by Shelt Garner
I’m trying to populate this first novel with as many provocative characters as I can. I really want the main characters to be well thought out. And, to do so, I’m doing some fancy footwork. I’m really, really leaning into what I remember about the kooky characters associated with ROKon Magazine in Seoul way back when. Including me!
The protagonist of the first three novels is meant to be something akin to a journalistic equivalent to Mare of Easttown. At least, that’s kind of bar I’m setting for myself. I want my protagonist to be as rich and well developed as Mare of Easttown. That’s the dream.
I’ve also recently figured out the dynamic between two characters — just going to use what happened between Annie Shapiro and me back in the bad old days of ROKon Magazine — and this sets up something of a conundrum. I’m well aware that for many within the “woke cancel culture mob” by definition, a CIS white male writing from a female point of view is a mortal sin, never to be forgiven. Ok, I get it. But, what’s worse, is I really want to make this particular character problematic. She, in a sense, is the person to prompts a six novel series and, as such, she really needs to be interesting.
But my definition of “interesting” could be another person’s definition of, “you’re a CIS white male, just shut the fuck up.” I mean, if Fleabag had been written by a man, would the reaction have been the same? If Mare of Easttown is who I’m striving to be like with my protagonist, then it’s Fleabag that I’m striving for in this very important other character.
I want her to be endearing, and yet so be so problematic that you, the reader, are ambivalent about her and you care about her, but when Something Bad happens to her, you don’t quite know what to make of it. Of course, I’m not nearly the write I need to be to pull off such a feat. But if you for the moon, you just might fall into the stars, as the hackney saying goes.
My greatest fear is I’m going to write from a female POV and write something so absurd that all the female members of the audience throw the book across the room in disgust. I’m trying to be as conservative as possible when it comes to elements of the female experience that I can’t reverse engineer (which is most of it) but the more I push into making my would-be Fleabag character as problematic, the more I have to touch on sex, etc. The very things that CIS white middle age authors like me aren’t supposed to broach when writing from a female POV. (Which we’re not supposed to do in the first place.)
But no one ever got anywhere in this world without taking a risk, as my father says. So, lulz, once more into the breach. I’m going to write what I can — even thought I don’t have a wife or a girlfriend to be my “reader” — and hopefully, I won’t embarrass myself too much.