The reasons for this blog: 1. To provide basic author information for students, teachers, librarians, etc. (Please see sidebar) 2. I think out loud a lot as I work through writing projects, and I'm trying to dump most of those thoughts here rather than on my friends.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

I need to think about my girl character, because I strongly feel there was a turning point in her life, years before the story starts, that will help me define her. I know when the turning point was, and what caused it, but I don't know exactly what the point itself was--that is to say, how things changed for her.

This is the kind of thing I can sometimes figure out (if I'm lucky) while walking the dogs or mowing or driving kids to school (depending on how far, and how traffic is). But it's too stinkin' hot to walk dogs (over a hundred degrees every day, for a couple of weeks now), and it's too hot to mow long enough to really think that deeply, and school's out. I don't know how to think about stuff like this while I'm sitting still. I may try to, anyway--but it's like one of those cheap crackerjack-prize-type games where you have a little maze with a tiny ball in it, and the object is to tilt and maneuver to get the wee little ball to sit in a cutout hole. My brain is the tiny little ball, and I can't get it into the hole. It rolls everywhere all over the place and still won't land in the hole. It's frustrating.

Another thing is that, to me, there's a dichotomy between history and literature, when it comes to girl characters. In history, women are largely silent and we mostly hear about their lives through the writings of men. Women--and girls--from families of means and power (this is what's relevant in my WIP) had few options. It seems like MG and YA these days tend to give girl characters empowerment based on what we consider empowerment; they are role models for today's girls because they're spunky and sassy and--I cannot describe how this makes me cringe--they all learn to use a g.d. sword. * Swords which I'm thinking they seldom actually kill anybody with--but maybe they do, who knows. But I say, if that's the answer to female empowerment, just give 'em a gun and be done with it! Let's not wimp out; let's take the empowerment to its logical conclusion and show the girl blowing somebody's brains out.

Sword, schmord.**

But anyway, I'm more interested in the hard choices girls and women have had to make to survive or (occasionally) to prosper. I know the issue has to be simplified sometimes, to provide role models etc., but role models aren't my thing. Honestly, to me it looks like one of the primary means of control women had over their lives in the past was sex, by which they could sometimes manage men, to gain some measure of control, influence, or even power. G*d knows you can't put that in a MG or probably most YAs, and I don't really want to, at this point (in my GN, I definitely want to explore this in more depth--but that's on the back burner for now). At any rate, it seems to me that women usually only gained power if the men allowed them to have it, or if there was some kind of vacuum where a guy didn't step up to the plate and the girl stepped boldly in. Females had to take advantage of men's failings, to come into their own potential. And even then they were likely to be excoriated for it, either when other men came in to take over again, or by popular opinion, or by the tales passed down about them.

So it feels horrendously wrong for me to deliberately try to do the spunky-sassy thing. If it happens to come off that way, fine, but if I catch myself doing it, it will bring me to an utter, self-loathing halt. On the other hand, I don't think there's much tension or interest in a character who only has tiny changes in her arc because her life is so constricted.

Don't know. Must think. Hope I come up with something, although my own writing history says the outlook for doing so is dim.

* Must note inconsistency: some of my favorite, best-loved books have girls using swords, like Sherwood Smith's Duel books and Ellen Kushner's Swordspoint. I have no idea why I adore certain books and it doesn't bother me that the girls use swords in them. Maybe if I think about it, I could figure it out, but I really need to be digging in on my WIP today, getting my hands dirty, not cheerily skipping through my writing day forming theories about something somebody else has already written.

**Another inconsistency: I fully intend to give my girl MC a sword and let her learn to use it, in book 2, if that ever comes to pass.

(Consistency is for the timid, IMO. Embrace your inconsistency, flaunt it, I say!)

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