Why the female heavy cast

14 Dec

Height differences between the different characters I've created.  (L-R) Britannia, Yellow Jacket, Free Spirit, Canadien, Canadienne, Mannequin, Shani Wennemein, Pania Alow.

Height differences between the different characters I’ve created. (L-R) Britannia, Yellow Jacket, Free Spirit, Canadien, Canadienne, Mannequin, Shani Wennemein, Pania Alow.

Originally written at

I got asked that question about the world of Black Mask and Pale Rider a while ago.  The fact that it’s very female centric, very female heavy in the characters.  Part of that came as a push against the establishment.  You look at the movies, books, television shows and so on that have women, and you’ll find it’s actually a very low percentage.  Even then, it’s not uncommon for a reader/viewer to say that women were the majority, even though they may have been only 17% of the actual cast.  Even then, those women may not have had speaking roles.

With Black Mask & Pale Rider, I wanted that slightly different.  The cast of characters is as such.  Now, there are lots of named characters, but these are the characters that played a major part in the original story.

  • Shani Wennemein (female elf, main character)
  • Pania Alow (female elf, main character)
  • Captain Samuel Williams (male, recurring antagonist)
  • Private Johnson (male, recurring, under the command of Captain Williams)
  • Dieter van Buren (maile, secondary character)
  • Ya’Row (female elven vampire, first major villain, has a recurring role)
  • Thadius Maximus/Martin Derringer (male, secondary character, werewolf, assists Pania with the rescue of Shani)
  • The Huntsman (androgynous, gender is not defined, can be called spectral, second major villain)
  • Jonathon Caleb Walker (male, secondary character, assists Shani and Pania against a band of outlaws)
  • Ming (male, secondary character, is rescued by Shani and Pania)
  • Dorval (male, third villain)
  • Mitch, Ferret and Gator (males, three of Dorval’s men)
  • Ezekiel Morgan (male, slave freed by Shani)
  • Jeremiah Kingston the Third (male, fourth villain)
  • Isabella (female, slave, voodoo priestess, forced to use her witchcraft ot support Kingston)
  • Slowhand Johnson (maile, friend of Shani’s)
  • Aurela Dorchester (female, friend of Pania’s, had a romantic affair with Pania)
  • The Lich (androgynous, gender never defined, but can be assumed to be male, fifth villain)
  • Reverend Carter Stewart (male, is compared to being a paladin, a holy knight, helps Shani and Pania fight Ya’Row a second time, this time on a train)
  • Mandrake (an old arch mage, sixth villain)
  • Running Cloud (male, Dakota, helps Pania from a near death experience)

That’s the list of characters from the original book.  This doesn’t include bit parts, of which there are many.  Even with this list being more than the average, it’s still mostly male.  Only 25% of the characters in the book are female.

That’s where the changes come in.

But there’s a bit more than that.

As reading and researching I made few discoveries.  And that was about race.  Not only are women disproportionately shown, so are people of colour.  Admittedly, I had a Chinese man, a black man, and a Dakota man in the book, and one black woman (Isabella).  Sadly, I don’t think I really did them any justice and could have played down stereotypes and tropes.

As it happens, more changes came into affect.  As did more characters.  First, the changes.

  • Shani is revealed to be Metis (her mother Mohawk, her father Gaul or French).
  • Pania is Irish Celtic, and it will be revealed in a more respectful manner that Pania is a lesbian.
  • Clayton “Slowhand” Adams is a former slave (and his name changed from Johnson to Adams, there’s already private Johnson after all).
  • Aurela, the Mistress of a brothel, has two black women as housemates, one of whom will factor importantly (and get a name at some point).
  • Shani’s sister, Wren, will join the pair when fighting against Ya’Row and travel with them.
  • Abisayo will be introduced, being an elf of Yoruba background, and the daughter of the king and queen.
  • Isabella will play a more important role, helping Abisayo keep her protective wards fresh and strong.
  • Pania will reveal her love and affection for Abisayo, though with a great deal of hesitation, as she felt her station is a lower rank than Abisayo’s.  Abisayo will eventually return the affection after watching the care and compassion that Pania has.
  • Adams and Aurela will join Shani, Pania, Wren and Abisayo as they hunt down the Lich’s lair (it will no longer be a high noon shoot out in the street)
  • Reverend Stewart, Adams, Derringer, Walker, Ming, Aurela, van Buren, Morgan, and the as yet unnamed black woman will go after Mandrake.

While only three women have been added to the cast list, it should help greatly.  The story, after all, centers around Shani, Pania, Wren and Abisayo.  Giving Isabella more of a story will also help, and adding in a partner for Aurela should also add to it.

It was important to add women to the story, but it was also important to showcase their race.  Thus why Slowhand’s race is actually identified as African American.  It was also important to include Shani and Wren’s race, and adding in Abisayo.  It’ll be more historically accurate, after all, because in the wild west the majority of gunslingers were, you guessed it, not white.  Black, Native American, and Mexican.

I’m hoping this rewrite does a great deal, and I hope that I can do justice to the characters.

And quite frankly, I’d love it if this book (series) ended up with a strong female audience because as I’ve been reading and watching (all through my followers and those I follow) women are very invested in the characters in books, movies and television.

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Posted by on December 14, 2013 in Black Mask and Pale Rider, Writing


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