, Lan! If you want to write a book full of blood and other gory details, I guess you should just make it like the way you want. There will always be people who accept your view of life in the book, and well... you can't please everyone. As long as readers can understand and have sympathy for the main character, I think it's okay. We love books that we can easily have connection with.

    Sorry for the late comment karma! :D

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  19. I'm okay with MCs killing as long as
    1)They don't do it that often
    2)They only do it when it's necessary
    3)They feel suitably bad about it afterwards
    4)They only kill the bad guys

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