30 Days of Writing–Day 2: Characters — Quantity and Gender

Just to level set some expectations here, did I mention that my 30 Days of Writing probably won’t be thirty consecutive days?  Did I also mention that not all my posts would be inspired?  Alrighty.  What I just said then.

2a. How many characters do you have?

Kind of a silly question methinks.  Not having read any other day 2’s on other blogs, if there’s a clever way to address this, I missed the memo.  To be glib, I write hetero romance so it shouldn’t surprise any that I usually create two main characters, a man and a woman.  Multiply that by the number of stories I’ve written and there you go.

Sure there are a few side characters, but they tend to be convenient props or caricatures who steal the best lines.  I committed both of those sins in my first novel. The female MC had two sons that I whipped out only when necessary to wax Mary-Sueish about their awesome mother, or when I needed a reason for the MC to be bitchy or to shake her fist and say, “I can’t drop everything to be your love slave.  I’m a mother, dammit; I have responsibilities!”  Beyond that, the children were an inconvenience, kind of like the real life ones are sometimes.  I shipped ’em off to camp and/or made them Dean’s list altar boys who never got in a lick of trouble and could be trusted to feed and raise themselves.  Did I mention that I trunked this novel?

My other type of peripheral characters are typically Sex in the City chick lit discards.  They’re sassy, lusty, have more money than they need,  and dole out unwanted advice with a cynical snark that hides a lonely heart.  These I kind of like, to be honest.  According to my first novel’s beta readers, Elise was the lone redeeming feature of an otherwise abysmal debut effort.

2b.  Do you prefer males or females?

For my own vices, I prefer males but as a writer, I prefer writing from a female’s perspective more than a male’s. Other than a children’s book I started that features my youngest son in disguise (who is NOT a Dean’s list altar boy), I’ve mostly stuck with first person female point of view.  My current entry into Harlequin’s (Mills & Boon) New Voices contest (shameless plug, vote 5 roses for me please), however, is typical category romance genre and features alternating male / female third person points of view.  So, though I CAN write from a male’s POV, I don’t prefer it.

My biggest fear is the accidental creation of effeminate men, guys who stew on or talk about stuff that your average heterosexual male wouldn’t be caught dead doing.  I use my husband as my touchstone.  We’ve been together for almost twenty years and for the most part when I ask myself, “Would Mr. Gillian ever do or say that?” and the answer is “no”, then I don’t make my male character say or do it either.  I’d be lying if I claimed my guys weren’t thinly disguised versions of him…air-brushed here and there, of course, because this is fantasy.  He’s a bit of an alpha / beta combo male so whether I need macho or sensitive, I can pull from him.  Nice that, though not why I married him since I started writing some eighteen years after we met…on second thought, it’s precisely why I married him.

I can promise that none of my men will ever be able to name the perfume his date wears (unless he bought it for her), won’t ever say, “hey are those Manolo Blahnik’s?” nor will he ever volunteer to bring a casserole for a pot luck.  I believe in the sanctity of gender stereotypes because my romance novels will always revolve around aligning tab A with slot B.  And my female characters all agree with me or they are back-spaced into cyber-heaven.

The omnipotent power of character creation and destruction is a heady benefit of writing, no matter the author’s skill level or biases.  Male, female, old, young, gorgeous or homely, they’re all my babies and I love them as only a mother could.

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