Victor Gischler, the author of Ink Mage gives us an intimate look into the female protaganist of his new novel.
It never occurred to me the first time I wrote a female character that she was representing all women from around the globe. I mean, obviously she doesn’t. Right? But a lot of people – a LOT – seem to think that’s what a female protagonist is for. As a card carrying dude, I’ve been asked in interview questions a number of times if I worry about how I am representing women. Say what? If I thought my female characters were meant to be role models for an entire gender, I don’t think I could write a thing. I’d be paralyzed. In my crime novels, everyone gets put through the ringer. Men. Women. Everyone. Few of my characters are made to look good, but nobody ever complains about the men. Many of the male characters are scum of the Earth. They make very bad decisions. They are sometimes just flat out jerks. This is accepted without an eye blink. It never occurred to me for a second to write the female characters any differently, a fact which disappoints some female readers.
So I suppose I got lucky when I wrote Ink Mage, my fantasy novel in which the protagonist is a young lady named Rina Veraiin. For this novel, I went against my usual instincts and made Rina a good person. Not a “good woman” but rather a “good person” who just happens to be a woman. That’s how I think, I guess. Each of us is his or her own person, with good qualities and bad, strengths and flaws all regardless of our gender not because of it.
Still, when reviews came in praising a “strong female character” I must admit it was a nice change. Male and female readers alike seem to connect with Rina and want to cheer for her. But I didn’t think of Rina as a woman. I thought of her as a person. An individual.
And, of course, I’m not being exactly truthful here. I did think of her as a woman but from a purely storytelling point of view. Would the male characters find her attractive? Would they take her seriously? Would the other female characters be jealous of her? But all of these considerations are about how the characters will interact with one another. I don’t stop and wonder how I’m “representing gender.” None of my characters know you, the reader, are watching them. They don’t know they are supposed to be role models for anyone. In the past, many of my characters have been jerks. In the future they likely will be again. Some of them will be women. That’s not a comment on an entire sex. It’s just about being human.
In Ink Mage, Rina is given various tattoos that give her amazing powers. But the first tattoo she gets is called The Prime. It’s the key tattoo that allows her to get the others. It is a tattoo that allows her to turn inward and tap into her own spirit. Strip away everything from a person – hair color, height, weight, tone of voice, gender – and what you have is pure spirit. At least that’s what I like to think. Something pure that makes us human.
Rina has a hard enough time trying to avoid all the bad guys who want to slice her up with swords. I’d never put the added weight on her of being a female role model – although she’d be a hell of a good one.