Here goes. Strap yourself in. I have opinions.
I spend a lot of time writing stuff.
That goes without saying, right? The thing is, I don’t write just anything. I mean, I write a lot of things, but not just anything, if you get what I’m saying. I’m an avid reader, have been my whole life, and I love stories in a way I can’t fully articulate or quantify. However, I have beefs with stories. Oh so many beefs.
In college, I majored in French and minored in English, which means I read a LOT of books and plays. Like a metric crapton. Most of the stuff I read was stuff I frankly didn’t want to be reading. Yes, I love literature, but I don’t love all literature. (Hemingway. *shudder*) Sure, I did love some of it (Shakespeare, you masterful bard, you), but when you’re forced to read four books a semester, none of which you want to be reading, it ends up taking a toll.
College temporarily killed my love of reading—which shouldn’t be interpreted as me saying I hated higher education, because I am a nerd and I loved college. I’m one of those people who would probably be an eternal student if I had endless money and endless time. But after having been force-fed so much literature, much of it excruciating for me to read, I just lost that reading spark.
I can’t tell you how good it felt to dive back into books, once I was free to read what I wanted to read when I wanted to read it. I inhaled everything I could get my hands on.
Then I started noticing things that really annoyed me. There were some tropes I couldn’t stomach, and if I stuck with any particular genre long enough I started to feel like I was reading the same books over and over.
Now, I’ll take a timeout here to say I am NOT trying to insult other authors. I love other authors. I love reading their work and being surprised by how different their minds are, by how they write things I would never have thought of writing, by how some of it is so gorgeous and delicious and perfect that I wish I had written it.
That said, genres have their tropes. This is true of books, movies, video games, and TV shows. I get tropes, I do. I’m like everyone else in that I enjoy predictability in certain aspects of my life, so I get wanting the assurance that if you pick up a book, you’re going to get what you expect out of it.
The thing is, *I* don’t like predictability in my media. I don’t like it at all.
Because of this, I am almost gleeful about blowing up tropes and defying genre conventions. This is to my own detriment at times, as it makes my writing particular, and I understand this. Maybe I’ll never write anything that appeals to a mass market. I’m okay with this, because I am a niche reader, which makes me a niche writer. I know I’m not alone, and I want to reach those other niche readers who, like me, are frustrated by the challenge of trying to find just the right book.
One of my absolute favorite genre tropes to slay is anything—ANYTHING—to do with gender stereotyping. I am a woman. I am a woman who wants to imagine myself in the role of superhero, chosen one, savior of the world. It is sometimes extremely hard to find this kind of woman in literature, sadly. I think things are changing. I’m finding more amazing female characters with each year that passes, I’m happy to say, but for sure one of the reasons I started writing is because I wanted to see different, more diverse female characters out in the book world.
I have a particular beef with fantasy. Again, there are exceptions to this, I know (The Broken Earth series, I am looking with particular admiration at you), but, ugh, the female tropes in fantasy fiction.
(And do not, DO NOT, tell me that, “Well, this is the way things were in the past, so the author is going for authenticity…” No. Just, no. By definition, fantasy worlds are completely made up—I mean, they often have DRAGONS, for crying out loud—so there is NO reason for them to bear any resemblance to our culture, past or present, unless the author is using that culture as a way of exploring a specific issue.)
One of my favorite things to do is make my female characters warriors, rulers, and leaders, and have other characters not only accept this, but not even question it. It’s not even weird to them because it’s the norm. Oh, so the Captain of the Royal Guard is a woman? Yeah, that makes sense. No big deal.
In other words, I love to write female characters who do the same things my male characters do. I imagine worlds where female characters can be anything and everything without anyone saying, “But you’re a woman!” or “You’re good at ____ — for a woman”.
A world like that would probably look something like this:
Bye, bye, damsel in distress trope. Don’t let the door hit ya. See ya later, women in fridges. You really irk me.
You want genre tropes? That’s awesome, and I definitely want there to be books for you. I’m just probably not going to write them is all.
But if you don’t like genre tropes, if you’re looking for something a little different, a little outside of the box, well, I’m your woman.
(But not THE woman, though. That title is reserved.)