• Fiona McIntosh: Voyager Author of the Month

    Fiona McIntosh was born and raised in Sussex in the UK, but also spent early childhood years in West Africa. She left a PR career in London to travel and settled in Australia in 1980. She has since roamed the world working for her own travel publishing company, which she runs with her husband. She lives in Adelaide with her husband and twin sons. Her website is at www.fionamcintosh.com.

    Her latest book, The Scrivener's Tale, is a stand-alone and takes us back to the world of Morgravia from her very first series, The Quickening:


    About The Scrivener's Tale:

    In the bookshops and cafes of present-day Paris, ex-psychologist Gabe Figaret is trying to put his shattered life back together. When another doctor, Reynard, asks him to help with a delusional female patient, Gabe is reluctant... until he meets her. At first Gabe thinks the woman, Angelina, is merely terrified of Reynard, but he quickly discovers she is not quite what she seems.

    As his relationship with Angelina deepens, Gabe's life in Paris becomes increasingly unstable. He senses a presence watching and following every move he makes, and yet he finds Angelina increasingly irresistible.

    When Angelina tells Gabe he must kill her and flee to a place she calls Morgravia, he is horrified. But then Angelina shows him that the cathedral he has dreamt about since childhood is real and exists in Morgravia.

    A special 10th Anniversary edition of her first fantasy book, Myrren's Gift, will be released in December!

     

     

Defining Strong Women by Kim Falconer

Kim Falconer training with the katana on the beach

This post was originally a contribution to a series of conversations about strong female characters on Mary Victoria’s blog. This is such a hot topic – how do we write strong women. The most interesting thing is, we have to ask the question at all.

 Back in the day, strong women, (where strong equals powerful/autonomous) were evil. Insert social subtext: It’s bad for women to be powerful, or worse perhaps, only bad women can be powerful). Snow White’s step mother was very strong but not many girls wanted to be like her. Macbeth’s three ‘hags’ had it all going on, brewing their ‘Charm of powerful trouble,’ but they were feared at best, despised at worst. Certainly they were not venerated. This social subtext might read – a woman’s intuition is a source of power but she has to get down, dirty and ugly to use it.

 Then there is the Femme Fatale. She is hot hot hot, and bad to the core. Dangerous. Spellbinding. The new subtext? Powerful women are evil and also sexy. Makes sense; we all know sexy women are ‘bad’. I’m not sure if this is a step up from Macbeth but it’s not too hard to see who is doing the defining. Hint. It’s not women.

Finally we have the wo-man, which are male characters with breasts. Nicole Murphy mentions this in her post. The wo-man is written exactly as a man with all his interests, attributes, entanglements and characteristics except he/she has sex with male characters. Interesting. Starbuck, in BSG, the gods love her, is a good example. Wo-man to the soul. Is she a strong female character? Not really. The subtext here is, to be strong you have to be a man.

 It seems our society lacks the language and conceptual insights, given the patriarchal inheritance, to write strong autonomous women without props. Usually female roles fall into four categories—powerful rulers who need a man to tame them/make them complete, helpless rulers that need to be rescued and fall in love with a man, wo-man who don’t need anything and women who are simply invisible. George Lucas stepped outside of these limitations (the scene where Princess Leia rolls her eyes, takes the gun off of fumbling Harrison Ford, AKA male rescuer, and shoots her way out) but viewers weren’t ready for it. By the third film he has her in a gold filigree bikini chained to a giant phallus. Hmmmmm.

 Marshall McLuhan said ‘Art is what you can get away with.’ I think what he means is ‘Art is what you can get away with in the current social paradigm.’ Like Mr. Lucas, you can write a strong woman authentically but if the social climate isn’t ready, she won’t fly. So how do we write strong women minus the subtext and props? As long as we have to ask, we don’t. But as writers, we can keep pushing the social limits, ‘getting away with’ more and more until the question is void and we have true equality, in art and in life. Viva la evolution of our female characters!

Kim Falconer is an author writing evolving, strong and wonderful female AND male characters. If you haven’t already joined her legion of fans, pick up a copy of The Spell of Rosette to get into the world of the Quantum Enchantment.

Visit Kim Falconer’s website for more information on her writing and other pursuits.

Read the whole set of Writing Strong Women posts over at Mary Victoria’s blog.

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5 Responses

  1. I would say that a prop, well-developed female character is one who is not defined by her relationships. In other words, her identity isn’t bound up in the fact that She Needs a Man. She should also be able to handle herself, without propping up (again, from a man).

    So Bella Swan is a weak female character (and how!) because her whole purpose is to be attached to a man and she has no identity of her own. The Bride from Kill Bill is a strong female character, because she isn’t required to find herself a love interest, and she never at any point needs help from a man (or a woman, come to that).

    • I did of course mean to say “proper” rather than “prop” up there. Although some female characters are actually treated like props. Freudian slip, maybe?

    • Great examples, Katie. It’s interesting to look at the deeper motivations of these characters. Bella, on the surface, seems to be coming from a place of love but it may be more a ‘need to become’ something . . . I think her longing for Edward is a deeper desire to connect with her core Self. What else is there that we would be nothing without?

      The Bride (we never know her name, do we?) from Kill Bill seems to be motivated by hate. It’s revenge she’s after, or retribution, but maybe at the core of that drive is love of what she lost.

      I recently read Margaret Atwood’s The Edible Woman. It was her first novel and has a 60’s setting but was wonderfully metaphorical. Brilliant. Her character, Marian, grows from a Bella to an individuated woman and we get to participate in the process. That’s where fiction really blooms–when we see the growth of the heroes, in any and all directions!

  2. […] A piece at the Voyager blog on defining strong women. […]

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