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Becoming the female voice.

April 14, 2014

This is not as difficult as it first seemed. I know how to have a male protagonist act… like me! But a female protagonist takes some thought.

After going back and reading the first few chapters of my new book where the protagonist is a female I noticed that she was very much like my last protagonist, Don in Taking Control. I was not happy with this. She had to be VERY female. Though some women can tend toward the masculine in certain circumstances, most women have a very particular way they do such things as shopping.

I go into a store knowing what I want and the entire process of picking up a package of underwear, 2 shirts and some socks takes about 15 minutes including the checkout.

My wife, on the other hand, will examine every bra on the rack then go to the racks of shorts and touch every pair, her size and color or not, then proceed to the blouses and do likewise. Then it is on to the shoes to examine each and try on at least 6 pair. She takes approximately 4 hours to do this then arrives at the check stand with a pair of flip-flops and one bra. She then proceeds to search through her purse for the proper credit card for this store then keeps searching for any discount coupons she is sure she has somewhere and when done she cannot leave the store until she has examined her printed receipt to make sure she was only charged for the items she bought and that she received all the discounts she was entitled to.

This is just one of the differences you must watch for when describing your characters. Your readers must be very aware that the protagonist is definitely female and not just a male protagonist who wears a dress and has long hair. Don’t laugh, when I read back over my first few chapters that is exactly what I saw in my new main character. It seemed quite normal when I first read it but something was nagging at me. It wasn’t until 2 days later that it hit me that the new female lead was ME!

I stopped where I was in the story and started rewriting all the scenes with my main character in them with this in mind. It took me the better part of a day but now I have HER firmly in mind as I go. So, now when she goes into an open-air market to buy a snack for the evening she minutely examines the oranges then the apples then the grapes until she finally decides on a perfectly colored ripe peach and a 4 ounce piece of smoked salmon, which is what I would have picked out in 5 minutes versus 25 minutes.

If you are thinking that this will quickly make the reader bored you are right so it can’t be overdone. But for the setup of the background descriptions of the character I feel it should be done this way versus the lazy writer way which would be to say something like, “…she wore the cutest dress and sandals when she was at the market picking out a peach and some smoked fish.”

It is the difference between telling me and showing me what she is like and how feminine she is.

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