Book Report: Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett

IMG_4507Little Lord Fauntleroy is a quick, happy read. I enjoyed it quite a bit more than I anticipated.

The narrator’s droll voice had me smiling or chuckling nearly every page. The characters are not very complex, but I loved them anyway. I felt I knew them from the moment they stepped into the story.

Recommended for everyone.

Happy Yarning!

P.S. Pretty sure I know now who Cedric Diggory’s namesake is. Just saying.

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Family Dynamics in Fiction

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With my in-laws in town this week, I’ve been thinking of fictional families and how to go about writing them. I’m lucky to have grown up in a family where we all got along well the majority of the time, and I have awesome in-laws. With this background, I tend to write very “functional” families. It sometimes bothered me that lots of families in fiction are stuffed full of conflict.

But in recent years, my immediate family has been afflicted with a few falling-outs. I’ve come to see that while I, as a rather easy-going person, never had much conflict with family members, there was sometimes tension between members of my family that I was unaware of until it erupted later.

So even my “ideal” family had tensions and conflicts.

Here are my thoughts:

First of all, give your characters families. It’s easy to make an orphan or estranged character with no ties to family. It simplifies the story. But in reality, there are very few of these loners. Even Harry had the Dursleys, and Pip had Joe and Mrs. Joe.

While family doesn’t need to play a large role in every story, you should know about your characters’ families and how interactions with them have shaped your characters.

Ask questions:

Where is there tension? Where is there not tension?

How severe is the tension, and is the main character aware of it?

Does it affect the plot? How?

My main advice for writing realistic families (and I need to be better at following this myself) is to avoid extremes. Don’t just write a perfectly loving and always understanding and tolerant family, or a completely dysfunctional and always bickering family. Both of these are parodies. Find the balance in between that is suitable for your character’s family, and let them influence him/her.

Just some thoughts.

Happy Yarning!

Writing and Motherhood: Are We There Yet?

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I recently re-read Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1988 essay on mother writers, titled “The Fisherwoman’s Daughter.” It’s been a few years since I read it in a college literary criticism class, but I never forgot it.

Le Guin writes about how society has long preached that women writers are unnatural, and mother writers even more so. Society’s reasoning being that either the children or the books would suffer if a woman attempted to fulfill both callings. Le Guin argues that it can be done, without anyone putting anyone’s head in the oven (a la Sylvia Plath). Exhibit A: Le Guin herself has written books and raised children, quite successfully. The essay a very encouraging read.

As a woman who hopes to both have kids and get published, I started wondering: are we there yet?

As a society, have we stopped marginalizing mother writers?

I think of J. K. Rowling, Stephanie Meyer, Suzanne Collins, and Shannon Hale right off the top of my head. I think of all the women I know personally who are mothers (or plan to be mothers) and who are writing books. I haven’t heard anyone tell them they can’t do it, or they’re not suited for it. I haven’t been told any such thing myself. The only bar I can see today to being both a mother and a writer is the one that has always existed: that pesky limit of only 24 hours in a day.

If anything, society now says it is unnatural to be a mother without some other profession, or for women to hamper (pun intended) their potential by being mothers at all.

I think we can safely say the pendulum has swung. Thanks to Le Guin and others, mothers and other women writers have stepped out of the margins and onto the page where they were always meant to be.

The only downside is that the pendulum may have gone a bit far. Now the fight is for motherhood itself to be an acceptable occupation for women.

Moms, women, writers–your thoughts?