As usual, I am terribly unreliable about frequent updates here.
The thing with that goes to my tendency to not just yammer about whatever comes to mind, with no real purpose behind it. Well, okay, I do that, but I keep it to Twitter and The Mary Sue comments. Here, I try to have a reason for making posts beyond just making a post. I find it's a good rule of thumb that keeps me from sticking my foot in my mouth.
I should probably find a book to read and give my opinion on, chapter by chapter, or a tv series to watch and comment on, but I'm a little lazy, and that smacks of commitment. I mean, come on, my girlfriend and I have been dating for twenty years. Take from that what you will.
Today, though, I saw something, and it sparked my need to talk here. Specifically, I read an article over at Tor.com titled “Oh No, She Didn't: The Strong Female Character,Deconstructed” by Ilana C. Myer. In the article, which I've linked so you can read it for yourself, Ms. Myer talks about how frequently male writers manage to get female characters wrong, and why.
The big point, obviously, is the failure to just write them as people, rather than 'female characters', as if they are somehow different than male characters. More or less human, or some impossible to understand creature from the misty times of myth and legend. You know what I mean. Something other than just people.
This is a thing to me, due in no small part to War Witch being published in the ever dawning near future. A fantasy novel that revolves around two women as they head out on a quest, with a solitary guy in tow. A story where these two women are the heroes, the leading force, and well, the word revolves pretty much covered it, I think. It's their story.
Before I saw Ms. Myer's article, I read another criticizing the manner in which certain superhero shows completely fail to make the 'girlfriend character' anything but an annoyance. Gotham, Flash, and Arrow were rightly called on their complete mishandling of these characters that should be treated a great deal better.
It all got to me thinking about what I'd done in not just War Witch, but other things I've written. Especially my ongoing series, Bunnypocalypse, and the main character of Bunny Beckman. It made me want to step back and reexamine them, to see if I'd fallen into the same trap of failing to write the women of these stories as people first and foremost.
It's important to me, that I not make this mistake. I know that I will never make everyone happy with what I write, or how I write it. That isn't my goal. My only goal is to tell a good story, and maybe tackle some difficult subject matter in a way that is not condescending, or have a male authority figure make it all better with a speech.
Oh, come on, we've all seen that enough to know that's a thing. Something happens to a woman in fiction, and a dude fixes it all by saying something. Boom, she's magically cured of all her womanly woes because her man told her to be. That shit annoys me. That's condescending, because it reduces anything and everything a woman faces in life to something a man can fix with ease by telling her, in essence, to buck up.
Guys. For real right now. That's bullshit.
So, what am I trying to accomplish, then, you may ask? I am a puppet of the matriarchy? Am I espousing feminist propaganda? Have I been neutered by the left wing into thinking men are less worthy of attention than women?
No, and if you did actually ask those things, what the hell is wrong with you?
There are things I think we should be talking about, and not ignoring. Racism, for one. Sexism for another. As a writer, I tackle these issues via fiction. It's what I do. There is an abundance of white dude hero manpain stories out there. Too many. So many that it literally chokes the market. There's no room left for more, yet we keep getting more. All of them screaming at us, while saying nothing.
Pardon my ass for doing something different.
As I said a moment ago, I know I'm not going to appeal to everyone. Odds are, there will be many staunch feminists who will see plenty I did wrong. I'll be happy to listen to their criticism, too, and apply it to doing better in the future, rather than getting defensive, like some people do. Because I want to do better. I always want to do better. Writing is the art of growing. It's placing yourself inside the heads of lots of people, and seeing the world through their eyes. It's about broadening your personal horizons.
So, all of that said, how do I feel I did with presenting the women of War Witch? Overall, not too bad. They are people first, not their gender. I write them as people, complete with flaws that I already know, will get me side eyed by people on both sides of the feminist debate. That's fine, too. Nobody can make everybody happy. Only a fool tries.
Allow me to take a moment here to talk about some of these women I've written about.
From War Witch, the first one I want to tackle is Ramora, the book's primary protagonist. A mute warrior priestess, and a Blessed of the God of War, Ramora is a natural leader. In a combat situations, she takes charge without a thought, and people follow her, because again, she serves the God of War. Tactical capability is second nature to her. When it comes to other things, however, like being around people in a social setting, she gets more hesitant.
Having lost her family horribly, Ramora was raised by the God of War and lived ten years among he and his demigod assistants, the Ascended. She doesn't know how mortals act anymore, or even how to relate to them properly. Add to that her inability to talk, and she suffers from a mild form of social anxiety.
In battle, she's confident and certain, but outside of it, she second guesses herself constantly. She's always uncertain if she's doing this or that the right or wrong way. She has a naturally outgoing personality, but that awkwardness often holds her back until she is comfortable with people. In her more unguarded moments, she's got a wonderful sense of humor, and gets to be one of the funnier characters in the book.
Now Chara, the other primary protagonist, is almost too self confident in social situations. She likes to talk, and loves being the center of attention. Where Ramora is often timid or shy, Chara is overwhelmingly sure of herself. She has no problem at all with meeting new people, and is kind of like a bulldozer in her ability to be tactful.
Clever, resourceful, and brave, Chara hides her insecurities deep. She is plagued with doubt about who she is, where she belongs, and what she should do with her life. The daughter of innkeepers from a remote village in a tiny nation where women are told their place by tradition, she has rejected all of that to travel with Ramora and see the world. Despite her refusal to adhere to the ways of her homeland, though, she struggles to find who she is without the only things she's ever known.
Both of them are very much out of their element. Ramora, use to demigods, tries to understand mortals, while Chara, raised by strict tradition, tries to understand who she wants to be without it. Both of them make mistakes, have regrets, and try harder after their failures. They aren't perfect heroes, or perfect people.
They are, however, people.
Through the book, as Ramora struggles with how to connect with others and Chara tries to define herself , I got to spend a lot of time in both their heads. I got to really sort through their thought processes, views, opinions, and I know them. I know what they are proud of, what they are ashamed of, what makes them happy, and what makes them cry. I know where they are strong, and where they are weak, even when they don't.
So, yeah, I think I managed to write them as people first. I'm pretty happy about that.
Now, when we get to Bunny Beckman, things get different.
Bunny is brutal. I can think of no other way to say it. She was hard before the world was over run by zombies, and in the aftermath, has become harder. She's almost a force of nature, defining herself as she goes, yet always struggling to learn who she is. Savage and tragic all at the same time, she refuses to bend to anything or anyone with an iron will. A whirlwind of destruction and sorrow, Bunny is most certainly a character that is not ever defined by being a woman, or a lesbian.
Everything in the Bunnypocalypse books is told with her as the focal point. I call it over the shoulder narration. Not first person, but the view never leaves her. Her thoughts and emotions are always at center stage. What Bunny knows is what the reader knows, and it is through her that the world is shown, no one else.
As the story progresses from one book to the next, Bunny grows darker, her personality and views shaded by the things she's had to do to survive, and the things she's seen. She deals with her anger, her isolation, her loss, and dives deep into depression and suicidal tendencies. She is, as I said, a brutal figure, and not one I will ever apologize for failing to write as more feminine, because she's Bunny.
She's a person. She's not a gender, or a stereotype. She isn't interested in what others want her to be, either within the world she inhabits, or outside of it, with readers. She's herself, first and foremost, for better or worse, with all the good and bad. Her beauty is incomplete without her scars. Her cunning is nothing without her failings. Her courage is meaningless without her tears.
Yeah. I love her. I have since the moment she came busting into my imagination, barking orders and telling me how this fucking story was going to get told. I love her even when she takes over my narrative. I love her when she falls down, and I love her when she gets back up, more broken and savage, more wounded and tragic, more wonderful and strong.
So, yes, I do write people who happen to be women. I do write characters rather than genders. They won't be for everyone. They won't fit everyone's description of what I should be doing. They will be, however, always and forever, true to themselves.
I'm okay with that. I hope you all will be, too.