We, as women, are judge-y creatures by nature, especially when judging ourselves, and each other. Although we may try to rein in our superficial tendencies and our catty abilities, sometimes they manage to find a way to seep through the cracks. That’s okay, I’ll let it slide.
But let’s talk about the way we judge the female characters in books. I’d say (in my opinion) the female characters are judged more harshly than the males. Would you agree?
Picking out flaws seems to be bred in us, like a sixth sense, or a latent ability that only surfaces while we are breathing. And I’m not just talking about physical attributes being picked out, because more often than not, it’s the personality characteristics that get the brunt of our judgment. Too whiney, too bitchy, too naive, too blah, blah, blah…
But flaws are what makes a character unique, even the annoying quirks. Let’s pick apart the main ladies in my novels as examples, shall we?
Let start with Ronnie Clark, the heroine in my novel, THE VALENTINE’S ARRANGEMENT. Ronnie is a razor-tongued, tell-it-like-she-sees-it bombshell. As a tattoo artist, she is covered in beautiful ink from a sleeve on her arm, to a full back piece, to artwork on her thighs. Her nearly black hair is long and full, and she is never without high heels and red lipstick. Good so far? Are we judging yet?
But…Ronnie doesn’t get along with women much. Whoa, hold on, let me finish before the claws come out, she’s got more flaws, I promise!
You may not love that Ronnie can’t stand the female gender, but that’s just her. She chills with big hairy men and can hold her own doing so. She’s crass and rude and her favorite word starts with an “F” and rhymes with truck. She’s a hard-ass, and a lot of the decisions (both good and bad) are because of this.
Don’t like this about Ronnie? That’s totally okay, in fact, I expect it. It’s what is brilliant about writing, what’s so much fun about creating characters—they become real people in our minds. And everyone can’t like everyone, right? Where would the fun be in that?
But while reading, I challenge readers to pull away from the habit we as women tend to have to snub the female characters who make decision we don’t agree with. Because we are not them, they are their own uniquely created character, with their own traits and flaws that drive the choices they make, which in turn, drives the story.
Okay, let’s move on to Meagan Mitchell, the heroine in my novel, FEEL THE RUSH. Meagan represents the girl next door, friends with everyone, and can hang with the guys and curl up with the girls. She’s a strong woman, fun and easy-going. Not bad so far?
Well…she is about to turn thirty and her desire to settle down starts rearing its ugly head. I know, I know, thirty is young, you say. She has all the time in the world to settle down, you say. But what is important to some may not be important to others. And while some women might not understand a woman’s yearning to have a family, and they might even find this annoying, to others, it just might be their ultimate dream.
Just like Ronnie, Meagan makes decision throughout the novel based on her desire to settle down. They are not choices I would make myself, but nonetheless, they are not mine to make (even though I created them!), they are Meagan’s.
So the next time you are reading and the heroine rubs you the wrong way or does something that generates an exaggerated eye-roll, retract the claws and take the bad with the good. Try to appreciate the character that was created, flaws, bad decisions, emotions, and all. It’s okay to disagree and dislike; hell, that may even be the way the author intended it to be.