(You can find Part 1 of this article here.)
SPOILER ALERT from this point forward.
Remember how in yesterday’s post I said that in writing, things seldom work out quite as we’d planned?
Oh man, did “The Codex of Desire” hit me over the head with that lesson, MULTIPLE TIMES.
Although the matriarchy-versus-patriarchy conflict was built into my earliest concepts of “Codex”, the original plot was oriented towards the main male character (Tir’at), and his feelings and actions. In that sense it was a standard “Big Man Hero” narrative — and I think that if I’d written it that way, the whole thing would have turned out elegantly enough, but.. well, probably a bit boring, to be honest.
Maybe a whole lot boring.
NOPE! The Writing Machine inside my head had completely different ideas, which it failed to share with me initially. I pounded out the first draft during 2015 and 2016, put it aside for one year and three months, then went back to re-read it in early September 2017 — yep, I could still stand to look at it, which is always a good sign. My hero was still engaging to me— always an EXCELLENT sign. I was poised to move ahead with telling Tir’at’s story, primarily from his point of view…
… but that didn’t last very long. In fact, it only lasted until mid-September 2017, when I took a “Why High Concept?” seminar with Lori Wilde during SavvyAuthors.com‘s SavvyWriterCon 2017. Lori had us all write out one-sentence pitches for our novels, and when I posted my first set of possible “hooks”, she told me outright:
“The slave girl is the protagonist. Make her the focus of your pitch.”
And just like that, lightning struck, the angels sang, and I realized:
Oh my God, I wrote a female Hero without even knowing I was writing a female Hero!
And that Hero was the lowest ranked slave in her society. But she was also the individual who got the action moving and KEPT the action moving, with Tir’at’s arrival in the Tribal settlement as her “inciting incident”.
So — Tir’at was NOT the Hero at all.
Do you know what Tir’at was?
He was the Damsel in Distress, that’s what — right down to being kept prisoner in a tower!
Okay, trope inverted without me ever intending to invert it. By now my head was spinning, and the vertigo only increased when I started thinking about what I’d actually written in more depth.
Who was Tir’at focussed on? Who got HIM moving? That’s right: the female Poet and the female Most Potent Chieftess, with the female slave Girn’ash supplying intelligence, suggestions, and plans to help him achieve his overriding “Oh, I’m so desperately in love with La’leet!” goals. He wasn’t just the Damsel in Distress, he was the Damsel Helplessly In Love, his “male” rationality completely overcome.
My male main character might have been the fulcrum that the novel moved around, but the actual powers that motivated him and manipulated him for their own purposes were ALL FEMALE.
And then the second realization struck:
Oh my Goddess, I inadvertently wrote a feminist novel!
And from that point on, my approach to writing “The Codex of Desire” changed radically, I believe for the better.
Want to know more? Tune into the “Femisphere” broadcast on September 20th, 2018 — or you can also catch it on replay through the CKUW archives, starting a day or two after the initial broadcast. 🙂
Any questions you’d like answered right now? Feel free to pop them into the comments!