Thursday, June 30, 2011

CHRONOPHAGE and the art of writing a female protagonist

The Corpus Clock (aka Chronophage) in Cambridge, England

CHRONOPHAGE is the name of my new novel, to be completed at what I'm guessing is 85K - 90K words. Inshallah, the first draft will be done in a couple of weeks... Inshallah. This being the fourth novel I've written, it has by far been the most challenging, a complicated plotline coupled with a female protagonist has thrown me out of my element, but as I stitch up the plot threads, things are coming together (I believe).  I'd like to think this would be "character-driven hard sci-fi" which is a bit of an oxymoron, but I've worked hard to try to flesh out a believable main character, one that defies (and not defines, hopefully) the way females are typically portrayed in much of sci-fi/fantasy genre trope...

I see this a lot: men (and some women) love to see female characters act like men, they love to see slick leather-clad assassin types donned in mirror shades, their ability to kill only matched by their sexual prowess, promiscuous, unapologetic, and relenting. Give the masses what they want, you say? Many do, luckily, so I don't have to. Somehow this masquerades as a backdoor embrace of female empowerment, that comic book equality is bridged by merely xeroxing women into traditional male fiction archetypes (while adding a healthy dose of Frank Frazetta embellishment). Done to affect in the past (Molly Millions of William Gibson's NEUROMANCER captures this beautifully), I find it a bit too well tread, watered down, and boring. Their are many great exceptions to this rule, but to appease the coveted 15 y.o. to 35 y.o. male demographic, a lot of times you're stuck. 

Something borrowed: Molly Millions' much nicer successor, Trinity of The Matrix
When it comes to writing, I have issues with plausibility. I do write science-fiction, which by it's very definition extrapolates on plausibility, but when it comes to characters, if they're not truly believable, I have an immediate problem. So when attempting Zara (the female protagonist of CHRONOPHAGE) I tried hard to make her decision processes less 'man-like' and more ... what's the word... subtle? She is lost but not desperate, sexual but not seductive, driven but not cocky, emotional but not weak, decisive but not rash... she is a balance despite her monomaniac personality. So, now as I finish the last chapter (or two), I perform a thought experiment, where I substitute Zara for 'Zach' say and see if it mattered story-wise. My opinion is that it most definitely wouldn't work... luckily.

CHRONOPHAGE isn't proof tested by any stretch. I'm hoping my agent decides to submit it. It's going to take a lot of edition (more so than my past novel, I believe) to get it ready and it suffers from consistency issues

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