Thursday, May 10, 2012

Why I Write: Questions

I have to re-read MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD by Francisco X Stork for a retreat assignment. (Happy, happy, it was one of the best things I read last year.) Near the end of the book, Marcelo has a conversation with the rabbi, and it got me to wondering if Francisco X Stork believes the things the rabbi says. Which turned into wondering what people would think I believe if they read my WIP. It's about censorship, and while the MC goes hardline against it, I do support some censorship. For example movie ratings are a form of censorship that I, and many others, support.

And then I thought about critiques I've seen of YA authors in the past years. Sometimes critics do equate a person's fiction with their beliefs. But I don't always believe the conclusions my characters draw. In fact, as I've mentioned, my opinion is middle-of-the-road and I would make a wet sock of a character.

I came to realise during this line of thinking, that sometimes, I don't write because I have an answer, but because I have a question. My last WIP deals with what it's like being friends with a bi-polar person (for real, not the Hollywood/Charlie Sheen version). It doesn't present every possible thing that could go wrong, or right, for that matter. But it opens the door to questions. What are bi-polar people like? What's it like having one close? What's going through their minds?

I'm wishy-washy. I am not resolute about many things. And my work is a way for me to explore all those questions that I have. Questions about parts of me. About my beliefs. About the thins that happen to those around me. About things I see on the news. Many people often have hardline beliefs that they've been brought up with or taught by society or read somewhere and adopted. I hope that my work can open these questions for those people - the type of people who didn't even realise there was a question.

I can't remember every mentioning it before, and last night when I thought it, it felt new. So here's one more reason why I write: because I have more questions than answers.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Yesterday, I spoke about my faction according to the divergent quiz: Candor. But I also said that everything about Candor didn't quite sit well with me. It's taken me a whole year and reading the second book in the DIVERGENT series (INSURGENT) to realise why. I'm divergent!

You'd think I would have come up with that a long time ago, since it's an integral part of the book's premise, but well, yeah...

Unlike the "true Candor," I don't see everything in black and white. In fact, I don't really see any thing in black and white. I believe in truth, but many of those truths are not absolute, as I see them. And even where I see a truth as absolute, I think that others have have every right to believe something different.

A part of me is AMITY.

 It's the Amity in me that fights with black and whiteness of Candor. The Amity in me believes that everyone gets to make their own choices as long as they aren't hurting anyone. Amity is the only faction whose clothes I would (and do regularly) wear. Three of the factions wear neutrals (black, white, gray) and Erudite wears blue, which I despise. That doesn't seem like a big deal, but the clothes represent the belief systems of the factions. And I dress brightly, like Amity, because that's how I (generally) feel and what I want to promote.

 Another big draw for Amity is the appreciation of music and the arts. Well, duh. *looks around writer's blog* Amity, moreso than any other faction, cultivates humanity. And I'm all about humanity, which I suppose, is why my Candor truths are gray, because where people are involved there is no black and white.
 I'm a natural peace-keeper too. It really drains me to see people fight. That's not to say I'm perfect and I don't get emotional and argue as well. But when I'm thinking clearly, the search for peace - or really community - is my second guiding principle.

The Amity celebrity: Professor X. Pretty much the only thing that stops him from being just like Magneto is that he just wants everybody to get along. 

The next strongest faction in my life is Erudite. This is probably the most obvious from the outside. At 30, there are only (approx) 2 years of my life where I haven't been in school in some capacity. I speak 5 languages. I'm certified in all kinds of random stuff that I may never use, like Italian and Event Planning. Other people don't get it when I "just take a class" with no end in sight.

I hate conflict, but my mother always says I should be a lawyer. That's because I like when things are "right". Logically speaking, that is. And sometimes, I argue for the things I believe to be so. But I could never be a lawyer because of the peace-seeking nature, and because I won't go against the truth. The Candor, and the Amity are in conflict with the Erudite, and I think the Erudite in me only shines through when it doesn't conflict or when it's a reflex.

And of course when it comes to answering any problem with an empirical solution, the Erudite mascot is Hermione.

When I think about this combination, I think most writers must be a combination of these three. Obviously, we're Amity, as we love the arts. We are Candor as we search for the truth, and Erudite as we seek and use knowledge. I guess the stories we tell and how we choose to tell them is influenced by which of the 3 shine brightest in us, and if any of the other factions are thrown into the mix as well.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


I've just finished Veronica Roth's INSURGENT, the second in the DIVERGENT series.

DIVERGENT summary (from Amazon):

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself. 

When DIVERGENT first came out, it was all the rage to do The Faction Quiz on facebook, and share the results on blogs and twitter feeds everywhere.  I did the test, but I never shared my result.

I am Candor.

Why have I never mentioned that, despite the fact that I enjoy the book, and participate in other memes with fair frequency? Firstly, Candor is about the least exciting a faction can be. Secondly, they're not really painted in the best light. And thirdly, I don't wholly identify with them. 

The thing is I didn't need the test to tell me I'm Candor. I'll tell anybody any day that I prize truth about all else. It's about the only thing I can guarantee I'm good at. I might not be the most selfless, or the bravest, etc, but I can almost guarantee that I am the most honest person you will meet.  If you ask me a question, you wil get an honest answer, probably sugar-coated, but still honest.

So let's look at why I haven't claimed my Candor until now. As I said, they aren't that exciting. All the other factions get to do all this cool stuff. If you look up badass in a dystopian dictionary, there's a picture of the Dauntless symbol. You have to respect Abnegation for the sheer level of will it takes to constantly put others before themselves. And they make great leaders because they always think of the common good. The Erudite spend their days thinking and developing the technology that the rest of the society needs. And Amity, apart from not getting involved in the politics of the society, grows the food for everyone, because they have the patience, of course.

 I guess it's a reflection of my real life. I mean it sounds really cool that I'm out in Japan. And it is actually pretty cool. But I'm a regular teacher. And while teachers are awesome, we're a dime a dozen. Even moreso than that, I am a writer. I just want to tell my stories, write my truths, philosophise. (Guess what my best subject was in my Coast Guard Academy days? Morals & Ethics. Thoroughly useless, but Candor all the way.) And writers aren't cool. Not unless they have 3-book deals with Harper Collins or "NYT Bestselling" in front of their names or they are one of the handful that everyone in the world can name.

And then there's the way Candor is painted in DIVERGENT. All of the factions take their virtue to the extreme, sacrificing other virtues on the way. But Candor feels the worst to me. They sacrifice consideration for others in the name of truth. They say whatever comes to mind, whether or not it's hurtful. That's too high a price for the truth. 

So I'm Candor with a caveat. I believe in truth. Truth above all else. But I don't believe that I must always sacrifice everything else in the name of truth. Nor do I believe that everyone else has to believe the same things I do. Unlike the Candor in INSURGENT, I don't share my truth where it's not asked for or neccessary, essentially shoving it down the throats of others. 

I suppose, if you've been following this blog for a little while, you've could come to these conclusions on your own. I share my opinions here, even when they are not the popular or political correct ones. But I never shut down anyone who thinks differently. And I try hard to present my posts objectively, even when they are personal and passionate.

I am Candor.
Of course it doesn't help that this guy's supposedly one of us. Yum!

Come back tomorrow for the sequel to this post. And share your Faction if you have one.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Why I don't write homosexual characters

In December, I explained the situation as far as Barbados is concerned with homosexuality. Generally, we don't support it, but we don't run around beating people up for it, either. Since then, I've seen many of my bloggy buds and others on the web asking for more homosexual characters. I doubt I'll ever be one to write them.


The overwhelming reason I refuse to write a homosexual character is because I don't really know where I stand on homosexuality. I am a Christian and I come from a largely Christian nation. So, I've got the traditional Christian input. Homosexuality is wrong.

On the other hand, in my time traipsing around the world, I've met lots of homosexuals. Many of them are good people. (As with any group, there are evil people here too.) And there are many non-homosexuals who do "worse" things.


I suppose the first time I really had to confront the issue was after a close friend came out. I had to wrangle with it for myself. (This is one reason I hate coming out stories where everyone is either "Yay, you came out!" or "I'll never speak to you again, Abomination! I think there are a lot of people who respond like me. They need time to think and feel.) My end position was this: I'm still his friend. I still believe in him as a person. I don't know what God feels about his sexual choices. I don't have the right to judge them. But I also don't feel like I should neccessarily be celebrating them either.

I feel like that position would make for a wishy washy character.


While my views are somewhere in the middle, I've spent most of my life on the anti- side of the fence. I feel like if I tried writing  a homosexual character they might push some of the morals I've been brought up with. That could only lead to a self-loathing character. 


Most of the reasons I won't write a homosexual character have to do with how the end result turn out. But there is one reason that has more to do with me. When I tried to write the quake novel (about 311 - North East Japan's Quake/tsunami/nuclear disaster), I discovered that some stories can scratch right down to your soul. I feel like it would be really painful to explore the parts of my psyche I need to produce a homosexual character, and to keep that character and plot alive for at least 50,000 words. (And that's not even considering revisions.)


There is one book that I hope to write which does involve a homosexual character and storyline. Like my own personal experience, it's about a character who's best friend comes out. The best friend has mostly dealt with the issues arising from her homosexuality, but the MC has to find where she stands.


I feel  a tad like a hypocrit. I'm always preaching about "Other" characters. There are multiple races in every novel-length manuscript of mine. There's one disabled character, and there will be more. There are people representing different countries. But there isn't a single homosexual. Apart from the one I mentioned in the last paragraph, there may never be. But I feel better not writing homosexuals, than writing the type of homosexual characters and stories that do more harm than good.

* I use the word "homosexual" rather than the more politically correct "LGBTQ" because that's what I mean. Much of this post doesn't apply to the "BTQ" and they just may turn up. Who knows?