If You Can’t Get Enough…Follow Me!

But, don’t literally follow me. That would be creepy. Follow me on Twitter, instead!

That’s right, Always in the Write is on social media! I have so much fun stuff going on this weekend that I can’t wait to write about, and would love to keep you guys updated as it all happens, as well as give you previews of the next reviews, creative pieces, etc. So, instead of waiting for me to post about it all in the week, get updates on Twitter and Instagram!

See you soon,

Ro x

Writing About Writing: Is Gender Important?

I recently had a discussion with a few friends of mine on the relevance of gender in prose. One of said friends is writing a novella in which the main character’s gender isn’t specified; the other is an astrophysicist with very little knowledge of creative writing. To me, gender isn’t important (in literature or the real world, but we’ll stick to literature for the time being) – so long as a character interests me, I have very little need to know what gender they are. The astrophysicist however claims that for him, gender is part of how he as a reader familiarises himself with a character and the setting of the text. I understand where he is coming from; some description of a character is helpful and allows the reader to form a better picture of the scene, however I struggle to see how gender would be the best way to achieve this.
During the conversation my astrophysicist friend made the point that gender allows for the reader to better understand the motives and thoughts of the character. In using gender to describe a character, we must be aware that a reader may press traditional gender roles onto the character. For my astrophysicist friend, this sets up how the character will act; a genderless character therefore would be harder to pin down. He doesn’t like if a character acts outside of how he expected them to, and he claims that a character with a non-specified gender may go against the image he has of them. A counterpoint for this is of course that characters can go against their gender roles just as easily as they can comply with them – in fact, characters can and do behave differently to how we expect regardless of gender.
The astrophysicist’s point is an interesting one, even if I’m not sold on it – say we describe a character as having long hair and wears a bracelet, for example. We discussed this at the time; just saying that would make most people assume that the character is or presents as female. Whilst we were having the conversation, however, both me and the (male) friend who is writing a novella had long hair and were wearing bracelets. For the astrophysicist, this description poses a problem – if it was later revealed that the character was at least biologically male when he’d pictured them female, it would disrupt his reading of the text. Of course, many texts with characters of non-specific gender don’t reveal their character’s biological sex, and we surely shouldn’t expect them to unless it’s relevant to the text. It may be necessary, however if a writer decides not to specify their character’s gender the chances are they won’t specify their biological sex if possible either.
Although I personally believe gender isn’t relevant, it is interesting to consider that readers will have a predisposition to wanting specified genders and traits for the characters they’re expected to relate to. We undeniably still live in a society with clear gender lines. It is ingrained in our minds from a young age that we should fit certain roles and play certain parts depending on what genitalia we are born with. We are given a gender that ‘matches’ our biological sex, which dictates our place in society – boys have blue, adventure, leadership, strength. Girls have pink, domesticity & submission. Despite this, we are moving towards becoming more accepting of the fact that these genders and their predetermined roles are simply outdated and wrong; a person’s gender isn’t equivalent to their biological sex, nor does a person’s gender or sex stop them from doing certain things. I can’t believe that anyone fits into these male or female boxes 100% – everyone has aspects of their personality or enjoys doing things that are traditionally associated with the opposite sex.
Is it societal teaching, then, that makes readers like my astrophysicist friend uncomfortable with the concept of a lack of gender? Gender can be confusing and complicated, especially when adults who have been taught from day one that there are only two genders and everyone fits one of them are now being told that there are a lot of different genders and that gender roles they have been taught to fit from day one aren’t relevant. Even for the most open minded person, it can be a process to reverse the lessons we have been taught throughout our lives, in order to fully understand how gender really works. I myself find that I have to remind myself if someone uses pronouns that don’t match their biological sex, even if they’re a close friend. It’s almost like training your brain to make these corrections as you learn.
In literature, however, gender isn’t necessarily a political thing. It can be beneficial to a text not to reveal a character’s gender, and we don’t always see this as an issue; if a character’s identity is hidden on purpose, for example, we wouldn’t expect to know their gender – especially if they aren’t an active character. I believe that gender is only important in literature if it serves a purpose. If gender doesn’t play a significant role in the text, the character’s personality and the way they are written are more important – so long as a character grips the reader, their pronouns aren’t massively significant. A character’s personality should resonate with readers enough regardless of gender or lack thereof.

Let me know your thoughts – does gender affect the way you read a character?

See you soon,

Ro x

[PS- I should note that I didn’t refer to my friends by name on purpose, and wasn’t trying to sound smart by referring to one as ‘my astrophysicist friend’… but did I mention I know an astrophysicist?]

Book Review: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Spoiler Free!)

 

‘Rosemary doesn’t talk very much, and about certain things she’s silent. She had a sister, Fern, her whirlwind other half, who vanished from her life in circumstances she wishes she could forget. And it’s been ten years since she last saw her beloved older brother Lowell.

Now at college, Rosemary starts to see that she can’t go forward without going back, back to the time when, aged five, she was sent away from her home to her grandparents and returned to find Fern gone.’

This novel was recommended to me by my boyfriend. I was sat next to him on a tube over Easter when he reached ‘the twist’ – the infamous page 77. He told me almost immediately that I needed to read this book. As soon as I reached page 77 myself, I knew where he was coming from. As soon as I finished the book, I recommended it to my mum (and now I’m recommending it to you).

The start of the novel is good, but largely unremarkable to me – as a fan of John Green, Stephen Chbosky and Winona Ryder, the start (or, middle, which is where Fowler decides to start) of Rosemary’s story is pretty familiar; unassuming young adult with traumatic childhood event meets wild, rebellious young adult and does something reckless. I like those kinds of stories, and I still wanted to read on, but I’ve seen a lot of them.

I’ve mentioned page 77 twice already, but this is the ultimate turning point. A twist that is both shocking and blindingly obvious is so hard to achieve, but Fowler pulls it off perfectly; you’re left both astounded by the revelation and your own stupidity at not seeing it coming. Fowler hints at it from the start, and yet I at least never fully picked up on it.  I went from feeling like I’d seen this story before to submerging myself in the narrative completely; while before I’d been able to pick it up for a few pages here and there and happily leave it when I needed to do work or wanted to read something else, I binge-read the rest of it in two days. It only took that long because there were other things that unfortunately pulled me away from it.

The problem with ‘the twist’ is that it adds so many extra layers to the text – I could go on and on about various other topics, but that would spoil it completely. Maybe I’ll write a spoiler-filled piece on it some other time instead, because it’s such an interesting text to discuss in contexts that I just can’t talk about without ruining it.

This book is so deep. The characters are realistic and well-rounded, if frustrating at times, and the story is fantastic. The structure of it works surprisingly well and has hints of meta-fiction that as a reader I kind of love and as a writer I admire. Fowler writes beautifully and has created something incredibly powerful that I could only dream of achieving myself.

Last words on the matter: if you’re not sold at the start, wait until page 77. It’s worth it.

Ro x

The Nostalgia Trip

A/N: This got a lot darker than I intended, hope you enjoy all the same. -Ro x

 

Tap, tap, tap, tap. She walks slowly, becoming increasingly aware of the sound of her shoes against the terracotta tiles. Her breathing is laboured; she’s walked these halls so many times, yet everything has changed now. It’s almost pitch black, she’s never seen the place this dark before. If she shut her eyes she’d be able to picture exactly where she is, but that’s not an option – closed eyes would open her up to weakness. She keeps close to the wall on her right, and as she imagines the peeling blue paint her shoulder brushes up against one of the many posters they’d tacked over the scruffiest parts of the walls. She puts her hand on it, and knows exactly which one it is. It’s advertising a cake sale, the last one they’d ever had – she felt the roughness of glitter under her fingertips. She’s not far.
She keeps on, passing a set of double doors to her left. She ducks, crossing over to the left hand side of the corridor as she passes a large window – she’s too close to risk putting herself in any danger. Finally, she gets to the second set of double doors. She slips through them quietly, finding herself in the hallway she knows all too well. She can’t see it, but she can picture it vividly – the looming cast iron staircase to her right, the battered radiator to her left. It was always getting repainted before, but it probably hadn’t been touched in years. She smiles as she remembers the alcove under the stairs, and can’t help herself.
Instead of going directly up the stairs to her destination, she creeps towards the alcove. She leans against the cool wall, as she had done so many times before. She breathes deeply, letting herself relax for just a moment – but even that is too long. She feels the cold metal barrel of a gun against the left side of her head. The bearer of the gun steps close to her, and she’s not surprised that she knows who it is instantly. The body heat that used to be such a comfort burns her as his familiar smell makes her gag.
‘I’m glad I’m not the only one who remembers our first kiss. You always were nostalgic, Callie.’ She hears a short release of breath as he smirks. ‘Silly little girl.’ He pulls the trigger.

First Posts.

First posts are the worst! I feel awkward just saying it! The introductory ‘about me’ post feels so odd but just getting straight in with regular content seems unnatural and impersonal when this is, after all, a personal blog. So, about me it is.

I’m Roisin, but my friends call me Rose or Ro. If you thought it said Raisin you’re not the first, don’t worry – I’ve had much worse! I’m 21, and as of two nights ago I just finished a degree in English and Creative Writing at Aberystwyth University. I’m from a tiny village in Warwickshire, I’m a member of Girlguiding UK and am in training to become a Brownie leader. I love dogs, LUSH cosmetics, and chocolate – pretty standard stuff, really. I don’t know for sure where my life is going, but I’m ready to see what I can do and excited to see where I can go from here.

I started this blog for a variety of reasons. The main reason is that I want to do something with my degree -I want to write and create and I want this blog to be a way for me to do that even if I wind up being unable to in my career. Of course it would be a dream come true to become a professional writer, but it’s simply not realistic at this point; all I can do is keep writing and hope for the best. On the less creative side, I have so much to say and nowhere to really say it; my boyfriend and friends hear enough of me moaning without having to hear about Shakespeare or politics or Kim Kardashian’s self image on top of that! I hope this blog can provide a space for me to talk about all of these things in a way that one, my friends can pick and choose when and what they engage with, and two will attract like-minded people. I have so many ideas for this blog and I’ve no idea where it will end up – it could end up a themed blog doing book reviews, it could be a political blog, it could just be Carrie Bradshaw-style rants about my personal life. Let’s find out!

I can feel myself getting cheesy and I’m sure I will want to edit this again as soon as I’ve posted it, so I’m just going to sign off.

See you soon,

Ro x