Saturday, August 3, 2019

I just Want Strong Characters


Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is: "Heroes and heroines – how do you write them differently."

This is a topic to which I totally do not relate.

I write people.

Every person is different.

Right off the bat this question of the week doesn’t fly with me by the way because Main Characters (MC’s) don’t have to be shoved into two boxes labelled “Hero” and “Heroine”.

MC’s can be any combination of gender identities. From the website TeenTalk: “There are many different gender identities, including male, female, transgender, gender neutral, non-binary, agender, pangender, genderqueer, two-spirit, third gender, and all, none or a combination of these.”

Personally, I read and relish a wildly diverse range of books. I’d like to mention J Scott Coatsworth’s Liminal Sky scifi series as an excellent example of a reading experience during which I met and cared about and was invested in MC’s with a wide range of gender identities mirroring real life. He told the story seamlessly.

To cite my favorite movie in the entire world, “Aliens”: Ripley/Hicks. Hicks/Ripley. Ripley alone. Those two characters could be any gender identity and the movie works fine. It’s got high stakes, action, adventure, kickass MC’s and a hint of a glimpse of romance (if you’re me and you look hard for it). Just so happens the MC's were M/F in the movie but it's kind of a fun creative exercise to cast it in your head now with a wider range of gender identity choices.

When it comes to writing, my muse and I do gravitate to the male military/female civilian tropes for my MC’s, although sometimes the female character is the primary and other times it’s the male, and in some books they shoulder the load of resolving the problems I present to them pretty equally. That’s who I am, that’s the kind of romance I personally lived and it’s where my subconscious goes when I’m coming up with the plots and the people.

In many of my novels I’ve written strong women who are former military and can kick ass with the best of them. I’ve also written strong women who are singers, dancers, businesswomen, alien empaths, princesses, teachers…”strong” is the key element here for all my MC’s. Strength – of characters, of will, of learned skills and innate talents – can be found in any gender identity.

I start with the situation of the story and think about my MC’s, who I need them to be to survive and surmount the plot I have in mind and that thought process informs their backstory and their reactions to everything in the book, including the romance.

A quick excerpt from The Fated Stars, where Larissa, the tough ex-Special Forces mercenary leaves Samell, the alien empath back at the ship while she couts enemy territory:

Larissa had her first real argument with Samell once she’d landed at the small spaceport serving the planet. “I’m going out alone to reconnoiter the town, check out the fairgrounds, see what’s what with this other Kinterow operation,” Larissa said as the AI put the Valkyrie Queen into ground mode. “No one can get into the ship, but I’ve given you voice access to control the AI if anything happens to me. She can get you back to the Cherram system or she has an emergency contact to call if you prefer to try getting in touch with Sectors authorities with your situation.”

Samell stared at her, his emerald-and-gold eyes sparking with anger. “You are not going alone. Of course I’ll go too. I can use my power on any problem we encounter, or my throwing knives, or even the blaster. But I’ll not let you venture into danger without me.”

Larissa continued donning her weapons and brushed past him on her way to the airlock. “I’m the mercenary here, I know the drill on these remote worlds. I’ll give out a cover story about a phony job for public consumption, check out the bars, do the things I’ve done hundreds of times on legitimate assignments. I’ll be fine, don’t worry. I can take care of myself.”

“I know you can, but you’re only in this situation because of me.” He leaned against the bulkhead, watching her. “I have to do my share.”

“I’m not questioning your courage or your value in the field,” she said patiently. “Me by myself, no problem. You, with your distinctive hair and skin, potential problem. "

VS: Needless to say, she wins the argument and he stays with the ship.

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