Thanks to the obituaries for Joanna Russ, I’m getting an education in female roles – both in genre fiction and in life.
I’m working through some sticky issues of agency and point of view in my long-languishing novel-in-progress. I had started the novel – with outline, plot sketch, etc. – with a strong female character: a woman in her 50s who survived a multiple-collapse apocalyptic event 30 years prior. In the first scene, she shoots an 18 year old male in the leg… and doesn’t make a non-reactionary move the rest of the book. Ugh.
Ugh, I say again, because I am so strongly reminded that I was older than 30 when I first took agency in my romantic life. Relationships were things that happened to me, before that – I fell in love, and it was always a surprise, ’cause wasn’t it supposed to be? When the relationships weren’t right (and they weren’t right) I clung to them anyway. Who knew when the next would happen to me?
For me, this relates to the difference between being nice and being kind. Nice is passive, even when it’s active - no boats are rocked. Kind is a choice, an act – even when it’s the choice to not act. Good females of any age, I learned in EVERY media source, were always “nice” – even if the result was misery.
As an author, am I contributing to this ludicrous poison?
Consider the consequence – do I take the complete-draft 120,000-word novel back from the boy?
It means a MAJOR fricken’ rewrite.
I think I have to. As the author, it’s time for me to get some damn agency, myself. I throw the rocks at the characters – but even my females – maybe especially my females - better have the grit and presence to dodge or bat them right back. If I had a strong sense of agency when I started it, 2.5 years ago (already?!?), I never would have let the boy run with the book. The central female character needs to make choices and drive her own motivation forward.
Other writers – do you have this same problem? Advice and encouragement are appreciated! I may be getting better at taking charge and driving forward, myself – but it’s more pleasant to do with others.