Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Book Report: Princess Stories

I'm getting an early start today because I very soon have to go sing for a funeral. The deceased, in planning what he wanted during his illness, apparently decided that he wanted something joyful and exuberant, so we're doing a lot of classic African-American gospel music (for a crowd that will be the country-club set -- should be interesting). And there will be a bagpiper. Because that's what he wanted.

It's possible that I could get to "the end" of the book today, but I'm not going to say so because I know how it goes. I'll write 4,000 words and the end will still be 4,000 words away. I'm coming up on the book's emotional climax, a scene I've known was coming since I was working on the first book, and I'm a little afraid of finally writing it. Part of me suddenly wants to change the outcome even though the outcome makes sense and is necessary for the rest of the series (if the first two books do well enough to warrant continuing, but at least it's up to me to make that decision).

I read a fun book last week that's worth sharing. It's non-fiction, but it reads like a short-story collection. It's Princesses Behaving Badly by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie. The title is something of a misnomer, as not all the princesses were truly "behaving badly," but the idea is that it's a collection of accounts of princesses from all over the world, throughout history, who behaved in a way that doesn't fit the "Disney Princess" mold. There were those who seized kingdoms, those who went rogue, those who were devious, those who really did behave badly, those who went mad and even those who were just posing as princesses. It's fascinating reading, with a breezy, entertaining writing style.

I think it does kind of skim the surface, but it seems meant more to provide an introduction to the idea that real princesses are nothing like the storybooks. There's a pretty good bibliography at the end, so if a story piques your interest you can delve into more detail. The intro mentions the Disney princess craze, with this book as an antidote, but most of the stories are pretty sordid, so it's not really good alternative bedtime reading for little girls with a princess obsession.

I think I have some ideas for future fantasy novel characters, though …

Speaking of women in stories, this article showed up in my Facebook feed, and I thought it was interesting. I'm not crazy about the idea of the "strong female character" because too often it means Rambo in drag, and generally it's the traditional masculine traits that are considered good and strong, while traditionally feminine traits are considered negative and weak (one reason I felt compelled to write a book about a sweet Southern belle ballerina you do NOT want to mess with). The result is that "good" female characters are the ones who act like men. But as mentioned in this article, even when a female character is really strong, there seems to be a tendency to just throw her in for demographic purposes and then shove her to the sidelines. I haven't seen most of the movies mentioned, and as I've said before, I tend not to even notice if there are no women in a movie if there's not an obvious role for them. But I do get annoyed when there are cool characters (regardless of gender) who are just there for decoration and don't get to do anything. It's worth thinking about.

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