While writing my upcoming novel Ghoul, I created a character designed to serve the function of a ‘talking head’ aka someone for Mya, the protagonist, to bounce ideas off. However, I understand talking heads are bad; they result in clunky dialogue that’s obviously just exposition in the form of dialogue. So, with that in mind, I tried to turn my talking head into a semi-developed character with her goals and motivations.
I made this character a Sphinx. I’ve always been fond of a bit of Egyptian mythology, as those who read Amenti will have noticed, and it didn’t take me long to decide where in London my Sphinx would live and she promptly moved into the Egyptian walk of Highgate Cemetery.
I started drafting a bit of dialogue between my Sphinx and Mya, and before I knew where I was my ‘talking head’ fast outgrew the role she was designed for and took on a life of her own. My Sphinx had become Kepi and all of a sudden I had another book growing in the back of my head.
While Kepi lives in the Highgate Cemetery close to the ghouls who dwell beneath it, there is another Sphinx in London. Ophelia and Ophelia even as a rough character concept was very demanding and spent her first hours of life in my head telling me her story.
London is a monstrous town, scarred and disfigured.
My people know better than most how deep London’s scars run. We saw the fire, the disease and the Luftwaffe. We came here when London was Londinium. We know her ancient streets and her tallest towers.
We know where there is darkness enough to hide in.
It is a grand place, our home, but it is also a cruel place. The grey city speaks to me, whispers of smoke and ashes. It tells me to run, it tells me the men are coming, that they are close, that if they find me, they will rip the child from my arms and throw my body in the river.
Oh yes, London is a monstrous town.
In this blog, I want to talk about the Bechdel Test, a test used to measure gender bias in fiction.
Does your work of fiction have at least two women in it? Do they talk to each other? Do they talk about something other than a man?
When I was growing up, especially in my university days, I considered myself something of a feminist (I hate the idea of being treated as inferior just because I lack a Y chromosome). I campaigned for equality in the workplace, and I ran the Pro Bono Legal group for Woman’s Aid. Shortly after leaving university I volunteered for a Domestic Violence group that offered legal advice to women in terrible situations. Put simply I noticed there was a problem in our society which affected the way I and others of my gender were treated and I did some small activities which I hoped would help. When I started working full time back in 2010, I stopped.
I still want equality, and as and when the opportunity presents itself, I will do something to help move that day when all are equal a little closer.