Modern-day English has very few words, where there are separate forms to describe men and women (e.g. actor and actress). But even they are still being reduced. For example, the gender-neutral flight attendant has become the accepted politically term. But what has does that have to do with Valerie, the protagonist of my novel, calling herself a hero rather than a heroine?
There is something called linguistic determinism. In simple terms the essence of this concept is that we perceive the world within the limits of the words we have to express our experiences. This concept is proven by studies, which have also supported such decisions as to introduce gender-neutral terms like fire fighter.
So why is fire fighter better than fireman? These studies showed that male-dominated language can cause inequalities to women. If the only way, in which we can describe a person who professionally puts out fires is fireman, it tells little girls that women can’t work as “firemen” because they are not men. Therefore, gender-neutral forms are important. Then why did I use the male-dominated form?
When you look up the word hero in dictionaries you get such definitions as “A person, typically a man, who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities” from the Oxford English Dictionary. Since a fireman and a firewoman do the same job, one would expect that a hero and heroine are regarded equally as well. Unfortunately, the word heroine is still often understood in terms of a romantic heroine, whose only adventure is falling in love and procuring the interest of a man. Of course the meaning of heroine is shifting to a more equal one but I wanted to be absolutely clear from the start that Valerie aspires to be a hero with all of its connotations of courage and achievements, rather than fooling the reader into thinking this story will be about her looking for a boyfriend.
Read more about To be a Hero
Superhero stories are huge right now, so it’s understandable if you’ve been inspired by these characters and want to create one of your own. The good thing about superhero characters is that there’s usually a formula you can follow. As long as you try to add your own…
What really makes a hero is also a basic question of my novel To be a Hero
When you have found a cover artist to hire, you need to make sure you communicate clearly what you want your cover to look like.
You can look for book covers of the same genre or similar stories as reference points. If you prefer a photography-based cover, you could look through online stock image databases for images you would like. Depending on your drawing/photoshop skills you can even do a sketch of what you have in mind.
Additional information you should give the cover artist
- Format requirements (especially with print books)
- Deadline (well before the publication date, since you will need to insert the cover as part of the production stage)
To make sure the cover artist catches the book’s atmosphere accurately, it is also very reasonable to provide them with a copy of the book. If they do not have the time to read the book, you should at least send them a blurb and synopsis.
Make sure the cover artists knows
- The genre
- The setting (contemporary, historical, urban etc.)
- Specific locations featured in your novel (architecture, atmosphere etc.)
- The book’s tone (brooding, humorous, adventurous etc.)
- If you have any particular colour or font preferences or aversions
- The protagonist if you wish them to featured on the cover (age, gender, hair colour/length, eye colour, tattoos, piercings, clothing style and period etc.)
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That is a question many people have struggled with in literature classes. But just how far does authorial intent go? As a writer myself I can confirm that I have spent hours upon hours working on and revising such literary features as themes, motifs and symbols in my story. I found that the inevitably wind themselves into the first draft and in the revisions it’s the author’s job to detect their own intent and how to make it most effective to understand or cut superfluous and unfitting literary devices.
Simply based on how much work and effort I put into enhancing the literary devices in my novel, while also forcing myself to cut the ones I liked but which got into the way of storytelling, I appreciate people noticing those. But in comparison, the deliberate literary devices I included are rather minute to the ones I put in on a “writer’s instinct” – because they felt to be the right words to tell this story. Most of those instances I don’t even notice until someone else has pointed them out to me.
Let me give you an example. When talking about the book jacket Julia, my cover artist mentioned that Valerie, the main character in my novel To be a Hero represents the light to the other main character, Shadow (that is what he calls himself). It had never occurred to me to put the relationship between these two characters like this. I wrote them like this because the characters always seemed to work together this way for me.
Of course to detect such things one has to play “What did the author mean by deliberately choosing these words after diligent editing?” However, I would like to change the terms of the game. Rather than play “What did the author mean?”, I propose discovering literary devices, whether they be curiously mixed metaphors or themes. Based on that the answer to the question should be another question: “What does this text mean to me?”
John Green has repeatedly stated that “books belong to their readers” and I’m inclined to agree. Also as a linguist I know that the words we use to denote meaning are arbitrary. The words themselves don’t hold any meaning themselves. It is the reader who gives the words meaning. Such a meaning is influenced by a reader’s own experiences, background knowledge of references, which may have been made or the reader finds, even if they weren’t intentional.
Therefore, each story is understood differently, means something else to every reader. That is what makes discussing literature so exciting. I think the academics shouldn’t be so much focused on what the author is trying to say but what reading the text means to you, as a reader.
Read more about To be a Hero
A little table to how to get rid of all that negative self-talk. We have to learn look at the good in situations too, instead of dwelling on things we can’t change- because you know what? We may not be able to change what is happening but we CAN change how we view it!
(Source: believeinrecovery, via fixyourwritinghabits)