…is a thing at which I do not excel.
Not only that, I’m deeply uncomfortable with it. Profoundly. And view the whole idea with a degree of alarm and suspicion.
Which is probably why I had intended to have my latest book womanless. Not because I’m a misogynist–though I might have been accused of that once or twice.
But because I’m just so lousy at writing them and having them convincing. I mean, I just don’t get it. (Unlike my friend, Paul House, who’s utterly brilliant at it, the soundrel…)
So yes, there I was, having decided I’d make this easy for myself. No women.
I don’t understand them. I don’t get how their minds work. I have to work twice as hard on their dialogue…and as for their motivations? God give me strength!
Though don’t get me wrong…I have read all about them. I’ve read the superlative Amanda Vickery on the subject of late 18th century women, and Rosemary Baird, and Jane Austen and Maria Edgeworth. I’ve even read the popular novels serialised in La Belle Assemblee, such as Zara; or the Adventures of an English Wife.
But my determination remained the same.
However, then, something happened. A phenomenon described most efficiently by Terry Pratchett when he talked about the need to watch out for those secondary characters you allow into your work, because before you know it, they will have taken over the whole thing and it’ll be off in a different direction before you know what’s hit you.
Er, yes. True words.
So I did. By accident. Introduce a female character.
And what happened? Well, exactly what Pratchett described.
Before I knew what had hit me, my protagonist was completely smitten, decaptitated even–which wasn’t meant to happen and which I didn’t see coming, not at all…so much so that it was someone else (to whom we shall refer as my muse) who had to tell me “of course, the he’s in love with her. It was obvious from the first time he laid eyes on her!”
And not only that, but those who see this nonsense before anyone else (my muse, my daughter, et al.) were threatening me that if I did anything, anything at all to her, they were going to give me what for. Messily and painfully.
In the case of my muse, I’m not certain it would involve that much pain, more like sullen disapproval; in the case of my daughter, I can vouchsafe that I would suffer. A lot. (I’ve seen her race a horse; she’s afraid of nothing.)
So here I am, writing a female character now. And under instructions on pain of pain not to do anything to harm her. Or else. (The or else to be decided by a court definitely not rigged by me.)
And at this very moment in the action, she’s, er, well…well, actually, she’s coming along all right. And to my surprise, I’ve found I quite like her. I certainly approve of her taste in men. So there we are.
Because I think she’s rather smashing.