I’ve been writing a monthly flash fiction piece, first for this website and then later exclusively for my newsletter subscribers, since December 2017. Writing these really short short stories have been incredibly fulfilling, since they give me a format in which to practice writing scenes and characters that don’t fit into my current WIP, but they also spark ideas for longer stories to come. It’s a way for me to entertain my readers on a regular basis between novels, and also a good way to see what kind of stories people enjoy. I always thought it would be nice if more people could read them.
And now they can!
A Spark of Reverie is a collection containing twenty-five micro stories sparked by a love of fantasy, both the sword and sorcery kind and the small acts of magic that can turn a mundane situation into something a little more unusual. Ranging from around 500 to 1000 words each, these very short stories briefly transport you into realms of the imagination in the time it takes to finish a cup of tea or reach the front of the queue at the grocery store. They’re short, but satisfying, and will sweep you away for just a moment at a time.
In Penthesilea’s Demise, follow in the footsteps of a warrior in the front lines of the Trojan war.
See what happens when a young hotheaded prince is pushed too far in Asterion’s Anger.
Ever been stuck working late on a problematic piece of code? In Line 156 a programmer learns when it’s time to take a holiday.
Quirky habits can sometimes lead to surprising options, as a beleaguered mother discovers in Lisa’s Choice.
In a world where water has become the most important commodity, Keisha shows what she’s willing to do to protect something that is Precious.
In The Lost City, a reclusive goddess has to face the facts and make a bold decision.
What a year. The less said about 2020, the better, am I right? As always, I’m naively optimistic about the year ahead, to the point where everything that was crappy about 2020 will immediately become a thing of the past on 1 January and the future is bright with rainbows and sunshine and all the things that make me happy. Likely? Probably not. But we can always hope, right?
And so, with hope in my heart and an attitude of kindness towards myself and everyone else who dropped all the goals they had set for 2020 and just focussed on getting through the year physically, emotionally and mentally intact, let’s have a look at how I did with the writerly goals I had planned for myself before the shit hit the fan.
Complete and publish Series 1 of the Mythical Menagerie Series
Done! Myth Hunter was published in early June 2020, a few weeks before my birthday so I can pat myself on the back and say I published a novel in my 40th year, heheheh. It hasn’t been a runaway success, which is never what I expected in any event, especially since I made the choice not to make use of paid advertising until at least Book 2 is available. I’m okay with that. I’m in this for the long haul and I know I won’t be quitting the day job anytime soon.
Write and edit 3 installments of Series 2 of the Mythical Menagerie Series
Almost. I’ve written two installments, and edited most of the first installment and have a good idea of what should happen in at least the 3rd and 4th installments as well. Most importantly, I figured out how my writing process works and have fallen in love with writing again. I’m confident that I can quickly draft the rest of the second series and then focus on whipping it into shape, the part I love the most.
Continue writing a monthly flash fiction piece for my email subscribers
Done! Okay, I missed one month when I really just wasn’t up to it, but 11/12 counts as a win in my book.
Compile a flash fiction collection novel
Done! A Spark of Reverie was sent out earlier this month as a gift to my newsletter subscribers, and it’s currently on pre-order to be unleashed upon the world on 6 January 2021. I’m quite pleased with it and although, again, I don’t expect to get rich from it, I hope those people who do read it will enjoy my very short short stories.
Write bi-monthly blog posts for my author blog
Nope. I started of well at the beginning of the year, and then slacked a bit as I focussed on getting Myth Hunter completed and ready for publishing, and then Covid-19 happened. Although being locked down in my house seemed like a wonderful thing at the start, it soon started playing havoc with my mental health and I just ran out of things I wanted to blog about. I don’t really feel bad about it. I enjoy blogging, and I’ll get back into it when the time is right.
Write bi-monthly blog posts for my travel blog
Nope. As above, I did well for a while writing a few posts about our trip to Slovenia and Croatia in 2019 (a trip I still need to finish documenting!), but we were supposed to visit Ireland in 2020 and when the entire travel industry took a nosedive, even living vicariously through fond memories just seemed like a bummer. Hopefully things will return to some semblance of normal in the new year.
Read 1 non-fiction book per month
Done! The rationale behind this goal was that I get much of my inspiration from intriguing bits of real-world mythology or history. I also feel that reading non-fiction is good for the brain. Fiction is great for escapism, but non-fiction is how I learn (which is one of my core values). Although very little of what I read this year sparked ideas, this is a goal I can see myself sticking to for years to come.
All in all, I think I did pretty well with my primary goals for the year. But when it comes to my secondary goals… not so much…
Complete the first draft of a fantasy novel
Hahaha, that was ambitious, wasn’t it? So no, that didn’t happen, but I have at least plotted and attempted to write two standalone novellas, so there’s that at least.
Engage more and grow my following on Facebook
Meh. My 77 followers have grown to 100, so… progress? I’ll keep trying.
Engage more and grow my following on Instagram
Meh. Instagram followers are fickle. At one point I crossed the 200-followers milestone, but now it hovers around 198, give or gain one or two people a day. It’s a slight improvement on last year’s 165 followers though. I’ll get there eventually.
Create some content for my YouTube channel
Nope, nope, nope. I mean most days I’m not even looking respectable enough to turn the camera on for a Zoom meeting, let alone for a YouTube video. But in all seriousness, I doubt anything will happen here unless I can figure out a way to provide value to readers, and I’m not about to try and compete with the million and one booktubers or authortubers out there already, so that’s unlikely to happen.
So all in all, not the most productive year, but also not too bad. I published a novel!!! I think I should give myself some credit for that at least. A lifelong dream has been fulfilled, and it’s only just the beginning of my creative journey!
Here are my primary writerly plans for 2021:
Complete and edit the rest of the Mythical Menagerie Series 2
Write and publish at least 1 standalone short story / novella
Create at least 1 product for my (super-secret) PIP project
Continue writing a monthly flash fiction piece
Read 12 non-fiction books
And if time and energy allows, here are my secondary goals:
Grow my email (380), Facebook (100) and Instagram (198) following
Continue blogging on my author website
Continue blogging on my travel website (as long as I have something to write about)
My goals for 2021 are fewer than normal, but I’m writing this at the end of a global pandemic year and I’m tired and desperately in need of some quality R&R time. I’d rather under-promise and over-deliver. If there’s one thing 2020 has taught me is to celebrate the small wins, so that’s my motto for the new year: celebrate what you can, and make up for the rest when you’re able to.
May 2021 be a better year for us all.
What are your plans for the upcoming year? Did you achieve any of your 2020 goals?
If there’s one thing I managed to do during this pandemic year, was stay inside and read. To date, I’ve read 68 books in 2020 and I might just squeeze another one in before the we ring in the New Year. I know some people found it very hard to concentrate on doing anything, including reading, this year, but I found it a great way to escape my thoughts and the confines of my house.
Let’s have a look at what I filled my head with this year.
(Please note, I’ve added affiliate links to some of these books – they won’t cost you anything extra, but if you decide to buy from the link I’ll get a small commission to help feed my reading habit.)
Books That I Read for Review Purposes
When Covid struck, the company I do freelance book reviews for saw a huge dip in the amount of people willing to pay for reviews. As a result, I only had three books on my plate. One of them was quite good, the other two were mediocre (I’ll leave it to you to guess which ones). Frankly, I’m relieved that I don’t have to read books that I didn’t pick for myself anymore. The money was nice, but the frustration levels were just too high.
Books by Author Friends
I’m fortunate to know some very talented writers via my Facebook writer’s group and this year they’ve amazed me with some of my favourite books! I especially loved the two short story collections, The Space Between Dreams and Chaos and Sticky Fingers, chasing after serial killers with Garnet in The First Time I Hunted, and Keyflame was an absolute triumph and you should definitely read it if you enjoy young adult / new adult paranormal romance.
Books on Writing and Marketing
I’m always trying to get better at this writing and marketing gig. I’m extremely glad I stumbled upon Save the Cat! Writes a Novel – it’s been an eye-opener and I’m sure it’s going to be very useful for future story planning.
Other Non-Fiction Books
Last year I was appalled at the small number of non-fiction books I had read, so I made a resolution to read at least 12 non-fiction books in 2020. I’m happy to report that I did it! And I learned so much by doing so. Some of these books were horrendous (I’m looking at you, Byron in Love), but others were simply fantastic. My standout favourites were Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered, Spying on Whales, and The Secret Life of the Mind. I will definitely continue with this resolution next year.
Books that were Okay
This section is reserved for books that just didn’t do much for me. I was completely and utterly disappointed in Children of Virtue and Vengeance and really should have added that to a Books that I Actively Disliked category. The rest of these books all had some redeeming features, but were just mildly entertaining in general.
Books that I Liked
Unsurprisingly, this category has the most entries and they are all books that I would recommend one way or another. The Magebreaker series is fantastic and I’m eagerly anticipating the next installment. The Night Circus was whimsical and fantastical, and The Saviour’s Champion surprised me with a romance that I actually enjoyed.
Books that I Loved
I can’t recommend any of these books enough. They are the ones that make me feel like I will never be a good enough writer and that I should just give up now and forever read books by these authors only. Add them to your TBR pile right now if you haven’t read them already. The Renegades series is a brilliant superhero extravaganza with fantastic characters, while the Six of Crows heist duology leaves you breathless as you try to keep up with the intricacies of the plot and the scheming characters.
My absolute favourite book of the year is Uprooted by Naomi Novik, although Circe comes in at a close second.
What was your favourite book this year? Recommend something I have to read in 2021 in the comments below.
I recently finished watching Blood of Zeus on Netflix and I’m feeling a little conflicted about it. It had such great potential (a story about an underdog with divine parentage set in mythical Greece – what could go wrong?) and I kept watching episode after episode waiting for the really awesome bits to finally happen, but in the end… meh. It just didn’t deliver. Let’s take a moment to discuss why.
SPOILER ALERT! If you haven’t finished watching the first season yet, then now’s a good time to do so.
Heron, the Main Character
Or so you’d think based on the synopsis and his positioning in the story, but for a protagonist he’s really a very bland character. Yes, tragic origin story. Yes, great genetic potential. And that’s about as far as it goes. Nothing he does is crucial to the story and he has very little effect on the actual outcome at the end. His character arc is non-existent and his training montage was dull and frustrating. Really, the entire story would be better without him in it.
Alexia, the Amazonian General
I loved the grit and general badassery of this female soldier. She’s no swooning damsel in distress and, even better yet, not automatically assumed to be the main character’s love interest. There are hints of interesting backstory (she was trained by Chiron, the great centaur) and that she might have been responsible for her mother’s death (although how this fits into the lore of the Amazons remains to be seen). She’s determined and capable and should really have been the main character, in my opinion.
Seraphim, the Demon Lord
Seraphim’s entire backstory had me in tears. It was so incredibly sad to see the chubby, smiling baby turned wild, carefree little boy twisted into a monster. I completely understand and empathise with his actions (without actually approving of them, of course). Why the writers decided to name him after Jewish angels I don’t understand (unless they wanted to point to his “fallen” status, or the “burning” of someone considered to be a demon), it’s really not appropriate to the setting of this series.
Zeus and Hera, the Bickering Couple
Oh, the drama! Hera has always been portrayed as the jealous wife and Zeus as the straying husband, so there’s nothing new here. What I absolutely hate is that the show makes it look like the roving man was not at all at fault, and that the betrayed wife is an out-of-control femme fatale (and skimpily dressed, I might add, as if all her power lies in her control of the male gaze). She’s a shrieking harpy, calling Heron’s mother a whore every chance she gets and going to great lengths to try to get her and her offspring killed. Only later does she set her aims on the person who’s really responsible for the entire mess, Zeus, but when he winks at her right before his demise, it almost looks like all is forgiven again for a moment.
And Zeus! He basically rapes Heron’s mother by having his way with her in the guise of her husband and only revealing his true self when she threatens him with a knife. When their affair is discovered, he sweeps her and her son away and dumps them in a town where the people treat them as despised outcasts. They have to scrounge for a living, while he uses Hera as an excuse to shirk his responsibilities towards them. His attempts at becoming the father figure Heron needs are just a little too late, and the way he treats his wife, his mistress, and his other children just sparks of toxic masculinity.
Electra, the Hero’s Mother
All my sympathy goes towards this woman, who was forced into an arranged marriage with a cruel man, then duped into thinking he loved her one day and hated her the next, only to find out that she had unwittingly betrayed him with a lustful shapeshifting god. Her one son is ripped away from her at birth, killed to the best of her knowledge, while she and her remaining blue-eyed boy are forced to live from hand to mouth while trying to evade Hera’s wrathful gaze. She does the best she can under the circumstances, with very little help from the one who forced himself on her and ripped her from a privileged and comfortable, although unhappy, life. And then her own lost son kills her. A tragic character, if ever there was one.
Evios and Kofi, the Token Friends
Other than having someone to act as comic relief (Evios) and the token black guy (Kofi), I really don’t know what the purpose of these two characters is. They could be interesting (their past seems colourful), but they become Heron’s allies much too easily, are willing to risk their lives for him for no apparent reason, and in the end just don’t contribute much to the story.
The score was amazing! As a rule, I don’t even notice the music in films, but in this case it was by far the best part of this entire series and I’d recommend you watch it just so you can listen to the music.
I don’t watch anime, so I really can’t comment on the stylistic choices of the animators and the director. I think the grim tones of the animation suit the theme, and the gore and violence might have been a little gratuitous, although it also sets the tone very well. I liked some of the slow-motion sequences and the focus on character emotions, but at around the last two episodes it all felt a little rough. There was one scene where Seraphim and Heron were talking but their mouths weren’t moving and I seriously thought for a few minutes they had discovered some kind of twin telepathy before I realised it was just bad animation.
Demons might be a staple from Japanese tales, but they don’t really fit into Greek myth and I think the writers could have done better in developing their bad guys. At the start, the demons are nigh undefeatable, but by the end the band of heroes just have to crack a whip at them for them to explode into guts and goo (and it wasn’t like the heroes had markedly upped their game by then).
Also, what’s up with the amazing sword Zeus forges for Heron, only to have him toss it aside so that his enemy can pick it up and use it against him? Feels like a bad bit of storytelling there, like something the writers thought was a great idea at first and then decided it would make their underdog hero too powerful.
I liked the idea of the giants, although I thought they were dead after the first war and their resurrection at the end didn’t make much sense to me (perhaps I missed something?). Turning into a demon after eating a giant’s flesh doesn’t work for me, like the writers desperately wanted to include this bit of legend but didn’t know how to do it, and this is another element of the story I would have changed.
I’m also a little disappointed by the portrayal of the Olympian pantheon. Hera was the only female character of note – what happened to Athena and Artemis, Ceres and Aphrodite (to name just a few)? A handful of disapproving goddesses were shown abandoning Zeus to follow Hera’s cause, with no indication of their motivation or reasoning other than sisters standing together on principle. The boys were represented by Apollo, Hermes, Ares, Hepheastus, Poseidon, Hades (oddly being portrayed as the real big bad at the very end), and Zeus. Surely the ladies could have gotten some screen time too? And by the way, this series does not pass the Bechdel test.
All in all, I think there are some great characters and some great storytelling potential, but it just wasn’t pulled off. Eight episodes of roughly 40 minutes each are clearly not enough to handle a tale with such an epic scope. The ending hinted at a possible second season, but I doubt I’d bother with it, to be honest.
What did you think of this series? Did you love or hate it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
I stumbled upon some great writing advice last night. Instead of filling in long profile questionnaires (which I hate) to get to know your characters, just sort everyone into Hogwarts Houses! We all know exactly what it means when you say someone is a Gryffindor or a Slytherin, so why not skip all the unnecessary details and go right to the heart of it?
What a fun idea!
So yes, I sorted all the main characters from Myth Hunter, the first novel in my Mythical Menagerie urban fantasy short story serial, into their respective Houses. I know, I’m a total geek. And to make it even geekier, I’m using the profile photos I made for each of them in the Sims 4 here.
My main protagonist, Ambrose, is a Gryffindor. He’s a normal guy who inadvertently stumbled into a world that’s he not completely prepared to deal with. Without any special skills to cope with the shenanigans he finds himself in, he has to fall back on his wit, bravery and nerve to get out of some close scrapes intact. He’s also the guy who will jump fences and take on more than he can handle to help someone in need.
Amari, occasionally also a protagonist, is a Gryffindor too. At first glance, she might look like a Hufflepuff, because she’s committed to the cause of the Keeper, a hard worker who has the best interests of the mythical creatures in the Repository at heart. But woe betide anyone who tries to hurt anyone in her care!
Ambrose’s best friend, Daniel, is a total Hufflepuff. He’s loyal and fair and always there when you need him. He values hard work and friendship and is generally a fun guy to have by your side.
As a police detective, Sarah is all about intelligence, curiosity and knowledge, which she uses to find criminals and bring them to justice. She’s a formidable enemy, but also a fierce ally. When not on duty, her creative side comes to the fore as a lover of art and a student of art history. Sarah is Ravenclaw.
It looks like bravery runs in the Davids family, at least where the younger members are concerned. Ambrose’s sister, Cassie, is a Gryffindor too. She’s fiercely protective of her brother and would do anything for him. She’s a courageous young woman with a strong independent streak.
Monique is the quintessential Slytherin. She’s all about cunning, resourcefulness and self-preservation. She’ll do what it takes to get what she wants. Don’t get in her way, because she’ll run right over you.
Sorting my characters into their Houses has actually been a very valuable exercise for me. Almost all of them ended up in a different House than I had expected and I’m sure keeping this in mind will make writing them in future books much more interesting and accurate.
I’ve known for a while in which House I belong (Ravenclaw). Where would you sort yourself? If you’re a writer, do you sort your characters into Hogwarts Houses? Where does your main character fit?
Where writing is concerned, I’ve been living under a number of false truths the last few years.
I recently started working on Series 2 of my Mythical Menagerie short story urban fantasy serial, after the release of Myth Hunter, the compilation of Series 1, in June 2020. In the last two weeks, everything I believed about myself as a writer has been turned on its head.
False Truth #1: I am a Planner
I always considered myself to be a plantser – a weird hybrid between a plotter and a pantser, but someone who most definitely needed to plan before attempting any kind of writing. For each installment in Series 1 (except for the very first one, the one that flowed from my fingers like blood through my veins), I wrote a detailed 1-2 page synopsis of everything that needed to happen in that story. By the time it came to writing the first draft, it felt like I was pulling teeth! I hate first drafts, I told myself. I love going back and editing them, but putting those first words down? Only the promise of lots of chocolate (in either milkshake or brownie format) could entice me to do that. It took me months to get a first draft of around 10k – 20k words out.
The funny thing was, when it came to writing a monthly flash fiction piece for my newsletter, all I needed was the first sentence and a general idea to get cracking, and I’d have it done within two or three hours, usually in such a clean state that it needed little to no editing.
So why was I struggling so much with my longer stories?
And got stuck. Seriously stuck. I DID NOT want to write anything down that was already vaguely mulling around in my head.
So I didn’t. I thought about how much I enjoy writing flash fiction without a plan, and I just started writing. And it’s been glorious! I haven’t had this much fun writing a first draft since I wrote Beginner’s Luck back in 2017.
False Truth #2: I Can’t Write Every Day
Because, you know, I’m busy, and resistance, and I’d rather scroll endlessly down my Facebook feed until I’m bored to tears.
Unless there’s a major crisis at the day job that sees me working until late into the night, there is always some time to write a few words. They don’t have to be the world’s best words, just words that get the story moving forward again. They don’t have to be many words either – getting to 100 words is really not that hard if you don’t count them while you write.
Since I’ve started this new first draft, I’ve written every single weekday. I give myself weekends off, because I try to stay as far away from my laptop as possible when I don’t absolutely have to sit in front of it.
False Truth #3: I Need to Schedule Time for Binge Writing
That is my preferred method of writing. I like my twice-weekly writing trip to the coffee shop and it’s probably the thing I miss the most during these crazy lockdown times. I fully plan to reinstate that particular habit as soon as it’s safe.
But for now… yeah, I don’t need it. I can get by with grabbing some time somewhere during the day when things are slow, and writing between interruptions. I set myself a daily target of 500 words and I have exceeded every day, sometimes doubling or even tripling it.
False Truth #4: My Creativity is Fuelled by Chocolate
Seriously, just look at these writing posts from my Instagram feed!
Chocolate definitely helps as a motivation to get me writing, but it’s not necessary.
False Truth #5: I’ll Get the Words Done When I Need To
I’m pressure-driven and normally putting myself under pressure to get something done is good enough. But when a self-imposed writing deadline approaches, I tell myself no-one really cares anyway and why should I push myself? I’ll get it done in due time.
That, my friends, is why it took me three years to get my first novel out.
I’ve decided to try a bit of social accountability and committed to posting my total word count progress every Friday on my Instagram feed. So far, it’s working. I mean, I’ll feel like a complete idiot if I have to post the same number two weeks in a row, right?
This also comes with the added bonus of friends and followers cheering me on, which, I have to admit, is really nice and very motivating.
False Truth #6: I’m not a Real Writer
It’s hard to be a real writer when you don’t actually write, or when you mostly hate it when you do. But now that I’m writing frequently and I’m truly loving it again, I can safely say I finally feel like a REAL WRITER.
What false truths are preventing you from reaching your goals?
These last few months have both dragged on interminably and flew past faster than you can say “lockdown blues.” Can you believe we’re in July already?
The last time I posted an update I was all excited about a new novella I’d been plotting. I scraped together the courage and flew through the first 3500 words faster than anything I’ve ever done, and then stopped. I hit a difficult part of the story and took a break to think about it, and never went back. I think the Covid-19 lethargy had finally caught up to me by then and I just wasn’t feeling it. I didn’t think I could do the story justice, and I still don’t, so I’m letting it simmer again for another time.
Also, Myth Hunter, the complete Series 1 of my Mythical Menagerie short story series, was published on Amazon! You can still read it for free on Kindle Unlimited here. I was in a spin getting the book trailer ready and scrounging for pre-release reviews and watching the sales page when the book was finally available. That initial excitement has worn off now, but it reminded me how much I enjoyed writing Ambrose’s story.
Which leads me to where I am now: I’ve started plotting Series 2!
I’m doing it a little differently this time. For Series 1 I had a vague idea where I wanted the story to go, but I plotted each installment separately in some weird plotter-pantser-plantser hybrid manner that meant that I wrote each story before I knew what was going to happen next. Each subsequent installment was nerve-wracking, because I didn’t know if I was just floundering forward or actually writing something worth reading. Some of you might remember that I had to scrap my idea for the final installment and start over again just to make sure that the novel felt like a complete story on its own. I was pretty lucky that it all worked out in the end, to be honest.
So this time I’m sitting down and thinking about the whole thing before I start writing. I know I want to do roughly six stories again. I know (more or less) where I want it to go. I’m still figuring out how I’m going to get there. The first three stories are pretty solid in my mind and I’m showing herculean restraint by not diving in with the writing just yet. From story four onwards, things are still a little blurry at the moment. I’m resisting the temptation to go ahead anyway until I know what needs to happen in those middle installments to get me to the end of book two.
While I’m mulling all this over, I’m doing some more research into mythology and folklore to make sure that my stories stay unusual and interesting. Ambrose will still romp around Europe, but he’s also going to venture a little further away into the Far East, and my knowledge of Asian mythology is sketchy at best. It doesn’t help that I haven’t been to either China or Japan (two of the likely settings in the series), which is probably another reason why those last few stories are still foggy. I need a research trip!
If you have any comments, requests or constructive criticism after reading Myth Hunter, please let me know either in the comments below or via email or on my Facebook page. Some readers want more Daniel, others want less Sarah, some would like to see a specific city featured. If you think there’s anything I can do to improve on Myth Hunter, shout at me – I can take it. I’d love to make the next book even better!
We recently finished watching the final season of The Big Bang Theory (yes, I know, we’re a little behind) and although I love this series so much, I can’t help but feel that the endings some of them got weren’t quite the ones they deserved. Especially so for the girls. Let’s unpack this a little.
Fair warning: spoilers below.
Sheldon is clearly the main protagonist for the final season and the writers therefor focused all their attention on giving him the ending he deserved. Not only did he finally win a Nobel prize, but he’s happily married and has come to the realization that he needs his friends to be happy and successful and fulfilled. He’s come a long way from the selfish guy we met in Season 1.
Leonard completed his main storyline the day Penny said “I do” and since then hasn’t seen much of the limelight. His happily ever after focusses on the fact that he finally realizes his own self-worth and forgives his mother for all the crappy things she’s done to him. As a result, he’s able to move forward in his career, although not in the project he hoped to work on.
Penny’s arc is especially disappointing to me. She’s given up on her dreams of becoming an actress and is now a successful sales rep – a job that suits her but that doesn’t really bring her any joy. She’s married to Leonard, because (as all the characters often reiterates) he’s worn her down until the point where she said yes. When we first met her she was young and naïve and happy, but now she’s disillusioned, sarcastic and really quite mean, especially to Leonard. In the final season their relationship is fragile – Penny is adamant that she doesn’t want children, much to Leonard’s distress. However, in the last episode we learn that Penny is pregnant and she seems really happy about it, too. She’s even nice to Leonard. I can’t help but feel that the writers let us down here by forcing her into a stereotypical role and making us believe that impending motherhood is what she needs to be happy again.
Amy, much like Sheldon, has also come a long way. Over the course of the series, she’s turned from a socially awkward pariah into the wisest person of the group. She’s (mostly) happily married to Sheldon and is recognized as a successful scientist. In the final season, she has a makeover and changes her dowdy look into something a little more sexy – completely out of character for her (kudos to Sheldon for being upset about it). She’s also responsible for the brainwave that saves their mutual project and ultimately leads to the two of them winning the Nobel prize in physics together. However, she needed to give up her own career in neurobiology to help Sheldon achieve his dream. At the award ceremony, she proclaims that science is a great field for women before stepping aside and letting Sheldon receive most of the glory. Again, I find it disappointing that a woman had to let go of her own aspirations in order to let her man achieve happiness.
Howard is, thankfully, no longer the creepy guy we met in Season 1, but has turned into a committed husband, a good father, and even a national hero (albeit only to his friends). His happily ever after is reconciling his greatest achievement (becoming an astronaut) with the fact that he was scared every second he was up in space. He says goodbye to his wild youth (by letting go of a scooter and not chasing after a girl who used to like him) and embraces his responsibilities (although he does jump at the chance to become famous as the “best friend” of the man who’s about to win the Nobel prize). His life has turned out great and he’s finally content.
Bernadette is another character whose happily ever after is disappointing. Like Penny, she balked at having children and in the final season we can see that they’re wearing her down (even to the point where she needs to hide out in the doll house after work for some quiet time). When she’s away from home and the kids need her, her maternal instincts kick in and she realizes how much she loves them and that her place is to be with them. She’s also achieved success in her career, but at the cost of becoming so mean most of her colleagues (and even Penny) are afraid of her. At least her relationship with Howard is better than ever and, like him, she also jumps at her small claim to fame of being Amy’s “best friend” on TV.
Raj, poor guy. All Raj has ever wanted was someone to love him back. In the final season he’s desperate enough to consider an arranged marriage with a woman who is clearly unsuitable for him. He’s about to move overseas after this woman, when Howard comes for him, just like in the movies, and stops him from boarding the plane. And that’s it. His friendship with Howard is his happily ever after. Why the writers didn’t see fit to just give him a boyfriend (he’s clearly everybody’s gay friend) or, at the very least, a girl that is just as hopelessly romantic as he is, I will never understand.
Having grown middle-aged beside these characters, their (fictional) lives mean a lot to me. They were a new generation of Friends, but this time composed of a group of socially awkward, geeky misfits that I could associate with much more than with the original bunch. To see them find love and happiness, just like the popular pretty people, and even more so, acceptance and success, has been important to me. I’m over the moon for Sheldon, relieved alongside Leonard and impressed by Howard, but seeing the women forced into conventional gender-stereotyped assumptions of happiness was a letdown, one that I’m still trying to get over a few weeks later. And I just feel bad for Raj.
As a storyteller, I can understand the need for creating endings that will please the audience. After all, all the characters are happy at the end of the series, but to me their happiness feels like it has been conditioned. What these characters taught us over the years is that it’s okay to be different, to not conform to the norm.
Unfortunately, their happily ever afters were carefully groomed to fit with social convention.
What do you think? Are you satisfied with the end of all these character arcs? What would you have changed if you could come up with a happily every after for the characters of The Big Bang Theory?
I have a four-year old son who believes he’s Elsa.
I’m okay with that, because Elsa is awesome, and because who else is he supposed to look up to and identify with when watching animated movies? And with that, I specifically refer to Disney or Pixar movies, because those are our preference in this house.
Consider the following list of films that we have at home (although my little boy hasn’t watched most of them yet – some of these movies are remarkably scary for stories aimed at kids!) and here I’m focusing specifically on main characters only:
Adult Male Main Character (9)
Incredibles 2, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Wreck-It Ralph, Up, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Monster’s Inc, Toy Story (x3), Tarzan
Adult Female Main Character (4)
Incredibles 2, Finding Dory, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo
Young Adult Male Main Character (3)
Hercules, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Aladdin
Young Adult Female Main Character (6)
Frozen, Tangled, Mulan, Pocahontas, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid
Girl Main Character (3)
Moana, Brave, Tinker Bell (x5)
Boy Main Character (2)
Big Hero 6, The Lion King
From this list of 29 movies, only two of them have a young boy as the main protagonist – and of those two one is a lion. If we’re willing to look at older characters, then six of them have female leads, with only three who have male leads – and none of those three are exactly relatable to my son. The cards are turned as the characters get older, with a score of four for the women and nine for the men – although in all four cases for female characters they share the stage with the men.
So adult characters aside, in the representation of girls (9) vs boys (5), the boys are in the minority.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m very glad that girls have lots of female characters to watch and relate to, and that they’re no longer mostly concerned with attracting the attention of a marriageable guy. They’re feisty and fierce and clever and brave, and that’s all great. Even the ones that suffer from past stereotypes are still good (I grew up with these movies and I love them unconditionally).
But it’s a little problematic if you’re a little boy looking for a movie with a main character that you can identify with.
I think in the midst of the drive for gender equality the focus has shifted so much towards strong female characters aimed at empowering young girls, that the boys have been left by the wayside. All the arguments that have been made in the past for the inclusion of female role models now seem to apply to boys.
All I want on behalf of my son is a movie with a young human boy as the main character, who goes on a grand adventure and overcomes the odds while learning a few life lessons along the way. Is that too much to ask?
Granted, my sample might be skewed because all the movies we have in our house are the ones I loved as a girl (and still love), but if I do a quick Internet search, the trend seems to hold strong.
I’m just a little worried than in trying to correct some mistakes of the past, we’re inadvertently making similar mistakes now. I suspect if I look at books for kids I’ll get the same results. This is such a basic discrimination (and let’s not even get started on the gender spectrum or race or religion discussions!) that can easily be rectified.
Creators: write inclusively, and don’t follow the trends of the day just for the sake of them.
Right now a little boy feels left out and confused. And we really don’t need more of that.
Have you noticed this trend too? Can you recommend any good animated movies aimed at little boys?
I had some unexpected free time over the Easter weekend and, instead of using it productively to write my book or something else meaningful, I spent an hour or so quickly creating mock-ups of the characters from Myth Hunter, my upcoming novel, in the Sims 4.
How cute is this? If you’ve read Beginner’s Luck already, can you tell who any of these are?
Looking back on this image a few days later, I’m struck by the following thoughts:
For a novel with a male protagonist, I really have a lot of supporting female characters. That’s always been my plan, but I didn’t quite realise how outnumbered the boys are. This is something I might have to look into for the next series.
Although the majority of my characters are Caucasian, I’ve tried to be a little more diverse in my cast. I also have LGBTQ+ characters. Issues of race and gender are not a focus in my stories, and I find it difficult to write outside my own lived experience, but I do try to be inclusive. Hopefully readers will not be too offended or disappointed by my depiction of someone they may associate with.
There are quite a few important characters that I haven’t added to this picture, and one that isn’t important yet but will be in the second series.
I had a lot of fun creating these characters. I even picked out their traits and lifetime wishes! All I want to do now is go and play with them to see how they react to each other in-game! (Fortunately for my own productivity, I don’t particularly enjoy playing Sims 4. Sims 3 on the other hand…)
They say you have to write the book that you want to read. This series was definitely written for me. I think it’s such a fun story, and it includes a romp through Europe and an even greater cast of mythical creatures, adapted to fit my own universe. It appeals to both the traveller and the dreamer sides of my personality.
I hope readers will enjoy it too.
Either way, I can’t wait to start writing the next series! I have BIG plans for Ambrose and the gang.
Would you like to see more character images like this or do you prefer not to taint your own imagination? Interested in a little more in-depth character bio’s?