The story is that one of my favorite Victorian writers, Charlotte Yonge, used to submit all her manuscripts to her father before she sent them to publishers. He would then ruthlessly excise anything which was improper, making sure that the final product contained nothing that would bring the blush of shame to the cheek of modesty — that is, that it accurately reflected all his opinions.
I’m reminded of this every time I get another article in my feedly telling me how to make my fiction feminist enough — basically, how I can make it accurately reflect the writer’s opinions. Now, why would I want to make my fiction reflect anybody’s opinions except my own? Where do all these people come from, who think that fiction writers should care about reflecting their opinions? Charlotte Yonge’s father was at least giving her room and board and free Latin lessons.
You’d think I would just purge my feedly of these earnest sheeple who don’t realize that the world does not need post 10,001 about how to write politically correct ideological fiction and that writers don’t as a group, really want to serve as unpaid propagandists. But I don’t, and this is why.
Every time I read one of these earnest screeds by someone who has apparently never had an original thought, I get enraged. I wonder how I could rebel against these impertinent echo-chamber jackasses and self-appointed guardians of fictional virtue, and vow to let the non-feminist characters in my books have freer rein. I write much of Linus Ukadnian’s and Teddy Whin’s dialogue when in this state of mind. Linus openly scorns feminism as special-pleading, and Teddy began as a parody of it. Yet … Linus and Teddy evolved into some of my better characters, people I sympathize with and who have skills I admire. I ended up giving Linus the house of my dreams and Teddy one of the only happy-ending romances in the whole series.
The fact is I need to read things that infuriate me, because I develop characters from a place of irritation. When I am really pissed off at some entitled online virtue-signaller, call-out artist, or identity policeman, that’s when I will send my characters off to do interesting things. Left to my own placid life, they would read and garden; but when I’m boiling mad, they fight with dragons. They consider becoming avatars of the Blood God, or diss banshees, or burn everything they own and wade right into big oozy demons, or insult a bar full of vampires. Then I have to back-calculate from this and figure out what’s really going on with the characters and why they would ever do such things. Then I have a story.
I’m writing a character right now who initially communicated only in aggressive social justice tweets. (#racistmuch? #chkyrpriv) When I asked why a character would do something like that, though, she developed a backstory and a problem and now is the center of the whole book. She no longer communicates solely in hashtags. Instead, she punches out total strangers in bars and accuses innocent students of sexual harassment. She’s actually a lot of fun.
I think I’ll give her kittens.