Saturday, January 09, 2010

Leading the Ladies

I’m a guy.

(last I checked)

So as a guy, how can I write leading ladies in my stories?

Recently, I received a cool email from a teacher who teaches English as a Second Language in an inner city Chicago school. She had purchased Fang Face at one of my recent events for one of her seventh grade students. We’ll call her student, Emily.

Emily had moved to the States from Puerto Rico a year ago, knowing no English at the time. She is an exceptional student, and already has grasped a lot of our sometimes-confusing language. (I mean, seriously, “to, two, too”? Jeesh!).

The teacher wrote that (we) “…spend a tremendous amount of time, money and effort on struggling students, but sometimes forget those that are on the other side of the spectrum.”

This committed teacher reached into her own wallet for her special student.

Emily ripped through Fang Face in a couple of days and was inspired to want to write me. She didn’t have email, so the teacher enclosed Emily’s email in her own.

Here’s a snippet (remember, she is new to our language):

“I love your book! Its funny and scary. I love it fangs and all. I picture myself as Erin because I love vamps and so I would love to be a vampire.”

This was cool on several levels. First, any author is thrilled when something they write touches a reader, more so when the reader is an easily influenced young person still facing the choices that will help shape her life.

It’s also cool because Emily is a teenaged girl.

And I’m not.

When you write fiction, you hope and pray you are creating a world that draws the reader in, captures them in the story and makes them give a hoot about your characters. I didn’t have trouble writing the boy characters in my book …because I’ve been there … (shaddup, I know it was a while ago)

But I’ve never been a girl, teenaged or otherwise. So when I wrote the parts of Erin and her sister, I was going into uncharted territory. I mean, seriously, though I have a wife and two daughters, I know less about women than I do blood suckers (I do know some attorneys).

Writing leading lady characters meant I had to reach deep into my imagination, past all of the guy-stuff (like ESPN, tools and Victoria Secret catalogues) to connect with that inner women that some men (not me) have.

So I did my best and hoped it was enough.

Emily says it was.


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