Updated: Jun 25, 2019
How does a 63 year old man write a convincing female character? Does Elyana feel real to you?
“Prepare to fall in love with Elyana.”
That’s the tagline for my novel Elyana, the story of a mountain girl, a “wild child,” who escapes from her dirt floor cabin and her witch of a mother to start a new life in the modern world.
For what it’s worth, I wrote another female character-centric novel entitled The Music We’re Born Remembering, about a young mother of two who escapes her “singlewide life” by learning to write poetry at the community college. And I made a movie, Lake of Fire, with a female protagonist.
But I’ll admit that I always wonder if I am adept at writing female characters.
When I asked a female friend to read the first draft of The Music We’re Born Remembering, she came back with one piece of advice: “You don’t tell me what Claire (the main character) is feeling. You need to describe her feelings, because women readers track with feelings.
That’s when I realized that I didn’t understand female readers well enough.
But if a reader is going to “fall in love” with Elyana, they’ll not only hear what she’s feeling, they’ll see the force of her personality through her actions, because in many respects Elyana is an action character. She’s taking charge of her life as best she can, but she’s also falling in with other characters who can help her find her way. Vivian, the barista at the Garrulous Coffee Shop, takes Elyana under her wing, and into her home, becoming Elyana’s best friend and mentor. There again, a female character, Vivian, a single mom, with her own set of challenges.
Of course, there’s no end to the compelling female characters that male authors have invented. And yet it’s only natural to doubt your own ability to create an authentic character in whose shoes you could never walk.
On the other hand, women seen through the eyes of a male observer might benefit, in terms of an authentic rendering, from the male writer’s scrutiny. Perhaps a man can see qualities of character, even nuances of character, that a female writer would not see. We can only hope, right?
The fact is, I am compelled to write great female characters. The novel I am working on now is the story of Isabella, a young girl in first century Rome who embarks on a daunting odyssey.
The better question is perhaps why I like to invent female characters. In my defense, I can only point to the fact that I have always enjoyed the company of women more than that of men. Even with women I dated, and the woman I married, it has been their friendship that means more than anything else. I should also mention that I have a wonderful daughter who gives me a father’s insight into womanhood.
So, I’ll end this by saying that even though I might never fully understand what makes a woman tick, I will always be motivated to create them, because I find women fascinating and colorful, and that’s all the motivation I need. Once my characters come to life, they tend to lead me by the nose through the stories they wish to tell.
Prepare to fall in love with Elyana. She is by far the most unforgettable woman to ever spring from this man’s imagination.