Writing A Female Protagonist
The novel I am writing for this year’s NaNoWriMo features a female main character. What’s more, it’s written in first person, so not only am I writing a female character, I am writing her from inside her mind.
I bring this up for a reason. Because of the online social circles I frequent, because of the people I know, because of the classes I have taken and life I’ve lived, I’m sensitive to issues of gender, cultural appropriation, and privilege. These are lenses through which I filter life, especially things I create. So I’m sitting here writing a novel with a female character, it didn’t take long for a voice to erupt in my head saying, “You have no right to do this.”
I am a guy, after all. I might be a member of two minorities (Hispanic and Jewish), but I’m a guy. And I can already hear in my head comments about me putting words in women’s mouths, about me misrepresenting women, about me acting all patriarchal and stuff by controlling this female character. Mind you, no one has said any of this, but what if they do (with “they” being people I know, or people I don’t know)?
This paralyzed me somewhat as I started to write. It even shut me down completely one day. I briefly considered just scrapping the whole idea and moving on to something else. Then I thought better about it.
I hope no one feels that way after reading my story. I hope that I bring an honest voice to my female protagonist that sounds true regardless of her or my gender which will make any comment like the ones above superfluous and unnecessary. I am for nothing less.
Thing is, I can’t worry about the ‘What ifs’. There will always be someone who doesn’t like your work, for whatever reason. It may be that reason is even a valid one. But I can’t let that stop me from writing. My protagonist (Deirdre in this case, but really, any protagonist) is a person, an individual, with hopes and dreams, skills and limitations, who makes good and bad choices. She isn’t meant to represent an entire gender any more than my actions represent my entire gender. So if Deirdre does X or says Y, it reflects only on Deirdre, not on all women.
I’m being slightly paranoid in even thinking that I need to state all this upfront, I know it. In truth, this post isn’t for anyone out there, it’s for myself. It’s so I can get this worry out of my head, where it is blocking the flow of ideas. If it happens to speak to someone else, even better.
If you’ll excuse me, now that I got that off my chest, I need to go back to writing.