Once while at a writing seminar I heard a pretty well-known published author say do not write a mature woman or agent or publishing company won’t take you on. Do not write your main female protagonist older than 25. If you want your work read and to gain an audience it is better to leave off making them of any other ethnic group other than white and blonde with blue eyes.
I was puzzled. But yes, I had long ago noticed these things so I asked what about experience that’s acquired with age.
She said that only happens in the real world. In the fictional literary world one can be 15 with the knowledge of a 45 year old. Actually, readers prefer that.
A female character passed 25 is hard to sell.
The speaker informed her audience that no one wants to read about old women unless she’s a goddess who does not age.
Someone else called it to her attention that this is blatantly ageism, racism, and sexism.
She admitted that it is but argued that society has been brainwashed for centuries to believe no one else can be interesting if you aren’t young, blonde, white, and with blue eyes. She stressed that she was giving advice to get your foot in the door not for what you have to write for your entire career.
Another asked about the authenticity in writing? Isn’t that like writing a lie you don’t feel anything for?
She laughed and said, “Sure, it is but you want a publishing house to pick up your manuscript and support it. Don’t you? It only can be about authenticity if you don’t want to make any money or you are writing an autobiography. If you want to make money you have to write what the public wants to read.”
I was thinking. “Not if I have to sell my soul. I don’t.”
This was several years ago and since I started actually paying attention to the critiques she rattled off that Saturday afternoon. She was right. You can close your eyes and pull a random book from a book shelf in the fictional section and open it and the character are all going to be the same book after book. Row after row of the same characters with the same attributes. If there’s anyone else in the story it’s usual stereotypical.
I raised my hand saying “Well, my main character starts out under 25 but she ages and she isn’t dying anytime soon. She has a kid. She isn’t white nor blonde.”
The woman looked me in the eyes and said if she’s black she must be suffering. It would be wise to eliminate the child or make the child a boy.
I nods. “Well, she’s suffering a lot but she doesn’t accept it. She fight back against her abusers.“
After reading my excerpt she passed it back to me saying. “This will not do. Rewrite it. Rewrite to what I just listed and it will sell. Tone down the woman’s sassy attitude. Write her lost, confused and suffering and the main male protagonist have to save her. That’s what sells. Don’t write her strong and having a will of her own. That’s a major turn off for the reading crowd. People love to see women crying, weak, and suffering. Kill Ana off before she reach forty and put Bea in her place to carry on the series. Erase Ana’s family. They are unnecessary to the series.”
I asked what am I to do about Azazel? He’s an Immortal.
“Write he’s so grief-stricken after Ana’s death that he falls in love with Bea because of her strong resembles to her mother.”
I didn’t tell her “I’m not writing an incestuous story to appease no one.”
I am writing this because she wrote me a few days ago saying, “I read the book but you didn’t take my advice. Therefore, I can not endorse the book .”
I wrote back through my publisher who wanted her to write a review. I said, “Thank you for the consideration. I am sorry you didn’t find the book to your liking. However, I don’t write stories that I have to go against what I feel comfortable in writing. I started this series because I was tired of reading the same story over and over. I was nearly finished with the series when I visited the seminar and there was no way I was redoing 13 books and standalones to match your attributes. Yes, there are characters in the series meeting these guidelines but not all of them. I wrote it to be different. But yes, I have seen that you were correct and I appreciate your advice.”
She wrote back saying, “I am glad you stood your ground and fought for your characters. Future writers will someday thanks you. I wish you well.”
I believe like Toni Morrison said — ‘If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.