Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Depiction of Women in Speculative Fiction - Part 2

Bliss was supposed to be male.

Who is Bliss, you ask? 

She's a main character in one of my latest short stories, "G-Child." Lincoln Crisler will publish it in his Corrupts Absolutely? anthology next month.

When I first began gathering my thoughts and notes for "G-Child," I knew I wanted the story to have two main characters, and one would narrate in first-person present tense. Initially, the narrator was supposed to be male, which was a natural choice for me since I'd  been writing male main characters the past fifteen years or so. 

But then, as I started to flesh out the story, an important plot element that would be a pivotal point in character development called for the character to be female. The dysfunctional relationship between the main character and the mother just wouldn't resonate as much if narrator were male. So I made the change.

Which was fine. I knew going into the story there would be two main characters--one male, one female--and there would be some sort of romance between them (I dialled back on that big time as I wrote the story). I didn't want Bliss to be stereotyped or clichéd, though. I wanted her to be strong, but flawed.

And while those two characteristics are clichés, especially when it comes to superhero fiction, I knew I had to develop Bliss beyond the I-can-kick-some-major-ass-but-I'm-not-the-nicest-person-in-the-world role. I wanted her to be more than that. And as long as she wouldn't be a pretty face who could throw (and take) a punch, I knew I was going in the right direction.

So I roughened up her edges a bit, especially her narrative voice. While she doesn't drop F-bombs all over the place, Bliss does have a way of speaking that I often give my male characters. But even more of a change from how I write my female characters, I didn't give Bliss any physical feminine descriptions. 

A few weeks ago, after reading a work-in-progress, my wife asked me, "When are you going to write an average looking female character?" I was kind of taken aback by that. I don't think all of my female characters are drop dead gorgeous, or even overly pretty. 

I mean, I often give my female characters (and my male ones, for that matter)  physical characteristics that I find appealing. Bijou LaVoix has full lips and bronze-hued skin. Asha the Coal Dust Faery has lovely dark skin. But then, my restraint depicting my female characters as beautiful as possible goes right out the window with Mami Wata and Iara

Fine. Point taken, Wifey. 

Bliss is an interesting character study, though. I've purposely not described her physical characteristics, but instead I've chosen to express her femininity in other ways. You'll have buy the anthology next month and read the story to find out how.

There are only two physical descriptions of Bliss in the story (her skin color and hair), and both come near the end. Both also give insight into who she is. 

As much as I like the female form in comic books, I didn't want Bliss to be a slinky girl with nice tits and a pretty face. I wanted her to be more than that. I wanted her to be a person with issues she didn't know how to solve and emotions she didn't know how to manage.

I think I've done well with that. I hope you think so, too. 

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