I swear, I’m forever behind the curve on pop culture things. I only realized how awesome Led Zeppelin was after they’d broken up. I only saw maybe one or two episodes each of Cheers, Friends, and Seinfeld. I started watching Lost after Season 2 had started (I caught up by watching Season 1 on DVD, and I stayed with the show despite how awful Season 6 was). My friends rave to me about Quentin Tarantino movies, and I’ve never seen one.
So at the risk of breaking my ban on discussing socio/political items on this blog, I’ll tell you that I’ve only recently discovered Anita Sarkeesian, her site Feminist Frequency, and her video series “Tropes vs. Women.” I don’t agree with everything she says, and her facts are not always correct (Gwen Stacy, discussed in “Women in Refrigerators,” was not a a superheroine in the original Spider-man comic book; Sarkessian gets the Immaculate Conception wrong in “The Mystical Pregnancy”). Nevertheless, I find her blog posts and videos interesting and informative.
If one wants to write well, one must recognize poor writing Sarkeesian identifies and explains hackneyed ideas to avoid: I’ve learned quite a lot from her. In particular, I appreciate her episode dedicated to “The Smurfette Principle,” which discusses the paucity of female characters in several popular series. I don’t believe you have to belong to a particular party or subscribe to a certain ideology to see the wisdom and benefits of having, where appropriate,* several well-defined female characters in one’s writing.
(*I say “where appropriate,” depending on what story you’re writing. If your story’s set in an all-male prison, then maybe you don’t have ANY female characters, never mind being “well-defined” or not)
Back when I was a student at the University of Maryland, one of my business professors, Bill Nickels, taught us, “To succeed in business, find a need and fill it.” I believe that there is a need in fantasy and sci-fi for unique characters who are well-defined, are multi-faceted and interesting, and who seem like real people. These characters improve one’s story and make it more appealing to more readers.
And the more of these characters that readers can relate to, the better. If one excludes female characters for no story-related reason, one risks not engaging with female readers. I want more readers, not less: to me, one is not doing one’s readers or one’s self any favors by not having well-done female characters.
That’s one of the many reasons why I’m proud of my novel Dragontamer’s Daughters. Isabella, Alijandra, Juanita, To-Ho-Ne, and Governor Guzmarr are, I hope you’ll agree, interesting, well-defined, complex characters who seem like real people. I’m going to continue doing that with Lost Dogs, even—and especially—with the canine characters, and on into the future of my writing career.