Thursday, July 05, 2007

Gender Bending -- Robin

After being completely encouraged by Laini Taylor’s “just start writing” advice, I’ve been immersed in the world of my new middle grade novel…and I’ve written a whopping ten pages! Woo-hoo!

But just yesterday, I had an epiphany. Now, I must tell you that I always have my epiphanies in two places: either in my bed during those lovely moments when I’m just waking up…or…when I’m in the shower. So when I have an epiphany, I typically rush out of bed (half-dressed) or jump out of the shower (not dressed at all) and run around to find my dear husband so I can share this life-changing thought. And he typically responds, “Yes, that’s nice, dear…now get some clothes on!”

So here is the new epiphany I had yesterday: I think my main character needs to be a girl, not a boy. Zoinks!!! How could that be!? I’ve been stewing this book idea in my brain for months, and it’s always been with a dorky 11-year-old boy as the main character. So why does it need to be a girl? Well, I broke it down to two reasons:

Voice: To make any book work, that has to be right on. The thing is, I’ve been writing my other middle grade novel with a boy main character for almost five years. And honestly…I can’t get him out of my head! When I sat down to write my new story with a completely new boy, I felt I was still writing from the perspective of my previous MC. And as much as I’d like to admit that I am a highly skilled and adaptable kind of writer, I have to come to terms with the fact that maybe I need to make a real big change in order to force my brain into a new way of thinking. And that big change is…a girl!

Audience: My new novel is big, big, big in terms of plot (which is a bit of a diversion for me, since I seem to be more of a character writer). For some reason, I felt this big plot needed a boy to carry out all of the adventurous activities I was planning on writing for him. And I figured only boys would want to read about spy stuff and world domination and soccer. But now, I think I was wrong about that. Girls are different than boys, that is true, but when I was teaching, I knew a lot of very strong, smart, feminine, sweet girls who could also kick butt and save the world. So I think those girls deserve an action-packed book just as much as the boys do. I’ve always loved girls who played sports and wore a nice shade of lipgloss.

So now I go back to Laini’s advice to try not to get hung up on the “other” writing stuff like outlining and having epiphanies in showers. I’m just going to reactivate my feminine side and get writing!

- Robin


Kelly Fineman said...

Both of my girls like to read about spy stuff and world domination and soccer. So do all the Kiki Strike fans out there (I'm guessing on the soccer part, but still . . . ) So do I, come to think of it. I would've loved a book like that as a kid, and I think I'd love it as much or more as an adult. Girl power!

Kelly Fineman said...

Oh -- and should the title be "Gender Bending it Like Beckham?"

Colorado Writer said...

Whoo hoo...

Robin, Disco Mermaid, saving the world, one book at a time!

Yay for stephanie's...I mean epiphanies...

Becky Levine said...


Go for it. I know lots of middle-grade girls who would love to read a book about this kind of girl--and many boys who would be relieved to pick it up and not step TOO deeply into that scary OTHER world! :)

The biggest thing is, something's clicked for you. I spent years working on a regular old mystery, from the pov of some, basic 29+ woman, and I never got the voice. Or maybe I only got MY voice on the page. I When I switched to my new protag (12-year-old boy)--and I think you've hit the nail, when you say your brain needs a change--things just, well...rocked!


cynjay said...

I've heard that you can get waterproof writing tablets at scuba diving stores. I'm looking into one for myself - I'll let you know what I come up with.

Disco Mermaids said...

Oh, Kelly-- great title! And here I thought Jay was the title master!

It's great to hear that your daughters would read a book like this. Very encouraging.

I also appreciate you looking into those waterproof writing tablets, Cyn. Then I can just stay in the shower forever!


LindaBudz said...

Yippee! Sounds like a winner to me!

So cool to read this today, as I had an epiphany myself yesterday as I was waking up. Must be something in the air!

(Bad news: I'm a third of the way through my book and I think this means practically starting over. Good news: I am sooo much more excited about the book now than I have been.)

BTW, what is WRONG with your husband?


Laini Taylor said...

Go, butt-kicking girls! I think that's a great idea -- I think I even heard a writer advise changing a character's gender once for just the reason of voice you mention -- to give yourself a fresh perspective. Good luck with it! Being in the middle (well, middle of the beginning) of fantasy adventure series with a butt-kicking girl lead, I am aware that boy readers won't exactly grab it off the shelf, and that's too bad. Girls are great about reading "gender blind" but boys only like to read about boys? So some writers might feel pressure to make adventure stories about boy characters, and it's certainly something I think about, but dang it, I wish boys would just read about girls!

And thanks for the link! Glad my pep talk helped somebody! Today I forced myself to freewrite a new scene ALL DAY and I wrote over 8000 words, a huge all-time high for me. Of course, I haven't read it yet. I'm sure it's awful, but I'm trying not to care about that right now. And you know what? Writing 8000 words in a day makes your shoulders hurt!

Disco Mermaids said...

Glad to hear you had an epiphany, too, Linda. And my husband only says that to me when we have company over ;-)

And Laini...8,000 words!? (Are you sure you didn't hit the zero button too many times?) You are officially now my new hero!!


Cana said...

I keep a crayon in the shower for those epiphanies. Yep...I write on the wall. Cheap and cleans up pretty easily, especially if you use hot water.

Good luck with the changes!

Greg said...

When I have an epiphany, it usually involves chocolate.


P.S. I'm all for girls kicking butt and saving the world!

Little Willow said...

Go for it!

I write, think, and talk a great deal about gender bias in life and in fiction - in fact, I have an entire play about it - and I encourage others to give it some thought as well.

I let my characters tell the story. As I posted at another blog yesterday, I know who a character is almost from the start - gender, appearance, age, and name - and let him or her tell the story as intended.

I don't mind writing from a male perspective, but I find I tend to do such as third person, rather than first.

One of my favorite protagonists of all time is Nick from The Great Gatsby. I pretty much bow to that book.

a. fortis said...

Yay! Spy stuff, world domination, and soccer--I'm already intrigued.

Unfortunately for me, my shower epiphanies are usually related to crap I suddenly realize I have to do. The car is usually where I get a lot of creative inspiration, which is bad, because I can't write and drive at the same time. Well, I shouldn't.