Being a Better Writer: The Non-Gender of “They”

Welcome back, readers! Were your weekends interesting for you? In a good way? I hope so. Mine went pretty well, myself. Got a little more done on Stranded, and then watched as a truly amazing amount of book sales (by my standard) rolled in for Axtara! I’m not sure if it was the acknowledgement that you can find it on store shelves in Germany or what, but this weekend Axtara shipped quite a few copies.

Which was good to go with the bad. For a minor life update, the place I’ve been renting for the last few years is being sold. This is … less than desirable. The state I live in has a reputation when it comes to realtors that’s even above and beyond that of a normal state for being unscrupulous and dirty. So for example, the last time a landlord tried to sell a place I was renting, their relator tried to get everyone in the house evicted because they wouldn’t show it for her. That’s right: She wanted those living there to do her job for her. She got extremely upset when they wouldn’t.

Side note: This tangent got a little long. I do recommend reading through it (as it concerns not just me), but if you’re here for Being a Better Writer, jump down to the next break, then come back and finish this.

This relator also didn’t care at all for things like state laws requiring 24-hour advance notice of showings. I woke up to people in my rented house … and not just in there, but going through my stuff. The agent actually encouraged the kids of the people she’d been showing the house to start playing with my Wii console.

So yes, I have a distrust of realtors already, and today our landlord called us out of the blue and said ‘Hey, someone’s coming over today, and I’ve been told that by contract they don’t have to honor the 24-hour state notice. My hands are tied. I’m trying to get them to postpone it, but I signed that contract.’

Yeah … My distrust grows. Worse, if they’re willing to violate that part of the contract, the chance of the common practice in this state of bullying residents out to sell the unit “clean” goes way up. Our contracts are year to year, and this year extend through July. But I have a worrying suspicion that like so many other happenings in this state, our realtor will attempt to bully us out ASAP regardless of contract, either by looking for any sort of loophole that can get us evicted, or just simply by claiming that the new owner isn’t bound by any pre-existing contracts (imagine how life would be if that worked).

Worst of all, even if we manage to hold that off, such activity does not tend to enthuse new owners for the current tenants, even if the tenants aren’t the ones violating all the laws.

Sands, that’s a lot of text. Sorry to dump that on you guys. Just … bleh. If things get “dicey” in the upcoming months, this would be your forewarning as to why.

But tenant protections in the United States are awful. Well, not awful, just … not enforced very well.

Oh, and before I get a million comments saying “document everything” I learned that the last time. You can bet that if this showing happens today, I will not only be on hand but with a phone to record everything.

Also, I understand that while my current situation might suck, I’ve got it a lot better than most people in the US right now. Evictions are a historical high, housing and rental corporations are consolidating at a terrifying rate, using their new monopoly powers over whole cities and even states to send rental rates through the roof or even just hold empty buildings for the property value. I read an interview near end-2020 with a real skag-licker of a housing CEO who was giddy with how many people he was kicking out around Christmas because it was making him several hundred million dollars. This same skag also bragged that he (his company) now owned over a third of all American rental units. Meanwhile, homelessness, already climbing every year since 2016 (prior to which it had been trending downward … huh) is set to pass already historic highs. As much as nearly nine percent of the entire United States is at high risk becoming homeless in the coming year thanks to the effects of Covid-19 and the actions (read: greed) of rental companies.

So yes, I know my situation, while not great, is far from the grimness shared by almost ten percent of the United States. My rent hasn’t doubled in the last year. I still have a unit to pay rent on. My utilities weren’t cut off as a “cost saving measure.” Or any of the other horrible questionably legal junk that plagued the lives of many people in the US last year who were merely trying to have the bare basics to survive.

My point being with all of this: My situation isn’t as grim as a lot of other people’s in this country, but that’s … really setting a low bar. Would that my situation was the worst of it, with a realtor ignoring state laws to try and push a sale. But unfortunately, for a lot of people in the US, especially some of those nine percent barely hanging on, their situation is far worse.

We as a nation really need to clean up our act. Because I’m certain that when the founding fathers (yeah, invoking that) set out to found a nation, objectives like “At least ten percent of them should be homeless” and “the majority of all housing should be controlled by one or two individuals,” if found at all in their goals, were only there as “never let this sort of tyranny happen again.”

Because, you know, numbers-wise it really does look a lot like serfdom, which they wanted to get away from.


Okay, we’re done talking about that for the moment (though please, do go back and read through it later if you didn’t now, as it’s something that needs to change for the better). Now it’s time to dive into Being a Better Writer and the first posted topic from list #17!

Which … actually isn’t one requested by a reader, because I populate these lists on my own too, and this one is one of those. It’ll also be a shorter one … but no less interesting. And it actually was inspired by a few personal encounters with it.

So to begin, I’ll start with a question: If a friend and I are discussing the sex of an unborn baby, and I use “they” to refer to said baby, and my friend uses “it,” is one of us using the wrong word?

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Being a Better Writer: The Strong Female Protagonist

Welcome back readers, to another Monday edition of Being a Better Writer! Today is … well, I’m sure you can see from the title that it’s going to be an auspicious post. Today’s topic is a rather popular one right now. In fact, I could easily say that it’s a current issue in a lot of story circles. For varying reasons depending on how you talk to.

But thankfully, I don’t plan on getting into any of the more social-political angles of this topic, because I’m not interested in that. I’m interested in one thing only with these posts: how to write, and write well.

Which—okay,  maybe a tiny bit into social-politics—is why this post has been requested and hotly anticipated by a lot of readers. Because right now there’s a whole—well, I’d call it rediscovery, really—of the strong female protagonist. But with that rediscovery comes a whole new crowd trying to figure out what a strong female protagonist is for the first time. And with a lot of different voices out there, it can become very easy for their to come with a healthy dollop of “confusion” as people try to determine exactly what “strong,” “female,” and “protagonist” mean in the same sentence.

And, if I’m honest, some of this confusion comes from the very root of the sentence “strong female protagonist” and its particular phrasing.

I can hear some of you sparking torches from here. Relax. You’ll see what I mean in a moment. Hit the jump and let’s get started.

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Classic Being a Better Writer: Romance and Gender

It. Is. Time …

For another Classic Being a Better Writer post! If you’re new to the site, or found this page through a search, well, here’s how it works, just to get you up to speed before you click away: Unusual Things is home to Being a Better Writer, a weekly article designed to help new, young, or even experienced writers with their craft. This has been ongoing now for … almost four years, actually. Which means that sands and storms there’s quite the backlog by now. Around 50 articles a year for four years is a pretty impressive pile of writing guides!

Now, each post is tagged, and there’s the archives and the search function to make do with, but sometimes it’s simply easier to give those seekers of knowledge an even easier collection to find. Hence, classic reposts!

Well, not reposts. Each of these posts links to the original articles. So, are you ready? Because today’s classic posts are three on writing Romance and Gender. from the archive of Unusual Things! Get cracking!

Starting Romance—
Romance—real romance—is a topic that humanity has written, studied, and explored for thousands of years, and yet many of us are still very much in the dark. I don’t think it hurts that it’s a little different for everyone, but the end result is that we’re probably still going to be writing about romance thousands of years from now. Or watching movies about it. Or whatever form of entertainment the future happens to hold (new rom-com collection—dozens of media memories from the greatest love stories in history beamed right into your brain!). Romance will always remain a topic that inspires and infuriates our species equally.

Romance—
If that sounds both hard and complicated, then you’re thinking along the right lines. Real romance is hard. Writing out a romantic relationship between two characters is a complicated, difficult dance of keeping track of both their lines of thought, emotions, reactions, and flaws. Mistakes are make. Apologies are given. Both parties learn. Where a “romance” book is more concerned about getting both characters in the same room (and then the same bed, in lurid detail), a romance is a story or subplot wherein two characters are discovering and building a love between them, one that’s far more than just a bedroom.

Writing the Opposite Gender—
Don’t go into it with the idea that men and women are two alien, almost irreconcilable creatures. Clear your mind of the pop-culture junk that’s infected television, facebook, and twitter, because 99% of what’s out there is, taken straight, junk. Take all that pile of “men do this, women do this, etc” and toss it out for the moment. Gone. Clear your head.

Then write a character. Someone fully 3D. Wants, desires, wishes, flaws.

You know why? I’ll give you the same answer I gave at LTUE: Because ordinary people don’t consciously flavor everything they do with their gender. Most men don’t wake up and think to themselves “Right, waking up … like a MAN! Using the bathroom … like a MAN! Eating breakfast … like a MAN!” Neither do women thing “Driving to work … like a WOMAN. Taking the elevator to my office … like a WOMAN! Saying ‘hi’ to my boss … like a WOMAN!”

 

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