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Notes on Writing Wife—: Portland, Oregon 11/4/2022
© 2023 James LaFond
Writing from the female narrative perspective is something that writers of speculative fiction tend to fail in: men and women authors both. Women, like Ursula K. Leguin, tended to write better boys than women in the old days. Other than Robert Jordan and Robert E. Howard, most men authors have failed as well, to represent a realistic feminine protagonist. This is similar to the almost total lack of realistic black characters written by black writers, a symptom of that literary pressure to represent the female and colored character in the role once held by the Аrуаn hero, such as in Where the Crawdads Sing.
I realize, that despite not being female, that I am one of the few writers alive that has a chance at writing a realistic female perspective, due to my unique level of alienation. This is daunting, to find the bitch in my soul while writing heroic fantasy.
I depend on writing female characters on the dozens of interviews I did in the late 1990s of female crime victims and female criminals. I Depend also on my habit of only having long term relations with women. Men think that women don’t hold anything inside, that they have no secret thoughts and beliefs, or deep-held opinions due to the fact that they chatter continually and in general about nothing of import.
This is a protective measure. Women of gravity, women worthy of a song, do not trust other women with their deepest thoughts, for they know these mavens as their enemies in the eternal war for who owns men. Of course, few women trust men, for the reason that most men lack depth or the capacity for depth, in their thought, being slaves in the main to their masters in whatever hierarchy they ascribe to for definition. Most men, like most women, are incapable of self-definition, naturally suited to be the slave and the master but rarely the hero. Women of grace though, understand that some men, have the self-defining capacity that all women and most men lack. They thus set their wiles to the task of supporting such a man. This is the key theme of Homer’s Odyssey embodied in the plights of Penelope, Hellen, Circe and Calypso, and even the darling princess of the Phaecians, as well as that of Thetis, mother of Achilles.
Ironically, the most hyper-masculine male hero, Conan the Barbarian, was crafted by Robert E. Howard as much from the feminine as the masculine perspective.
Howard had a mother who told tales, and two aunts who did the same, perhaps giving him this perspective. It is hard to get to know what really swims in a woman’s mind once a man. I have found that it takes 5 to 10 years of fucking a woman stupid and at the same time never being mean to her, before she will even consider baring her soul, of abandoning the continual grift of her kind that is the dainty face of the war over men waged eternally by women.
They harbor a jealousy of us, conjoined with a need for us.
Through both over-used strength and by way of callous weakness, we have, of old, earned their distrust.
They don’t even know what they are until they hit about 40 and their nature starts to change.
I spent hours last week in a bed in San Jose while dear SaySay laid her dainty head on my chest and silently cried, because the deeply coiled secrets of her kind which she wanted to unburden could not emerge from her pretty facade. Like a medieval lord, she has but one keep and fears abandoning its refuge.
The following are some of the aspects I have used to write from the feminine. Yes, I realize that my readers are men. But my editor is a woman, and it is up to her to sell the story, so she must believe it. Besides, I have written 75 novels as men, and enjoyed the change of pace in Holiday Blue, of writing a few chapters from the feminine. And, I’m writing this story primarily for my niece, who was never so happy as when I assured her that if any man harms her I will kill him and exit this life for damnation as her hero.
Wife— was conceived as half of a couplet of novels, a feminine perspective of the feminine, and the second, Knight., a feminine perspective on the masculine.
This is aided by the convention of narrative “Coils” adopted in Ranger?, for the telling of tales set in a medieval, feudal American West of 2031-32. The idea of the coil combines the narrative threads woven by the Higher Powers, with the coiled serpent lying in menacing wait for the hero, and that hero’s coiled lasso by which he might wrangle the coils of cruel Fate into a resolution aligned with his Faith.
Also, the idea of holding in a thought, of not revealing the mystery of a story, as a woman of grace does within her mind, never revealing all, is something I have been practicing, holding back writing as the story builds in my mind.
Also, I had some conversations with Arla, a woman of about 90, about her childhood and youth in the alpine valleys I have set Wife— in, recollections of hers I have not committed to journalistic writing, in order to preserve a female voice for the story. Before I left Utah, Arla hugged me, gave me a card with some money, and declared, with a tear in her eye, “James, come back to us. You are a good man. You work your guts out and I know there is a young woman out there that ‘ill be glad to see you when you get off that train.”
In that way, she reminded me, that the things that men do, and decline to do, rear mountainous and yawn abysmal in the life of women.
Another artifice I have employed in holding off a week for the writing of this story, was to wait for an act of nature, a bone frightening reminder that our tiny bodies, be we men, are, before the fury of the natural world, as vulnerable as a woman in a physical world shared by men, the weakest of whom can rear like monsters in the life of the creatures we were designed to conquer.
Today a torrential rain beats on this timber-built frame under which I write, reminding me of the time when thunder cracked above me on a midnight walk to work in Baltimore City, and I jumped straight up like a monkey started by the roar of a lion, reminded with a hackle raising chill that I am, after all, a soft watery thing caught in the iron tide of Time.
The protagonist, Lynn Jamison, is based on my niece Jamie, who asked me to write a fantasy story with a character based on her who is “...not raped or killed, please, Uncle Jimmy,” who I composited with my editor Lynn, who has very strong opinions and a ferocious intellect, that would help Jamie stand up to an unjust world, and with Deb, my land lady in Utah, a woman with a stout sense of humor and a knack for managing the useful brutes her kind smilingly wonder at, called “men.”
To see Bob, hulking and still strong, broken by work, cutting meat at the kitchen table, while Deb, petite and bent with years, bends over him with the scrap bowl, and wonders, “Berto, we’re getting old. If James bites the dust before next harvest...we’re up a creek…” this vision of my big friend and his little wife is the breath that breathes into this story life.
Thank you, all—James.
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within leviathan’s craw
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