I’m not a very good girl. By that I don’t mean that I’m spectacularly naughty (though I could be), but more that I’m naturally a tomboy. Always have been. Even growing up, I related more with the guys, hanging out with them because me and other girls just didn’t understand each other. It’s like I was just fundamentally different and the others didn’t know what to make of me.
But I was okay with that. I like being me. I like knowing that what others think of me doesn’t change who I am. It makes me happy.
On the other hand, I am a writer. More specifically, I’m a fiction writer. Which means I write people that I make up. And I need to make them as three dimensional as possible. Which meant, much to my dismay when I came to this conclusion, I didn’t get to be quite so smug about not understanding women.
Now, you’re probably wondering how a woman can say she didn’t understand women. Maybe a better way to put it is, I didn’t understand how to write a woman other women related to. Guys, yes. I get how they think. I could imagine it and slip into that mind frame like a hand in a glove. And readers responded to the men I write, which is great. But writing believable women is a challenge that’s taken me a very long time to meet. That I continue to work on, page by page, line by line. And that’s okay, as well. Because I like challenges too and I never want to start thinking I have all the answers. That there’s ever no more to learn.
It all came together for me when I was having a conversation with my husband. Only at that time, the writer we were talking about was a man. And that man was getting slammed in the media for not writing male characters that went beyond the two-dimensional cut out. He just couldn’t bring them to life.
I have no doubts the writer was trying, just like I had been over the years but for whatever reason, he wasn’t clicking and he admitted, he couldn’t figure out why.
It hit me then, as Hubby was telling me he didn’t get it. See, Imagination is a powerful tool. One we can wield on purpose and also, one that can sometimes have a will of its own. Maybe the reason neither of us could put down on the page what we ourselves actually were was because we’re literally too close to the subject.
As much experience as I have with guys, with appreciating them and understanding them, it takes a lot of imagination to put myself in one’s shoes. As in, I can really let go and be this guy. But when I write women, I fall back into my own mindset so naturally that I didn’t even realize I was doing it. Certain things became rote, and those things were left off the page because in my mind, they were assumed. Not so much for my bewildered reader.
Kind of like describing a room to someone else. Describe a room you’ve never been to —like a throne room— and you’ll describe everything from the tiles on the ceiling to the rugs on the floor. Now describe a bedroom. Suddenly, your depiction will have far less detail and excitement because everyone knows what a bedroom is like, right?
So I went back to work, looking at my heroines with a new lens in place. Sure, the temptation to treat them the same is still there, but to fire my imagination, I look for the tiny ways this woman is absolutely not me. Take, for example, my upcoming heroine Susie Packard from “Trust In Me”. I’m not ashamed to admit I fell in love with Susie. She had a richness of character that I think was a direct result of this approach.
For one thing, Susie is tall. She’s a strong woman, along the lines of Wonder Woman actress Lynda Carter. I’m best described as “petite” and I had a lot of fun imagining what it must be like to have to scrunch to fit in a bed or not struggle to reach the top shelves. She’s also secretive, where I have the depth of a cookie sheet and can’t lie to save my life. She’s a smart-mouth, particularly in tense situations. I’m…well, ok, I’m not far off that one. I compulsively make jokes when I’m uncomfortable, but that helped more than hindered.
The point is, if I didn’t have to stretch to build a character, the character didn’t work.
It’s a mildly painful fact of life that things worth having come at a price. So I have to push a lot harder to have a heroine I—and readers—can believe in. It also means I write a book I can be proud of. If that’s the result, in the immortal words of my six year old daughters, I’m good with it.
What about you? Is there something really hard for you that you keep trying to get better at? What’s your challenge and does it make you feel great to see improvement? Leave a comment with your answer and be entered in a drawing to win an ecopy of both The Virgin’s Revenge and “Trust In Me”, both books that feature Susie Packard!
Sometimes falling in love is the easy part…
A Rancho del Cielo Romance.
Locke Jackman is single, childless…and he has a bad case of empty nest syndrome. For years, as he fought tooth and nail to keep his brothers and sisters together after his parents died, his entire life was focused on his responsibilities.
Now his siblings have all moved on with their lives, and there’s no one around to distract him from his overpowering attraction to his sister’s best friend. Their mutual desire is stunning…but then again, so are the secrets keeping them apart.
Susie Packard’s nightmarish marriage taught her what happens when she gives in to her weakness for powerful men. Too bad the big, stoic frowner across the street—the one who sets her bells jangling just by breathing—has her in his sights.
Try as she might to keep her emotional distance, Locke is determinedly knocking down all her walls. But as much as she wants to be the woman he needs, she knows better than most— passion may have its rewards, but every secret has its price.
This book contains a hot, modern-day Viking seducing his way to the heart of his woman, a stubborn lingerie designer with a world of secrets and a very deep bathtub… Enjoy!
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