Debating the Fantasy – Decision Crunch
I had a particular conundrum writing Unsuitable. All the usual ones were at play – the can I pull this off, is this boring, will anyone get it, stuff of every manuscript.
But I had a decision to make about my heroine, Audrey. And it was all to do with how women don’t normally win in the corporate world, especially women with children.
It’s no accident more women start small businesses. They’ve been starting small businesses at a higher rate than men in the US, UK and Australia for nearly twenty years. How’s that for an effect of being displaced. Pretty telling.
So. back to Audrey. She’s working in a male dominated industry and her career is going nowhere while less talented men get promoted around her. This isn’t a dramatic plot point, it’s contemporary corporate life. She has one of those uncomfortable discussions with her COO where he admits she was not treated fairly when she had her baby daughter, Mia. Which almost makes it feel worse. It was easier for Audrey to suspect she was being disadvantaged than to have it confirmed.
Roll the story forward and I needed to make a decision about whether Audrey’s workplace was a hero or a villain. Whether it would continue to punish her or be extraordinary.
I imagined that part of the story both ways. In one draft Audrey’s workplace does the predictable thing, discriminates against her for being an awkward employee whose life had momentarily gotten in the way. She gets squeezed, has to compromise, she basically loses. In the alternative version it does quite the opposite.
This was much harder to imagine. Because – like that never happens.
Well almost never. I’ve witnessed a few occasions where corporate workplaces did the extremely smart thing of treating talented workers with respect and flexibility, creating conditions that allowed people to prosper both personally and professionally. It’s the kind of thing we don’t see often, but when we do, it’s such an eye-opening wow.
That was the conundrum, which way to go – villain or wow.
One way offered the safety of predictability, the rough comfort of, yes that’s what would happen, the other, the other is new territory, a fresher twist, a win.
I’m not going to spoil it by telling you which way I jumped, but I’ll give you a hint.
I believe in happy endings.