OK so let’s be clear from the outset. I am not a woman. There lies the problem. I am not a woman. I don’t want to be a woman- let’s be clear about that too- although I have the utmost respect for the opposite sex (you’re digging a hole here man- get out of it quick!) I just don’t think that I am capable of fully understanding how the thought processes of the opposite sex work (aargh-too late! you fool! you’ve just alienated the most intelligent half of the species- that’s half your readership gone, dumb ass! Oh no, crikey- just alienated the other half too- men really are very intelligent, erm…… honest!)
Women are from Venus and I hail from Mars- so how in all the hells am I supposed to put myself inside the head of a Woman and write convincingly– fool the reader into thinking that the images and motivations I describe are really those of the ‘fairer sex’.
These questions all came about because I made the schoolboy error of asking my lovely, intelligent, wonderful (keep it up, you may get out of the hole yet….) wife to read the first 50,000 words or so of my fledgling novel.
I sat on my hands as she gazed at the laptop, pretending that I didn’t yearn for her approval- feeling myself blush and overheat as the pressure became too great.
“I know it’s not very good,” I said, “please just be honest with me,” but not too honest- oh god don’t hate it! “what do you think? Is it as good as what you’re reading at the moment?” I glanced at the table and saw a paperback ‘female’ book with a pink cover that had stars and a cartoon shopping bag on it- crikey, not the right audience- no shopping in my story….. dammit shoulda put shopping in my story. “Don’t forget it’s just a first draft- very rough really- just thrown on the page, you know they call the first draft the ‘vomit draft’ sometimes ’cause it just gets, well, written really fast, you know?” In my angst I began to tap a heel on the tile floor.
Wifey- intelligent, beautiful, witty, charming Wifey (ok- there are compliments and then there’s sycophancy- reel it in now, man) looked up at me over the screen, her lips pursed. I tensed as I awaited her feedback.
“Sshh,” she said, “I’m trying to read.”
Dutifully and obediently I shushed up. Although I did start to rock back and forth lightly like a child in anticipation of an ice cream sundae (hmmm chocolate sprinkles).
She finished reading, closing the lid of the laptop with an ominous click.
“Well, whad’ya think? Do you like it?” I whimpered
She paused for an age (well actually less than a second- wasn’t really a pause at all- get some perspective, fool!) “It’s……….really good,”
My heart sang for joy, yes!, yes!, I’d done it….. (note to self- received wisdom is never to ask for feedback from family members or partners, they nearly always give positive reviews even when the work is doggy doo).
“But,” (there always has to be a but- don’t you agree?) “There aren’t any female characters in it…..”
“Well…… there are,” I said defensively, “there’s the hawkish woman with the red hair.”
“She’s in one scene for about five seconds…..”
“Yes but she’s very important later on though…….”
After my chat with Wifey I felt elated and deflated at the same time. I determined that I was going to introduce a strong female character earlier on. I knew exactly the woman. The wife of one of my protagonists and there was a chapter where a scene from her point of view (POV) would be really interesting. Shouldn’t be difficult! (oh you poor naive fool).
I scooted upstairs to my wonderful office/writing room (ok so it’s the spare bedroom- what can I say, I fib sometimes, get used to it……) and blasted out a scene in a couple of hours, it had a slow and introspective beginning, building the female character, she looked at herself in the mirror, bemoaning her lost youth. As is the way with these things I also managed to introduce three additional characters that I didn’t know existed and that I am now desperate to extend the story line for (really gotta stop doing that….). The woman was strong and yet fragile- she thought how I thought that women thought (if you know what I mean….).
I was so proud, I’d cracked it, my strong female character had sprung fully formed from my mind, fully formed and ready to take on the universe……
I asked wifey to read the chapter, my excitement barely containable.
She read it quickly, then looked at me and pursed her lips.
“Well? Well?” I cried
“You really don’t know anything about women do you?” ……the world came crashing down around my ears…..
It turns out that a woman examining herself in the mirror and bemoaning the ageing process- whilst it might be the pastime of many (male and female! not being sexist- promise!) does not make for a sympathetic character. It does, however, make for a pathetic character.
In the words of Wifey, “No woman wants to read about a wrinkled old hag- unless they’re a witch. If it’s a witch then that’s OK.”
Sadly she’s not a witch (the Wife or the character….), so back to the drawing board on the female POV (Oh what does wifey know- have you seen the junk she reads? What if she’s wrong? What if millions of women are just dying to learn all about how the wrinkles will come and their hair will go grey and lank?)……..I fear my internal voice needs it’s head testing…..
Hmmm, maybe she can be a bit younger and think about what shoes to wear all the time- I hear they’re important to women…. yes…… shoes…… (now you really have alienated half your audience!…… Nitwit!)
60,000 words (as if that has any importance- but somehow it does- know what I mean?) and counting. Would be more but I had to delete a scene about a wrinkled old hag (who was meant to be a strong and dynamic woman in her fifties, by the way…..). Hey ho, much to learn…….
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