Two Articles—One Connection

Last week, I read two online posts I hadn’t realized had a connection until a friend pointed it out. Here are the links to both:

http://writerunboxed.com/2017/06/19/heartened-by-wonder-woman-the-case-for-sincere-storytelling/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/what-ya-gets-wrong-about-teenagers-from-a-teen_us_594a8e4de4b062254f3a5a94

The first post included a quote by the director of Wonder WomanPatty Jenkins:

I’m tired of sincerity being something we have to be afraid of doing. It’s been like that for 20 years, that the entertainment and art world has shied from sincerity, real sincerity, because we feel like we have to wink at the audience because it’s what kids like.

Before I reveal the quote from the HuffPost article, let me ask you a question: What do you think a typical teen is like? Is she cool and confident—queen of her domain?

Or is she awkward, shy, hopeful?

That was a trick question. Is there really a “typical” teen—one that represents every teen on the planet? Nope. With that in mind, here’s the quote from the second post:

[N]ot all teens are adorable, wise-cracking, defiant, sarcastic little squirts. . . . Most of us teens are awkward and spend bus rides thinking up comebacks for arguments that we lost hours ago.

In other words, many real teens are not as cynical as those found in fiction books. Many are sincere—the connector to the Wonder Woman post.

Both posts fed something within me. I’ve seen Wonder Woman twice at the theater. The first post helped me realize what I especially love about the movie: the sincerity of the main character. Oh, she kicks butt with great skill. But (hee hee) she has a genuine interest in helping others.

The second post reminds me of teens I know. Sure, they sometimes grumble about what’s boring. (Read the post above, and you’ll see what this teen finds boring.) But they also talk about what they want to do to make a difference in the world. They have hope. This brings to mind something else the teen author of the above post said

I have something to say that may shock an inexperienced YA writer: I do not automatically and inexplicably hate any of my classmates. . . . In my school, most people like each other!

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” I hear you caution. “What about all those teens who bully other teens or shoot those who bullied them?”

Please note that the teen who wrote the above article mentioned her school, not all schools. I also was bullied as a teen back in the day when everybody had a stegosaurus for a pet. I also know teens today who have been bullied. But there are many, many teens who don’t bully others or shoot them.

Also, not every teen has the expectation that in order for a movie to succeed in entertaining him or her, the main character has to be cynical—always ready with an apt, sarcastic quip. They can appreciate sincerity. Men too, if you took note of the author of the first article.

Both posts remind me of what I love: writing about people who aren’t sure of themselves; who get scared or feel lonely and tongue-tied. And yes, some of these individuals are antagonists who harm others because of the pain they feel inside. But they aren’t the quipping sort. In their own way, they are sincere.

Please don’t get me wrong. I appreciate good sarcasm. I’m just not the kind of clever writer who can produce it with aplomb. I’m too earnest and awkward to be convincing.

So lately, I’ve been tempted to give up writing fiction, feeling pushed aside in a world craving something other than what I’ve been writing. But these posts give me hope. They remind me that maybe someone is looking for what I’m writing.

Patty Jenkins photo from slashfilms.com. Other photos by L. Marie. Macy Macaron (fourth photo) and Gemma Stone (third photo) are Shopkins Shoppie dolls by Moose Toys.

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45 thoughts on “Two Articles—One Connection

  1. If it helps, I think a lot of us feel like giving up writing at the moment. I can’t. I’m an authorholic and I am completely addicted, but as someone who writes books that are a mash up between humour, sci fi, fantasty, action and adventure – with the occasional dash of romance but no squelchy bits. And worse British books, about Britain without even a nod to American culture I also sympathise about feeling out of step with trends. Most of my stuff is about people or er hem creatures from very different backgrounds trying to pull together to achieve something so I hear you about being earnest. My characters have a dry sense of humour though.

    For what it’s worth I have had the opposite experience about folks being nice. Apart from a couple times, from the age of ten until I gave up work there has always been someone in my work or school environment whose life goal was to make my life as difficult as possible. It seems I will regularly have my own personal Draco Malfoy. I seemed to really piss a certain type of person off. But I have absolutely no clue as to why. So it does happen but yes I also agree that as a plot trope it is used far too often. And the two parties usually find a way to get along in book, an outcome I’ve failed to achieve in life!

    Cheers

    MTM

    • I’m glad you’ll keep writing. I’m glad you won’t compromise by adding American culture to your books too. 😀 Are your books like Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books?
      I write fantasy books too about elves. Never have I been rejected so fast! But that’s what I’m working on.
      I’m sorry that life has been a struggle. I can relate to life being a struggle. Perhaps that’s one reason why we both write?

      • Could be we are folks who write to escape? My books are quite discworld like but the with a bit of science though – there are flying cars, static powered laser pistols and torches etc. Well done on the elves. You are never than I. I thought about having orcs in one of my books but decided it would only provoke a deluge of emails from people who know more about orcs than I do telling me I’d got it wrong. 🙂

      • Sigh. That’s the tough part of living in this day and age–opinions come fast and furious. 😦

        Your books sound like a delightful blend. 🙂

  2. I don’t have any teens in my life, but I’d venture to guess they all go through the awkward, self-doubt stage just like we did. One thing I know, I wouldn’t want to be a teen in these days of Facebook, Instagram, etc.

    • I hear you. I’m grateful social media was not around when I was a teen. Ugh. Even with all of the conveniences with have, thanks to technology, I think teens have a difficult time of it. There’s so much noise, so many voices clamoring to be heard.

  3. I’ve always wondered about YA and getting close to reality. I think sarcasm gets used a lot because it’s the ‘smart comedy defense’ that a person can use to defeat a person by leaving them looking stupid. That and blatant sass with witty zingers. Keep thinking about Kat Dennings character in ‘2 Broke Girls’, which I watched a little of in the past. I can’t think of a single moment where the character wasn’t sarcastic and it got old real fast. Not sure what caused sarcasm to overtake sincerity in fiction. Wonder when that started.

    • I do too, Charles. I always think of movies like Clueless and 10 Things I Hate About You, as well as movies by John Hughes. And I think of Julia Stiles especially, who starred in 10 Things I Hate About You. She perfectly delivered the best sarcastic lines. That had to be an influence on writers of teen fiction. And then books by Meg Cabot and John Green and Sarah Dessen were published. Many authors though credit being influenced by The Catcher in the Rye or The Outsiders.

      • I don’t remember Catcher being very sarcastic. More judgmental and annoying. The thing I liked about 10 Things is that the sarcasm was fresh back then and there was still some deep conversations. Now, it’s almost like a deep conversation requires somebody to dive in with a sarcastic comment or lame pun.

      • It probably did. A few excellent movies and books can make the pendulum swing around. I hear that War for the Planet of the Apes is phenomenal.

      • I never got around to the second one. I wonder if summer blockbusters have the power to move a pendulum. They all come off as money-focused. Although now all of them seem to have some social commentary. Even on purpose once in a while.

      • I didn’t see the second one either, though I heard it was good.

        Wonder Woman has people talking, so maybe people will be inspired to produce something good.

      • I hope Wonder Woman does inspire quality movies and stories. Though I won’t hold my breath. Like Hunger Games and Katniss, we’re more likely to see carbon copies instead of a variety of strong female characters. They’ll all be super strong, super powerful, and pillars of nobility. That works for Wonder Woman considering her background, but it doesn’t jump to every character.

      • Sad but true. 😦 I would hate to see a bunch of books or movies about super powered but essentially soulless individuals slapped into a project for the sake of a dollar.

        I’d like DC to really put effort into their next projects–the writing in particular. They have so many good characters.

      • Well, it kind of feels like we’re already getting it. Take a superhero and add a villain with a similar power set who wants to gain power. Add pretty visuals and enough sarcastic wit to hide any script issues. That’s an origin movie though. Sequels require the villain to be caused or connected to the hero.

        Honestly, I’m fine with DC because at least they’re trying to do something new. Let’s be honest. People really want them to be lighter and funnier like Marvel. That doesn’t make sense since DC has always been darker. Death of Superman and his return, which had the violent destruction of a whole city. Batman’s back getting broken. Green Lantern finding his girlfriend chopped up and in the freezer. Green Arrow actually worked a long rape survivor storyline for Black Canary. Marvel doesn’t go to this side of the pool. With all of my comics, the heaviest they get is with fatal diseases like the Legacy Virus and people turning traitor. So, I really don’t want DC to go more light and silly. It wouldn’t really feel right.

      • I think DC should do what they’ve always done–make compelling stories. They keep looking to Marvel and failing because that’s where they’re looking. Even the old animated Batman series back in the 90s had some dark but very, very compelling stories.

        But for movies, they really need good directors with more vision beyond just pretty visuals.

      • I don’t really think they’re looking at Marvel. Only in the sense that they’re trying to create a movie universe, but that’s what people expect of them now. Imagine the uproar if they did a bunch of movie series that never connected. People would be upset.

        One of the oddest things I read was how Civil War was chosen as the last Captain America movie. That wasn’t the original plan, which makes sense if you consider that it came off as an Avengers 3. The creators heard that there was going to be a Batman vs Superman movie, so they thought it would be a great idea to go for Civil War. Not to compete, but they thought it was going to be time for core movies of the genre to hold many heroes. So, it’s actually Marvel who is keeping an eye on DC. Honestly, they’ve always done that. Hate to say it since I read more Marvel than DC, but they tend to do things 2nd.

      • I grew up with Marvel and DC. Never chose one over the other. I’ll be glad when the news media stops pitting them against each other as if viewers have to choose one or the other. I like both!

  4. Linda: perused Vivian’s Huff Post articles and her blog…wow! thanks for featuring her in this post…maybe you could do one of your fantastic blog-interviews with her???? Just a thought for you to ponder.
    But truly, I’m heartened at her voice out there in the wilderness of the internet!
    peace

    • Good idea, Laura! I’ll see about contacting her. I found her blog and an email address. 🙂 She’s very articulate. I’m glad she’s out there too.

  5. I expect someone IS looking for what you’re writing.

    Life is our Field of Dreams ~> Whether or not something resonates with a given reader depends on the reader. If you write honestly, YOUR intended audience will appear while those who are not intended to be in your pool of readers will drift away.

    Write on!

  6. I’ve always thought teens get a bad rap. I’ve met some very kind, caring, and driven teenagers, and I agree–it would be nice if we saw more of them in fiction. So it’s nice to hear you’d like to write more of them into fiction. 🙂

  7. L. Marie, please don’t give up fiction. We need more voices like you. If Wonder Woman is any indication (saw it this weekend and loved it), I think the cycle is beginning to swing back in the other direction: the “good guys and girls” fighting the good fight again. There may have been a time when it was growing tiresome because maybe some other voices were being drowned out, but I believe things have swung too far in the other direction.

  8. See, I reckon, on the basis of no evidence at all, that while books that are trendy seem to get all the sales and coverage for a month or two, in fact it’s the books that go against the trends that last and that most people actually enjoy – the silent majority. I can’t speak about YA or fantasy since I don’t read them much, but crime has two distinct groups of readers – those who read whatever the new domestic thriller is and those who don’t. The first group make the most noise, but the second group, though quieter, is bigger and will still be reading non-trendy crime long after domestic noir has been dismembered and buried in a shallow grave… 😉

    • Ha! Good thoughts, FF. I know what you mean. Perhaps that’s why mystery classics are continually resurrected. (Well, that and the public domain issue.) A good, solid story is always attractive, especially when produced by a tried and true author. Perhaps there is hope for my elves yet. 😀

      • I’m on the second draft. I think I need to be more disciplined, though. Rather than having a set time to write, I just pick one moment in the week to pick it up again, fitting it in between kids, working, etc.

      • To be honest I don’t have much experience with agents and such. What is your experience? Seeing as though Nordland’s editor was the first to mention a novel, and has enquired about it, I think I will offer it to him first.

      • Well, you’ve already achieved what many people with agents want to achieve–getting a publisher for their manuscripts. That’s a fifteen percent savings for you.

        I’m querying agents, because many publishers will not take manuscripts from authors without agents. An agent can get you a bigger advance in some cases. I’ve published one book with an agent. But most of the books I’ve written and published (mostly nonfiction) have been without an agent. However, my writing career started twenty years ago, when publishers still took unsolicited manuscripts. Most of them do not take them now.

  9. I read that article in Huffington Post as well, and I wish every YA writer, editor, and agent would read it. The herd mentality in YA publishing really does insult the intelligence of a lot of teen readers. Teens are sentient human beings, not cash cows. When I was at ALA in Chicago, I was so gratified to meet a small press publisher, Peggy Tierney of Tanglewood Press, who said when she sees a trend, it makes her want to do the opposite. And doing the opposite gives readers choices.

  10. There is so much “meat” to your words here, I’m not sure where to start. DO keep on writing!
    I remember our younger daughter’s excitement after she read “The Outsiders”. It was palpable and compelled me to read it, which leads me to what I think is true in life – we can learn much from youth and what they read is part of it. I have opportunities to be around teens in settings other than school and am actually amazed at their intuition and strength of character.
    I was the shy, awkward teen – but I was also rather tenacious and, thanks to the gene pool, sarcastic. 🙂 I was also fortunate to live sans social media.
    Hang in there, L. Marie – and now, I really want to see Wonder Woman.

    • Thanks, Penny. 😀 I’m trying to return to writing fiction. I haven’t written much in the last week.

      I hope you’ll get a chance to see Wonder Woman. It’s violent though. Be prepared if that’s not your thing. (My mother would not see it.)

      I loved sarcasm when I was a teen. But I was never really good at the delivery. I was always too awkward and earnest. I used to see that as a failing. But maybe it isn’t.

      • Good for you! Sometimes we need those “rests”.

        Thanks for the warning. I’ll try to see it soon – meaning, while it is still on the “big” screen. 🙂

        I come from a family of sarcastic folks, including 1st, 2nd, 3rd cousins removed – and one of my daughters. The one who responded to the college theology prof, who asked what she would do if she came to the burning bush. “Stop. Drop and Roll”. 🙂 At any rate, L. Marie, it is NOT a failing. Sometimes I wonder how most of us got through teen years, and worry for it is even harder now with social media.

      • Ha ha! A great response from your daughter!

        Yes, it seems harder nowadays with social media and also with school requirements. There are so many things a student has to do to get into a good college!

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