I went back and I looked over that piece on strong female characters again, and decided to take the characters of Shani and Pania from Black Mask & Pale Rider and sort of compare them with what was written in that post.
The first point was on agency, that the characters make things happen. Well, as it happens, Shani and Pania are on an adventure and discovery as they find the gates from their world to ours and begin to explore. As the story plays out, it’s also a discovery of trust as they come to know each other better. Along the way, sure they fight vampires and zombies and deal with ghosts and all sorts of magical beasts, but they also deal with the worst mankind has to offer, as well as some of the best.
The next point was relatability. Well, it’s a bit hard to relate to a couple of elves who even as young as they are, they’re still a couple hundred years old. But, they still have human interactions, whether that is between each other or with those they meet in their travels. Shani likes simple music, a good game of poker, has taken to drinking whiskey and from time to time smokes a cigarello. She also has a shoulder dragon she rescued from bandits who is rarely away from her side. She also speaks slowly, in an even tone (even with her acquired Arkansas drawl) and never hides the meaning of her words, unless it happens to be what I call a “Shani-ism”. A quaint saying that sounds something like “it’s hotter ‘n a june bug on a flat rock” or “Crap on a stick”. Shani is also very loyal to her close friends and will defend them if she feels they need defending. She especially does not like it when people talk about her friends behind their backs.
Pania likes epic tales, grand music, fancy dress, swashbuckling, and the theatre. She speaks in a rather sing songy type Irish accent and always appears to have some smirk or smile like she has a secret. This isn’t sarcasm or contempt; it’s confidence and the knowledge she can do the things she says she can do. Like Shani, she’s loyal to her friends, but it takes a great deal to rise her ire. Often she’ll remain very quiet when conversation turns to a friend of hers, and if it’s negative conversation, she doesn’t say a word, but makes certain that the speaker knows of her disapproval with certain looks or gestures.
I could have added into those descriptions that Shani happens to be straight, while Pania is a lesbian, but those are just aspects of their lives that aren’t nearly as important to know. Shani is very private about sex, while Pania is much more open. I also know that in the second point in the original post it says that women aren’t magical creatures from another world… which, actually Shani and Pania are, but it doesn’t mean they have to be written as such. They’re the main characters, there has to be some relatability to them for the reader.
The third point was about integrity and looking at each character and trying to boil them down to one sentence. The original author of the post makes mention of a love interest, which is quite over done with female characters. Yes, Underworld has a very take charge lead with Kate Beckinsale’s character, but she also kind of played side kick to the mutant werewolf/vampire hybrid as well. Like she couldn’t kick ass without his help. Taking a look again at Shani and Pania, while Pania may make a flirty overtone at Shani from time to time, it’s meant in good fun. But deep down, it is kind of a love story as well. Not all love stories have to be about finding that perfect mate and falling in love with them. There’s other kinds of love; paternal love, plutonic love, friendship love. The list of what kinds of love there is could go on. But for Black Mask & Pale Rider, it’s love that Shani and Pania feel for each other because they become best friends. They become partners that each other can trust, with their lives.
I also wanted to present Shani and Pania that way because it’s rare (extremely rare) where two women are presented as friends without adding in the tropes of being catty, slightly backstabby, and sort of gossipy. I wanted Shani and Pania to have none of that between them.
As I’m rewriting Black Mask & Pale Rider, I look over a lot of the things I’ve written with the pair, and realize that as I’ve written, and as I’ve read information here on tumblr through people I follow and from other sources (such as Feminist Frequency, think progress, upworthy, a large number of women of colour who run blogs, etc.) that if I want a story that lots of people will like, then I have my work cut out for me. I may not get absolutely everything down so that 100% of the people will like it (actually, I’m pretty sure that’s a given), but I want to make it feel as though this fantasy world of Black Mask & Pale Rider feels a little more inclusive.
- Why women in fiction is important; Round 2! (taholtorf.wordpress.com)