Like pretty much everyone, I have Parent Issues of some kind. Let’s just sweep all that aside and say: my father is a good man who has done many good and brave things.
But he said something once. I doubt he remembers saying it at all. Maybe now, a decade wiser, he wouldn’t say it. But it hurt. It hurt and it bled and it drained out my heart. I was about fourteen. I was really getting into writing fantasy stories. “… And the princess is a really angry type, she fights a lot,” I said. “The boy she likes is really quiet and not a good fighter.” (I remember I characterized him as a traveling poet.)
"As long as the princess doesn’t rescue the guy," he said.
"Of course not," I said too quickly.
Some incidental remark like that can utterly wreck someone. It reveals the underpinnings of a lifetime of judgment and bias. The princess can be as strong and brave as she wants! As long as she doesn’t rescue men. Because that’s not what women are supposed to be in relation to men. That’s taking it too far.
I don’t think I showed him much of anything I worked on after that. The same pattern shows up again and again in my stories: the anger-driven violent girl and the more compassionate and diplomatic boy, whether a couple, fast friends, or siblings.
I like writing angry women. I really, really like writing violent women, who solve their problems with extreme prejudice. They also tend to rescue cute guys. Or imprison them in the first place. But something said to me when I was young, by someone I trusted, made me think that this concept was so abnormal that it could not even be admitted in fiction. It came very close, I think, to doing irreparable damage.
Anyway, I’ve pretty much committed to putting out my book next weekend. At some point the apron-wearing housemaid stages a dramatic rescue of not one, but two male protagonists. So take that, stupid stereotypes.