Strong Women of Fantasy: Glinda and Ozma of Oz

I’ve written several posts about strong women characters in sci-fi and fantasy. My goal is to highlight some well-written female characters who are strong leaders, every bit equal to men, and yet still feminine. In this post, I’ll cover two female lead characters from the “Oz” books.

Let me begin by repeating that a strong female character is not a male character in a woman’s body. Women are inherently different in more than just biology, and those differences are important to portray well in fiction if a strong female character is to be believable. Yes, women can be warriors, leaders, and protectors (traditionally male attributes), just as men can be gentle, calming, and nurturing. But in a story, a strong female character needs to be so much more than just a gender-swapped man.

Many fantasy and sci-fi stories have an overwhelmingly male cast. All too often, the “token female” is just that—serving either as romance/sexual tension, and/or to simply say “this story is all about equality because look a woman.”

There’s no romance in the original Oz books by L. Frank Baum, primarily because they were written for young children. Even with some of the reimaginings of the Oz stories featuring romance to different degrees, most of the best Oz retellings stay fairly true to the strength of the female characters in the original tales.

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5 Fictional Characters I’d Invite to a Summer Picnic

This week’s post is sort of silly, and inspired by Chronically Vintage’s post featuring some helpful blog post ideas. Since I was stuck for an idea this week, I’ll roll with this idea. This list could potentially go on waaaaaay past five, so for my readers’ sanity, I’ll keep it just to five.

Thorn – from the Bone graphic novel series by Jeff Smith. She’s the fun-loving country girl who discovers that she’s the crown princess, and saves her land from the Rat Creatures and the evil Hooded One. Of course, if I invited Thorn, I’d have to invite her guardian Gran’ma Ben, and her best friend Fone Bone, so now I’m up to three people invited to this picnic already… Continue reading

Stories that Make Me Happy

For this week’s post, I’m publishing a bit later in the week than I normally do because I’m participating in the Classic Movie Ice Cream Social blog-a-thon, hosted by Movies Silently. While I must confess that I haven’t watched a great many silent films, I thoroughly enjoy reading the blog, and I’ve learned a lot about the art of storytelling as it’s done through the vehicle of silent film. 

A good story is a good story, in my opinion, whether it’s a book, a musical, a comic, a silent film, a poem, or a song. So for this blog-a-thon, I’m sharing two of my favorite classic films that I think not only tell a good story, but just plain make me feel happy.

The Wizard of Oz

I’ve blogged about The Wizard of Oz numerous times before, because, well, it’s The Wizard of Oz. I love all of Baum’s Oz books, and I love the musical Wicked, but for me what started it all was watching the classic 1939 movie on TV as a kid. I know I’m dating myself here, but when I was really little, The Wizard of Oz would air on network TV once a year, and the whole world (or at least my family) would drop everything for the evening and watch it. We had two television sets (I know, we were big time), and thankfully one of them was a color set. Ah, that magical moment when Dorothy opens the door of her dingy house into the brightly colored world of Oz! Of course I now have the movie on DVD and can watch it any time I want, but it always takes me back to the special days when it was a rare treat. Continue reading

Strong Women of Oz

March 8th is International Women’s Day, and so to celebrate (albeit a day late), I’ve decided to highlight some strong female characters of fantasy literature. (I suppose what I really should have done was highlight or interview a female author, but I didn’t plan this out well enough for that. Also, I just wanted an excuse to blog about fantasy characters, because I love fantasy. So there’s that.)

Anyway, there’s been a lot of buzz in recent years about writing strong female characters. A lot of people complain that many supposedly strong women characters are nothing more than gender-swapped male characters, or are women who are trying too hard to act like men. I’m not actually going to talk about that per se in this post – but what I am going to do is discuss some strong female characters of classic fantasy literature. Specifically, characters in the Oz stories.

The Matriarchal Land of Oz

Baum's three main female leads: Ozma, Glinda, and Dorothy

Baum’s three main female leads: Ozma, Glinda, and Dorothy

Okay, so it’s perhaps not quite accurate to call the Land of Oz a matriarchy, but L. Frank Baum was very adept at writing female characters. And remember, he was writing The Wizard of Oz and subsequent books in the first two decades of the 20th century. Women’s suffrage was a hot topic during this time, but even though women were fighting for the right to vote, writing strong female characters in books wasn’t really a big focus. Especially not strong female characters in children’s fairy tale books.

So was Baum a supporter of women’s suffrage, a feminist, or perhaps just a keen observer of people (male and female alike)? That’s a discussion for a different post. But whatever his reasons or method, Baum excelled at writing strong women. Not women who acted like men – but women who were every bit as feminine as a lady of the 1910s should be while still smart, resourceful, and did not usually require a man to get them out of a scrape. Continue reading

Music to Write By: Genres and Music

If you know me or have been reading my blog for a while, then you know that music is very important to me and is one of my greatest sources of inspiration. Not only that, but a lot of the stories I write tend to involve music in some way.

I have playlists for each story that I’m working on. I don’t usually listen to music while I’m actually writing, but any time I’m brainstorming, researching, or just doing daily activities like driving I will put on my playlist for my current project. I always seem to be juggling two or three story ideas in my head at any point in time (not to mention thinking about my blog, the writing I do for my job, and just thinking about life in general). So I find that having specific playlists that relate to specific stories really helps me to not only get in the mood to write, but keeps my brain focused on what I want to focus on at any point in time.

And just so you can understand why I need separate playlists for all my projects, here is a sampling. I write a wide variety of stories/genres, and therefore the music reflects that. I actually don’t have a “general writing music” playlist; the music needs to be story and world specific.

Genre: Portal Fantasy – inspired by Finnish folktales

This is the Kalevala-inspired fantasy trilogy that I’ve been working on for a few years now. Book one is in its third draft, and is currently on the back burner while I’m working on other projects. I will pick this trilogy up again later this year, and when I do, I’ll use music like this classic song by the Finnish folk group Värttinä to get me into the right mindset:

I’ll also be listening to songs like this one by Sami singer Soffia Jannok, or instrumental Scandinavian folk music by Gjallarhorn.

Genre: High Fantasy – stories of sword and sorcery Continue reading

My Name in Books

I wrote a post a while back using my name as an acrostic for some of my favorite bands. As much as I love music, I’m actually a writer, so here is my name with each letter representing one of my favorite books.

 

G – Ginger Rogers and the Riddle of the Scarlet Cloak by Lela Rogers. An amazingly cheesy WWII detective adventure. Fun read, though!

R – Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. One of my favorite books, and a great study for writers wanting to experiment with the nuances of foreshadowing, point of view, and other storytelling twists. Continue reading