Nancy: In Celebration of Women’s Voices

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The writers here at 8LW are proud and unabashed purveyors of women’s stories. Many of us have written or are now writing romance fiction primarily aimed at a female audience. Not so surprising, since we met through the McDaniel romance writing program. Others are writing women’s fiction, a marketing term applied to women’s stories written by female authors. There should be nothing shocking, threatening, or degrading in telling stories that reflect women’s lives, as we do make up 51% of humanity. And yet, sadly, we have all witnessed and have occasionally discussed on this blog the downgrading or even outright dismissal of romance, women’s fiction, and other primarily female-authored genres and books.

Sometimes, the turkeys really can get you down. Or make you angry. Or make you question whether you should reduce your female-sounding name to initials and write male protagonists, in search of acknowledgement that what you have to say matters. If you’re really lucky, those times will be few and far between. And if you are even luckier, you will occasionally have one of those moments that makes you realize just how important women’s stories are, and how intrepid we must be in raising our voices to make those stories, fictional and non-fictional, heard.

I had just this kind of reminder this past weekend. While having dinner with good friends, a woman whom we have known for years told a (new-to-us) story of her previous marriage. It was harrowing. She literally looked down the barrel of a gun and believed she was drawing her last breath. At the other end of the gun was her husband. I won’t go into more details, as those are not mine to share. suffice it to say she escaped and eventually built a new life for herself. But the violent core of that story is far too familiar to untold numbers of women (and men, too) in our supposedly civilized society.

I did not mention that in my WIP, my protagonist faces violence from the man who is now her ex. My made-up story pales in comparison to any real-life person’s horrifying ordeal. But these types of stories, in real life and in fiction, are important to tell. For some people, they provide a voice to their personal stories, evidence that they are not alone, and hope that sometimes good triumphs over evil. For others, such tales remind or even inform them that violence that exists in our world, our communities, and even our own homes. You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge. If our stories do nothing else, they acknowledge women. Our stories acknowledge their fears and their courage. Our stories share their struggles and their triumphs. Sometimes, our stories even provide hope for a better life.

I will not accept that 49% of the population has cornered the market on stories that describe the ‘human’ experience. sometimes all of the above. They are full of wonderful and amazing female and male characters. The women in our stories are allowed to rescue themselves and their loved ones. They are not reduced to being props for the male protagonist to rescue or lust after or grieve over (after the female characters’ untimely death). They are strong. They are women, hear them roar. It’s a beautiful sound.

Of all the fabulous female characters out there, who is your favorite? What about her character or her story makes you love her?

7 thoughts on “Nancy: In Celebration of Women’s Voices

  1. Hear, hear!

    Morality in a story can be a double-edged tool. And I’m sure we’ve all read stories — especially stories for younger readers — that bash us around the head and shoulders with How To Live Your Life.

    But some of my favorite stories instruct with a gentleness — this is how one woman lived her life, and how she dealt with her struggles and learned to keep going on.

    I think this is an important role for fiction. How do we go on from here?

    When I was young, I loved reading Mercedes Lackey’s books. Her characters were weirdos and abused and not-altogether-loved, but they found love and happiness and good things. I learned a lot from those books. I’d like to particularly call out the Valdemar Arrows series for showing a spunky young girl from an oppressive religious background (btw, NOT my background at all!) who becomes a chief advisor to the queen. (Arrows of the Queen is the first book in the trilogy.)

    Hoorah for women’s fiction, and all the strong women in the books, and writing the books!

    • I have read some of Mercedes Lackey’s books, from the early 2000’s I think, but I was not familiar with the Valdemar Arrows series. Lots of people have recommended reading some of her earlier work, so I might just have to do that one of these days. The TBR pile just grows and grows!

  2. I love strong female characters (even though, every now and then, I like a good “knight in shining armor” type story, too).

    Favorites: the geisha in “Memoirs of a Geisha,” the Mallory women in Johanna Lindsey’s books (most of them started out “helpless” or in trouble, and ended up running the show), Jessica in “Lord of Scoundrels” (she shoots Dain!), Ana and Elsa from “Frozen,” and probably lots more that haven’t come to me yet for lack of caffeine this morning.

    Elsa and Ana are my new faves, probably because theirs is a “sisters” story above all else. Yes, the romance is there, but it’s not the central focus. Every time I hear “Let it Go” I get all teary, because it’s such a strong empowerment song for women, and not just in the “empowerment from guys” kind of way, either. The song is about being true to yourself, letting it all out, and not giving in to the fear (of rejection, of bullying, of discrimination…all of it). If I were the mother of girls, I’d make them listen to that song every day and drive home that they can do and be anything and they shouldn’t be afraid to be themselves.

    • Oh, I forgot about Memoirs if a Geisha! I have yet to see Frozen. Some of the animated movies slip under our radar now that we don’t have kids in the house, but that’s one I definitely want to see. (That and Despicable Me part 2 – for the minions mostly, but the three ‘daughters’ are pretty awesome, too.)

  3. One of the things that’s so wonderful about romance novels is that every single one is a woman’s story. However she starts out, whoever she is, whatever her station in life, and however she changes in the course of the book, the story is about her. She’s the champion. That alone is a powerful statement.

    I like a gutsy heroine as much as the next person, and I like to see courage in all its manifestations. So while it can be fun to see a woman strap on armor and ride into battle and fight demons, it’s also great to read about a woman who fights her crippling shyness and stands up to give a presentation.

    Domestic violence and a culture that supports it has been on my mind more than usual because of the events in Isla Vista. Congratulations to your friend for finding the courage to leave and build a new life. It’s a shame on us as a society that she didn’t feel that she’d have a possibility or the support to leave sooner—so many women have few options to escape. I’m glad she found a way.

    Romance novels won’t provide a solution to the world’s ills, but they do provide an opportunity to talk about issues that women face and at the same time offer hope. Sometimes that’s just what a person needs.

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