When I first started writing Body Trace, the first book in the Madison Cross series, I was somewhat intimidated at the idea of writing from the point of view of a female protagonist. I had written parts of novels from the points of view of female character's, but the idea of an entire novel, or even a series, was something different. In the back of my mind, I wondered if I'd be able to pull it off (so to speak).


Certain aspects of Madison's character made it easier, like the fact that she is not the type of woman to obsess over shoes or make-up – not that she doesn't consider those things or take pride in her appearance, but she's not always thinking about those details, and thus, neither am I. Madison has tragedy in her background, and she has built barriers to protect herself. That sense of reserve may have helped as well. Writing in the first person – or even too close of a third person – would have violated Madison's sense of personal space, but it also might have made establishing her voice more difficult.


Another thing that helped me to a surprising degree was the extent to which I outline. Yes, I wrote plenty of notes on character, and I gave Madison and the other characters plenty of thought, but the plot outline helped a lot as well.


I have always been an outliner. I think when writing something with a mystery at its core, it is particularly important, because you're not just concerned with the structure of the plot, you also have to think about how you reveal information, both to the characters and to the readers. When writing a forensic mystery, an outline is even more important, because much of the time you are not just gleaning information from witnesses or informants, you are diriving it from forensic techniques. Evidence has to be discovered, then interpreted, and often reinterpreted. The revelation of that information is part of the pacing of the story, and I think it's almost impossible to do it well without a solid outline.


So what does all this time spent outlining have to do with being a man writing from a woman's point of view? Well, by the time I started writing the first draft, I had already been so immersed in the outline, and so immersed in Madison, that her point of view was already second nature for me. I was no longer worried about, "Is this how a woman would think or act," I was thinking "Is this how Madison would think or act." And by outlining so extensively, I had already answered many of those questions for myself, which helped define Madison in my mind.


At one point about halfway through the first draft, I remembered my earlier concerns, but by then I felt like I knew Madison so well, it wasn't really an issue for me. A little later in the book, toward the end, there's a scene where Tommy Parker is about to put a wire on Madison, and she realizes that for one reason or another she is wearing a particularly skimpy, sexy bra, as opposed to the sturdier, more utilitarian one she might have chosen if she had known how her day would turn out. That's not really a thought process that a guy ever really has to go through, but by the time I was writing that scene, I knew exactly how Madison would think and speak and act, not because I knew how a woman would react in that situation, but because I knew how Madison would react in that situation. By the time I wrote Blood Poison and then Freezer Burn, Madison's point of view was second nature to me. In fact, sometimes when I'm working on unrelated projects, I find myself thinking about how Madison would react or think in that situation, almost consulting her for her opinion.


Writing a detailed outline helped me in the ways that a detailed outline always helps, but I addition, that added time spent living in Madison's world before I starting the first draft helped me to become completely comfortable with Madison's point of view, and her voice. By the time I started writing the first draft, I had a fully-formed character to occupy – a character for whom being a woman is just one of many defining characteristics.

This was originally a guest post on Jungle Red Writers and Rosemary Harris's blog. It is also posted on my main profile at http://www.myspace.com/jonmcgoran

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