Working Out a Character’s Agency

What I’m listening to: “Heroes” ~ David Bowie, Live Aid 1985


As mentioned in my previous post, I finished the rough draft of the second book in the HEIRS TO CAMELOT series: THE SOLSTICE BRIDE. I also said it needed a lot of work.

I read through it last weekend, and realized what was wrong with the manuscript: the protagonist, Ravenna, had no agency. I took this problem to my fellow writers on Facebook’s SciFi Roundtable (which also has a website and forum here) to ask them for some thoughts on how to remedy this.

Many thanks especially to Pablo Federico Marún Oxenford, Pukah Works, Kim Murphy, and Brent A. Harris for taking the time to sift through my confused explanations). It’s good to hear how others worked through their issues, or just cogent thoughts on how an author can dig herself out of a self-constructed (plot) hole.

An aside: if you, like me, are homebound or just too shy to go out and join an in-person writer’s critique group, find one online. Not all groups are equal. Some seem to exist to savage other people’s works for shits and giggles. SciFi Roundtable is one of the most congenial, helpful, useful groups I have yet found.

So, what is agency? The Geek Feminism Wiki defines it:

Agency is the ability for a person, or agent, to act for herself or himself. A person who is not allowed to act for her/himself is lacking in agency, or is said to have been denied agency.

In geek circles, women (real and fictional) often lack agency compared to their male counterparts.

~When men speak on behalf of women, they deny them agency. Instead, men should allow women to speak for themselves.
~Dismissing or lowering the value of a work created by a woman with a Denial of Agency attack, implying or directly stating that she is not truly its author.
~Fictional female characters who act at the behest of male characters, without any will of their own, lack agency. Eg: the Buffy Bot in Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Specifically, Ravenna falls into category 3: she acts at the behest of a male character, Falke.

I realized that the main problem was that I originally intended to write this from Falke’s POV, which is why Ravenna never does much for herself. I never really changed the main motivator, even though I changed the POV.


So now I have to see how I can make this sheltered young woman emerge as a force to be reckoned with on her own. She can start out doing what everyone tells her – and be nervous and scared about her personal power, but she has to evolve into her own person, chosing to do things because it is what she wants. I have tried to do that, but it’s too weak right now. She has to really grow up fast.

So that noise you hear in the background is a major reconstruction of THE SOLSTICE BRIDE. Stay tuned for further updates!

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