Five Ways to Tell if You Have a Passive Protagonist (And if You Do, How to Fix Them)

We all encounter the problem of a passive protagonist at some point, whether we realize it ourselves or have a beta reader or editor point it out to us. But is your protagonist truly passive? Is that so bad, really? And if it is bad, how do you fix it? All these questions have run through my mind before, and today, we’re going to address them.

Read More

How to Subtly Introduce a Magic System - Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

One of the most impressive things about Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone is the way she introduces the magic system of her world. She develops her readers’ understanding of her story's magic in a way that feels suspenseful, subtle, and never overwhelming.

It’s tough to give the reader enough information to understand the world you’ve created without boring or confusing them. Introducing a magic system is especially full of challenges. That’s why in this post I want to analyze the delicate way Laini Taylor tackles these challenges.

Read More

How to Write While Depressed, Anxious, Worried About Money, Constantly Exhausted, and/or Angry With the World

I’ve been missing in action for a few weeks now due to the exhausting process of moving to a new apartment. I suffer from a lot of anxiety and the past month or so has wreaked havoc on my mental wellbeing—and on my productivity as a writer.

First, I had to find an apartment that fit my budget and was within a reasonable distance from my work so I wouldn’t spend a fortune on gas, a nigh impossible task in the tight housing market of my city.

When I finally found a new apartment, I spent a few weeks worried about the upcoming move. It turned out that my worries were well-founded: the move was every bit as exhausting and difficult as I had thought it would be. We couldn’t have managed it without the help of several friends who lent their time and energy.

After moving in, there was still the small matter of unpacking. Apart from watching the third season of Stranger Things, unpacking and settling in has taken up all of my free time in the past week. According to my Word document, I haven’t worked on my novel since June 23rd, and I guarantee that whatever I did on June 23rd was not significant.

Read More

New Blogging Schedule - Updates!

Hello everyone!

For the next few weeks at least, I’m going to be switching my blogging schedule to every other Monday rather than every Monday. That means you won’t get a full-length post today, but you’ll get one next Monday. I’m doing this so I can focus on my YouTube channel, which is taking a ton of work right now, and on revising my novel. I’ve gotten comments back from my editor and I’m slowly plugging away at the darned old thing.

Read More

My Characters Become Argentine: Coming to Terms With My Latinx Identity

Last December, I went back to Argentina, where I was born and spent most of my first twenty years of life, for the first time in two years. The weekend before I left, I didn’t want to pack.

“I’m not going to fit in anymore,” I told my boyfriend as I lay lethargically on my bedroom floor, my suitcase empty beside me. “I’m going to feel like an impostor.”

“It’s your country,” he said. “You have a right to be there.”

He’s half-Latinx, like me—it’s actually one of the things we bonded over before we started dating. There’s something disorienting about being adrift between two cultures, two languages, two ethnic identities. You can feel untethered, uncertain, and most distressingly, you can feel like a fraud for trying to claim either identity.

Read More

7 Ways the Harry Potter Series Deals with Mental Illness

I've been rereading the Harry Potter series, and like with anything you read as a child and reread as an adult, I've been noticing things I didn't ten years ago.

Asa kid, I didn't realize that Harry's behavior in Order of the Phoenix was probably due to PTSD from everything that's happened to him. I didn't realize that Kreacher exhibited signs of dementia. I didn't realize that dementors pretty served as a pretty accurate metaphor for depression.

That's part of the joy of rereading these books. Each time, even if it's the tenth or twentieth reread, I discover something new. Sometimes it's a flaw in the storytelling, as I discussed in my post about Goblet of Fire. Sometimes, like now, it's a realization of the pervasiveness of a "grown-up" topic like mental illness within the story.

Because because mental illness is such a recurring theme in the series, I couldn't talk about every instance where it's brought up. Instead, here's a list of seven ways Rowling deals with the issue that stuck out the most to me. Some are empowering, some are confusing or problematic, and some are ambiguous—like many aspects of the Harry Potter series, the portrayal of mental illness is more nuanced than it may seem at first glance.

Read More

Upwork—Is it Worth it? A Beginning Freelancer's Perspective

If you enjoy my blog, you're probably a creative person of some kind, whether you're a writer, a visual artist, a graphic designer, or something else. Since I've recently ventured into the land of freelance work, I thought I would share my experience with a particular website, Upwork, to help you decide whether it's worth it.

My perspective is purely short-term because I've only gotten serious about using Upwork for the last few weeks, but I might write an update later on. Still, I think the first few weeks are worth talking about, because they can be the scariest.

Read More

Transparent Men and Inscrutable Women: Gender Essentialism in The Knife of Never Letting Go

When I first read the book about four years ago, I was absolutely enchanted by its originality and style. It’s so different from anything else I’ve ever read, rooted deeply in the voice of its main character, Todd. The novel has depth and heart, two qualities that aren’t as common in any genre as I would like them to be. But at the same time, something about it made me uncomfortable, and it’s taken me a while to sort out what it was that made the book feel so problematic.

Read More

The First Gay Romance Storyline I Ever Read: or, a Case Study in Why We Need Representation

I don't know how old I was when I found out that gay people existed. I probably learned it from my friends, who were a lot more worldly than me; I'm pretty sure I learned a lot of (mostly erroneous) facts about the birds and the bees from them, too. I do remember a lot of jokes about the the gay kid in our school and the lesbian in the school across town—not that they were out, they were just assumed to be queer.

I grew up in a conservative, mostly Catholic, mostly low-income town in Neuquén Province in northern Patagonia. One of my classmates got pregnant at thirteen; by the end of high school, I'd lost track of how many girls dropped out of my school or got held back a year because they had a baby. Gay rights were a pipe dream in Argentina (though same-sex marriage was legalized country-wide before it was in the United States). I didn't know a single out queer person until I left my town, and my country, to come to college. The only queer people I encountered were in literature and media.

Read More

3 Reasons Why Latinx Characters Are Underrepresented in Fantasy (and How to Fix it)

When I began my blog, I wanted to focus my analysis of fantasy and young adult literature through issues that affected my life the most; I thought they would be the ones I could write most authentically about. I chose gender and sexuality, mental illness, and Latinx issues because of my personal identity and history.

But while I was easily able to find books to talk about through the lens of gender/sexuality and mental illness, it was harder to come up with topics surrounding Latinx representation in young adult and fantasy. I've been thinking about why that is, and I've realized a few things about the fantasy genre as a whole and about my own reading habits.

Read More

Women Make Magic, Men Wage War: Gender Dichotomies in Children of Blood and Bone

In 2018, a novel by a young Nigerian-American author, Tomi Adeyemi, took the young adult fantasy world by storm when it released to great commercial and critical success. Children of Blood and Bone landed Adeyemi a movie deal before it was even released. There are few young adult books in the last few years that had as much hype or generated as much discussion, and it’s no wonder—the novel, inspired by West African mythology, deals with topics that almost never get represented in the genre, such as state-sanctioned brutality against Black people, and features a (practically) all-black cast. It also tackles gender dynamics in startling and refreshing ways that reflect and reimagine the dynamics in our world, and that’s what I want to discuss today.

Read More

Welcome to My YouTube Channel!

I've decided to give YouTube another try, because I love filming and editing and the YouTube community. I'm going to be a lot more premeditated about it this time around—I've already filmed my first three videos, and I won't let myself fall behind. If you're more of a video watcher than a blog reader or if you want to see more of my goofy personality, check out my channel introduction video here:

Mina's Transcendency: Sexuality, Class, and Power in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about mental illness and vampirism in Bram Stoker’s Dracula and focused especially on the way Mina and Lucy, the two female characters and victims of Dracula, embodied a lot of aspects of what was considered to be mentally ill in the Victorian Era. Mental illness is front and center in the novel, considering that a lot of it takes place in a mental asylum and two of its main characters are “brain doctors.” Sexuality, however, takes more of a backseat, relegated to innuendo and suggestion. Three female vampires try to feed on one of the male characters, Jonathan, in a very sexually charged manner. When Lucy becomes a vampire, the chaste young woman becomes much more alluring and “hungry.”

In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a comic series that ran from 1999 to 2007, sexuality is much more explicit. Its first issue gives a modern twist to many of the classic Victorian monster and adventure stories, from Bram Stoker’s novel to The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. In her introduction in the comic, we learn that Mina was “ravished by a foreigner,” which excludes her from the polite society to which she previously belonged. The “foreigner,” of course, is everyone’s favorite Transylvannian vampire, and her being “ravished” is a clear reference to the events of the source material, in which she was fed on and partly turned into a vampire. In the novel, she was cured of the vampire’s curse when Dracula was slain and of the potential damage to her reputation by marriage to Jonathan, but in the comic series, she is without her cadre of male protectors and left to fend for herself in a society that rejects her for her perceived “sexual deviance.” The association between the vampire bite and sex or sexual assault is made much more explicit than in the source material and used to exclude Mina from middle-class Victorian society.

Read More

Witches and Bitches, Cyborgs and Assassins: The Ageist Portrayals of Women in Young Adult Cinderella Retellings

The heroines of Cinder by Marissa Meyer and Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, both inspired by canonical Cinderella stories, are active, talented, and intelligent, rejecting the passive, limited roles reserved for the Cinderellas of nineteenth-century European compilations and many adaptations since. Unlike in the canonical versions of the story, the heroines of these novels have the support of some female peers, rejecting the competitive positions the women of past versions have had to take up against one another in order to obtain mates. These representations of femininity are certainly an improvement over those in older tellings of the story, and even some of their contemporaries, such as those in Disney’s 2015 Cinderella.

It’s older women in general and mother figures in particular whose representation suffers in both Cinder and Throne of Glass. Jeanna DelRosso notes that mothers in Disney films are almost always dead and frequently replaced by an evil stepmother or “false” mother; this trend is reflected in these two modern re-tellings. The living older women and mother figures in Cinder range from a bitter, stingy stepmother to a sadistic queen, whereas those in Throne of Glass are feckless or unimportant minor characters.

Read More

The Vampire as the Specter of Madness in Stoker’s Dracula

In Victorian England, which considered itself the pinnacle of rationality and technological development, illnesses of the mind were terrifying. In his 1897 novel, Dracula, Bram Stoker crafts horror not only by realizing the Victorians’ prudish, proper, xenophobic nightmares, but also by threatening them with madness.

Count Dracula is an aristocrat from Transylvania, an Eastern European country that is considered primitive and superstitious—supposedly the complete opposite of nineteenth-century England. What’s more, Dracula has a special affinity with madness: one of his first recruits when he arrives in London is Renfield, an inmate in the asylum where a good portion of the novel takes place.

Read More

An Introduction to My Blog

 What's it all about?

In each post, I will take a piece of fantasy and/or young adult literature and look at it through a critical lens. Literature scholars often overlook these genres, either because they're too new or not considered important enough, but I think they're pivotal to the way we understand the world. I grew up reading these genres, and I know first-hand how much these books can influence your beliefs and attitudes. That's why I want to look specifically at some of the themes that have influenced me the most because of my own identity: gender and sexuality, mental illness, and Latinx issues.

Read More

Managing Time (and Energy) as a Writer

"Most people don't keep writing after college," my Creative Writing professor told us in several of the many classes I took with her. I don't know if she meant to warn us or galvanize us—or simply to make us set realistic expectations—but writing is the only thing I've wanted to do with my life ever since I was a little kid. I knew it would be tough to balance the responsibilities of adulthood with the demands of writing; I was going to have to beat the odds and become one of the people who did continue to write after college. I didn't feel intimidated because thanks to the online writing community, I knew about a lot of writers who balance their creative careers with day jobs. (I'm in awe of anyone who can write while raising children and paying the bills—you're truly inspiring, folks). However, I knew it would be difficult.

Read More

My First NaNoWriMo: Things I Regret and Things I've Learned

Writing 1667 words every day is hard.

Call me naive, but I didn’t realize that until about halfway through November. 1667 words is not that much, so I thought it wouldn’t be a problem, but the thing with NaNoWriMo is that you have to write every. single. day. Skip one day and you feel the repercussions of it for the rest of the week, maybe longer. Have a bad day and only get 300 words and it doesn’t just mean one bad day—it means that hitting your 1667-word goal the next day is just keeping you from falling farther behind, and you’re still not on track.

Read More

Middle-Class Masculinity in Crisis: From Jekyll and Hyde to Fight Club

Both Robert Louis Stephenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club emerged at moments in history in which masculinity—specifically white, middle-class masculinity—was perceived to be in crisis. Jekyll and Hyde was written in 1886, at a time in which the professional men of the emerging middle class chafed under a perceived lack of agency as they were corralled into domesticity and inaction by shifting economic models. Fight Club was written in 1996, amid a growing body of media decrying the way corporate culture disenfranchised and de-individualized middle-class men, who became out-of-touch with their masculine power. In both novels, the middle-class main character feels stifled by the class and gender roles he is expected to play within society. Both men find an escape through alter-egos who represent the lower, working class, and thus are free to enact a primitive, violent masculinity and rebel against middle-class repression; this transgression of the norms of masculinity contains elements of class warfare, which functions as a commentary on the intersection of masculinity and class in these novels.

Read More