In a guest post at A Knife And A Quill, fellow Noir Carnival contributor, AJ Sikes kindly mentions me in a post about the difficulty of writing a femme fatale for his new book Gods Of Chicago. In particular, he refers to my pieces on Frankenstein and femmes fatale and then spins off into his own thoughtful pondering of the writer as Victor Frankenstein and many thoughts intriguing thoughts on femmes fatale.
Authors are a bit like mad scientists when it comes to character creation, aren’t we? Tinkering with these vessels we cobble together and watching them come to life on the page. Like the Modern Prometheus, our creations can sometimes frighten us with what they force us to examine, both about ourselves and the world at large. That fear, if not carefully managed, can lead to disaster for the character and for the story itself.
Fellow Noir Carnival author, Carol Borden, keenly observes that Victor Frankenstein, in bringing his creation to life, is both a brilliant scientist and a woefully negligent parent. In Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein the scientist finds Frankenstein the creation abhorrent and frightful; scientist flees, leaving creation alone and adrift. Borden asks us to consider the crimes and misdeeds attributed to the monstrous character through this lens of parental neglect, and it is that way of seeing that I applied to the task of writing a femme fatale in Gods of Chicago.
I didn’t want to pull a Victor with Emma Farnsworth’s character, setting her on the page and letting her follow whatever the fates may decide. Nor did I want to go the Mel Brooks route and create a lampoon of the femme fatale, dancing “Putting on the Ritz” until the stage lights catch fire. Emma’s arc involved more revision and rewriting than any other in the book because I wanted to ensure, as much as possible, that readers could sympathize with Emma’s decisions. Maybe even empathize with her.
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