Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Two things I couldn't say during Dragon Con. So I'm saying them now.

Not a round-up of pics and panels. Sorry. Still haven't recovered.

But two things have been bothering me about my Dragon Con experience, so I want to address them while I'm still fresh.

1. During the Fairy Tales and Campbell panel on the new (and AWESOME!) Urban Fantasy Track, Deidre Knight mentioned how storytelling has changed now that you can "click PUBLISH and have your book up in five minutes." And I added, "But you probably shouldn't."

And Ted Naifeh looked at me like I was the antichrist.

So, to clear it up, I will refer directly to Chuck Wendig's 25 Steps to Becoming a Self-Published Author post. I agree with him wholeheartedly on step 1, and this is quoting directly from Chuck:


If you thought the two steps of this process were STEP ONE: WRITE A BOOK, STEP TWO: CLICK “PUBLISH” ON THAT SUMBITCH, you need some deep brain rearranging. If you’re going to do this, you need to take this seriously, and not just upload every barf-bag with your name on it to the Internet at large. Some of these steps are practical. Some of them are about your mindset. These steps are not universal nor are they meant to constitute an exhaustive list. But this process should never include just two little steps.
So please don't hate me, Ted, because you're too damn cool. I just support thoughtfulness in self-publishing vs. speed.
2. During the Women in Steampunk panel, an audience member asked about how to write strong women, and we all had a lot to say on the topic. When it was my turn to speak, I mentioned considering the many aspects of a woman's life that a man might not normally think about. I mentioned menstruation, and my fellow panelists went on attack as if I wanted writers to spend entire books including every bathroom trip and the careful weighing and description of every bodily emission possible.
Unsurprisingly, that's not what I meant.
I think that when a man writes a female character, he wants to make sure she isn't a dude with boobs. And you know what? The way my body works plays big-time into my day to day life. If I ride a horse all day, my thighs ache and my chest is sore from bouncing. If I have cramps, I'm going to be a bitch, and the week before that, I'm going to be extra sharp. If I have a big vacation or trip coming up, I'm counting out my cycle. And if I'm going to do the things that happen in a romance novel, I'm going to be thinking about what I want to prevent or encourage down there. 
So you don't have to mention every occurrence of every aspect above, but if, say, your lead female character is a buxom elf archer going on a two week, cross-country journey on horseback with a guy she likes, it's not going to be all carefree boinking. 
Simply put, there are things on a woman's mind that rarely cross a man's mind. Speaking only for myself, I'm always aware of situations in which I might become a victim, be overpowered, or be approached in a way that makes me uncomfortable. I have to worry about different kinds of clothing for different occasions and what they'll say about me to others and how they'll work for the physical things I have to do all day. If your girl runs away from a zombie in heels, she's going to have to trade 'em out for boots off a corpse soon. And there's one day of the month that I call Irrational Tuesday in which my hormones are totally out of whack and I'm a mess of tangled rage, sadness, and hopelessness on the inside, no matter how calm and collected I seem on the outside.
In conclusion, you won't see me writing a series on AUNT FLO AND THE RED RIVER MYSTERIES any time soon, but I think a man writing a female character would do well to consider how the world looks through the eyes (and Fallopian tubes) of someone driving this kind of body. At the very least, find a female beta reader who's willing to give honest feedback.
If you came to see me at Dragon Con, THANK YOU I LOVE YOU YOU ARE AWESOME. 
Now, back to recovering from 9 panels, 2 readings, and a signing at one of the biggest cons in the country. AND BOY, ARE MY FEET TIRED FROM THOSE HEELS.


Ted Naifeh said...

Duly noted, and sorry for my exaggerated reaction. Damn those panels. Too many interesting people, not enough time for thorough discourse.

Matthew MacNish said...

Amen, sister.

Andrew said...

Oh wow! Thank you for mentioning this. I have a couple story ideas that involve female protags. As a guy, I try to think like my characters. I may never mention it, but you're right those things do affect a woman and how they approach life. *files away under important for female characters* :D

Alessa said...

I just wanted to say that I attended a couple D*C panels that you were on (the women in steampunk panel was one of them) and you were great. I really enjoyed what you had to say!

littleread1 said...

Adds AUNT FLO to my TBR ... oh wait, you were serious about not writing that? *adds it anyway*

Veronica Sicoe said...

Absolutely agree with point 2. (Point 1 too, but that's a given).

I've been saying the same thing when it comes to men writing female protagonists: regardless how much they try to make them realistically female, most, if not all of them omit certain things we have to worry about every month. Menstruation and fertile days are a big part, and so are various other issues like hormonal changes based on an altered diet (which women feel and react to much more than men), serious discomfort caused by the wrong clothing (and here I'm thinking of big-breasted women who would have a hard time with flimsy clothes if they have to do hard work; or too tight clothing when riding a horse, interrupted blood circulation and such...), and quite a few more.

So yeah, I totally agree with you. THE UTERUS IS INESCAPABLE.


Liz in Virginia said...

1. I think your insight about considering the ramifications of the uterus is so true. I remember when I read in a Dorothy Dunnett novel that the female protagonist (in passing) refers to the fact that she will be taking some "time apart" from the male protagonist -- I was so happy when I realized what she was talking about: "Dude -- I'll be starting my period here in a couple of days, and you're gonna need to deal." Love!

2. My daughter goes to Emory, and she was at Dragon-Con! And I asked her if she met you, and she said no because Edward James Olmos, and I said, but Criminy! And she said, wait -- was Criminy there? Because I'd totally get my picture taken with Criminy! And I said -- well, the flaw in your logic is that he's fictional. So -- yeah! You and my daughter were the coolest kids at Dragon-Con!