My Fair Lady Outlaw (Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell)

“From the stage that brought you Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre,” Allyn-a-Dale proclaims before the curtain, “here’s Ever On Word’s original talk show, Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell.”

Danielle whipped up a logo for me, because she is awesome first class.

The curtain rises, the studio audience applauds, and Will Scarlet himself walks smiling and waving onto the bright, cozy set.

“Hullo, everyone! Let’s jump right into it, shall we?” Leading by example, he hops into his armchair. “Allyn, who is our guest character today?”

As the guest enters from the other side of the stage, Allyn says, “While guest-posing on the blog of Luna Station Quarterly two summers ago, she introduced herself thus:

Hello, Internet. My name’s Marion – perhaps more popularly known as “Maid Marian”, except I don’t use that spelling and I’m quite consummately married.

“Welcome, Marion!” Will greets the woman now seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – how the devil did you snag a guest post spot in a spec fic magazine?? I network my hose off in our author’s world, and I’ve never received any such invitation!”

“I’m afraid you were just at a disadvantage this time around, Will,” says Marion, shrugging none too apologetically. “LSQ’s a platform for women’s voices, and you… well, you are, by some definitions, a man.”

“Humph. Shows how far being in touch with your feminine side will get you.”

“I wouldn’t know,” she says, chin propped on fist. “I’ve never felt femininity to be my strongest suit. Yes, certainly I identify as a lady. But strip away the stereotypes, and you’re not really left with much to go on regarding what that definitively means. How much of me is Marion, and how much is the outlaw who’s also a chick? These are the existential questions one wrestles with. And when I say ‘one’, I mostly mean my author after she’s spent too long on Twitter. I’m usually too busy helping Robin try to keep the band in some semblance of order.”

“So, if not ‘the chick’, what do you consider your character role to be?”

“According to one review? ‘The fun aunt.’” She laughs in delight. “I wouldn’t say that’s far wrong. Nor would I say that I’m any one thing in an extreme. On the contrary, what I most try to do is act as a balancing agent within the group. Fill in the gaps, you know? If Robin gets too focused on the job, I give attention to the people doing the work. Where Little John can intimidate just by occupying the same space as the rest of us, I strive to set everyone at their ease. And when you… well.” She rolls a slim brown hand Will’s way. “When you’re you, I’ll usually see what I can do to provide a voice of relative calm and reason. Not always easy, that.” Even as her brows affect a stern set, her eyes are all smiles. “You were a poor influence on me in my formative years.”

“One does try,” Will says graciously. “Now, if you asked any of the other outlaws in ‘Ballad’ who their favorite fellow Merry Man is, their reflex answer would probably be you.”

“What, not Robin?”

“He’d be the first to tell you leaders don’t count.”

“Eh,” says Marion, nodding concession.

Will presses, “But if you had to choose your own bestie among the bandmates…?”

“Oh, that’s nothing like a fair question,” Marion protests. “You, Robin, and Little John have all three been my best friends since the English throne sat King Henry II. And now there’s sweet little Allyn – the Precious Baby Nephew to my Fun Aunt. I can’t be expected to pick a favorite.”

Will wags a finger. “It’s that sort of indecision that creates a love triangle, lady fair.”

She gives him a flat look. “There is no love triangle, Will.”

“But, I mean, technically, isn’t there, kinda?”

Her full lips purse. “Given that I’ve already married one of you? No.”

The host’s shrug is over-casual. “Just ‘cause you’re with one person doesn’t mean you can’t want to kiss another.”

Marion glances ironically at the camera. “Where could this line of conversation be going, I wonder?”

“Which brings me to my final question,” Will continues. “Tell me, what is our author Danielle E. Shipley’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret? Or would you rather—”

“How ‘bout a fun fact instead?” Marion says brightly. “Readers may wonder: Why did Danielle choose to end my name in ‘-on’ rather than the more traditional ‘-an’? Answer: For years prior to her first-drafting of ‘Ballad’, she had a Marian-with-an-‘a’ in another story world. Nothing to do with the Robin Hood legend at all, just the little sister of one of the MCs. And that Marian? A good deal more obnoxious than me. Danielle didn’t think the brat deserved to share a name with me, so she gave mine a different spelling to help keep us well separate in her imagination. And after all that, wouldn’t you know? That character ended up getting her name changed in that other story’s reboot. #AuthorLife!”

“Ain’t that the truth,” says a visibly dejected Will Scarlet. “Allyn, why don’t you round out the fun with a word from our sponsor?”

“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, “and a number of enticing prizes for those who care to try for them, was brought to you by the Launch Week+ celebration of The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale’ (The Outlaws of Avalon, Book One) by Danielle E. Shipley – available now!

Ballad Cover, front 02

Welcome to Avalon, a Renaissance Faire where heroes of legend never die. Where the Robin Hood walking the streets is truly the noble outlaw himself. Where the knightly and wizardly players of King Arthur’s court are in fact who they profess to be. Where the sense of enchantment in the air is not mere feeling, but the Fey magic of a paradise hidden in plain sight.

Enter Allyn-a-Dale. The grief of his father’s death still fresh and the doom of his own world looming, swirling realities leave the young minstrel marooned in an immortal Sherwood Forest, where he is recruited as a member of Robin Hood’s infamous outlaw band. But Allyn’s new life may reach its end before it’s scarcely begun. Their existence under threat, the Merry Men are called upon to embark on a journey to the dangerous world Outside – ours – on a quest which must be achieved without delay, or eternity in Avalon will not amount to very long at all.

“Thank you, Allyn,” Will says. “Thanks to you, too, Marion, m’love. And thank you, my beautiful audience. Remember, authors – if your characters would like to appear on the show, simply follow the guidelines provided here, and we’ll get them on the schedule. ‘Til next time, lovelies: Scarlet out!”

Puddles vs. Oceans: The “Strong Female Heroine” Convo Continues

A while back, I posted a snippet of my thoughts on the whole “strong female heroine character” thing. Soon after, the post prompted a discussion betwixt me and another Danielle E. with whom I’m friends on Facebook, in which I feel some worthwhile things were said. So (with my fellow D.E.’s permission, of course), I’m posting a transcription of our chat here to join the ongoing dialogue re: female characters.

Why I personally think this is a conversation worth having: Because it really shouldn’t be this hard, guys. Female characters are just characters, so you’d think anyone who could write an awesome dude could write an equally awesome chick. Gosh knows there are cool chicks aplenty in the real world. So why are they so tricky to come by in writing? (And that’s me preaching to my own self, too, since I’ve taken note of this as one of my creative challenges.) Until such time as crafting satisfactory females comes naturally, then, the conversation goes on. Here’s what a couple of Danielles had to add.

<<<>>>

DEC: When I think “strong female heroine”, I don’t think physical strength; I mean “well rounded female character”, which is hard to come by. Doesn’t mean they’re strong, or brave, or that I even like them. Just means that they are as rounded and whole as any male character, which can be rare, and I value that.

I like to practice something when I create a character. I write them as both genders for practice. I ask myself, “Would changing so-and-so’s gender ruin them?” If the answer is “yes”, then that’s exactly what I do. I write them as the opposite gender. It really reveals a lot about them, and my own perceptions on how each gender “should” be.

DES:  It’s awful, but I find it less bothersome creating girl characters if I can manage to not think of them as girls. It’s not that I don’t feel I can have girl charries do as much as boy charries; I just… don’t generally enjoy hanging out with fictional females as much. In real life, I’m more comfortable chatting with girls. In my head, I much prefer guys. Have fun with that, psychiatrists.

DEC: I think that’s because there’s such a lack of likeable female characters in literature. I’m that way too. ‘Tis why I’m trying to change that in myself.

DES: Quite probable. After all, I know more about writing from reading than from living. Of course, then there’s the objection that it’s not necessarily a female character’s job to be “likeable” – that there has, perhaps, been more pressure on them to be likeable than male characters receive. The question then arises, are there as many ways for female characters to be likeable as there are for males? That is, how many variations of personhood can a character display and still be liked by the reader, and how do those numbers stack up for women vs. men?

DEC: I think for me the reason I don’t like female characters as much isn’t because they aren’t sweet … they’re TOO sweet. They feel shallow, one dimensional. There isn’t anything they’re hiding … no darkness. It feels like they are a puddle, while their male companions are oceans. That’s what I don’t like. I guess I don’t like them because the creators are trying too hard to make me like them? XDDD

DES: *nods* Puddles vs. oceans. I think you may be onto something.

How many fathoms below can we go?
How many fathoms below can we go?

DEC: Even if they’re NOT sweet, they’re still shallow. It’s like they can only be one thing … either they’re sweet and dumb, smart and sassy, or tough and cold. In reality, a woman can be all of those things, wrapped up in a complex package.

DES: Analogy that popped into my brain: “Women aren’t just Lizzie Bennett. They can be Mr. Darcy, too.” That man came off as cold and rude, then gave a total #fail of a love confession, and in general kept people wondering, What in the world is wrong with this jerk? But by the end, reasons were provided in such a way that readers everywhere swoon at the mention of his name. Women characters, mayhap, are less frequently provided the sort of context that (at most) excuses or (at least) explains their behavior. They’re just made to be whatever the author requires of them at the time; are more devices than they are fully understood people. And readers can feel that, even if they can’t consciously articulate what’s going on.

DEC: YES, THANK YOU. Women and men, we’re both equally complex, both equally persons. I need to see more of that in literature.

DES: I’ll try to work on it. X)

DEC: Me, too; I’m certainly not innocent, ha!

<<<>>>

Any thoughts from you, readers? It’s open mic time; join the conversation in the comments!