using art for writing inspiration

Most writers, myself included, often look at art to help describe our scenes. I relied on maps of castles that I found online to describe the Citadel and other aspects of Woerld when I wrote Miserere. The description of the Ierusal Barren came from a surrealistic picture I found online. While I've lost the online link to the picture, I can tell you that particular image remains with me when I see Ierusal.

I use the art not just to describe a scene or place, but also to fix in my mind the mood I want to achieve, much like an artist uses models to begin an original piece. It is a way for me to orient myself into the world I'm trying to create, and surrealistic art is my favorite.

The marvelous Kate Jonez is renowned for her ability to find artists and paintings that excite my imagination, probably because Kate is such a fascinating artist in her own right. Over the weekend she posted a link to someone's site who showcased artwork by Zdzisław Beksiński.

Zdzisław Beksiński was a Polish artist born in Sanok in southern Poland and he was known for his surrealistic paintings that combined beauty and horror (the Wikipedia article can be found here). He did not title his works, but numbered them instead.

Dark and disturbing, I love all of Beksiński's art and if I had a few thousand Euros tucked away, I would be buying prints right now. I did find several pieces from the online gallery that gave me deeper inspiration for my novel and I look at them often as I write. I won't say which ones. Not quite yet.

I will say the work on the main page of the official web site is exactly how I imagined The Garden's abandoned monastery.

If you have a minute, click over and enjoy the Belvedere Gallery Production's gallery of Zdzisław Beksiński's haunting works.

another look at strong female characters

I've been lurking about the interwebz, reading blog posts and reviews for different movies and the upcoming Wonder Woman series. Some of what I've seen has intrigued me, some has baffled me, and other things, I just accept that we all aren't going to agree.

One thing I have noticed (other than a WHOLE lot of book covers with sassy young women sporting large tattoos across their shoulders and backs) is the number one requirement for a strong female character is her ability to fight--and win. Sometimes against guys that outweigh her by a hundred pounds or more. The justification for this is "she's fast and well-trained."

Uh-uh.

I think we're putting our priorities in the wrong place, ladies. There is much more to being a strong woman than being able to fight well; although, I think a lot of this fighting and sleeping around that I'm seeing is due young women stretching their wings. They want what the boys have in terms of being respected for their prowess, be it on the battlefield or in the bed, and I can't blame them.

Decades of literature have been dedicated to male protagonists and their conquests. Why can't the girls have some fun?

But let's not cheapen ourselves in the process, ladies.

We should be eager to exhibit what's between our ears more so than what's between our legs.

A woman's true strength lies in her emotional maturity. An emotionally mature woman will intimidate even nastiest of villains. She can be flawed, no one is perfect, but a strong female character is not afraid of your demons, because she has conquered most of her own.

She knows when to give the battle so she can win the war. If she is going to fight, she's not going to dance. A strong female wins a fight not only because she's fast and well-trained, but because she gouges out eyes and rips with her teeth. She knows she's out-weighed and out-gunned, so she fights dirty.

And no, she doesn't fight in a star-spangled bustier or a chain mail bikini. Those are geek-boy dreams.

Her strength is in her bearing, her eyes, and her poise.

And with all that said, I'm glad that the series Wonder Woman got the ax. What the world doesn't need is another pretty face pretending to be tough. It insults battle-scarred old ladies like me.

P.S. My friend Kate Jonez had some interesting things to say in a Goodreads discussion we had. She has written her own response to this post at her blog. Check out Creating Strong Female Characters.