Guest post

Love Triangles: When the Best Choice is None

by sarahenni on December 23, 2011

A few weeks ago the hilarious and whip-smart Erin and I were having a (lengthy, very entertaining) email exchange on the subject of love triangles in fiction. Her insights were so spot-on, I wanted to fist bump my computer screen. But instead of threatening the integrity of my technology, I asked Erin to summarize her points in a guest post, which I’m so excited to share with you today!

Note: This post contains like, mega-spoilers. Be warned.

So you’re reading a book/watching a TV show/Netflixing a movie. There is a love triangle, and you’re eating up every second. Who will she choose? you think each time you flip a page, as though the answer tantalizes you just from the end of the next paragraph. The feeling is total intoxication – it brings you back to every unrequited crush you’ve ever had, revives the often-lost feeling of being pursued, makes every loaded exchange feel worthy of a good, old-fashioned Victorian swoon.

And then, the character chooses… unwisely.

Thus commences a series of actions: kicking all the sheets off the bed, yelling expletives at the book/TV, and silently fuming into the early morning hours. You feel betrayed. You feel as though YOU just let The One slip through your fingers. You have, at this point, only a tenuous grasp on the difference between your life and fiction.

This is you. You, the Gale-shipper. You, in your Team Jacob jersey. You, who also thought the name ‘Blaine’ sounded like a major appliance. You, who threw your cosmopolitan at the movie screen when Carrie married Big anyway.

So I’m here to make a bold statement:

Maybe more of our female protagonists should end up *gasp!* alone.

The main pitfall for women in storytelling is that she chooses the ONE grand gesture over the HUNDREDS of consistent little gestures of the better man. (*LOUD THROAT CLEAR* Carrie, I’m looking at YOU. And Aidan. And wishing you’d made it work.) She thinks with her heart and not her head. She is, simply, impetuous and foolish, making irrational decisions on the fly and letting herself be swept away in romantic gestures that don’t signal themselves for longevity. The female protagonist claims to want consistency but then makes decisions inconsistent with that. Of course, even I, the Grande Dame of Insensitivity, don’t read these moments like that – I swoon momentarily like everyone else. But I think some characters are written to be better than that. (See also: Season 3 of The Office, wherein Pam calls off her wedding and doesn’t end up with Jim or Roy. Commendable, Office scribes!) Plus, wouldn’t it have been nice to see if Bella could’ve taken just a few steps on her own instead of fumbling into the arms of either Jacob or Edward? (Sidenote: Speaking of solid guy characters, are any of us completely clear as to why Bella never gave poor Mike Newton a fighting chance?! Jussayin’…)

 

Some characters I wouldn’t have minded to see hit the singles’ scene:

Katniss Everdeen

She is an alpha female (read: the anti-Bella Swan) (read: She’s a total BAMF), and who – let’s be honest here – didn’t really need a man. She kills instead of being killed; she can provide sustenance by her own hand for herself and those she loves. And by the end of Mockingjay, both Gale and Peeta are so thoroughly unlikable that it would’ve been entirely understandable if Katniss would’ve chartered a hot-air balloon with the words ‘THANKS, BUT NO THANKS’ spray-painted in block letters on the side and peaced out to District 12. Dare I say, it would have even made sense. We as readers wanted a resolution, but she is a strong enough character to warrant a satisfying lone-wolf ending.

Hell, I might’ve even saluted such a conclusion.

Carrie Bradshaw

To me, Carrie should’ve been the poster child for ending up with none of them: not Big, not Aidan, not Petrovsky. Particularly after that Downtown-Macy’s-window-at-Christmas display of douchebaggery in the movie when Big left her at the altar. The framework for her being in that echelon of liberated woman was in place: She was self-sustaining, successful, and with a great support system of friends. She could’ve flipped Paris the bird, hijacked a 747, and completed a solo flight right into LaGuardia International, and we wouldn’t have pitied her a bit. The men in her life were not as powerful as the relationship she had with herself. (Cue after-school special music.)

I don’t find this a pitfall of the way some female protags are written and portrayed – in fact, I find their strength laudable, until those last, and sometimes unfortunate, seconds before they go down an inadvisable path to romance. So what say you? Can you think of other romantic scenarios where the protagonist should have just walked away? Do you find a character’s choice of a flawed individual some kind of weakness? Discuss!

 

Erin Ladd is a writer and editor living in the Bay Area. She managed to write this whole blog post without thinking of the name ‘Renesmee’ even once. She thinks that Theodore Roosevelt just might have been America’s finest president, and that Peeta can frost her cupcake anytime.

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How to Stop Stuttering and Love the Phone

by sarahenni on November 17, 2011

When my bestie Megan told me she was putting together a list of tips for other grad students/interns on how not to sound like an idiot on the phone, I said 1) BCC me on that list like whoa and 2) please let me adopt it for a blog post! She is the most organized, put-together, professional and yet incredibly fun person I know, so I can’t think of anyone better to help my readers (and me) overcome phone phobias.

Nowadays, when social movements are started on Facebook, donations are generated through membership websites, and causes are marketed on Twitter, you could argue that to participate in, well, anything, one never has to open their mouth and actually talk. Nielsen Media has found that people entering the work force today are more likely to email or text then to pick up the phone, and Pamela Paul’s New York Times article found that no one really talks on the phone any more.

Well, my summer of interning has put me in a situation where I hear people on the phone all day cultivating donors and managing volunteers.

I’m going to be honest: these folks sound downright awkward.

Talking on the phone is not natural for the majority of professionals anymore (least of all, writers), but those who can master positive phone communication end up feeling like less of a jackass than the those who always default to email.

Why is this important?

Well, for one, the agent phone call. It’s hugely important in building the working relationship you’ll need. Writers want the phone call as proof that an agent is a real, live, publishing professional, and agents want to make sure you aren’t—well, crazy.

Here some skills on how to professionally utilize the phone I learned working in the private sector that can help ease your phone phobia.

1. Stuttering.

For some reason, as soon as we get on the phone we all start to stutter. We pause….. we say “um,” and we are suddenly so unsure of the words coming out of our mouths. How can you prevent stuttering? For one, have written down in front of you the main points you want to address in your call. The main questions you want to ask an agent about them, their agency, and how your book would be represented. (Kate Hart has a great list.) Talk slowly and each time you feel a stutter or “um” coming on simply stop talking. Slow down. Think it through, and your concise speaking will actually come across as confidence on the other end of the phone.

 

2. Leaving a Message.

State the purpose of your call at the beginning and the end of a voice message. Most people miss the first part of a message or are at least slow paying attention. Start out with who you are and why you are calling and end the message the same way. For instance:

Hello Dream Agent, My name is Megan O’Connor. I am calling to discuss my book, Most Amazing Book Ever. You said today was a good time to call, and I am available until the rest of my life 9 p.m. eastern time. I can be reached at 555-555. Again, this is Megan calling concerning my manuscript, Most Amazing Book Ever, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

3. When you think the phone call is over, ask one more open-ended question.

On the phone you don’t get to observe body language and thus you don’t know if the person on the other end has more they want to talk about. When you think the conversation is dwindling down ask something like:

Is there anything else you wanted to talk about today? Do you have any questions for me? Is there anything else I can help you with?

You would be surprised how often people will tell you what they really feel or how much more you can learn about an agent from asking that one open- ended question at the end of a call.

4. Smile while you are on the phone.

It sounds silly since the person on the other end of the phone can’t see you, but actively smiling while you are talking will come across in your tone and help you act more natural in the conversation.

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