Writers write heroines and heroes. Those characters drive our stories’ narratives. They bring heart and soul to our pages. Readers cheer for them. And weep for them, if the story turns in another direction. But here’s the thing, when we write these heroic characters, we equip them with heart and belief and desire, and then we set them off on a treacherous landscape, which tests those beliefs and desires and deepen their conviction to go forward. That is my job, and I love it.
How do I write those characters? Partly, I dream them. Partly, I am informed by heroines in the world around me. This weekend, I was inspired by a real world heroine.
Her valedictorian speech addressed the ‘fetal heartbeat’ bill just passed by the Texas Legislature because it threatened her rights as a woman. Writers write to these moments. We create dystopian worlds where governments take away personal freedoms like whether a girl wants to become a mother or not. We put adversaries in their path who can bring criminal charges against them for those choices. We put guns without permits in the hands of people who could kill them. We create landscapes where the personal choices of citizens are cast aside and motherhood becomes a law, not a very personal decision. (Hello, Margaret Atwood. Hello, Handmaid’s Tale)
Yes, that dystopian landscape is the real terrain upon which Paxton Smith stands. She had another speech about media prepared. It had been okayed by the school administration. Then, at the last minute, she chose to stand tall and deliver a different message. It was brave and, for me, inspiring.
May we all write strong heroes and heroines in these dystopian times.