First of all, an older woman protagonist.
I greatly appreciate it when someone else puts an older woman front and center in a book, such as in PALADIN OF SOULS by Bujold or THE WHEEL OF THE INFINITE by Martha Wells or, um, yeah, I’m sure there must be more older female protagonists, but right now I’m drawing a blank. The Mrs Pollifax books, if you step outside SFF and into the cozy spy novel subgenre.
I should do that.
But, not in the current WIP. The protagonist, Kehera, is your rather standard young woman. I’ve upped her age to twenty because hey, self publishing, don’t need to hit the standard YA parameters OR hit the definitely-adult button. I can go right in between if I want to. Which, for various reasons, I do. So: not an older woman. Of the other two mss I plan to complete this year — yeah, no older female protagonist in those, either. The books I have on my five-year plan? Not one has an older woman protagonist.
Sigh. Maybe someday.
And moving along, how about important friendships between unrelated girls! Friendships that don’t take a back seat when the Love Interest appears, or at least recover during the course of the story. Bonus points if one of the girls is a tomboy and the other is a girly-girl, because I don’t like either sort of girl being presented as intrinsically less okay. I like girl friendships, when I see them in a story. I understand this kind of female friendship is definitely a Thing in Elizabeth Wein’s recent historical novels, CODE NAME VERITY and / or ROSE UNDER FIRE. (Sorry, still waiting for a chance to read those, I know they’re great, maybe in May.) Also, THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE, a fantastic contemporary YA by Nelson, includes a good example. Oh, and back to fantasy, MONSTROUS REGIMENT by Pratchett, of course, though that’s kind of cheating! Or for something completely different, DUN LADY’S JESS by Duranna Durgin. I’m sure there are others, but seriously, girl friendships are not that common in fiction.
Yep, not really expecting to see that in any of the books I definitely plan to write. Oh, wait, yes, there is that one! Heck, I even plan to write that one this very year. So that’s something. I hope the plot doesn’t become unwieldy in ways that make me reduce that aspect.
Okay, how about an important nonsexual friendship between a man and a woman? You know, there is actually this kind of friendship in the Mrs Pollifax series, come to think of it — between Mrs Pollifax and Farrell. Is it possible to have a real friendship between a man and a woman who are closer in age? In real life, I know it is. In fiction, I think you really don’t see it except between a woman and a gay man, and that’s all very well but not only is it becoming something of a cliché, use of this trope implies that it’s impossible for straight men to be friends with women, which I know is not universally true. Tana French started to include an important male-female friendship in her IN THE WOODS, but of course she completely ruined that friendship as the book progressed. You may recall how I felt about that.
Though actually, you do see important friendships between Cassandra and other women, and Cassandra and male characters, in Andrea K Host’s TOUCHSTONE trilogy. Two thumbs up on that one. And you also see this in the INDA series by Sherwood Smith, so there’s another example.
I will say, yes, okay, I do have an important male-female friendship in one story. But generally if you are going to include romance and then dwell on that relationship, unless you’re writing a trilogy (you will notice the examples above are all series), you may have trouble including everything else you would like to. The story where I have this is also a duology. Or trilogy, depending on how it eventually breaks up.
So, that’s three. Anybody got suggestions for books that hit these tropes?
I could sure list more than three tropes and types of characters I’d like to include someday, that I just don’t see happening in the near future. Important secondary animal characters! Thieves! Assassins! I could list a dozen more, but, gosh, look at the time, gotta go work on the current WIP.