Writing a Woman

For many years I avoided writing from the female point of view. I had female characters, of course, with dialogue and motivations and back stories of their own, but I never consciously tried to put myself in the woman’s place. I didn’t feel that I knew how women thought and felt, at least not well enough to be confident about trying it.

Then Devon Malone came along and I had no choice but to try it.

My detective series features both male detective Clint McCall and female detective Devon Malone, which finally puts me in the position of having to write from the point of view of a woman. Most of my chapters are from Clint McCall’s POV because, hey, I’m a guy and it’s still easier. But I do also have chapters from Malone’s POV.

My take on it? I’ve decided (for better or worse) that there’s not as much difference between men and women in the same profession, say private detective, as people might think. Devon is just as smart and tough as Clint; maybe smarter and tougher. Just as focused on doing her job well. She’s somewhat foul-mouthed and sarcastic. She’s certainly not overly concerned about her appearance and doesn’t give a damn about getting a date.

Is she, then, an example of the new “Ellen Ridley” stereotype? The tough female action hero who might as well be a man? I like to think there’s more to her than that—and more coming as the series goes on.

[Completely irrelevant sidebar: I have contended since it was first released that “Aliens” was the first truly feminist movie. Not only do we have Sigourney Weaver as the action heroine Ridley but the toughest space Marine is female, the only survivor of the devastated colony is a little girl, and the biggest, baddest monster is the mother of all the aliens.]

Back to the post: Is Devon Malone like anyone I know? Yes indeed. I happen to have known a number of female black belts, for instance, who would be happy to prove to anyone interested that they’re just a tough as any man. I happen to have also dated a couple of them, so I know they have their “feminine” sides as well. And of course there have been many other women friends, not to mention my wonderful and emotionally tough daughter, who contribute to the portrayal of Malone.

I have some basis for confidence that Devon is doing okay: currently my writing group and my set of beta readers are both mostly female. None of them have ever objected to anything my heroine has thought, felt or done as being inappropriate.

May it ever be so.

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