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I have a couple of special links to start things off with today, and an announcement: I’ve started to contribute to both Coven Book Club and its YA sister site, Spellbinding Books. You can can read my first recommendation at each here and here, respectively. I’m really excited about this development, because I love what these sites stand for. Both are about providing honest recommendations of books we love, with Coven Book Club focussing on books by women and Spellbinding Books on YA, both categories I’m passionate about. I’d encourage you to check out both sites, as I think you’ll love them, too.

Moving on to my usual fare, here’s a couple of links for my fellow aspiring authors. First of all, Kristen Lamb explains creating sympathetic flawed characters here. I particularly like her discussion of how many weaknesses naturally derive from strengths:

When we create a protagonist, we should remember that all strengths have a complimentary weakness. If a character has never been tested by fire, the protagonist is blind to the weakness.

For instance, great leaders can be control freaks. Loyal people can be overly naive. Compassionate people can be unrealistic. Y’all get the idea.

These are all things that make characters human, because real people are like this.

Secondly, Karen Amanda Hooper talks about multiple first-person POVs at Fiction University. I struggle so much with deciding between first-person and third, and if in third whose POVs to show, etc., so I’m always interested in hearing from established authors how they chose.

Right here in Scotland, local authorities are supporting a scheme to give children library cards from birth. I think this is a fantastic idea. Libraries really are the only way children can have access to enough books to develop their reading skills and, while the cards are free and easy enough to get, providing them by default makes it even easier for children to access books.

Last month in The Guardian, Aminatta Forna talked about being labelled as an ‘African author’ – never mind that her mother is Scottish, she’s spent much of her life in Britain, and her books are set all over the world.

All this classifying, it seems to me, is the very antithesis of literature. The way of literature is to seek universality. Writers try to reach beyond those things that divide us: culture, class, gender, race. Given the chance, we would resist classification. I have never met a writer who wishes to be described as a female writer, gay writer, black writer, Asian writer or African writer. We hyphenated writers complain about the privilege accorded to the white male writer, he who dominates the western canon and is the only one called simply “writer”.

Her essay reminds me of something one of my teachers at university said. She said she was a poet, yet people insisted on labelling her as a “woman poet” or a “Scottish poet” even though as far as she is concerned those things are incidental to her poetry. Yes, some of her poems are distinctively Scottish, and others are influenced by her experiences as a woman, but those poems do not define her entire oeuvre.

And finally, Kristina Pino at Book Riot talks about overcoming judging a book by its characters.

The likeability or unlikeability of a character doesn’t have any bearing on whether that character is written well, or treated fairly, or whether the story they’re in is “good” or “bad.” And it’s a real tough habit to break.

I’ve always gravitated towards characters I like as people, but now I find there are characters I like as characters. I would never want to meet them, but I like reading about their lives. Trainspotting is a good example. Would you want to be friends with Begbie? Didn’t think so.

That’s it for this week ^_^

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