The rule goes like this: write what you know.
So what do I know? Well, I’m a copywriter. I’m in my mid-thirties. I have kids and a mortgage. For the record, the closest I’ve ever been to getting in a real fight was back when I was sixteen and a friend and I had had a bit too much to drink. (It was England, that sentence is normal there). We threw exactly one punch each. Also, for what it’s worth, I have owned a Y chromosome since birth.
Or, to put that all another way: I am not, nor have I ever been, a female action hero.
So when I first considered writing stories that contained them, I was a bit worried it was going to be a problem. I mean, what the hell did I know?
Well, fortunately, I happen to know a fairly large selection of kick-ass women. Thanks to the simple demographics of this world, ever since I’ve been born, half the people I have met have been female. And, what’s more, a great number of them have kicked ass. It’s not like there’s a dearth of experience for me to pull from here. Hell, the person I know best in the world is my wife, and she definitely outguns me on both the X chromosome and ass-kicking fronts.
Now why does that matter? Because, writing any character at all, is a question of changing perspective. You need to learn how to see the world through someone else’s eyes. So knowing how my wife and how my female friends have seen the world, and how what they’ve seen has shaped their responses is invaluable. But it’s also experience everyone has. Hell, it’s a bit of a cliché, but everyone has a mother.
So when I wanted to write kick-ass women, I thought of my wife. I thought of my friends. I thought about the issues I’ve seen them face and how they’ve kicked ass responding to them. I’ve thought about how the way they kick ass isn’t just literally applying boot to derrière. It’s also been about dealing with problems in clever, creative ways. It’s been about being smarter than the issue. It’s been about knowing when to meet a problem head on and when to side-step it and come from a different angle. I’ve thought about what I’ve seen my wife and my friends do a thousand times. What everyone has seen. Because that’s the world we live in.
Honestly, I know exactly as much about being a female action hero as I know about being a male one. I’ve never been either. They’re both just individuals with individual points of view, shaped by their individual life experiences. Worrying that individuality ends at a gender boundary line is kind of absurd if you think about it for any length of time greater than two seconds.
So now I write about kick-ass women. And when I do, I’m really writing about the women I know. It’s just occasionally I’ll give them katanas to help them along the way.
Jonathan’s book, Yesterday’s Hero, the sequel to No Hero, is out today. You might be familiar with him through other guest posts, but certainly check out this series (and yes, he still hates book promotion).