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Career changing Inspiration

Getting Inspiration From Sexism

Yes, You Can Still Get Inspiration from Instances of Sexism

Sexism remains an unpleasant reality in our world.

Since sexism is still with us today, you might see it, or even experience it yourself. However, even an unpleasant experience can inspire fiction writing. Because sometimes, you just want to write a villain. And maybe your villain can eventually see the light and change, too.

Sexism At Work

In the United States, there are rather specific laws governing and prohibiting gender discrimination. However, that was not always the case. If you write historical fiction, things can differ considerably. Consider what gender discrimination means. It means judging a person’s characteristics or abilities based upon sex and often traditional gender roles.

Hence judges might see women as better parents in custody battles. Or men might get blue collar jobs more often due to perceived differences in physical strength. And this can happen even when physical strength does not factor into job performance.

Sometimes women lose out on promotions due to imagined differences in toughness. And men can find they are overly scrutinized in professions where they may be in the minority. These can be nursing or teaching or the like.

In Social Situations

Some instances of sexism have mild or semi-benevolent origins in what is gallantry behavior. Holding the door for someone is a nice thing to do. However, when a person only holds the door for women, that is move which treats the sexes differently. Even a positive difference is a difference, particularly when it can be a vestige of not just gallantry. It can also be a vestige of behaving as if women are incapable of taking care of themselves.

Social sexism can also take the form of deciding who asks whom out, or who pays for a night out. Waitstaff can perpetuate this by asking for women’s food orders first, and also by giving the man the check. Teachers might perpetuate these behaviors by giving strength tasks to boys and praising the quietness or cooperation of girls.

When sex is an excuse for a snap decision about someone without taking specifics into consideration, then it’s sexism.

Casual Prejudging and Sexism

Whether you try to excuse it as locker room banter, or it appals you, sometimes people indulge in this. And it can even happen almost inadvertently.

One area where this tends to happen is with apparel. It’s rare when boys or men receive judgment for what they wear. That is, unless it’s overly feminine, filthy, or completely inappropriate for the occasion or task at hand. Or it’s the wrong team’s jersey.

Women and girls are often judged by their clothes. It can be skirt or shorts length, the neckline of a blouse, or the height of their heels. And yes, sadly, that goes into the rape old trope. What was she wearing?

No matter what, we still hear it.

Takeaways

Characters can remark on everything from who pays for dinner to who gets the right to vote. They can support sexist conventions by pulling out chairs for women and giving little boys toy trucks. Or they can upend those conventions by giving up seats on the subway to men. Or by giving little girls chemistry sets.

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Inspiration Writing

Getting inspiration from injuries and medical care

Getting inspiration from injuries and medical care

Medical care matters in our lives, so it should matter in fiction, too. Because unless your setting is a magical one, somehow, some way, any hurt characters will need healing. And they may even need it in a magical setting as well.

Injuries and medical care

Medical care might not seem like an inspiring subject. However, doctors naturally witness drama on most days. And some of the most compelling stories can be about that, such as Coma.

Injuries

So, have you ever broken a bone, or suffered a sprain? And if either of those things happened to you, what happened next? Did you faint? Or seek medical attention? Was it fast? Or maybe did your injury linger, even with an infection or complications. Did you need to have surgery? And even if you were not the injured party, maybe a friend or a family member was.

Illnesses

So illnesses, of course, can run the gamut. They can be mild colds or HIV. And they can be chronic, like diabetes is considered to be today, or a death sentence, such as Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is even more compelling and heartbreaking due to its gradual theft of the self.

We often think of cancer as the worst of all possible diseases, yet treatments are better now than they ever have been. However, if you are writing historical fiction, that was not the case, even as recently as the 1970s or so. And if you aren’t squeamish, look up the treatment for breast cancer for John Adams’s daughter. Yes, that John Adams.

Childbirth

Of course these days only women give birth (although medical science may change that someday, and don’t forget about transmen!). However, men can always witness it, not only the actual event but also everything leading up to it.

Death

Of course death comes along with the territory. Consider the impact not only on the patient and their family, but on the caregiver(s). How do home health aides feel? And what about doctors, or even researchers trying an experimental treatment? Losing a patient is tragic, yes, but researchers can learn a lot from that.

Plus, naturally, the end can bring with it an autopsy.

Medical Care: Takeaways

Characters slip and fall, or they get battle injuries or just a cough. The medical care they receive matters.

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Career changing Inspiration

Writing Better Accents

Writing Better Accents

Accents can be tough to write. However, not to worry. Because New York Times bestselling author Dayton Ward has some wonderful advice amidst the humor.

Distinguishing Each Accent

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Writing Better Accents
Writing Better Accents will improve a lot in your writing.

So, can you tell the difference between someone from the Bronx and someone from Brooklyn? And what about Chicago versus Detroit? Or Swedish versus Norwegian? YouTube has a number of videos about speech and speaking details; just conduct a search. However, I caution you that the information is not always correct. Hence, listen to several videos and try to split the difference, unless you know for certain where the speaker hails from. Because sometimes a person is just trying to practice or mimic the way others speak and they don’t always do such a great job of that.

Respecting the Speakers

If your southern American characters sound like Gomer Pyle, and your Mexican characters sound like Señor Wences, you are probably not doing such a hot job with depicting their accents. Same with a British character who ends up sounding like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. Just, don’t.

Furthermore, areas of the world have variations when it comes to speaking. And it’s not just with word choice (e. g. Bostonians call a sandwich on a long roll a grinder whereas that same sandwich is a po’boy in New Orleans and a sub in New York City); it also has to do with sounds. Brooklynites tend to broaden their vowels and can often drop an ending g or an r. For example, a Brooklynite from the area called “East New York” (such as my own mother) will call Barbey Street “Bobby Street”. Yes, really – true story – I didn’t know the correct name of the street my mother grew up on until we went there and I saw the street sign for the first time.

In addition, a county does not have to be as large as the United States for there to be differences in speech. England is notorious for this. Go to Liverpool and they speak far differently from how people speak in Cornwall.

Takeaways

Be sure to listen to people who have the accents you want to write about. Do so in person if you can, or at least online with a reliable source. And particularly pay attention to how people say the name of the place they come from. Finally, respect accents and don’t automatically assign intelligence or stupidity based upon them.

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Career changing Inspiration

Getting inspiration from TV shows

Getting inspiration from TV shows

TV shows can be a great source of inspiration. And they can go beyond TV Tropes and even into something (almost, let’s not kid ourselves, folks) profound. So, what do I mean?

TV Shows

For the most part, we see three kinds of television programs:

  • Comedy
  • Drama
  • Nonfiction
Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Getting inspiration from TV shows
Have you ever gotten inspiration from TV shows?

And then they subdivide, e. g. comedy divides into sketch shows like Saturday Night Live, or sitcoms like Will and Grace, or most cartoons. And drama divides into genres such as police procedurals, westerns, etc. Furthermore, reality television is really drama, by the way. And finally nonfiction comprises the news and documentaries, but also educational programming for children. While a few potential outliers (such as music videos), or hybrid programs with both drama and comedy (e. g. Desperate Housewives) exist, most shows hit one of the big three categories.

Inspiration

Because everyone is inspired differently, consider how fan fiction grabs you. Very often, you watch a program but feel it’s incomplete. Or you might want a different ending or to gender swap the characters. By doing this with all television, and not just your own personal fandom, you can garner a ton of inspiration. Naturally, you need to stay out of copyright infringement territory. However, there’s no copyright on basic ideas, just on their execution. Consider all the fish out of water comedies. Or think of episodes with people caught in a freezer. They exist because those situations work. And all the writers do is add a different spin on it all.

Authentic Experiences

In addition, consider the characters and their portrayers. Why is a character of African descent? Is it because they are having authentic experiences, or an attempt at diversity, or is it tokenism? When Jewish characters (for example) are on the screen, does the audience get more than an occasion reference to Chanukah? Or do they just get a surname, or a trope? Are LGBTQ characters defined by their sexuality, or are they stereotyped, or is it no big deal? And look at the smart characters, the dumb ones, and the evil ones. Do characters have any sort of depth at all?

Takeaways

You can get great inspiration from television viewing. Look at shows with a critical eye and consider how you’d improve or change them. Mash them up and make these ideas your own.

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Career changing Inspiration

Speculating about the future

Speculating about the future

Speculating is fun. However, future predictions can be notoriously inaccurate. I’m still waiting for my flying car, for example. However, some predictions have been eerily on the nose, such as cell phones, which are a lot like Star Trek’s communicators. So here’s a few idea on how to essentially build your own crystal ball.

Extrapolation

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Speculating About the Future
Are you speculating about the future?

The easiest way to speculate and predict is to take what currently exists, and then extrapolate from that. For example, consider transportation. Your car gets a certain degree of fuel efficiency and has a particular top speed. It holds a certain number of people. And it has a particular styling. So what happens when you stretch those characteristics? And so you can consider a car that can go faster yet safely. Maybe your futuristic vehicle is self-driving, or a robot ‘drives’ it. Since parking can be a pain in a lot of places, why not think up a car which can park itself, or can fold up so it doesn’t need a conventionally-sized parking spot? Maybe your new car is partly powered by solar or nuclear fusion. And how sleek and aerodynamic should it be?

And you can consider other basic areas of life. Let’s look at communications next. Because many of us already have cell phones, think about the trends. Sometimes, phones get smaller, and are more lightweight and compact. However, at other times, they become larger and almost could be thought of as tablet hybrids. What do your characters need? And what are the limitations on either scenario? How small can the phone become? How large?

So what about food? People still starve. However, that’s usually due to distribution problems rather than enough crops being grown or the existence of enough arable land. Hence how do your characters (or your setting) solve this problem?

And so you can look at any basic area of life, from finding love to consuming entertainment or purchasing clothing. See where extrapolation takes you.

Off the Wall

And then there’s the somewhat pie in the sky, kinda crazy stuff. For example, let’s think about the second Back to the Future film. Doc Brown uses fusion power to make the DeLorean go, but one of the things he grabs for fuel is a discarded banana peel. What a brilliant off the wall idea!

So let’s look at, say, fashion. Maybe it’s the opposite of today, where everything is covered up but genitalia. And what kind of a society would support that? Or maybe everyone wears a uniform, but the uniforms look really odd.

Cars could be six stories tall. Communications could be facilitated with chewing gum. Maybe you vote telepathically. The sky, as always, is the limit.

Takeaways

Depending on your genre, and how much room there is for humor, your ideas about the future can go in any number of directions. Decide on how plausible you want everything to be, and don’t forget to take into account professional predictions like Moore’s Law!

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Career changing Inspiration

Getting inspiration from life events

Getting inspiration from life events

Life events

Life events can be extremely inspiring for writers.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Getting inspiration from life events
Can your life events provide any inspiration?

They can range from baby showers to quinceañeras. Or they might be religious commitment ceremonies like confirmations.

Weddings and Marriages are a special case

I’ll cover weddings and marriages at a later date. They generally entail much greater pageantry.

Intimacy versus Spectacle

First off, you should notice how big the event is. Is it a small one-year-old’s birthday party for just the immediate family? Or is it a Bat Mitzvah for a few hundred guests, where the parents satisfy several social obligations at once?

Because a very large event can be overwhelming, try to concentrate on smaller conversations. Check out the little moments. What happens when the cake is cut, or the music starts? Of course you don’t ignore a crying baby. And you don’t interrupt important family moments. But we all know that there can be delays and quiet times during these sorts of events.

Organization

There is usually an organization behind very large events. Sometimes a professional handles everything. Or instead there might be a sequence of operations. The family is introduced first. Or first the hosts mingle with the guests. Maybe a song or a dance is next. The hosts might serve food. The food might be required or expected. We often expect to eat turkey during Thanksgiving in America. But not always. Some families serve ham or lasagna.

Uniqueness

Plus what’s unique about the occasion? Is it the favors? Or the music? Maybe it’s the decoration. Or the venue. And the guest list could be unique. Since families change, it could be the last time some people are together. Because we all age, the family won’t look the same ever again.

Takeaway

Finally, what did you see and hear? These events can be a window into human interactions. In addition, you can overhear great dialogue. Finally, don’t take notes at funerals.

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Career changing Inspiration

Getting inspiration from films

Getting inspiration from films

Films can be rather obvious sources of inspiration. However, as always, take care not to get into copyright infringement issues. Hence you will need to tread lightly. And you should pretty much assume any movie you see is not in the public domain. Because the vast majority of them are not.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Getting inspiration from films
Do you ever get inspiration from films?

I will use The Wizard of Oz as an example, because most of us know the film.

The New Prequel

So when we first meet Dorothy Gale, she is a teenager living on her aunt and uncle’s farm in Kansas. And everything is eerily gray in color. Furthermore, the song, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, hints at dissatisfaction. Dorothy yearns to understand and see a lot more of the world.

But why is Dorothy living with her aunt and uncle, and not her parents? The absence of both parents begs a few possible questions. Maybe Dorothy became an orphan in some horrible accident which took both of her parents. Or maybe her father abandoned her mother, or they perhaps never married. Still another possibility: they are alive but gone for some reason, such as work, or missionary work, or even prison. Because Dorothy is a good person, and Auntie Em and Uncle Henry are as well. Yet that does not guarantee that her parents were good people at all.

The Side Character Gets Center Stage

So this has already been done. It happened when the Syfy Channel reimagined the story and came up with Tin Man. And it was kind of an odd idea, but that is one way to change a film. So let’s imagine a life for the Cowardly Lion. He might have been bullied, or maybe was under stress before he met Dorothy and the others. And what happens after the story ends? Does he return as King of the Forest, the undisputed? Or does he have to fight some usurper for the title?

Flipping the Ending

So what happens if Dorothy loses Toto for good in Oz? Or how about if she and Toto get away in the balloon with the Wizard? Another possibility is of both of them staying behind, either voluntarily or not. And yet another scenario is if she returns home but someone comes with her, say, the Scarecrow.

Consider the Art of Filmmaking Itself

Yet another thing to think about concerns the making of films. When films open, they are huge collaborative efforts which include not only the writers, actors, makeup and set people, special effects, the director, and the producer. They are also a product of budgets, and of timing. When a tragedy occurs, a film might be delayed, or even shelved indefinitely. And the same thing can happen if the star dies or becomes embroiled in a scandal. Furthermore, some films would benefit from an update in special effects technology. And others would change with our current social sensibilities regarding feminism, LGBTQ rights, and other issues.

Takeaways

I am not suggesting you copy any intellectual property. So please don’t misunderstand me. However, what I am suggesting is to think about basic plots and try to reinvent and reimagine them. Because if you make enough changes, they become your own.

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Career changing Inspiration

Pocket Conflicts in Writing

Pocket conflicts

So, Pocket Conflicts are the kinds of conflicts which are tiny. They aren’t wars and they don’t lead to divorce or a firing. Instead, they are more about the speed of “who moved my cheese?

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Pocket Conflicts
What are pocket conflicts?

Hence they are kind of trivial, yet they can add a lot of annoyance into anyone’s life. And they can add color and interest to your characters, too.

Sibling Rivalry

Because the sibling relationship is often fraught with conflict, it can be the perfect vehicle for these types of conflicts. And if you have ever seen two children in the back of a car arguing about who last touched whom (or if you have ever been either of those children), or who last sat in front, then you know exactly what I am talking about.

And sibling rivalry does not necessarily go away when the siblings have grown up. Old resentments can crop up even when going through a deceased parent’s things. And the ‘kids’ might even be in their sixties by then.

Work Relationships

Pocket conflicts abound at work. And it’s not just cheese moving. What happens when a desk is moved? Or maybe someone was passed over for a promotion. Furthermore, colleagues can resent when a person has a different schedule if they don’t know why. If a parent has to drop their children off at daycare, and has permission to do so, then there’s every possibility that employee will, on occasion, be late. And that can create a conflict with that person’s coworkers if the boss doesn’t explain things properly.

Takeaways

Get your characters out of their comfort zones, but only a little bit. Because sometimes the small pebble in your shoe can hold your thoughts more than the metaphorical gunshot wound to your gut. And your characters should be no different, if you want them to seem real.

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Career changing Inspiration

Getting inspiration from politics

Getting inspiration from politics

Politics comes with built-in drama. Because competitions for high and low offices can be truly thrilling. And long-term friendships can sometimes end over this often forbidden topic.

Right (American definition)

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Getting inspiration from politics
Do you ever get inspiration from politics?

So consider the conservative point of view, and what it truly entails. Go beyond the basics of voting. What is a basic, core conservative philosophy? It is generally one of caution. And another aspect concerns keeping government small.

Left (American definition)

And on the other hand, for liberal, the point of view centers around moving ahead and trying new things. Hence these are essentially first adopters in a lot of ways. In addition, a leftist viewpoint (as defined in American politics, that is) connotes larger government but often more personal freedom.

Up

What happens at the top of the ticket? And that doesn’t have to just be in America. What about in other countries? How are leaders chosen – and who do they end up beholden to when elected? Top candidacies get a lot of press, and national leaders have nearly no time to themselves. Even bad leaders can be inundated with work. These are undoubtedly extremely stressful jobs, no matter the size of the country or the type of government.

Down

And what happens in the lower tiers of the ticket? Races for alderman and county clerk and even dog catcher might have some drama. Maybe they showcase rising political stars and foreshadow things to come. Furthermore, races for district attorney and for judge (in jurisdictions where either or both of these roles are not appointed) can have their own drama. Does the law and order candidate win? Not every time.

Takeaways

When putting together your own stories, think about how we (and other nations) choose our leaders. Democracy isn’t the only choice out there. Maybe your characters do something different, from voting to terms to how they treat incumbency to any of a host of other possibilities. And who knows? Your invented way may turn out to be better.

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Career changing Inspiration

Getting inspiration from marriage

Marriage is more than weddings. And when you consider the entire experience, it can spawn any number of plot bunnies.

Courtship

So, how did you two meet? It’s a standard question and can be a terrific ice breaker.

Getting inspiration from marriage

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Getting inspiration from marriage
Have you ever gotten inspiration from marriage?

Furthermore, dating rituals differ through time, so adjust what you write accordingly. In the 1950s, your young lovers might go to a hop or to play miniature golf. In the 1970s, they might go to a roller disco. And in Victorian times, they might visit in the sitting room of her parents’ home, or stroll in the garden.

Proposal

These days, anyone can do the proposing. However, of course, this was traditionally the realm of a man. Hence if you’re writing historical fiction, make sure to include that. Or, if you want to subvert tradition, make sure you can show a good reason why that happened.

And another tradition can be asking a parent’s (or maybe just the woman’s father’s) permission before marriage or even before courting.

Here’s another question: if your couple is same sex, who does the proposing?

Wedding

Because weddings have a ton of variables, this can take you in any number of directions. A large wedding can be an occasion for drama. Who is feeling left out? Does the cake topple over? And what happens if one of the parties is jilted or left at the altar? What if someone objects?

Day to Day

Married life can bring with it a raft of responsibilities, and I’m not even getting into parenthood here. Because combining households means, among other things, deciding whose couch to keep.

Issues

Money is probably the #1 issue between couples and it can be a doozy of a problem. And the couple do not have to be poor in order for this to be a problem. So, what happens if one person saves and the other can’t stop spending?

Other conflicts can include one person becoming an addict or mentally ill, or having to care for elderly parents or take in (or otherwise financially assist) siblings.

Divorce

The messy end of some marriages can create fallout and harm everything it touches. What if there was cheating? Or maybe the parties simply stopped trying. And don’t forget the kids, if any. Young teenagers and tweens are hit particularly hard by divorce. Furthermore, there is a very real economic component to divorce.

And what happens if either of the parties remarries?

Till Death

For some couples, death is the end. And that doesn’t necessarily mean they were happy 24/7 or even most of the time. However, for couples who are happy, the death of a spouse is devastating.

Widowhood

Widows and widowers may, consciously or unconsciously (and not necessarily fairly) compare their dearly departed with any potential new lovers to come down the pike. And conflicts can arise from everything from putting old pictures away – and taking them off the walls – to taking off the wedding ring.

Plus widowhood can happen at any time. What if your widowed character is in their twenties?

Takeaways

Marriage is one of the most important relationships in society. And if your characters marry, or if they are already married when your story starts, then it should be important to them as well.