I love women. That’s… not just a statement about my dating preferences. I love watching women, hearing women, reading about women; as a writer, I love writing about women. (And, okay: I love men, too. Especially when they’re interacting with women!)
I hate to see female characters all painted with the same brush, or treated as one of a handful of ‘types’. (There’s the silly one, the brainy one… and then there’s the slut!) So often women characters are pushed off to the side, treated as background, or ignored. “See, here’s a woman!” her existence says, even though we know nothing more about her than the color of her hair. (Which is supposed to tell us everything we need to know about her.) I hate to see the majority of female characters lumped into the categories of “boring” or “unrealistic”―fitting into the mold, or breaking it, and therefore losing credibility.
Very often, when conceiving of a story, I’ll immediately cast the protagonist as a woman. Very often, I’ll make her a lesbian. (Or bisexual, and in love with a woman.) Also very often, I’ll start to have second thoughts: I’ll wonder if I’m being too boring, too predictable, or too repetitive. After all, most of what I write is not in the genre of romance, and whom my character would prefer to date or sleep with just isn’t relevant to the plot. If I make her a lesbian, won’t it look like I’m trying too hard, maybe pushing that mythical ‘gay agenda’? I worry: is my feminism showing?
Well, writers who write heterosexual characters never think about their writing that way, and writers of male heterosexual characters certainly don’t. The experiences of men, especially heterosexual men, are ‘normal’, and therefore everyone is expected to be able to identify with them. If those authors get to write about the characters they want to write about without a second thought, then so do I.
Because I do have an agenda. For one, I’d like to see more LGBTQ persons in writing and media, and I want to do my part to make it happen. Yeah, that’s definitely part of it. But more than that, well, it’s like I said: I love women. I want to write about women. I want to show them courageous and vulnerable; fun and adventurous and timid; ingenious and daring; dating, working, solving crimes, committing crimes, working on the side of the angels, and dancing as the world falls down around them. A woman can do anything a man can do, and as far as my characters are concerned, well: they can start with having some fun!
From Honor Among Thieves by Amy Gaertner:
I could hardly remember crossing the room to stand by her side. “Would you like to dance?”
The conversation I hadn’t bothered to listen to as I approached stopped. The group stared at me in a stunned silence.
Liz, for her own part, looked startled by my offer.
Then she looked into my eyes and smiled. “I’d love to.”
The sound of four men choking on their own indignation accompanied us out onto the dance floor.
“Shall you lead, or shall I?” I asked wryly, once our heels clicked on the polished wood of the dance floor.
“Well,” she said, suddenly shy, “you asked me, so I do believe it’s your prerogative.”
My lead. Right.
Thank goodness for that glass of champagne I’d managed to grab. I was hardly an accomplished dancer, and working in a profession that counted on my ability to not draw attention to myself, I wasn’t thrilled to suddenly be the center of everyone’s attention. Ah, well―I’d gotten us into this. It was time to make the most of it.
Amy Gaertner is a debut author. Her short story, “Honor Among Thieves” is now available in e-book formats through Storm Moon Press. You can follow Amy on Twitter @AmyGaertner or on her blog at http://amygaertner.wordpress.com/