Monday, April 6, 2015

Against Type: Rewriting the She-Ro

April 5, 2015
When I discovered that baby girls were being thrown away, I needed to write about it.  I wanted to understand a society where that could happen, where females were complicit, where it was of the culture.  To venture so far into the dark, I needed hope, and someone to embody it.  I needed her to be someone I would want to follow from fear and darkness, into the light. 

Mina, the protagonist of my epic trilogy, is a rogue Dream Weaver, recast in the Night Mare’s government-church dogma as, The Gold Stone Girl.  She’s the human sacrifice the Night Mare, the demon ruler of the world, must consume to renew the planet, and herself.  It’s not a light burden. 
In characterizing her, I wondered what decisions I might make in a restrictive society. What if I could be boiled in oil by a drug lord, or tortured to change my religion?  Have acid thrown in my face for being too enticing, or too confident.  A bullet put into my head for going to school?  What if rape were a common occurrence when I had to forage for food and kindling, or if I walk alone at night, or if I let a guy buy me dinner?  What if girl babies were put to death as an everyday matter of course all around me?  What if my labia and clitoris were removed just before puberty, as a cultural tradition? What might I sublimate of my own will just to live?  This is the world I gave Mina to survive.  
Mina is found inside a tree, and raised by outsiders, Off-gridders, which allows us all to get to know the Night Mare’s horror from a distance, at least in the beginning.  Then I gave Mina the task of having to save the whole world, in order to save herself.  Ultimately everyone has a stake in her success, or failure, even the Night Mare
Mina’s a reluctant hero who slips through the cracks of the Night Mare’s system, a system set up specifically to find her.  She wants to be normal, like everyone else, except for being owned, and abused.  So in order to find a new normal, Mina has to undertake the extraordinary, she has to discover who she is, from inside herself, as all record of her legend has been expunged by her enemy.  

I wanted to create the type of confident woman I’d long admired in novels about housekeeping, Jane Austen heroines, and such.  Women who aspired to lives that were not allowed to them.  Even if the perceived stakes weren’t high, will I marry on my own terms, in partnership, in love, or will I not marry at all, in a world where marrying meant you were property, and, not to, meant spinsterhood, financial ruin, and familial shame.  It was a time when widowhood was the only state in which a woman could own her own life, though not always her own property if it was entailed away to the next male in the family line.
I didn’t want Mina to be the she-male of gamers and graphic novels, hyper-sexualized and hyper-violent, something to be caged and tamed, before she’s killed.  I wanted someone less two dimensional.  Someone flawed, who makes mistakes and grows from them.  I wanted her to understand how to physically defend herself, and others.  I wanted her to know how to survive the planet. What doesn’t kill her does make her stronger, but in her heart she's flight, not fight.
Mina’s greatest gift is in her ability to separate her own self-worth, from the stereotypes by which all females on the planet Blinkin are prescribed by law.  Mina’s journey is to turn a perceived weakness, her ability to dream, into the basis of her strength and confidence.  Mina’s magic is belief in herself.  She doesn't dream of rescue, she dreams of rescuing herself.

Nicole Quinn is a WGA writer.  She's written scripts for HBO, Showtime, and network television. Her feature film, RACING DAYLIGHT, (starring Academy Award winner Melissa Leo and Emmy winner David Strathairn), is streaming everywhere. She won the Harper Audio contest to read on Neil Gaiman's 10th anniversary full cast audiobook American Gods. She has produced a dozen audiobooks and narrated as many. Her plays are published by Playscripts, Inc.

Are you a writer, like Nicole Quinn, with female characters who defy tropes and overturn expectations? Why not submit your own essay to us? We would love to hear how your #UnabridgedWomen characters are rewriting stereotypes!

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