Today I’m delighted to welcome LS Hawker with a guest post about writing from the male perspective…
Ready for a shock? After penning three female-powered thrillers, writing THE THROWAWAYS from the male point of view isn’t a departure for me. It’s a homecoming.
I started out writing men exclusively.
It’s counterintuitive, I know, but that’s how it was. I began doing this in college because my female protagonists just didn’t land. They were stiff and unnatural, self-conscious and frankly annoying. Looking back, I think I was afraid of revealing too much about myself, of exposing myself. So if I wrote through the male perspective I could stay hidden and be simultaneously transparent. Consequently, my male characters were much more authentic and resonant. It was the perfect construct. And then something weird happened.
I started hearing a completely unself-conscious, odd, iron-strong but vulnerable female voice in my head. It wouldn’t leave me alone, and I’m so glad. That voice belonged to Petty Moshen, the protagonist of my debut, THE DROWNING GAME. This character was incapable of guile, incapable of being anything other than exactly what she was.
I would come to understand much later that Petty Moshen’s voice was the gift of my youngest daughter, Layla, because I gradually discovered that Petty’s voice was actually Layla’s. When I turned in the first chapter to my critique group, my friend Mike said, “This character is so different, so unique. She almost sounds…what’s the word? Autistic.”
What Mike didn’t know was that Layla had been diagnosed with autism that very day, and I hadn’t told the group yet. I had subconsciously subsumed Layla’s isolation and suffering and imbued Petty with it, giving her a unique voice and me the sudden ability to write a female character. That’s because I was finally able to get outside myself thanks to parenting a special-needs kid.
Layla and Petty opened a whole new world for me. Once I began writing strong female characters (that’s the most redundant phrase in the lexicon, isn’t it?), I started learning more about myself. For instance, I didn’t know I was a feminist. (All right, settle down. It just didn’t occur to me. I’m a white upper middle class person of privilege, so the mostly subtle sexism I’d encountered over the years seemed…normal.) But as I watched my female protagonists navigate the treacherous waters of the thriller universe, I started seeing things through their eyes. I started to understand how treacherous the waters of this universe actually are for women, me included.
All this self-discovery and growth as a writer happened on a subconscious level. Re-reading my work, I see that I’ve leaked bits of my own story, of having my body parts objectified, of being dismissed, menaced and assaulted, underemployed, given responsibility with no authority. I’ve witnessed my own feelings of helplessness, subjugation, fear for my personal safety, intimidation, and rage teased out in a fictional world that is all too real, revealing to me my own experience through a more objective lens.
No wonder I started writing thrillers.
In my fiction, I’ve given the female protagonists of my first three novels (Petty, Nessa, and Jade) strength and power that I only wish I had, both physical and mental. But watching them take control and vanquish their oppressors has given me more boldness in my own life, allowing me to fight for my own success, safety, and dignity.
As for the male protagonists in my fourth novel, THE THROWAWAYS, they’ve benefitted from what I learned writing female MCs as well. They’re better able to feel their fear, their fury, their weakness without apology.
And they can all thank Petty Moshen for that too.
About the Book
George Engle’s lived in the long shadow of his superstar twin brothers since they died in a freak accident when he was thirteen. Now, in the spring of 1986, George and his childhood friends are living lives they never wanted. It’s easy to sleepwalk through insignificance, until a second freak accident jolts them awake—only it’s no accident.
One night, George regains consciousness just in time to watch an unfamiliar house explode, and finds evidence of the crime he didn’t commit planted on his back seat. He narrowly eludes what may or may not be police and subsequently learns the explosion was a cover-up for three baffling execution-style murders. George was supposed to take the fall, and now the killers are hunting him.
George’s friends reunite to probe the mysterious deaths, a murderous drug cartel, and their own self-deception. But in the process, they’ll discover they can trust no one and nothing—not even their own memories.