The "Unexpected Inspiration" Characters

Mar 27, 2014

I guess this makes me an over-achiever?

(Note: I'll update this post as things become relevant or change in my drafts.)

I found a fun thread in the NaNoWriMo forums called "Why Your Book Will Be Banned" and I can't get over my amusement about how many of the points listed my current series "Unexpected Inspiration" falls under. Keep in mind that this series is certainly not gory, violent, upsetting, or depressing. I tend towards comedy and silliness and usually spend some time circling around cutesy or sweet (what? I like happy endings). Yet I still managed to hit tons of the banned book points. That's a job well done, I'd say. ;)

As a note: this is a joke. I obviously don't hold with banning books; if you don't like it, just don't read it. Easy as pie. Oh, wait, pie is one of the reasons this would be potentially banned. See why I'm amused?

Regular font are the reasons for banning found in that thread, bold below that are (snarky) examples for my novel. I didn't include the ones on the original list that don't fit what I'm writing.

-Your book can't mention any body parts.
(Most of my characters have obvious tattoos. Many are carnival performers so they can do physical tricks. Both of these things mean body parts get mentioned a lot.)

-You can't talk about religion.
(Most of these characters don't technically have a religion, but they do revere the founders of their country and the constellations of stars. Two of the main characters are foreign and follow the gods from the north- who are quite likely not actually gods, but elementals.)

-Atheism
(Ah, here we go! That's most of my characters and their entire culture. Well... except for a kind of ancestor worship.)

-You can't talk about race.
(Nuts, there goes my reason for two of the main characters being strangely pale because they're from the distant north. The antagonist in book 1 also is paler than the rest of the cast. And I'm writing fantasy- "race" is going to come up because there are a lot of nonhumans secretly wandering the place.)

-You can't use racial slurs.
(I'm probably going to end up making some up, particularly to have the bounty hunters use on my pale foreign characters. "Sickly" and "washed out" aren't nearly strong enough.)

-You can't have any mention of sex.
(Not even mentioned in passing or happening off screen?)

-No showing of safe sex.
(Isn't that better than the alternative? I don't "show" any of this, but it might also be mentioned in passing at some point. One of my main characters is a healer, so she would know about this.)

-You can't talk about sexuality.
(With a cast of college-age characters? Riiiight. Trust me, they're talking about it.)

-You can't talk about gender unless it is cis.
(My fire-dancer MC is agender. Many of the nonhumans aren't of the male or female variety. I'm pretty sure one of the secondary characters in book 2 is gender fluid. Nonbinary genders are common enough that the carnies have other pronouns besides "he" and "she". Having nonbinary characters is actually something I consider important in my writing.)

-You can't talk about sexual orientation.
(Many of my characters- probably the majority- are some flavor of non-hetero in a culture that doesn't see this as wrong. I have an entire social class where triads are the normal form of marriage, another class where same-sex pairings are just about as common as opposite-sex, and the culture in general doesn't have much of a problem with sexual orientation. Other countries do, but not the main one.)

-No beastiality
(Finally hit the last sex-related point that I was missing! It turns out one of my main characters is a fire elemental which means that they're going to start shifting into something resembling a lizard. The boyfriend of this character is still human, so I suppose this banning point counts.)

-You can't have kids doing stunts or possibly hurting themselves.
(Most of my cast are performers who do stunts for a living. Okay, late teens and early 20s aren't "kids", but I do have younger characters in the series who do the same thing, particularly one of my MCs who's a 14 year old girl. Considering that her guardians are those college-age kids, someone's probably going to do something stupid and get hurt.)

-You can't talk about class or classism.
(This country has specific classes filled with specific occupations. Then again, it's not "class" as the term would usually be used. I think I need a better word.)

-You can't swear, including the word "damn."
("Well, damn," says my blade-dancer. Not a lot of cursing in this, though, despite her complaints. My characters' favorite cussing phrase is "What the sassafras?")

-You can't talk about child abuse.
(My fire-dancer didn't have a particularly fun childhood, but even worse is one of my young teen characters whose guardian is a horrible older sister who has kept her housebound for years.)

-You can't mention any drugs, including alcohol, especially with teenagers drinking it.
(In a fantasy world, late teens don't count as teenagers, right? Tea and wine are the beverages of choice in this country. I can sort of see how my antagonist takes and gives magic in book 1 as an analogy for addiction, though...)

-A boy and a girl can't live together if not related, because it's obviously living in sin.
(Most of my characters aren't related by blood but live together because they're like a family. Or a carnival troupe. For them it's the same thing.)

-You can't have a black bunny marry a white bunny because that's supporting interracial marriage.
(No bunnies, but I do have mixed-race characters and interracial couples. "Interracial" also tends to have a different meaning in a fantasy setting.)

-The book can't be deemed racist in any fashion.
(I'm not planning on doing anything offensive, but who knows considering that my characters aren't technically from the typical fantasy-European mold. My two blond, blue-eyed, pale characters are out of the ordinary. I'm sure some people could have a problem with the fact that much of my cast is not white.)

-Oh, no magic, no mention of witches, and no fantasy
(I'm writing fantasy with tons of magic.)

-You can't have it be morally corrupt.
(My fire-dancer is morally ambiguous, a pyromaniac, and has no qualms with mind-controlling anyone and everyone- and they're one of the good guys [usually]. The fire-eater is a thief with what could be typically called "dark" magic, although he's one of the most moral characters. Don't get me started on the bad guys, some of whom are only "bad" because they're on the wrong side of the plot.)

-You can't have monsters of any kind.
(...I'm writing fantasy, for pete's sake.)

-No characters may ever die.
(None?? This does happen once in a while even though I try to avoid it.)

-No dead parents.
(Hahahahahaha! Most of my characters are orphans, hence why they can sum up their childhoods with "I ran away to join the circus".)

-No dead best friends
(That's definitely staying since it's the reason the main antagonist gets defeated. The best friend gets better, though. He's only mostly dead!)

-No dead siblings.
(I'm killing off half a set of twins, but that's the same character as the best friend mentioned above.)

-You may not mention anyone dead or dying.
(Whoops. This is a really upbeat story, though, so it's not like I'm going overboard with this theme, I swear. And if you spell it differently, I have "dyeing" characters, too, thanks to an illusionist and paint. Does dyeing with an "e" count against me, too?)

-No cursing at parents.
(No parents to speak of, but I have a character cursing at the older sibling who had adopted and raised her. Said sibling does deserve it considering that they're the morally ambiguous pyro.)

-Children can't do violence, especially to adults or to each other.
(I don't really have "children" in this, but the young teenage characters are in on the action, too.)

-And by all means it can't be "icky." "gross" or "scary"
(Despite all these points, the series is actually rather tame since I'm trying to write the exact opposite of the edgy "gore and whore" genre that's currently popular in fantasy. The fact that I write LGBT themes is going to slide it into "icky" for some readers, but too bad. There's tons of fantasy out there for them to read with entirely straight and cisgender casts. I'm not going to apologize for this not being one of those, just like I'm not apologizing for anything else on this list. *grins*)

-And you can't use any words with "tit" in them.
(And now I want to add in a titmouse. Maybe the cat corners one.)

-No talking about over eating, bad eating habits.
(Good luck getting the pie away from the MC of book 1. He's obsessed with sweets, which is actually how he meets the other characters. He's still sad that his pie-as-bribery idea didn't work. I think he also uses food as a coping mechanism when he's stressed out.)

-No dysfunctional families.
(My crew of carnival performers ARE a dysfunctional family. You don't get much more dysfunctional than them.)

-No talking about disabilities.
(The teenage girl cannot speak. The fire-eater has terrible social phobia. The fire-dancer has a temporary stutter.)

-No children defying authority figures.
(My characters range from 14-24, so they're all young people and they're certainly doing their own thing. I'm sure they get on the wrong side of authority figures more than once. You can count on that.)

-You can't have talking animals.
(I have a feeling more than a few of my nonhuman characters fall under this point, but I think they'd all take offense at being called "animals".)

-No toilet humor.
(My mischievous character is insisting that I add this. Sigh.)

~Meri

Mar 24, 2014

"You're not writing elves or talking animals anymore. It's like I don't even know you!"

- The observation made by my husband before he claimed that I must have been replaced by a pod person. I think he's right.

I've been gearing up for Camp NaNoWriMo (rebelling again this year) by bouncing world-building ideas off said spouse. This kind of creating is something I hadn't spent a lot of time doing previously since I'd been writing in either locations/societies he originally created or I didn't get too in-depth because my short stories were about individuals rather than their culture (like the events in "Hidden Magic" happen almost entirely away from the wood elves' camp). With my current novel and the series I have planned around it, there is a lot of culture development that I need to figure out. The main country where the stories take place is further advanced than the surrounding ones, which has its pros and cons, and it's atypical in pretty much every way. There are no king or noble class because the upper class, as well as the ruling council, are artisans. Artisan-mages, really, but magic is a tightly kept secret here. For a nation to be prosperous enough to support artists at the top, that means changing everything on the way down, too. Enter the classes I have to flesh out below the Artisans: the Officials, the Merchants, the Soldiers, the Tradesmen, and the Laborers. And then there are the ranks within the Artisans, the different guilds/branches for each type of craft, the mobility that exists to move up or down from the class you're born into, rites of passage/name-granting, not to mention building the fringe society of my nomadic carnival performers (technically a branch of Artisans, but always slightly detached from the rest)... that's just some of what I have to sort out, but I'm losing my original train of thought.

The strange thing is that until my husband pointed out that observation, it was something I hadn't really noticed. Almost everything I've ever written, even spanning back to my roleplaying and fanfiction days of a decade ago, has included at least one animal capable of speech or telepathy and I've spent the past five years writing lots of nonhumans (usually elves). Those were my old fallbacks, the character types I would always reach for first. How did I not notice that I left them on the shelf this time? 126 pages written in "Unexpected Inspiration" so far (plus the outlines forming for two more stories to follow) and not a single nonhuman or supernatural animal in sight.

Okay, so there is a housecat who looks like a tiger, but that was just because the illusionist got bored. I have ghosts (of a sort), but they're human. I have weird shadows, but the jury's still out on if those are actually living things; it's just as likely that they're reflections or echoes of energy. But nope, nary a single pointed ear or telepathic animal passing through to make a cameo appearance. It's like I let the side down and I don't feel guilty at all. I do feel like I'm ready to move past that for at least a while. Don't get me wrong, eventually they will make a return since I have to finish "In the Cards" someday and there are nonhumans and animals aplenty living there... with an elf, an orc, a halfling, a doppelganger, a telepathic fox, and a bird-shapeshifter, it's like I pulled nonhumans out of a six-for-one deal bin at the Character Exchange. I may have to turn the fact that almost no one is human into a joke in that one.

But I'm content to write what I'm currently writing. I adore my human carnival performers and artists just as much as my old loves- how can I not when they're wonderfully funny, experimental, and bizarre? I don't need anything more fantastical than their innate magics and circus tricks to pepper their series. The ghosts and shadows may say otherwise, but if something can hardly touch this world and can't be seen by many, are they really worth listening to? ;)

~Meri