Female Characters, Too. @HollyJahangiri #SampleSunday #amwriting

The more well-balanced gender attitudes become, the queasier older stories make me. This includes ones I wrote.

This scene, for instance, from the short story I’m expanding into a novel, including Librarian Holly Jahangiri, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (born Genesis Selinsky), and other Living Books. In it, con-man Connell Morgan, now a pirate king, having been fooled into thinking Bel Schuster is the daughter of a high-ranking official, is trying to romance her. Is it still funny, given that we know she’s more than a match for him?

Female Characters, Too

excerpt by Marian Allen

Connell arrived at the salon of the Silver Suite in a cloud of musk. He had changed into a suit much resembling a martial arts exercise outfit, made of a soft muted-violet knit. On his feet he wore gray suede-like shoes disconcertingly like bedroom slippers.

“My,” said Bel, “you certainly look comfortable. Maybe we’d better leave the door open.”

“Don’t be alarmed, my dear,” said Connell, closing and surreptitiously locking the door. “When we’ve finished our dinner, I plan to spend the rest of the evening relaxing with a good book and a cozy fire. You’re welcome to join me, if you like.” His voice was warm and velvety, his eyes soft and smoldering. “I’ll even provide the book.”

Romantic music began to infiltrate the room. He lit the candles as the lights dimmed.

Bel, being only human, had to acknowledge the effect. But, after all, even with the tastiest fillings the universe could offer, an omelet was only as good as the basic egg. The music, the candlelight, the soft purple pajama suit — these were all filling. Connell Morgan was the egg. More need not be said.

I wanted to go out tonight,” Bel said petulantly.


“But, my dear –”

“I wanted to go out.” Bel sat and began to eat. The magical flowering moment withered and died.

“Don’t be cross,” Connell cajoled.

“I’m not cross,” said Bel. “I’ll just tell Daddy how you locked me up, slave to your whim, and then we’ll see who’s cross.”

“Now, Bel….”

“In the meantime, please yourself. I won’t say another word.”

And she didn’t.

“Oh, very well,” Connell said at last. “Where do you want to go?”

@1984 by C. Jane Peyton

Bel brightened gratifyingly for him. “I’ve heard of a place called The Dead Parrot,” she said.

Connell was suspicious. “Mother Hoyden’s place?”

“I really wouldn’t know.”

“You wouldn’t happen to know it was Mother Hoyden who claimed your little Gilhoolie pal, I suppose?”

“How would I know that?”

“And you don’t want to go to The Dead Parrot to talk with Tetra?”

“If Tetra is at The Dead Parrot I’ll want to talk to her. Why shouldn’t I? I suppose people do talk to each other on this island.”

“Well, yes, but –”

“All right. We won’t go. I don’t want to make a big deal out of it.” Bel cast herself into a corner of a silver-brocade sofa, crossed her arms, and looked sullen.

Connell told himself that he had seen Bel Schuster in many guises, all more pleasant than this reality. It cheered him to remember that it could have been worse; he could have found himself free to deceive her into a false marriage.

“I’ll change into street clothes,” he said, “and be back in fifteen minutes. We’ll go to The Parrot.”

“The dead one?”



So, given that actual seduction is in no way funny, is this scene funny? Or, you know, not?

A WRITING PROMPT BASED ON MY POST: Someone attempts to manipulate someone into doing something against his/her best interest.



I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “Female Characters, Too. @HollyJahangiri #SampleSunday #amwriting

  1. Holly Jahangiri

    June 3, 2018 at 9:37am

    The scene is a little annoying in it’s familiarity; that is, I’m betting we can all relate. But like fiction ought to do, it holds out a mirror. It makes a point. A couple of them, really – including the fact that Bel hasn’t said “no” but rather, used petulance and threats to put him off and simultaneously manipulate him as he intended to manipulate her. No one’s harmed, just annoyed – particularly by the fact that what REALLY stops him dead in his tracks is only the threat of another man, “Daddy,” exacting punishment for imaginary crimes.

    It’s a little funny in the details. Aren’t most jokes based on a kernel of awful truth? The writing’s good, and I could see the scene, the characters, even smell the Musk (Jovan, wasn’t it?) as it unfolded.

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      June 3, 2018 at 4:21pm

      Thanks, Holly. I really was hoping for some feedback; I appreciate your comments. 🙂

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      • Holly

        June 3, 2018 at 4:42pm

        There’s really an essential truth here, in your intro: “The more well-balanced gender attitudes become, the queasier older stories make me. This includes ones I wrote.” I don’t know that we should ever rewrite or whitewash the prevailing attitudes of a certain time / place in history. It means that people who shouldn’t BE surprised will ALWAYS be surprised when the pendulum swings. I wish we could get to more well-balanced gender attitudes, so that the pendulum could come to rest a while.

        I have trouble watching “Mad Men,” although i think the show was very well done. It makes me queasy. And I wonder, sometimes, if we give benefit of the doubt – based on time and place and manner of upbringing – where it’s undeserved?

        But just because a thing is wrong, quease-inducing, and not really funny when it’s really happening doesn’t mean it can’t be written in a way that’s amusing. I think you hit the sweet spot – but I wonder if this sort of behavior on Bel’s part isn’t exactly what leads men to be angry rather than merely dejected when they’re rejected? You’re right that she’s more than a match for Connell Morgan, and I don’t actually fear for the well-being of either of them, in this case.

        And I might not have thought it through on so many different levels if you hadn’t asked, so I’m glad you wanted the feedback. 😉

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        • Author

          Marian Allen

          June 4, 2018 at 7:19am

          Yeah, in this case, he isn’t trying to seduce her because he has any sort of desire or feeling for her — or for himself, reflected in her. It’s a specific situation with specific motives and, as you say, as a product of the time in which it was written. You’re probably too young to remember back when nice females didn’t SAY yes or no. We weren’t supposed to be in situations in which the possibility of seduction or coercion came up. If we allowed ourselves to be in such a situation, it was tantamount to a yes. No backsies allowed. Your only hope was to plead stupidity, ignorance, pathological innocence, or to use any get-out-of-jail-free card you could pull out of your sleeve. It was very tiring, trying to enjoy the company of a man while being hyper-vigilant that you didn’t either “lead him on” or “put him off”.

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