A whole bunch of musings…

pralympicGiven that we won 20 medals at the Paralympics, not to mention breaking all types of records, why oh why did we not have the media frenzy that we suffered through during the prequel Olympics where we won 18??? Additionally, we won more golds at the Paras and ranked higher per capita.

All athletes train hard and long to excel in their chosen event but come on networks, how about a nod to the fact to how much extra effort does it take an athlete with a disability to get to that level? From my humble, non-athlete perspective, I’d say it’s a damn sight harder.

So we would like to congratulate all our fabulous athletes, both Olympic and Paralympic. You’ve achieved what so many of us couldn’t even begin to contemplate, we’re in awe of all of you.

Moving on to pop stuff..Lisa was gutted to hear the tragic news that Brangelina will be re-adopting their original, individual names as they go their separate way. Me, I’m not so fussed but we both hope that neither of them tries to use their children as a weapon to hurt the other, as happens in so many instances of a breakup. From my in-depth knowledge of the couple (not – I read Woman’s Day when I’m at my lovely hairdresser’s every 5 weeks or so), they certainly appear to love their kids. So here’s to both Brad and Angelina acting like adults and making sure your kids are kept out of whatever nastiness might ensue as they disentangle their relationship. This is between you, and children need a healthy relationship with both their parents, if at all possible. And despite what newly separated people might want, you are forever connected with your ex when children are involved so it’s best just to bite the bullet and be civil – at least on the outside!

Other than that, I was far too busy celebrating my birthday and getting a new job last week to think about much else, and Lisa is moving on to pastures new on the job front also so it seems like a miracle that we’ve actually done quite a lot of writing so the end of Jaime’s story is rapidly coming into view – hurrah!

 

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The curse of beauty…

Beauty and the Beast sounds a whole lot better than Beauty and The Average – or even Beauty and The Not Very Attractive. We realise that all the people you’ve met in the world of Fisherman’s Creek are, let’s face it, attractive to gorgeous.

But let’s be honest, that’s not real life is it – especially, dare I say (and I do!) in small town New Zealand, or anywhere. We were thinking today though, that while we expect a high beauty quotient in our romance novels, our expectations in real life are quite different. Why is that?

Of all the people we know, most we would say are attractive in some way, but almost all of them would not qualify as conventionally beautiful. Although, I just asked Lisa who she thought was the most handsome man in the world and we have had to agree, that all of both her and my choices are pretty quirky – way hot but all slightly eccentric in some way, rather than conventionally Prince Charming handsome.

Quite a long, but by no means exhaustive list includes (although we don’t agree on all of them): Tom Hiddleston, Sean Bean, Liam Neeson, Jason Momoa, Dan Carter , Peter Dinklage, Kevin Smith, Alan Rickman (ooh that voice!), Hugo Speer, John Hannah (we are both always a sucker for a Scottish accent) and Ben Affleck. The exceptions we both agree on are Chris Hemsworth and Richard Armitage. And Lisa wants me to put in Mark Ruffalo because he has kind eyes. I think he needs a shave.

From the boys’ side, we have Scarlett Johanssen, Cate Blanchett, Joan Cusack, Jennifer Garner – all very attractive but not all classically, or perhaps ‘Hollywood’ beautiful. It’s also hard to go past Michelle Pfeiffer and Geena Davis – which brings us to back to the boys with Jeff Goldblum – both of them were so hot in ‘Earth Girls Are Easy’ – and I’ve gone all nostalgic for the ’90s now 😦

So, why do we demand good looks as well as personality in our fantasy characters when in real life we don’t have that expectation? Does it make harder to engage with these people because they are too perfect or is it just because in a perfect world we would all be beautiful on the outside as much as on the inside?

I know this sounds pretty shallow but we realise there are some commonalities in the people we think are hot. Lisa for example, being tall – even taller than me – prefers a bit of size. We both like someone who is funny, or at least can laugh at themselves, even if only some of the time. None of the above are always picture perfect in pap shots – I like that as it reminds us that they are just people too, regardless of what industry publicity machines would have us believe. Mostly, we felt that the people we find the most attractive were those people we could have over for a beer and a laugh.

And linking that back to the characters that populate our books, we feel that their physical attractiveness does owe more than a little to the mores of the genre. Overall, we have tried to imbue characteristics to create people we would be happy to call friends. Would readers engage in a love story between two average schmucks carrying a bit more weight than the ideal and coping with middle age spread and male pattern baldness? Perhaps, but then again, it’s a fantasy so perhaps not.

So… two questions… well technically three but let’s not get pedantic.

1. Would you like to see more realistic attractiveness in your fictional characters?

2. Who would be your ideal fantasy man/woman? And why?

 

Would we pass the Bechdel-Wallace test?

We’ve been thinking about the balance of our books lately, and in particular our female characters. Caro had never heard of the Bechdel-Wallace test, so when we went over the requirements, we were pleased to note that we had inadvertently exceeded them! For those. like Caro, who have not come across this before, the Bechdel -Wallace test started as a tongue in cheek comic strip about going to movies:

Bechdel

So we looked at our books, and yes, all three of them pass with flying colours. It’s all about the depth of women’s stories and the range of their concerns. Of course, we’re writing romance, where the woman tends to be the central figure. If we turn the story on its head though, and apply the Bechdel test to the men in the story, are we still good?

Let’s see, in Yesterday’s Shadows, Noah and Sam have plenty of conversations. But when we look back on those conversations, they are all about women. In Dark Embrace, all the male-male conversations are about women (even if one of them is a demon). Is this a sad indictment on our perception of the importance of women in men’s lives, or is it just that we need those conversations to develop the story? In our heads, we know that they talk about other things, but we’re only showing you the key discussions. Whew! And in book 3, we have several conversations (including one about rugby) and implied conversations between our male characters.

There are now some other similar tests, so we applied these as well both to our female characters AND our male ones:

The ‘Sexy Lamp Test’ from Kelly Sue DeConnick  – “If you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft”. We have no sexy lamps, male or female. In fact, we are inclined to overwrite our characters and endow everyone with a back story…

The “Sphinx test” by the Sphinx theater company of London asks about the interaction of women with other characters, as well as how prominently women characters feature in the action, how proactive rather than reactive they are, and whether they are portrayed stereotypically. Again, we think we do fine with our female characters and probably just squeak through with the male ones. Our third book definitely has the strongest independent male characters, so maybe we’re getting better at this writing thing!

We are making light of this, but it has long been a serious issue in popular culture, especially movies. To find out more about the Bechdel-Wallace test and to see if your favourite movies pass, check out this site. And please, do take it with a grain of salt. There are some fabulous movies which would not pass the test, but it’s because having women in them would make them ridiculous. The Name of the Rose for instance, set in a monastery!

What do you think? Has the balance swung back around? Are there good examples for both kinds of movie? We’d love to hear from you!