Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Remember When . . . There Were No Women for Miles Around?

In relocating my book about archaeology in Egypt to the '20s, I did run up against one dilemma. In the original, there are quite a few women out there in the Egyptian wilderness, this being a large, high-profile dig. Fine in contemporary settings. But when I moved it back in time 80 years, I had this moment of panic. Oh no, I thought. Were there even female archaeologists back then??

I looked it up and quickly breathed a sigh of relief. Women have indeed been in archaeology since the mid 1800s, but they were few, far between, and had to fight for every ounce of respect they earned. Which means that my heroine could certainly be there, but she now needs the personality to demand it. In the original, Allie was not a demanding person. She was quiet, non-confrontational, but had a spine of steel. New-Allie (or perhaps Old-Allie?? I did, after all, just age her quite a lot, lol) is still quiet, but the stubbornness had to be upped.

It definitely changes my cast of characters, though. Gone are all the other women but one--I kept an older mother-figure, who is now married to another archaeologist on the dig and handles food and nursing. Not exactly her role in the original, but we have to improvise as the facts dictate. ;-)

I'm having fun getting to know these characters that are much the same but also different in such crucial ways. Where before she just wouldn't argue about something because of her bent toward silence, now she uses that silence to prove a point. Like when the hero demands, "Do you really want to argue this point?" she'll reply, "Yes," and then just glare at him. Makes for some interesting one-sided dialogue! But hopefully it'll shake my unshakable heroine into the kind of woman who actually made it in that life. One whose dream, whose vision was so strong that she was willing to take on the whole male-dominant world to achieve it.

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