Constructing A Believable Heroine For This Novel Is A Real Challenge

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

I did not go into this trying to write the novel this has become. I was trying to write a novel with a proxy-ME in the center of it. But gradually, I realized it was far more practical to make a young woman at the center of the story. But one of the major issues I’ve had to deal with is the appearance of my heroine.

The market wants her to be a sexxy slutty assassin, while the audience, not so much. And the more I read about how the woke blue check liberals of, say, Vox, view story telling the more angry I get. It seems as though the smug liberals of Vox have completely come to see any sort of universal story as illegitimate. Or, to put it another way, a middle aged white man can’t tell the story of anyone but middle aged white men. Slay the patriarchy and all that.

I say this as someone who in the never ending hellscape of Twitter probably is a lot more liberal-progressive than the above paragraph might suggest. Also, I have to lower my expectations and be more frank with myself about how likely it is I can even sell this novel whenever that point in the process comes.

I have spent hours and hours tying to figure out what my heroine looks like and the specifics of her ethnic background. It’s crucial, at least to me, that I’m able to balance the needs of the marketplace with the expectations of the audience. It’s a lot of fun, but also a pretty tough challenge. Right now, writing this novel is like really hard job that I love.

I’m writing this for myself and to simply go through the process of writing a novel. That’s it. If anyone who doesn’t know me reads it and likes it, then that would be one of the greatest experiences of my life.

Or, put another way, you write your first novel for yourself. I can’t help how old I am. I know that would be a part of the story if it became any sort of success. And, really, the entire point of this novel is having some sort of outlet for my rage against MAGA. The plot is really just an excuse to run around an allegory about the Trump Era.

Hopefully, the story is entertaining enough just on its surface that even if people are hate-reading it, they will enjoy it.

Alien’s ‘Ripley,’ & The Struggle To Tell A Universal Story In The Age Of Trump

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

I’m trying to distract myself so I can come up with a different take on specifics of the novel I’m developing, so I’m writing about whatever pops into my mind to that end.

So, Ripley. Ripley was originally written for a man. It’s a testament to how great an actress Sigourney Weaver is that her interpretation of that character is such a universally loved icon. I keep thinking of Ripley as a character build my heroine. I want a strong heroine that women like because she’s strong and complex and men like because she’s hot and they feel she would kick their ass if they crossed her.

Having said that, the issue of my heroine’s appearance has been the subject of much, much, much, much internal debate and struggle on my part. The issue is the market wants her to be a sexxy slutty assassin, while the audience — especially women — wants something far more complex. Things get even more complex when you factor in that while many vocal feminist actresses in Hollywood want strong, complex heroines, they at the same time seem to have very strict and narrow demands about what that means. The character can’t be too hot. She has to want to slay the patriarchy. She can not fit any trope that has ever been articulated by anyone at any point in the past. And, really, I sometimes think they don’t even want a man — especially a middle-aged white male like me — to write the damn story to begin with. They think only women can tell a female story and fuck you, you creepy old dude in a flyover state for wanting to try your hand at it.

My reaction to this problem is it sobers me up. I take what I’m doing far more seriously. I’m lower my expectations. I’m writing the story for myself. If it happens that someone else — anyone else — likes it, then that’s great. But there are some existential issues that I simply can’t avoid — one is I hate MAGA with a white hot rage and, well, I’m also a middle aged white man. So, in real terms, it’s unlikely that the more “woke” members of the intended audience will be all that thrilled with it given that they liked the movie Booksmart and the novel The Female Persuasion. Identity politics narrows who will be willing to give me a chance in the first place. The very people who I will need to generate buzz — blue check liberals — are the very people the most likely to scoff that someone like me could write the type of novel I want to write in the first place.

But we’ll see, I guess. The story is improving greatly right now. It will be interesting to see how embarrassing the product is when I finish the next draft and let Beta Readers look at it.

The Demise Of Universal Truth

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

It’s difficult to have a story that evokes emotions on a mass level when there’s no universal truth. If every single option you have as a storyteller is simply reduced to this or that “trope” then, well, now what. There’s a reason why they say there’s nothing new under the sun.

Yes, tropes and cliches exist and should be rightfully avoided. And, yet, there comes a point when you’re so wrapped up in smelling your own farts when it comes to pointing out tropes that you miss the entire point of telling a story in the first place. My current irritation is something evoked by a Vox article I stumbled across. It goes on at great length about how, essentially, any time a woman’s life is put in danger it’s a variation of the “fridging” trope and thus to be poo-pooed. I find this very fucking annoying as a storyteller because while, yes, it is easy to use violence towards women as a plot device to move a male character’s arc along, to simply dismiss its use altogether as lazy is a fucking dick move. It’s because violence towards women is so fucking bad that it’s an effective way to engage readers and get them interested in how everything is going to be wrapped up.

It should be use sparingly, yes. It should not be used gratuitously. It should be avoided, but not eliminated altogether. I guess the Vox article was trying to say that specifically sexual violence towards women is a lazy trope not to be used if its solely for the purpose of moving a male character through his journey…and….yet, they seemed to have a very, very broad interpretation of the “fridging” trope. So broad as to suggest using it at all is, what, being done to the benefit of the patriarchy that we keep being told is supposed to be slayed?

While I hate MAGA with a white hot rage, I think the proof is in the pudding when it comes to pop art. The average person just wants an interesting story with interesting people put in intriguing situations. If you do the hard work have character development and plot, if something bad happens to a woman then it’s not some meta-experiment in keeping women subjugated by the patriarchy on a societal level, it’s simply the story you, the artist, want to tell. As such, a lot of stories that may not pass the Bechtel Test (fuck that test, by the way) or the “slay the patriarchy” test are rather popular with both men and women. And by “popular,” I mean make money and have some sort of cultural significance.

All of this is making me much more serious when it comes to write a novel. I realize that there’s at least a 99% chance I’m going to fail on a pretty monumental level. But I started this adventure for two reasons 1) to have a creative way to rant against MAGA 2) to go through the process of trying to develop, write and sell a potential pop work of art novel.

Anyway, we’ll see. I still have a lot of work to do. But it’s fun. A lot of fun. Wish me luck.

On The Issue Of ‘Fridging’ In Modern Storytelling

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

I try to be empathetic to the liberal-progressive agenda. I really, really, do. But when “woke” people come after some pretty basic elements of storytelling I get really, really mad. I have been aware of the “fridging” trope for some time, but I was unaware that essentially now ANY use of anything related to it is “canceled” in woke culture.

Or maybe only women can use it now? Is that it? No matter how great the story is, if women are put in danger for any reason for the sake of a plot it’s “fridging” and looked down upon? Fuck that. What makes it all the worse is how broad and convoluted the arguments against using the threat of violence against women as a storytelling technique are. I mean, really, people. Has anyone looked out the window? The real world is a harsh, brutal place. There are elements of my story should mitigate the “fridging” accusation for a least some of the woke media observers on Twitter who would harp and bitch about the story in the extremely unlikely event this story is actually a success in any way.

The only thing I can do is be extremely aware of that criticism going forward. That’s all I got. I’m not changing my story to fit anyone’s “woke” political agenda. This story is meant to be a great story that *I* enjoy. I just don’t want to embarrass myself.

There comes a point when you just have to accept that you can’t please everyone — especially woke media observers — and simply embrace the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. I guess Star Trek, that is a utopia and barely has any conflict, is the only thing we should be shown from now on or something.

‘Star Wars’ In Trouble & How I Would Fix It Going Forward

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

I have a theory about Star Wars that goes like this — the moment Lando Calrissian was not a woman, the entire thing was doomed. The reason is — if that character’s gender was flipped, instantly Luke would have had a romantic interest and a major flaw in the whole saga would have been fixed. But, whoops!

So, really, this is what I would do.

I would let Episode 9 come out. Then I would take a long, hard look at the state of the franchise. I would blow the whole thing up. Burn it to the ground. Then boil it down to what the fan base loves about it and use that as the foundation of a new cycle.

Some suggestions.

A young male protagonist.
A strong-willed female romantic lead.
A rake.
Cool robots and aliens.
A task (NOT Death Star related)
Lots of call backs to the original universe.


To top it all off, I would stop being greedy and “woke.” Make the movie far more serious — in a sense — and think about storytelling not selling toys or a not-so-subtle liberal-progressive message. Just tell a damn good story and if you get to subtly tell a story that gets your political agenda across, all the better.

The issue is the “base” of Star Wars is center-Right and the management of Disney is center-Left and very, very greedy. I think there’s even some sort of media theory about this situation. I would, if I was in charge of Disney, accept that the base is center-Right and embrace it while also “dog whistling,” if you will more woke people. It’s not impossible, people.

No one listens to me.




Struggling With Character Ages

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

I think I have my ages figured out. But it took me a lot longer than I thought it would. The issue is the older my Hero is, the more gravitas he is accrued. But at the same time, if I have a fixed age for my Heroine, then the older he gets, the creepier any romantic connection between the two of them will be.

So, I have split the difference in a sense. He’s just old enough to benefit from being just about middle-aged, but young enough that the average person wouldn’t wince that he’s 20 years older than the Heroine. I keep thinking about basing my Hero on Daniel Craig, but he’s just too old. I can’t help that men at 50 are white hot career-wise when it comes to leading man roles. That says more about how men are given more power as their careers mature in Hollywood than anything else. It really warps storytelling.

But anyway, I have come up with men who are about the age of my Hero to use as a reference point. The real struggle at this point is my natural inclination to make my Hero a “proxy me” and as such far more of a doofus than maybe the audience would like. I need this to be a dark story with a strong Hero, not some Protestant Alvie Singer character who just is nervous and gets beat up. So, that’s a real issue right now. How to make my Hero, well, a Hero.

But, in general, the story is moving a long quite well. The real task at this point is making the second act — which covers a much longer span of time — interesting enough for the readers to spend the time necessary to finish the story.

‘Knives Out’ & Its Influence On The Novel I’m Developing & Writing

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

I walk out of movies a lot now that I have been seriously developing and writing a novel. But I saw Knives Out last night and loved it. In fact, the third act was a real “ah-ha” moment for me in regards to the novel I’m writing. I spent the entire drive home talking to myself about the “big black void” that you want to hide from the reader for as long as possible after it happens.

In other words, I now know the exact sequence of events that pretty much the basis of the whole novel’s plot. Now that I know that, I can spend a lot of time dropping clues to the reader leading up to that event and then spend the rest of the novel slowly explaining to them what happened. It’s a major step forward in the plot. Though I have to admit the novel is going to be a lot more Knives Out and a lot less Gone Girl for no other reason than I simply am not as twisted and dark as Gillian Flynn is. I’m just too nice. But I still have a time to make things darker than I am naturally inclined to do, I guess.

One thing is clear — this novel is going to fast paced and very easy to film if it ever became that popular. I’m a visual person and love movies and it’s just difficult for me not to essentially write a novel that’s very cinematic in nature from the ground up. In that sense, I am very much like Michael Crichton in the sense that I think he wrote his novel’s with the assumption they would be filmed.

On a side note, I really, really like Daniel Craig. He’s the gold standard for who I imagine my Hero being in my mind. But there are a lot of problems with that relative to who the character is. My Hero is too much like me in ( some respects) for there to be a 1-to-1 correlation. But I am trying to make my female romantic lead a lot like a combination of Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Alexa Chung. Sorta. She’s definitely sort of in that spectrum of brunette British woman.

But anyway, I still have a huge amount of work to do. But I am definitely pushing myself to my creative limits in development, if nothing else. This novel is becoming more and more a reflection of my own personal history and personality.

Update On My Novel

Shelton Bumgarner

By Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

Things continue to go quite well with my novel. I’m kinda working on the scene summary for v1.5 right now. I’m very tired from working on it all day. I’m doing all of the work in longhand, so that tires me out. And things are going a lot slower than I’d like. But I definitely have a lot of forward momentum.

I’m trying to read as much a I can about how to write a novel. The story is strong and I’m pushing myself to the limits of my ability. I’m a pretty good storyteller, but not that great a writer. And there are a lot of things about writing a novel on a basic level that I continue to learn about every day.

One thing that kind of bothers me is I’m too old to do anything creatively successfully in real terms. I should just lay in bed and stare at the ceiling all day and feel sorry for myself. But I can’t help that I’m 20 years too late to the party. I just want to write a novel that I, myself, would enjoy. In large part, the whole thing is just a way for me to see what it would be like to go through the process of writing a novel to see how far I would get before it becomes too painfully obvious that I’ve made a fool out of myself.

But, in real terms, I don’t have anything else to do with my life right now. And I really, really, really like the concept. It’s great. It’s really strong and interesting and flips the script on some tropes more than once. And my characters are growing strong by the day. A lot of my characters are in my head still, though, and not on the page. But that’s changing quickly.

I’m just so tired right this second that it’s difficult for me to get much more work done tonight, even though I really want to. I hope to lay the entire second POV list scenes in front of me on one page then figure out how to make the whole thing as cogent as possible before I got much farther.

Anyway, wish me luck.

V-Log: Idle, Incoherent Rambling About #Impeachment & #Writing A #Novel

Some thoughts.

V-Log: Idle, Incoherent Rambling

Some thoughts.