Monday, April 4, 2011
Guest Blogger Rainbow Rowell : A woman writing in a man's POV
I’d been working on my book for almost three years before I realized that the main character was a man.
That sounds idiotic, I know. But it’s true.
If you’d have asked me what Attachments was about when I first started it, I would’ve said, “Oh, it’s about these two women. Beth and Jennifer. They work at a newspaper, and they e-mail each other constantly. It’s about their friendship. About e-sisterhood!”
I knew that there would be a guy in the book – there’s always a guy – but I didn’t put much thought into him. He was just “the IT guy who reads their e-mail” or “the guy who falls for Beth.”
The plan was to alternate chapters between my girls’ e-mails and a more traditional narrative from the point of view of the IT guy who gets hired to police the newspaper’s employee e-mail.
I was so taken with Beth and Jennifer that I wrote their chapters first.
Long conversations about love and life – Beth’s boyfriend cares more about his guitar than her, Jennifer’s husband is desperate for kids – conversations that I hoped were as funny and real as the e-mails I exchanged with my own friends at work.
The guy chapters were an afterthought. When I got to the end of the women’s e-mails (after a few years of undisciplined writing), I matter-of-factly opened a new document. “Now it’s time to write Lincoln.”
That’s when I panicked.
Nothing appears in the book that Lincoln doesn’t see. He’s the structure. He’s the hero. He’s the person readers would have to connect to and root for, especially if I wanted them to care about my love story.
I’d written myself into a narrative corner, and the only way out was to think – and write – like a man. Something I was sure I couldn’t do.
So I set the book aside. I metaphorically shoved it under my bed and busied myself with the girliest of girl stuff. Pregnancy, motherhood, hanging out with my sister.
Abandoning my novel was easy – isn’t that what most people do, anyway?
I probably would have left it for dead, if my sister would have let me. She’d read what I’d written so far, and she kept sending me pestering e-mails. “You have to finish! I want to know what happens next!” (E-sisterhood, after all.)
Sitting down with Lincoln again was like walking into the O.K. Coral. This was serious. I’d had to get a babysitter and everything.
I sat down and made myself write him.
He’s just a man, I told myself. Not a mystery.
Hadn’t I read enough books written by men? Hadn’t I listened to enough of them singing in my ears? Wasn’t my life full of men? Brothers, friends, husband.
I didn’t know what it was like in their heads, but I knew their voices. And they were just people, after all. Not animals or minerals. Not aliens.
I’d always loved science fiction and comic books, stereotypically boy things, so I used that as a crutch at first. Lincoln loves Isaac Asimov because I love Isaac Asimov. Lincoln loves “Quantum Leap” and the X-Men. Me, too.
But after a few chapters – and this shocked me – I didn’t need any crutches.
I found myself getting lost in Lincoln in a way I never got lost in my female characters. I adored Beth and Jennifer, but I never got inside their heads, narratively speaking.
When I wrote Lincoln, I lived inside of him.
And I kind of fell in love with him.
I’d always intended to write a love story, but most romances that I read are written from the woman’s point of view – so that’s how I’d been approaching it.
I realized, through Lincoln, how romantic it is to think about falling in love through a man’s eyes.
When my husband and I were first dating, I always wanted to know what he was thinking when he smiled at me. When he said he loved me, I wanted to know why.
Lincoln let me answer those questions … as I romantically as I cared to.
I tried not to worry about whether Lincoln would seem like a man to a male reader – and that approach seems to have worked in my favor.
My agent is a man, and all the men who have read Attachments so far have been supportive. (One said that “a guy as cute as Lincoln should be more confident in myself,” but that came from a knows-he’s-cute, confident type. Lincoln is charming because he doesn’t know.)
The only trouble, now, with having written a romantic comedy about a man is that people don’t know how to describe it.
Is it chick lit if the main character isn’t a chick? Can a man even be the hero of a romantic comedy?
I hope so.
After spending so many years trying to figure Lincoln out, I want readers to love him as much as I do.
Watch for ATTACHMENTS by Rainbow Rowell, out April 14th from Dutton.
Now a chance to win!!!
Who are your favorite men written by women? Share your favorite characters in the comments section, and you'll be entered to win an advance copy of Rainbow's book, Attachments, coming from Dutton April 14th.
Also, check out Rainbow's Web site -- http://www.rainbowrowell.com/
her blog -- http://rainbow.omaha.com/
and find her on Facebook and Twitter.