Female Strength

Posted: January 31, 2016 in Uncategorized

Strong women in literature. 

For years, this has become a growing concern for women and even some men everywhere in literature. Strong women arguements stemmed from the stereotype that predominantly Disney set with the woman doing all she could for the completion of the man. Changing herself for a man seems shallow and pointless. The tomboy features always deck our strong women, hatred for dresses and love for disrespecting the old fashioned ladies always scolding them. We can break from the stereotype of these and create the frilly girly girls that still are hardcore and strong but I think even that is still lacking. Whatever happened to women characters that didn’t need to be strong? Why can’t a heroine have zero ability at protecting herself or a tendency at bursting into tears at everything? 

Why can’t we have more than just the traditional tomboyish girl or the snobby girly girl? Why can’t we have a girl that doesn’t have any clue what is going on and is just sweet and wants to do the right thing? Maybe she fails alot until she starts wising up? Maybe she’s wickedly smart and uses her brain instead of brawn. Maybe a guy outsmarts her. Maybe an animal outsmarts her. Stop making the heroine the same stereotypical one or the other and make then complicated. Humans are complicated. And not every heroine has to have everything figured out. Maybe she makes mistakes. Maybe she becomes a villain. Make your heroine different and new but relatable. Don’t use the cookie cutter and don’t just focus on making her strong. Maybe she’s weak. 

And for the love of everything, quit making every character the same stereotypical ugly until revealed gorgeous or super pretty and a bombshell. Make her stand out. Or maybe just make her like everyone else. Maybe you wouldn’t even notice her in a crowd. Maybe because she’s nothing extraordinary, that’s what makes her special. And stop making her always tiny. Maybe she’s awkwardly tall and has a lumpy body mass. Maybe she can’t run without throwing up. Maybe she’s not athletic and a complete theatre or band nerd. Make her different and with her differences, she will overcome and become strong.  

{Not my art. All rights reserved to the fantastic artists.} 



How to Make a (Mediocre) Comic 

Comics are beautifully complicated, delicate, and versatile creatures that deserve respect and love. They merge everything I love about visual art and writing into one glorious whole. They are worthy to be praised by artists of all species.


So here’s the disclaimer: Don’t bother reading this if you plan on making a gorgeous work of art that will be marveled at for centuries, because quite frankly I cannot help you. What will I help you with? A: Getting finished with a comic as quickly as possible. That’s right, I’m writing an article about the things you need to bastardize this miraculous art form. I’m going to be talking about the mediocre comic. 


First, though, let me give you my credentials. Wouldn’t you hate to read this whole dirge and then find out at the end that I was actually a sea snail, not a comic artist, and really had no idea what I was talking about? That would suck. So hello! My name is Chloe Cunningham, you can call me Chloe (or y’know, whatever else you feel like calling me), and I am the writer, director, and producer of the painfully mediocre comic, Pirate Comic. 



My comic (see above, on the left) is as expertly lackluster as any comic I have ever read. Mediocrity is a distinct part of its very nature. As such, I consider myself an expert in this subject. Also, because I like using other people’s art as illustration in order to make myself seem less self-absorbed, I’m also going to be showing you guys my very good friend Peter’s mediocre comic, Space Journey. (Shoutout to Pete for not getting mad at me when I call his comic mediocre. You’re great.)





So without further ado, let’s get to the point. What do you need in order to make a comic? You need to know what comics are like. There’s really only one way to go about this, and that’s to read comics. But you can’t just passively read comics, you have to pay attention while you’re reading them! There are a lot of important things, but here are the basics that I watch for:

• typography

• panel layout

• gutters

• pacing

• character design

• dialogue


All of these things can vary greatly from comic to comic. Compare Stand Still, Stay Silent to Sweet Talk or Jupiter or Wilde Life. Each one has their own very particular style, some very traditional, some very non-traditional.




Typography is one of those things that most authors don’t think about much. I can’t help you with it much, beyond just reminding you to pay attention to it! Especially think about where your speech bubbles will go before you plan your panels and sketch them out. Easily one of the easiest mistakes to make in mediocre comic making is forgetting you need to fit a speech bubble in somewhere and filling the whole page with other stuff. You end up having to block people’s heads out a lot.





Check out, for example, the horrible layout of this page. Besides just the fact that the time skip is a little unclear and the panel layout makes little sense, that one speech bubble just blocks out the redhead chick’s face! Shameful!





Panel Layout and Gutters are really fluid. You can do as much or as little with them as you want! Compare this page of SSSS with this page of Wilde Life. Both accomplish their goals and look fantastic, but the panel styles are totally different!



On the topic of gutters… just use your artsy, beautiful brain and you can work it out. (Gutters, by the way, are the empty spaces between the panel walls). Pete doesn’t use gutters at all in his comic. It worked for him with Space Journey, but not having gutters makes it way harder to avoid tangents and to separate scenes. I personally could never do it myself. The other thing to worry about is gutters that are too far spaced. I don’t have a specific example for this, but even my Pirate Comic has fairly large gutters. I wouldn’t recommend making them any larger: it eats up your panel space really quickly.



Pacing is probably the most divergent thing on this list. I’ve found that most superhero comic issues read like little mini soap-opera episodes. Graphic novels are specifically written to feel like novels, but they really have about the same amount of content as a short story (just because writing a story with pictures takes soooooo looooong). Tons of webcomics stretch out like epics, spanning for hundreds and hundreds of pages (SSSS applies here, too). And tons of them are more gag-a-day that form into several story arches, like Calvin and Hobbes or the webcomic Postcards in Braille.


My favorite example of pacing in a comic would have to be Jupiter. The author, Zimeta, manages to contrast quiet scenes with action scenes very well, but I think her main talent is keeping the readers invested. She brings up tons of tiny mini-mysteries in the comic, and resolves them a chapter or two later. For every answer she gives she also brings up two more mysteries, so the reader is constantly being rewarded for reading (by receiving emotional payoff by finding the answer to a question) and constantly asking new questions.


The best pacing (and plotting) advice I have is to keep your ideas organized and in a place where you can easily find them. Even if you do the minimum amount of brainstorming before beginning your comic (as I did with Pirate comic), it also helps to have a few ideas about the cast and premise before hand. I kept Pirate Comic notes on my iPod touch notes. I plot most of my stories on this great website called Hiveword. Peter has a memo notepad that he keeps notes in. Keep even the small stuff, because there will be days when you can’t remember if the “kuh” sound in “Panchenko” is a “c” or a “k”, and it will be helpful for you to have a note on that. 


 Character design is a big part of what you’ll be doing. Since I’m telling you how I write my mediocre comic, I’ll just go ahead and say that I don’t ever do concept art when I’m working on Pirate Comic. That’s why every time a new character is introduced they look awful for about three pages until I can get my act together and figure out what I want them to look like. This is a very bad idea. HORRIBLE, in fact. I would actually say I may deserve to be shot over this. It is never ok. Here are my tips for avoiding my sins.




1. Design characters you won’t mind drawing one thousand times. I’ve drawn Matt and Khan of Pirate Comic well over a hundred times each. If you change a character design to make it more culturally appealing or something, I think that’s fine… unless it makes them more difficult and unpleasant to draw, in which case I just want to point out that you will literally draw them hundreds!! of! times!!

2. Even if your comic is mediocre, do yourself a favor and make your characters look a little different. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just make sure they all have different haircuts and fashion senses. Vary their heights a little. Make some smile a lot and some not at all. It’ll help you out, I swear it on Ginger’s Daughter’s Mother’s Grave.

3. Please, just design characters you don’t hate. Make people you will like and get along with.












Dialogue is last but certainly not least. I wouldn’t want to decrease the value of the other points by saying dialogue is the most important part of making a comic, but it is. 99% of all people I’ve spoken to say they’ll read and love a comic with terrible art as long as the writing is good. Guess what? Most of the writing that goes into a comic is DIALOGUE! Fun, huh?


My biggest two dialogue tips: make every character have their own unique speech style, and show that style right up front. In Pirate Comic I tried really hard to make each character’s speech style different right up front.


The guy in page 10 is super excitable and kinda dramatic. The redhead in page 29 has some kind of horrible mauled accent and a cold shoulder. The dishwasher mechanic in page 48 is really polite. Are these great examples? Absolutely not! They’re mediocre (or worse)! But they’re still helpful, I hope.



The second tip is to read all your dialogue out loud before you set it in stone (or, y’know, in ink). Best rule of dialogue ever! Actually, regardless of what you’re writing, this should be a law. Not only is it super helpful (reading aloud helps you figure out what sounds natural or unnatural) it can be super hilarious. Especially if you get your friends to read it in funny voices.


(What’s more, if your friends are reading it aloud in funny voices, you all laugh a lot and to make the laughing continue you feel compelled to continue writing your comic. (Funny voice ideas: bad Russian/French/Japanese/Southern American accent, Elvis impersonation, falsetto)


A great side-effect of this dialogue thing is that the more mediocre your comic is, the more hilarious it is when you read it.)




There you go! That’s my advice! It’s all fairly straightforward… but the basics are important. I’ll end with the final (sobering?) reminder that you are not going to gain much from this comic. It won’t make you popular or rich, and the art and writing will probably not even be good enough to get published. You’re probably looking at years of work– real, honest to goodness hard work– of working on a comic. And you need to accept that the only thing you are going to get out of it is a comic that you, and maybe only you, will love.


Don’t worry, though. It’s so worth it. I love my comic more than anything else I have ever created. No piece of meticulously polished artwork, no glorious watercolor, not even that fantastic Minotaur poster I painted a few years back can be compared to my comic. Pirate Comic is ugly. It is unpolished and quite frankly it is rather terribly drawn. And I love it so, so much. I’m a little bit ashamed (but not too ashamed) to admit that I’ve read my comic cover-to-cover at least a dozen times. I’ve got most of the script memorized, and I quote it on what is probably a daily basis. 


















Nerdy. I know. And I don’t care. And you shouldn’t, either.


Okay! The end! You have the tools! Go out, friends, and make mediocre comics! And send them to me, so I can fangirl over them.












Chloe Cunningham should be writing a bio for herself to put in this space, but she isn’t. She’s too busy drawing. Oops. Oh well, she has a comic that you can read on Tapastic which is a rambling and episodic tale about a group of smugglers living along the post apocalyptic Florida coast. She can also be found @wishjacked on Twitter. She’s pretty ok, so like, be friends with her. Or something.

 So here’s the thing. You know the age old advice that if you are stuck in a rut, the answer isn’t just to wait it out. It is to keep plodding on and getting through it. But what if you need help? What if you can’t figure out the plot twist all on your own? What if inspiration just needs a quick kick in the butt? 
Is it cheating to use other people’s ideas and prompts and such? 
It’s plagarism if you steal someone else’s idea and words and plot twists and take their work. Remember if you have help, make sure the person is okay with it and talk to them about it. One of my favorite things to do is to have a writing date where I meet with my good friends and they help me with my ideas and I brainstorm with them about theirs. It’s fun and rewarding and you get to write it how you want. 

Now we get to prompts. 
I love a good, twisted writing prompt and I love using Pinterest for it. They have tons and tons of writer help and I constantly use that for four main loves; clothing, makeup and hair, stuff about or for my boyfriend, and all of my writing. I have too many boards, most are for writing. I have an inspirational writer board for quotes and advice about all kinds of writing or pictures I find inspiring. I have storyboards for the world and characters and all of that coming to life. I have a prompt board strictly with ideas that interest me and make me want to write them in a story. I am working on my book Fairytale and the fairytale prompts are just to die for. These are for common use. Not plagarism in any way. 

Now I love help with this kind of stuff but I also want it to be more original, more me. I change the wording and just take the basic ideas that inspire me and switch them to something like my style. It’s an info kick and I love taking them. But these prompts are only to be used because people put them out for general use. If there is a disclaimer and someone would prefer not to have other’s claim credit, then by all means, avoid using it and just make it an enjoyable read for you. 
Do you like using prompts like this or consulting your friends? Why or why not? Do you think it’s cheating? Tell me your opinions in the comments below!

P.s. Merry Christmas:-)

Okay, so the task might seem simple enough. To write, one must put down words and they form sentences and then those form paragraphs and then those form a story. That’s writing, right? Well, a good writer knows that he or she needs help and they love to ask other writers-better writers. I mean, why else would you turn to anybody just random for help in a specific field? So you pick writers and you listen to what they have to say and that’s when it gets confusing. 
Which words do you use? 

I use my Pinterest quite a lot, from making storyboards, thinking up characters, getting a visual on what a spaceship needs to look like, dreaming of my next name for my book or just getting any ideas or inspiration. I use it for the articles for telling authors what to use and what not to use and I’ve come across a few contradictory things. Mainly words. A lot of writers will use that you don’t use this word or that word and that will make publishers throw your manuscript in the trash bin but then I see others that say quite the opposite and want you to dumb down your elaborate language speaking of the eloquence of the lapis lazuli tiger statuette and then just plainly spell it out for the reader. After all, they don’t want to get bogged down by all the details. 

In my personal opinion, flowery language gets you nowhere; it’s useless, clutters the page and then wastes my limited time with words that I would never be able to spell. But I’ve seen books where this works. I’ve seen this book series all the way through and even when I hardly understood the language, once I stuck with it, it all made sense. It was a different world. Why wouldn’t they have their own terms and curse words and mechanical phrases? If they stopped to explain in great detail every time a word was spoken, that would have driven me crazy and lessened the story. Instead, Scott Westerfield delves into his series starting with Leviathan and working his way through Goliath and ending with Behemoth. The language and world is unfamiliar but he shows you what the words mean and the phrases and it is all so cleverly written. I would highly recommend the series to anyone. But there are the articles that say he shouldn’t use words no one knows. There are authors that use the dumbed down simple language too and the plot and characters so richly came to life that it made me want to read it over and over again. I do think certain words should be ommitted in writing but I also can’t condemn them. It matters what your story is about and it matters that it draws in the reader and keeps them guessing until the end. That’s what really matters. 

P.s. Merry Christmas, my lovely Ravens 

So I’ve always thought the whole 15 minutes for writing is rather silly to begin with only because it always took me about 10-15 to really get my mojo flowing and to cut it off right there is kind of depressing and just makes me want more. It’s like eating one piece of candy; you always want another piece. My schedule is crazy this year, hence why I’ve been missing in action for awhile and buried into my schooling and phone troubles and work. I’ve started NaNoWriMo however from the prompting of one of my good friends and we plan on seeing each other finish. My murder mystery that I’m writing has barely any plot; I need to plan the things more carefully and I desperately need my laptop that has been out of commission for at least a year now. I got it fixed and bought a Novel Journal for Sherlock Holmes to inspire me into actually writing something. Our breaks at Cosmetology school are decently long and I can pull out my notebook and begin as soon as my earbuds block out the voices of the thirty or so girls filling the room and my pen hits the paper. I have a new app called Writing Journal that you can find in the app store and it pushes me to write for a time and then document my ballpark words down on my paper since I’m free handing it instead of typing it online. All that to say is that I have begun these 15 minute time challenges and have changed a little bit of my opinion on them. If you think a little bit about what scene you wish to write, it will come easier than just coming up with something on the fly. I am falling behind on my wordcount but through 15 minute intervals and the occassional hour or 30 minute shifts I have after I finish school and all that I need to, I’m making slow but steady progress. What’s your method of writing and what works for you? I’m curious. 


“Who hurt you so much that you started to hate yourself?”
-Midnight thoughts (what made you so sad)
It was Thursday and I was beginning to regret my ferocious ride the other day or at least, the lack of practice beforehand. My legs hurt from the exercise and my back and abdomen were stiff from the ride.
  “Why are you walking so funny?” Sky had whispered that morning but I had merely given her a tightened grin. Good for her, she had some meat on her bones that cushioned the fall every time Pillsbury and Ebony or Night Rider or Soot or whatever she settled on after the flurry of bad puns- had trotted perhaps a little too fast over the bumpy stretches. I was fairly certain my butt had turned black from the bruises.
  “Ladylike stroll,” I murmured, turning abruptly away from the scraggly crowd to take a walk on my own. I vaguely recalled that the rule handbook had said something about being alone, but I was fairly certain that no one here really cared all that much. Archery was later and it was all I needed to be sore on the upper half of my body as well. It had been awhile since I last worked out, a fact obvious only to me because apparently being skinny in this place meant that you didn’t eat enough. Italians and their food, I had to grin at. Aunty had invited me to dinner that night, but I was hardly in the mood to have food shoved down my throat at each passing. My extended family had come under the impression that I never ate or Angelo made it worse by saying that I worked out all the time. The horrified look on their faces was enough to set my teeth on edge. Working out once a day or even a few times a week was nothing to cry over. It was healthy.
 “I seemed to recall something about the etiquette for women is never to be alone in a public place,” Angelo’s chiding voice should have brought a smile, but my temper had fouled. Now I longed to shoot something with my arrows and get away from everyone. The pang of having a best friend who automatically knew when to give me space-something Mary would have known- was tugging at me, but I could still see Bret’s face hovering in front of hers and that wide eyed expression that she had given me when she caught sight of me.
 “I seem to recall the etiquette of women including not talking to a man late into the night as well but yet, here we are,” I replied briskly.
  “Are you mad with Adelaide for speaking to me?”
  I turned my head, leaning against the railing that lead down into rest of the garden.
 “I heard your voices floating up to my balcony. You’re laugh is quite loud, if you recall.”
“But are you mad?”
  I couldn’t place why his concern sounded so genuine. Why would he care about my opinion? We weren’t even that close, not really. His brows met together over that scruffy facial hair and I was instantly reminded of that knight who kept pestering me. I actually wouldn’t mind seeing him instead of Angelo. I had to answer to Angelo a lot more than I had to for the knight.
  “No, just don’t get Skye kicked out and don’t lose your job over this. Abide by the rules.”
  “You’re one to talk,” he replied, those sparkling brown eyes teasing me. I wasn’t in the mood.
  “What’s that supposed to mean?”
 “Don’t go on runs by yourself. Klause told me. He’s concerned about you.”
  There was no underlining meaning to that statement, but I couldn’t help feel a slight lift at hearing his name. Finally, I had gotten some answer out of someone.
  “I don’t think it’s any of your business when I decide to venture out on my own. My job security doesn’t rest on abiding by the rules and honestly, I don’t mind if I am forced to leave early.”
  “That’s not good enough.”
  Angelo’s sharp rebuke slapped me across the face, leaving my insides churning and alarmed. Every nerve tensed up at his brief rebuttal.
  “Excuse me?”
  My tone surprised me at how cold it had become, the expression read on Angelo’s face betraying the same emotion of surprise and hurt.
  “I said that’s not good enough, Berkley,” he replied softer, trying for the gentle approach but I was tired of his one sided concern. Why did everyone think that I was a fragile human who couldn’t live without any of them? I was doing just fine without any of them, thank you.
  “I don’t need you deciding for me what is good for me and what isn’t. I answer to none of you people, least of all you.”
  “You are making an enormous mistake and it could cost you, Berk. I can’t stand to leave you alone and unprotected when no one can find out if you are okay. If you think of nothing else, think of mother.”
  “Auntie Lopie? Cute, but I think I’ll pass. Tell her that I’m not coming tonight. I have some other things to do here before I go crazy and kill the princess for being such a brat and then get kicked out.”
  I walked away before he could say anything else but he yelled at my back as I was leaving.
  “What am I supposed to tell her? Not to set you a place at the table?”
  “Keep it,” I barked back. “Maybe you can bring your new girlfriend to your house to meet your parents. She’s probably not even able to find food for herself otherwise since women are such delicate and fragile creatures!”
  I kept walking quickly away, ignoring my pain in my legs until I reached the archery grounds next to the range. I had donned on the equipment and grabbed a bow before most of the girls had begun. Jerking the string back, I let the arrow fly, embedding deeply within the  board and missing the middle target completely. I had taken archery once before but I hardly could remember any of the tips.
  “Wait for the instructor, Lady Caterina!” Princess Mary chided from the side, her voice annoyingly soft and musical.
  Maybe I would wait to embed her with the arrow instead, I thought savagely, turning my scowling face at her. Her eyebrows met sharply together, that doe face morphing into something quite dramatic and terrifying. A true princess.
 But I wasn’t about to back down.
  But it wasn’t just one instructor. No, there were three. Angelo avoided my gaze and so did Klause, my stalking knight that just kept on appearing. I guess that’s what stalkers did. Prince Luca hedged around all of us, taking particular interest in Skye, but that was more frustrating than anything else. All of the instructors stayed away from me the entire archery lesson, leaving me to fester in my annoyance and keep practicing on my own. Eventually I got it, but I wasn’t sure what I was more annoyed with. Myself for being angry, the fight with Angelo or just being here amongst these people. Skye tried to catch my eye several times but I wasn’t in the mood to link arms and stroll through the castle halls afterward. I just wanted to escape. I would hit the town tonight and do some penny boarding around. It would feel good in this heat to be out of the long dresses and do some sight seeing. I might even take my camera along and some paint brushes and my sketchbook. I just wanted to be alone.
from my collaboration with my friend R.L. Trace for an email chain link story we did for fun about a Renaissance reenactment much like our fanfic about Austenland that we worked on with another friend just for fun. This idea was just a fun splurge for this summer to keep us writing some every now and then even when we had no ideas for our own books. So far, it’s been a pretty fun summer working on this story and plotting the inevitable. Keep checking my Wattpad for any updates on this story after I finish posting Winchester Abbey from our last venture into this fun release of writing.
from our last coffee shop run, me and R.L. Trace drank Italian sodas in honor of our story together.

My question for you writers or comic book artists or graphic novelers, is how do you find that special moment that you begin flowing with all kinds of ideas and plots and scenes that you cannot physically restrain yourself to just a mere scribble in a notebook? You’ve got to find your niche and for that, every single writer is different. 

My brain compartmentalizes oddly. I cannot do anything productive in my room if it’s dirty. Call it what you will but if I decide to get busy on some work, everything around me can’t be screaming out for my attention first. To focus, I must eliminate all distractions and all of the nagging responsibilities that I have to accomplish. Thus, my most productive days are either spent inside a coffee shop away from the cleaning I have to do or without the mound of clothes staring at me and waiting to be either discarted (because let’s face it here, y’all, I have way too many clothes and hardly wear the amount I should) or folded up where there isn’t much room. On the off chance that I did this entire overhaul of my room the night before and wrote a myriad of letters that had been awaiting me and had the interruptions of dinner and chores taken care of and had a sufficent kick in the butt about the plotline of my newest story, I finally got around to doing something it. I compartmentalize my train of thinking into a large graph to be easily moved around, thus my timeline was born. At the foot of my bed, I have two of my four posts completely unhindered by anything so I strung up ropes from a different project left over from my room redo and created five long clothelines if you will for my story. Clothespins and notecards decorate it until I run out of both and have to resort to white notebook paper torn into little pieces and staples and tape and sticky putty to tack them up. Now clothespins are easier to use and easier to move around-such is the point of my timeline- and I’ve found that all will finally do if I just have a little patience and several hours at my own disposal like I had today. I sat down and grabbed my Adventure Novel In A Year book and used the template provided to map out the highlights of what needs to be in my book. The author sections them into three separate acts, and thus my three color coding system was born out of the remaining notecards. Green is for The beginning act, very roughly the first three or so chapters; Reddish pink for the middle act, the main meat of the middle of your book; and finally blue for the third and final act, roughly the last three chapters, all totalling twelve chapters which I went over last time and most likely will again this time. 

That’s okay. It’s just a rough template to help me get my bearings and get the essentials down. 
I finished the majority of my story plotting tonight, scrawling in my fancy purple gel pen all of the major highlighted scenes that I could think of and imagine from visualizing it from Pinterest. 


And that’s where I will bring you to my next novel helper: Pinterest. 
Pinterest will allow me to visualize whatever I search for and create an entire world within my head and provide an enormous help with prompts to inspire huge story twists and different ideas that brilliant authors thoughtfully put on there for anybody to use. 

And finally, I turn my speakers all the way up on my phone and blast Spotify’s Game of Thrones and Lord of The Rings soundtrack blends for my book and let the creative juices flow. 
That is how I find my niche. How ’bout you? 

my pinterest page name to search for is @charliesmithers if you want some idea of what a storyboard looks like.