by Lillian Csernica on September 12, 2013
Perspective is a tricky thing. I’m working on a short story right now that I once thought was my best work yet. At that time it probably was. Now I can do better. Yesterday I was working away, cutting the story’s length and refining characterization and making sure the pace was moving along well. Then it hit me:
Take a good look at your characters.
Alarm bells rang in the part of my mind in charge of marketing. While I have a good balance of gender representation, the Mother and Older Sister are in the secondary supportive roles and the strongest female plays the Evil Witch. This is not going to win me any points with editors who want to see strong women as protagonists.
There’s nothing wrong with a teenage male as the protagonist/hero, but that’s been done. Casting the deities in charge of the Sun and the Sea as males might be in keeping with classical mythology, but that has also been done.
I want to go beyond what’s already been done. I want to reach for a story with characters who are sympathetic, believable, powerful, and fun to read about. I also want to write a story that editors will buy. At what point do I let my creativity be steered by the demands of the marketplace? At what point do I let the social climate of transgender awareness start to dictate which of my characters are male, female, both, neither, or some new evolution of each?
These are serious questions. These are career-makers and deal-breakers. Today’s writers must tread carefully while at the same time take the great leaps of imagination that make their work stand out.
What do you think? How do these considerations affect your process as a writer? I would love to know what other writers think and how they take on these challenges.
- Regarding Fantasy #2: Black Female Protagonist (soipondered.wordpress.com)
- Mike Bithell: “I Couldn’t Write a Genderless Character” (usgamer.net)