This has to be one of the most exhilarating parts of writing: creating fresh characters of the opposite sex. In instances of profound inspiration, these new personas may seep out of our right brains without an echo of any known human being, and in powerful, believable ways. An original character is a wonderful discovery for me as a reader, and when a writer creates endearing (and enduring) characters that resonate, and compelling stories with lead opposite-sex characters, I’m in awe of their accomplishment.
I aspired to do this with The Silent Partner. It’s up to readers to judge whether or not I accomplished the task of creating a great original character embodied as a portly black female. (I’m a white male.) She is brilliant, sassy, and distrusting of God, and a character that originally started as a white male when I originated the character back in 1999. When this screenplay became a fleshed-out novel five and a half years ago, Homer became female . . . because I thought she was more interesting. She had additional layers. As a black character, there were then new dynamics to explore that enriched the story.
No, I’m not saying white males are boring, or males aren’t wonderful characters. I’ve been entertained by their prominence in favorite books and movies since I knew how to read, change the channel, and sneak to the TV to see Star Wars again in the middle of the night on my parents’ VHS machine. (Princess Leia wasn’t my favorite character.) To me, the greatest thing that makes people interesting is their perspective. In our diverse world, it’s most fun to add flavor to a recipe. A character’s background–when well-executed–can add more dimensions to a story. As long as it’s not contrived, this background can also make themes more powerful and universal. Women realistically have intuition, and readers will buy that. Male characters can carry interesting emotions, too, but there are some things that women think about that men just don’t. I’ve learned this from the many women in my life, from girlfriends to my four sisters, and three nieces. (Yes, my life is that crazy. No boys. All girls.)
My novel has other strong male characters, sure, but The Silent Partner is Homer’s story, and the novel is better for that. After all, The Outsiders has already been written. And S.E. Hinton is a woman.