I’ll confess something before I start this post: There’s a part of me that hates to talk about my own writing. It seems so pretentious somehow to try to tell readers what they’re reading. Sure, I wrote the book, but once it’s written it’s really up to each individual reader how they interpret it and see the world I created.
But I’m going to talk about my writing, because, well, it seems to be the thing you do as a writer with a blog geared towards your readers.
And today’s topic is going to be about writing an older female character who is complicated and nuanced and real.
Now, when I was writing Rider’s Revenge I didn’t think to myself, “I should include a strong older female character because there isn’t enough diverse representation of older female characters in literature and I want to address that.” Didn’t cross my mind that it was a good thing to do at all.
I’m a pantser as a writer, meaning I’m not even sure what’s going to happen next until the words hit the page. (Those two big twists at the end of the book? Had no clue they were coming until they happened. The one you probably saw coming about halfway through the book? That one I did know about going in. Funny how that works.)
So Herin was just there when I reached that point in the story. (And she’s actually not the only strong older female character, is she? K’lrsa’s mom and Lodie would qualify as well.) Without giving away too much of the story Herin is a woman with power in a society that denies all women power. And she does it despite the fact that she was basically captive for twenty-five years and is missing the first joint on each of her fingers and her thumbs.
Is she a hag or witch like so many older women in literature? (Like this article discusses.) There’s that aspect to her. She didn’t reach the position she did by kissing babies and being all lovey-dovey to everyone around her. And she does have certain unique skills.
But she’s not evil. She’s not actively trying to harm those around her. She’s just a woman who knows what matters to her and is willing to do what she must to make that happen or protect what she’s already accomplished.
She’s also more than her ambitions. She loves very deeply and is loyal to the point of painfulness at times. (At least I think so.)
Why did I write her that way? Because that’s how people are. They aren’t one thing. They’re complicated and each has their own loves and losses, no matter their age or gender or ethnicity.
I like to think that every character in my novel is nuanced and a real person with multiple facets to their personality, just like all the people I know in my real life.
Did I pull it off? I don’t know. Only my readers can answer that question. And I suspect that for each reader there is some particular aspect of the story that drew them in. I probably have readers that didn’t even give Herin a second thought.
And that’s okay. Because at the end of the day I write the story, but it’s the reader who makes the story come alive.
(I told you. I am horrible at discussing my writing…)