Nov 30, 2016

Etymology Expeditions: Moon Goddesses

So, I was disappointed with the lack of strong female characters in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, so let's take a look at some moon goddesses this week. I like the Greek ones the best, because those ladies are badass. 

Artemis, name of unknown origin, is the Greek goddess of the hunt, childbirth, wild animals, virginity, and the moon, of course. The Roman equivalent is Diana. Her name comes from the PIE-root *dyeu, "to shine." Artemis is often depicted with the bow and arrow in hand, and the cypress and the deer were sacred to her. She was the daughter of Zeus and Leto and twin sister to Apollo. She could out-hunt any man and joined the fight in the Trojan war. That's pretty badass, I think. 

Selene, the daughter of the Titans Hyperion and Theia, was the personification of the moon. She drove her moon chariot across the sky.  Her name is probably connected from the Greek selas, "light, brightness, bright flame, flash of the eye."

Phoebe was one of the original Titans, daughter of Uranus and Gaia. Her name is from the Greek phoibos, "bright, pure."As well as being associated with the moon, she was probably the goddess of prophesy and oracular intellect.

Hecate, associated with witchcraft, poisonous plants, the crossroads, entrance-ways, ghosts and necromancy, gets her name from the Greek hekatos, "far-shooting." She was seen as an aspect of Artemis, so that probably explains the name.  She is often depicted as a triplicate goddess holding a torch, key, serpent, and dagger. Sometimes she has three heads, a horse, dog, and serpent. And she fought the Titans. In the tale of Jason and the Argonauts, Medea was a priestess of Hecate, but you can't hold that against the goddess. Oh, and did you know one name for aconite is hecateis?

There are many others. For a longer list, check out the Wikipedia article here


Nov 28, 2016

Science Fiction Classics: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein

The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress cover
Image from

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is a 1966 novel by Robert A. Heinlein. It's one of his most famous works and got a Nebula nomination in 1966 and won the Hugo award in 1967. The book tells the story of the Lunar colonies breaking away from Earth. It's written in first person, narrated by the main character, Manuel "Man/Mannie"Garcia O'Kelly-Davies, a computer technician who becomes a key person in the revolt.

The idea is that Luna was first a penal colony where Earth shipped their criminals and rejects who worked and lived under the supervision of a warden who stood in for the Earth Authority. At the start of the book most "loonies" have either completed their sentence or are the descendants of prisoners. They grow grain, which they have to ship to Earth and sell to the Authority at a pittance. One reason the revolt starts because the loonies can't support their families on what the Authority pays them.

Another key figure in the book is Professor Bernardo de la Paz, through whom Heinlein explores the concept of "rational anarchy," a belief that the state and government are useless, and that responsible individuals make the law. On Luna, wrongdoers get spaced and people take care of themselves and their families. They pay for what they use and operate on a peculiar kind of morality grown from the harsh conditions on the Moon. The main principle is TANSTAAFL, "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch."

In the book, the gender ratio is skewed with there being many more men than women, which has led to a system of "line marriages," a kind of polyamory. Women have power to choose their mates and sexual violence is almost unheard of; anyone who tries it gets spaced. Supposedly women are equal in society, too, but the main female character, Wyoh Knott, was a letdown for me. For someone who has lived on Luna almost her whole life she sure needs a lot of things explained to her. I believe the phrase "oh, honey, that's not how it works" was used on one occasion. Of course she's beautiful, a fact that gets hammered in any time anyone meets her. And guess what she does for a living? She's a surrogate mother. Also, for a badass revolutionary she's kind of a wimp, like she's afraid to stay in a hotel room without a man to keep her company. After she marries Mannie, she pretty much dedicates herself to wifely duties.

My favourite character was actually the computer, Mike/Michelle. I liked the humour and that it didn't feel stereotypical but a character in its own right. And a sentient computer that isn't homicidal? That's a change.

One thing that bothered me while reading was the Lunar dialect Mannie uses, especially the way he drops the word "the." It's explained that this is because a lot of the people on Luna are Russian, but to me it felt like someone doing an impression of a Russian, not organic and original like the Nadsat slang in A Clockwork Orange, for example. It took me almost half the book to get used to it. While I liked many elements of the book, to me it felt quite slow until about halfway through.While a lot of the world-building is interesting and realistic, the idea that growing grain hydroponically on the Moon would be cheaper than on Earth is quite a stretch.

My final verdict? This novel is definitely worth reading, but once is probably enough for me.

Science Fiction Classics read 45/193.

Nov 25, 2016

A Day of Writing

Tuesday, November 15th: I am a woman on a mission: write a hard science fiction story for the Finnish Lumen ja jään antologia, deadline November 30th, only 15 days. I'm usually not this late at getting started, but I didn't think I'd submit anything after my first attempt mutated into something completely different. But I have an idea I want to try out and a day off from work, so let's begin. *cracks knuckles*

7:30 Got up, breakfast, two eps of How I Met Your Mother

8:30 Finished synopsis for Cosmos Pen articles, sent it.

8:51 Blank document.
Words: 0
Cups of tea: 1
Music: Mass Effect trilogy soundtracks
HIMYM episodes: 2

9:22 Have a title, character names, and a short outline.
Words: 91
Cups of tea: 1,5
Music: Mass Effect trilogy soundtracks
HIMYM episodes: 2

9:25 Time for a break, one episode of HIMYM

10:02 Back at the computer
Words: 91
Cups of tea: 2
Music: Mass Effect trilogy soundtracks
HIMYM episodes: 3

11:41 Lunch break
Words: 537
Cups of tea: 3
Music: Mass Effect trilogy soundtracks
HIMYM episodes: 3

3:09 p.m. Back at the computer. Ended up reading some Sandman Slim (10 %, 'cause it's an e-book), checking my email, doing stupid stuff on the internet. Then took a "short" nap. Two hours.Yeah. Seemed like a good idea at the time . . .
Words: 537
Cups of tea: 3
Music: Loaded by The Velvet Underground
HIMYM episodes: 5

5:14 p.m. Dinner time
Words: 988
Cups of tea: 4
Music: The Velvet Underground by The Velvet Underground
HIMYM episodes: 5

7:30 p.m. Back at the computer
Words: 988
Cups of tea: 5
Music: Labyrinth soundtrack
HIMYM episodes: 7

10:16 p.m. Done!
Words: 2,161 and 14 pages (The word count is not directly comparable to English works, because the languages are so different. In English this would probably be about 3 - 4 k words.)
Cups of tea: 5
Music: None
HIMYM episodes: 7

Ha, did it!
Oh, crap. Haven't done my French homework yet. Or worked out. Where did the time go?
Maybe I should have watched a little less TV. . .

Nov 23, 2016

Storied Women and Book Recommendations

HWWF:SW ended last week. Great course, I already miss the community. It was a lot of fun, but now it's time to get back to my regular writing schedule. As you saw from Monday's post, I'm mostly doing editing, because it would be fun to submit a few more pieces this year.

The only deadline for December (for now) is for the Cosmos Pen short story, which is nearly done, anyway. I've got a week of vacation time coming up before Christmas, and though it will mostly be taken up by activities of the present-wrapping, gingerbread-baking, and glögg-drinking variety, I'm hoping to get some writing done, maybe finish one of the stories I wrote for Storied Women. It's only  got the opening so far, but I've got it all plotted out in my head.

And now onto the book recommendations.

I had the flu a few weeks ago, and the only good thing about being sick is that you get to stay in bed and read all day without feeling guilty. I was too tired for anything too cerebral, so I picked books from my "fun book" pile.

November is definitely the best time to read Jenna Kostet's Marrasyöt. The name doesn't translate directly. "November Nights" is the literal translation, but in Finnish it also calls to mind the twelve night after Kekri (Finnish version of Halloween), when the gates between the worlds of the dead and the living are open. The novel is a detective story with speculative elements, set in the Finnish archipelago. I enjoyed it a lot, read the whole thing in one sitting. It would have been even better to read it at the summerhouse in front of a roaring fire. I think I'll give it to my mom next so she can do that if they decide to go up for a wintery weekend.

I also started Katri Alatalo's new short story collection Älä riko pintaa, set in the same word as her fantasy trilogy Mustien ruusujen maa. (The Land of the Black Roses), and am enjoying it a lot. She's doing a series of posts on her website about how the stories in the collection came into being, which is fascinating to read.

Another one I tried was Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey, and I absolutely loved it. Loved the main character who's literally been to hell and back, loved the character voice and dark humour, loved the gritty feel to it. This one's a thrill ride, if you want a vacation from reality.

What about you guys? Read any good books lately?

Nov 21, 2016

Editing, Editing . . .

So, what's new on the writing front? Well, I've been quite busy. I submitted short stories in Finnish to the Gothic anthology and the Genreblender competition, the deadlines of which were both at the end of October. I revised a  fantasy story for Critters and will hopefully get it done soon so I can send it out. I also have another short and a few flash fiction pieces that need a polish and can go out on submissions soon. There's also a novella length work that needs major revisions, but I think that one will have to wait until I finish the other projects.

The How Writers Write Fiction: Storied Women MOOC is finishing this week, and I'll have a bit more writing time. I wrote about 1-2k words per week for the writing exercises, and now I'm left with a handful of story seeds that might grow into something interesting with a bit more work.

I'm also helping with the English issue of Cosmos Pen, the magazine published by our local spec fic writers' association,  for Worldcon 2017. I  pitched a few ideas for articles and submitted a bunch of drabbles. I'm planning to submit a short story also, but that one needs a bit more work before it's ready. I also offered to do  some translating if needed.

The deadline for the science fiction anthology Lumen ja jään tarinoita is at the end of November, and I decided to give it another go. My first attempt ended up in the Portti competition, because even I could see that it wasn't really what the anthologist was looking for. Hard science fiction is a challenge for me, but if you stay in your comfort zone, how will you grow? So yeah, I'm not giving up yet. The only problem is that I won't get a chance to get any critiques on the piece because of the deadline. The annual Apex flash fiction competition, 250 words on Valentine's day weirdness, is also closing on November 30th, so hopefully I'll come up with something for that one, too.

And there were the good news from the Nova writing competition, in which I won second place. Very glad to have made the grade.

Nov 18, 2016

Writer Crush: The Poetry of Edith Södergran

Edith Södergran (1892-1923) was a Finnish poet who wrote her poems in Swedish. She died of tuberculosis at the age of thirty-one and never gained much recognition in her lifetime, but is now seen as one of Finland's finest poets. Born in Russia, where she attended a German school for girls, Södergran's influences included French symbolism, German expressionism, and Russian futurism. She used free verse and strong imagery, which was not well received by the Finnish tastemakers of the time, causing her to be ridiculed and misunderstood. Her works include  Dikter (Poems, 1916),  Rosenaltaret (The Rose Altar, 1919), and Landet som icke är (The land that is not, 1925).

I only discovered Södergran a few years ago and fell in love immediately. There is a melancholy feel to many of her poems, and they also feel darkly romantic. I've only read them in Finnish, but I'm looking for a bilingual edition with the original Swedish text. There is an English translation  by Stina Katchadourian Love and Solitude. Selected Poems 1916-1923, and you can also read some of her poems on the Poetry Foundation website and at

Here's one:

On Foot I Had to Cross the Solar System 

On foot 
I had to cross the solar system 
before I found the first thread of my red dress. 
I sense myself already. 
Somewhere in space hangs my heart,  
shaking in the void, from it stream sparks 
into other intemperate hearts. 
         --Edith Södergran,

I have many favourites that weren't included in the translations (and I didn't like a few of the translations available), so here's my attempt at translating a few of her poems. I'm no poet and I'm translating these from the Finnish translation, so at best this is the whisper of an echo of the original, but maybe these will give you an idea of how powerful Södergran's work is.

In the Autumn
It is autumn, and the golden fowl
all fly home over blue waters;
I sit on the shore and gaze at autumn's jewels;
and farewells whisper in the trees.
A great farewell, a parting ahead,
but our reunion is certain.
That is why my slumber is light, when I doze, hand under head.
Feel a mother's breath on my lids
and a mother's lips on my heart:
sleep and dream, my child, for the sun is gone.
Dangerous Dreams 
Venture not too close to your dreams:
they are smoke and may fade away --
they are dangerous and may endure. 
Have you looked your dreams in the eye:
They are diseased and understand nothing --
they hold only their own thoughts.
Venture not too close to your dreams:
they are a lie, they should leave --
they are madness, they long to stay.
          --Edith Södergran/ Restless Dreams


Nov 16, 2016

How Writers Write Fiction: Storied Women 5

This week's lesson focused on narrative experimentation. Author Suzanne Scanlon began by talking about using fragmentation  as a technique in fiction and how to make it work. When you're working with fragments, the narrative is harder to follow. Scanlon emphasised using some kind of limit like time to keep the narrative focused. She also said that characterisation and voice is especially important in this kind of narrative to hold reader interest. The advantage of the technique is that you can add layers of past and present and give depth to the character, but the challenge is maintaining the narrative flow and tension.  One of the examples she used was Marguerite Duras' The Lover, a book I loved. I didn't even realise that she was using fragments when I read it, I just enjoyed the flow of the words and the beautiful description, but it's a good example of how to do this well. Scanlan said that she loved how this technique lets the reader and writer work together to fill in the gaps, and that's something I enjoy as well. There's power in the white spaces, in what isn't told, I think. She also discussed using point of view, flashbacks, and sentence structure in fragmented narratives using Toni Morrisson's The Bluest Eye as an example, and also the power of an unreliable narrator, like in "Ma, a Memoir" by Lynn Freed. 

South African novelist Priya Dala talked about how her prose has been affected by Indian and African storytelling traditions and the importance of character-driven storytelling. She also brought up the concept of writing as communication, and how to best get your message across. Subtlety is important; no one likes to be preached to or talked down to. She has used the stream of consciousness structure in her work, and said that character is particularly important in that kind of storytelling, because it's the only thing the reader can hold on to. She also went into her process a bit. Dala used to be a psychologist, so she spends a lot of her time observing people and takes notes of how they act in certain situations, gestures, expressions, etc. When she starts to build the character she almost tries to become the character. She called this 'method writing,' like method acting. Another thing she said was important to her was that the character was at some kind of impasse in her life, a crucible point, because this leads to dilemmas and character choices, so plot, in other words. She also talked about avoiding stereotypical characters. 

Finally, Margot Livesey talked about flat characters and why they might actually be useful. The take home point was that a good flat character has the potential to rise to the occasion if the plot demands it, to become round. Another useful piece of advise she gave was that when you get stuck in your story and can't add a new character, you can almost always add a new aspect of your old character, go deeper into your characters. In the class discussions we talked about flat characters and character importance. The main characters tend to be fully rounded, but why would the bit players even need to be fully realised? Wouldn't that split the focus and lead to digressions?  

This week's writing assignment was a bit tricky: to take an old story and rewrite it using fragmentation. I dug up an old failed science fiction story and took it in a different direction using sentence fragments and the stream of consciousness technique. It turned out pretty good, or better than the original, at least. It was fun to resurrect a dead story like that. I only used about 25 % of the original work, and the story is very different now. I should probably do this more often...

Nov 14, 2016

The Rain in Spain

Just got back from a trip to Benalmádena, Spain. Finland gets so dark and dreary this time of year that it's nice to visit the sunlit lands once in a while. 

The ocean at dawn. Beautiful.

We had my niece and nephew along, so we did a lot of kid-friendly activities, like the Sealife aquarium. Here are some photogenic jellyfish. 

Cacti at the Parque de la Paloma. Some people had carved their names on the leaves. 

And a few of the paloma. A multitude of roosters, chickens, peacocks, and bunnies not pictured. 

We also checked out the local Barbie museum. It was actually pretty cool. Star Trek Barbies! As a bonus, the museum was located in the back of an awesome science fiction collectibles shop. I got a Jack Skellington doll with interchangeable heads and some H. R. Giger prints. Score!

Then we rode the cable cars up to Mount Calamorro and caught their birds of prey show. I've never seen hawking, so this was really interesting. The owl on the right is Olga, and my nephew got to pet her. Apparently it's considered lucky in Spain. Gotta buy him a lottery ticket, just in case. 

The view wasn't bad, either. The cable car made me a bit nervous at first, but it was fun after I got used to it. 

We also visited the Benalmádena Butterfly Park, a huge building where hundreds of butterflies flew free. Mostly they were beautiful, but that huge mothy one below kind of creeped me out.  

Here are a few more shots of the beach. Goodbye, sun, I'll miss you. 

Oh, and there actually was a bit of rain, but only on the first day.

Nov 11, 2016

Time for Tea!

I saw this teashop mentioned in Lukuhoukka's blog, and immediately googled it. They have a tearoom and two shops in Helsinki (and one is Saint Petersburg, apparently), but lucky for me, there's also a webshop. They sell tea by the ounce (28g), so it's easy to experiment; if you don't like the blend, you're not stuck with a huge bag of the stuff. 

The order arrived in a few days in these wonderfully crinkly brown paper bags. I loved their custom envelope, too. The teas also have the water temperature and steep time written on the bags, which is nice. And they serve afternoon tea at the tearooms. Yay, scones! I'll have to check out the shop when I'm next in Helsinki. 

Here are the addresses and opening times for the shops, if you're in the neighbourhood:

Freddrikinkatu 55

ma - pe 11:00 - 20:00
la 11:00 - 18:00
su suljettu

044-0866 665
Iso Robertinkatu 17-19

ma - pe 11:00 - 19:00
la 11:00 - 18:00
su suljettu

050-3798 877

Nov 9, 2016

America Has Spoken

Hear that? That's the sound of millions of Europeans choking on their morning coffee.

Trump. Really?

I guess truth is stranger than fiction.

How Writers Write Fiction: Storied Women 4

This week we talked about character and structure in immersion. A lot of the videos were the same as last year, but no worries, still interesting.

Author Leslie Jamison talked about world-building and using a world glossary, with the idea that you can pick elements of your world and let your mind play with the possibilities, even if you're not writing speculative fiction. She also talked about how it's important to create the physical world but also the emotional world, to view the world through the lens of your character's moods, memories, and feelings. The aim is to make your world almost a character of its own. I think this also has to do with specificity, as in which details are important at that time, in that place of mind, to that particular character.

Russian fiction writer Alisa Ganieva spoke to us about using an orchestra of voices. In her novel The Mountain and the Wall, she used multiple voices to create a tapestry. This involved crowd scenes and  disagreements, gossip and rumours, but also clippings of newspapers and letters written by the characters, a kind of collage style. There is also an orchestra of language in the book, with so many different characters. But the thing I liked was that she also emphasised the power of silence.

Shenaz Patel, author of the novel Sensitive, talked about the writer as god, in the sense that when you're writing, you get to decide what happens to the characters: you can save them or abandon them to their doom. When writing her novel, she struggled with deciding the character's fate. She wanted to save her, because she was attached to the character, but in the real world the character would have been lost. She decided to write the more realistic ending, because she believes that books can change people and change the world, and that maybe this kind of ending would affect the way people saw similar girls as the main character in her story. She also talked about the importance of research, but also about the importance of knowing when to put that aside so the voice of the novel can come through.

Naomi Jackson talked to us about researching her novel The Star Side of Bird Hill last year, too, and  we got a quick replay of that. She told us abut the importance of research and actually having the experiences your character has, if possible, and about that "purposeful inquisitiveness" that you should embrace when doing research, so learning about a culture, for example, with the purpose of using the information in your book. She also talked about researching language and speech patterns, because even one word can take the reader out of the story. (No pressure. Thank the gods for beta readers!) She also reminded us that it's important to use all your senses when doing research to help your setting come to life, and that you can do research without travelling. It involves maps, magazines, period accounts, and lots of googling.

This week's assignment had us write a scene where something has happened that changed the setting, and to write an immersive scene that shows the world before and after it changed.

Nov 7, 2016

Reading the Classics: Sodom and Gomorrah by Marcel Proust

Whew, finally finished this year's leg of the Proust Project. With a name like Sodom and Gomorrah, I thought something might actually happen in this volume, but not so much. Sodom and Gomorrah is 80 % boring dinner parties, 10 % beautiful description, and 10% clever insights into human nature. The problem is that you need to wade through that 80 % to get to the good stuff. Proust could have used an editor, I think.

In this volume the narrator (Marcel) discovers that same sex relationships happen in his social circle and starts obsessing about them. Homosexuality is explored through Charlus' relationships, and Marcel also suspects that Albertine has something going on with her girlfriends.  Then he spends most of the book seething with jealousy of the girlfriends and his male friends, too. Saint-Loupe gets him really paranoid by just talking to Albertine on the train. The other half of the book he is a huge jerk to Albertine, saying that he could never marry her and how it's a  pity that she's missing out on having a yacht and stuff by not becoming his wife. And then, in a last minute reversal, he decides to marry her anyway. (Spoiler alert! Okay, not really, because the French name for The Fugitive is Albertine disparue (Albertine Gone). So you know that will end well.) My edition lumps these two volumes together, so that means two more volumes to go. I'll be done in 2018, finally. I just can't handle more than one of these a year.

Many reviewers (the ones who like the book, anyway) say that this novel is full of sensuality. Okay, maybe I can see it in some of the descriptions, but to me these moments get drowned under the social climbing, gossiping, and sniping-at-each-other aspects of Proust's society scenes. If you like tempests in a teacup, this is the book for you.

Proust's view of relationships seems pretty bleak: there's not a happy one in the bunch, except maybe for Marcel's parents. The relationships are full of petty jealousy and possessiveness, slights and cruelty, and, okay, moments of passion.  I wonder if this is a Proust thing or a French thing? I've been watching a lot of French movies, and this seems to be a feature in almost all of them.

I did kind of like that infamous etymology lecture bit at the dinner party, but I'm not sure I trust Proust to give us the correct info. Is he just doing it for character building reasons and screwing with us? Yeah, that kind of took the fun out of it for me.

The bit in Balbec where he reminisces about his grandmother was one of my favourite parts. And there wasn't much of Bloch, whose pretentious way of speaking really annoys me, so that's a plus.

What I like about Proust are those gorgeous descriptions and the insightful passages about why people do what they do. There seemed to be less of these in this volume than in the earlier ones. I'm not actually that interested in the intrigues of early 1900s French salons, and I pretty much dislike every character in the book. (Why anyone would want to marry snivelling little mama's boy Marcel is beyond me.)

It is worth noting that Proust himself was gay, so it was quite brave of him to write something like this at the time. That's probably why his descriptions of the liaisons feel real. So this book does show you a version of what it was like to be a gay aristocrat in early 1900s France. It's just not as interesting as it sounds.

So not my favourite volume. And the next two are apparently the hardest ones in the series, because Proust was sick and started losing track of which characters he had killed off. Great. Something to look forward to.

Nov 5, 2016

Nova News

I got some good news yesterday. Remember when I wrote about the Nova writing competition? My story, Vedenneito (translates as water nymp, or near enough), made second place! Yay!

You can view the full results here:

Nov 4, 2016


Does anyone remember Lady LovelyLocks? I used to love that show as a kid, and when I found these at the '80s Toy Shop on Etsy, I couldn't resist. And yes, I'm totally going to wear them in my hair. Why not?

Nov 3, 2016

Huudi at the VPK House This Week!

Have you heard of the Petri Ruusunen? He makes awesome custom motorbikes and art with a retrofuturism and steampunk aesthetic, maintains the Huudi Museum, and he also has a jewellers shop on Humalistonkatu, Turku, called KultaSarvi.

This week there's an exhibition of his work at the VPK house in Turku, 3rd to 6th November, open from noon to 8 p.m. Entrance is free.

Ready to get retrofuturistic? Okay, here we go. . .

Just look at this one!

Lovely steampunky contraptions.

Here's a link to a youtube video of the Huudi museum. The website above looks like it's only in Finnish, but it makes for fascinating reading. Their facebook page is in English, though.

Nov 2, 2016

How Writers Write Fiction: Storied Women 3

This week we discussed plot and cast. Angela Flournoy was back, and she talked about managing a large cast of characters. She talked about this last year, too, but it was nice to have a refresher course. In her novel, The Turner House, she juggled multiple POVs, and she pointed out that every POV has to have a purpose. You don't want to have some POVs that the reader just skips over because they're boring or bring nothing new to the narrative. The whole point of having many POVs is that you can examine the character from the outside and get another viewpoint into her issues. Sometimes you can use the other characters as mirrors or to show what could have been hard the character taken another road. Flournoy said the other viewpoints are there to add layers to the main characters. I like that.

Another good piece of advice was to think about the hierarchy of characters: who's the most important one? Then you can make decisions about interiority, or how deep the POV goes. Like Flournoy explained, with the main character you get lots of information about her problems, how she thinks, backstory. So basically the big existential issue that the character is struggling with, which probably has something to do with your theme. The main characters have the most character development and the reader expects their issues to get solved during the narrative. For secondary characters, you probably get some interiority, but not as deep as for the main characters. They can also have issues that get solved, but they're probably less complicated and can maybe be resolved in a few scenes, and the reader expects them to get solved before the main character's issues, which are the most important things in the story. (So these are probably the side plots.) For tertiary characters, it's enough to give a few memorable details, but in their POV you don't really have to go into their issues (it's enough that the reader imagines they have them, that they're real people), but usually they're used to convey information about the main character you couldn't convey from the other points of view.

It's also important to apply the idea of the hierarchy to the level of conflict you assign to a character. Flournoy said that  the primary characters get the big, existential, difficult questions,like 'who am I?', 'what do I think about how I'm living my life?', or 'what's my relationship to religion?'. For the secondary characters they can be a little less existential, maybe a bit more concrete, like dealing with teen angst. For the tertiary characters, the only conflict or issues that have to be resolved are the ones that have something to do with the main characters.

Rebecca Maccai talked about acting and how it can help you understand writing, a really interesting lecture. She talked about how every scene and character has to have a purpose, and that you should think about why you feel the scene is important. If you took the scene out and the story wouldn't make sense anymore, then the scene is serving a purpose. If your reason for keeping it is that you like it, worked hard on it, or maybe that it shows what a character is like, then it isn't essential. A good scene should do multiple things. She also talked about backstage decisions, which amounts to the writer knowing what's going on, the motivation of the characters, and also having done her research. You don't need to put all this on the page, so no info dumps, but if you haven't made the decisions, it shows as a hole in the story and makes it feel implausible. Another interesting idea she presented was that you can use the character's fears to inform these backstage decisions. They're linked to the character's desires, after all. She also reminded us to think about character physicality, so basically not to use the same tired physical gestures when you're using action beats instead of dialogue tags.  These are an opportunity to come up with something that reveals something about the character to the reader.

Margot Livesey was our third lecturer this week, and she talked about picking the right POV characters and exploring your options. Sometimes the reason a writer gets stuck with a story is that the POV she chose doesn't work for that particular scene or event. Sometimes bringing in another POV character can help.

This week's writing exercise was tricky: we had to use a group of three women at first and then bring in a fourth one and write about how her arrival shattered the status quo. We were supposed to just come up with characters and their motivations and not think about plot, just let the characters do what they would, but my brain just refused to work like that. After two days of drawing a blank I gave up and wrote the opening to a short story that I've been thinking about for a while. Guess I'm not pantser material, then?