My Female Characters Tell Me What Happens Next...
Female Lead Characters and Writer’s Block
Over the years, when I have been speaking to students in their classrooms, or to adults
at book-signing events, I have often been asked why all my novels – adult and young-
adult alike – have female main characters. (That’s Rebecca in the adult stories, and her
daughter Joanna in the young-adult stories.) My answer has always been that I have
found women easier to know than men. Women and girls that I’ve known are more
willing than men and boys to want to talk about serious subjects. So, from the start, it
seemed obvious to me that I would do a better job of writing about females as my
centerpiece characters than males.
And that connects to the fact that, whether in classrooms or at book signings, my
answer to the question of whether or not I ever get “writer’s block” has always been No.
“Rebecca (or Joanna) always knows,” I say to my questioner, “what to do or say next.”
That sounds a little odd to people, but it’s true. Think, for example, about the fact that, in
“fiction time,” only a few seconds may pass between what is described or said in one
sentence, and what is described or said in the next. But in actual time – the time I spend
thinking about what comes next – days or weeks may pass before that next sentence is
written. In that length of time, it always becomes pretty obvious to me what Rebecca or
Joanna or, in fact, any other character, wants to say or do.
And that’s exactly how it feels. It feels to me as if Rebecca or Joanna or any of my other
characters are making the decision as to what to do or say next. I’ve never had any
trouble, then, listening to my characters. They’ll tell me what they want to say or do
next. I just write it down.
And one more thing: this also means that when Rebecca or Joanna or one of my other
“good” people find themselves in danger, I hardly ever know, when I place them in that
danger, how they’re going to get out of it. And that means that I, even though I’m the
author, will be just as surprised and just as relieved and just as grateful when they do
somehow come out of the danger as my readers are. It’s at least as suspenseful for me
to write these stories as it is for readers to read them.