A reminder that St. Martins Press is hosting this amazing sweepstakes for Romance Awareness Month! It goes through August 16, 2020, so jump over there to win this awesome collection of romances in a variety of subgenres!
A bit ago on the podcast, I was discussing how “we” – as a culture – tend to give active roles in a story to the male characters. In a story where the male and female protagonists have equivalent roles, or even when the female protagonist has a greater role in the overall story, it tends to get described in terms of the actions he takes. This tends to be unconsciously done, and not intentional – but it IS a reflection of our overall culture and deep programming.
As an example, I mentioned reviewing the catalog copy for THE PROMISED QUEEN. This is book 3 of the Forgotten Empires (THE FIERY CROWN in the sweepstakes is book 2) and for those of you who’ve been reading the trilogy so far, you know that the story is evenly split between Queen Euthalia (Lia) and Conrí (Con). If one of them has more emphasis in my mind, it’s Lia. But when my editor, Jennie Conway, sent me the catalog copy (this is what goes to bookstores for ordering, etc.), the story sounded to me much more like Con’s. Here it is:
Conri, former Crown Prince of Oriel, has claimed the hand that wears the Abiding Ring, but the prophecy hasn’t been fulfilled. He and his bride, Lia, Queen of Calanthe, are safe on her island kingdom – for now. But Calanthe isn’t the haven it once was. Now that blood has been spilled on the island, the truth of Lia’s powers—and her deep connection to Calanthe—will be revealed. As the threat of Emperor Anure intensifies, Conri and Lia will have to put their trust, and love, in each other to stop the emperor once and for all. In the thrilling finale to the Forgotten Empires trilogy, the fate of the world hangs in the balance as Con, Lia, and their allies sacrifice everything to save their kingdoms.
Now, there is a hard limit for characters and spaces, but can you see the subtle ways the copy points to Con having the most active role? One flag is the reference to “He and his bride.” Why doesn’t it start with Lia and mention her consort? Then Lia’s powers are revealed – but it doesn’t sound like she has anything to do with that. So, I revised it to read:
Conrí, former Crown Prince of Oriel, claimed the hand that wears the Abiding Ring, but the prophecy remains unfulfilled. Queen Euthalia of Calanthe returned to her island kingdom, but broken in mind and body. With the blood of war unleashing ancient terrors, Calanthe isn’t the haven it once was. Lia must use her magical bond with Calanthe to save their people while Con fights to hold off the vengeful Emperor Anure and his wizards. Con and Lia will have to trust in each other—and in love—to fend off ultimate disaster. In the thrilling finale to the Forgotten Empires trilogy, the fate of the world hangs in the balance as Con, Lia, and their allies sacrifice everything in a final bid to destroy the corrupt empire.
See how I gave both characters equal weight in the actions of the story? Editor Jennie loved this version – and I’m so appreciative that she gives me the opportunity to make these changes. I think if we all become more aware of these unconscious biases, we can begin to rid ourselves of the programming that created them.