There’s been a lot of discussion lately about diversity in storytelling. There’s not enough LGBT characters, non-white characters, or strong female characters in our fiction. For that reason I’m quite nervous. My newest novel, “They Are Among Us,” features a strong, female protagonist.
Now, I’m not going to go all Melvin Udall and say that strong women make me want to be a better man. Instead, I’m going to take it a step further and tell you strong women make me a better man just by being who they are. They make me think more, react differently, and best of all, see the world with different eyes. Strong women elevate me, not by bending their backs so I can step on or over them, but by taking my hand and leading me on a multitude of journeys I’d otherwise never make.
But I’m not a strong woman.
In fact, I’m an extra-large, corn-fed Midwestern man. Still, writing about a strong woman only seemed natural to me. This wasn’t done by any conscious decision on my part (the first draft of this book was written years ago, before the gender gap in fiction became a thing), but because I’ve always been surrounded, and shaped by, these strong women from my grandmothers to my mom, my aunts, my sister and my wife, down to my women friends. I don’t always agree with them, and we often have robust (sometimes even rancorous) discussions, but that’s par for the course. I’m like that with anyone I respect.
I can’t speak for everyone, so I’ll speak for myself and admit that I need these strong women. Not only in my life, but in my fiction. Fiction is supposed to challenge our perceptions, show us people and places and situations we might not normally encounter; fiction creates empathy for others, and expands a reader’s emotional base. I’m quite proud to join the ranks of authors who’ve written strong women, and hope that anyone who reads “They Are Among Us” finds inspiration and education from Alexandria.
But that doesn’t stop my aforementioned nerves from rattling.
Why? Because I want the women in my life to be proud of how I’ve portrayed them in my novel. I want them to say that Alexandria Maxell is a good example of how women should be written in fiction. I want them to give my book to their daughters (age appropriately, of course) and say, “You can be anything you want, including an F.B.I. agent that helps shape the world.”
Women don’t have to be perfect, no one is. And it’s those imperfections that make people stronger, more so women than men, because they have to fight for what’s right and humane, instead of having it handed to them over a penis. Since there’s an obvious disparity in how women are portrayed in current fiction, writing strong, determined, and kick ass females is empowering, not only for the author, but for women. The more writers that illuminate women in engaging, thoughtful, frightening, and dramatic roles, will continue help bridge this gap between women and men in our society, until finally, they’re where they belong, which is side by side with every man. I know my side is where I want the women in my life to be. Holding my hand, guiding me, helping me, and letting me do the very same thing for them.
Women deserve that, and so much more, from any author that writes them into a book.
C. Bryan Brown has been hit in the face with a dirty plunger, run over with his own car, and even lived in a haunted house. Now he's in corporate America with debt up to his ears and he's happy to be living the dream with his wife, kids, and grandkids. He writes to avoid going to jail and keep his sanity, though he'd love for you to add to his paranoia and stalk him at http://cbryanbrown.net