Feisty, flawed and all
It’s rare now that I’m in a position to read or edit someone else’s story before publication, but if I am, I tend to champion the “feisty female main character.” Feisty of course could mean anything from quirky to flawed and whatever else comes in between.
I like female characters who are a bit…out there.
You know what this makes me, right? Not your ideal editor or beta reader, if what you want to do is find that right mix of female MC qualities that will keep her “likable,” “relatable,” and all those synonyms for “just like everyone else.” Even as a reader I can go through a romance book and dislike its MC, and everything she does, and yet I can’t bear to wish that she change for me. As a reader I strongly feel that those books should still exist.
We authors know why we have to make our MCs “accessible” though. We don’t want her to be the person at the party that no one wants to talk to. We want people to like her, and sympathize with her journey. It takes as much skill and energy to create that character as it is to be that person at the party that everyone likes. I have a lot of respect for authors who pull it off so well and consistently.
I guess the point of this post is…if you’re ever in the middle of a manuscript and suspect that your MC will not be liked because of who she is…maybe that’s okay? I mean, write her well, love her heart and convey to us how people can love her too, and all. That’s the challenge for us and where true talent comes in. But if the challenge gets to be too much at times, remember that there are readers who love this stuff? Readers like me who will love her more because she’s flawed, or at least respect her right to exist even if I don’t like her?
I often say this but not with as many words: I deliberately write “difficult” characters, and then I sit and wait to see who will like them. Not if anyone will like them, but who. And then I treasure those readers because they’ve helped more than they know. They’ve proven that we don’t all have to be the same, and that we can tell the stories of difficult people. (Or we just share the same dark heart, but that can be our secret, friends.)
Can we be okay with this? I mean, even my “nice” characters get called names. Jasmine (My Imaginary Ex) is “dense” as much as she is “reliable.” Ellie (Fairy Tale Fail) is “flighty” as much as she is “determined.” Carla (No Strings Attached) is “immature” as much as she is “self-aware.” You are questioned about your character and motives anyway, even when you paint her as a good girl. I’m mentioning the characters from my Philippine-setting series but the expectation of “good girl” is not limited to this country and our culture.
So I’ve written a book about Kimmy (the My Imaginary Ex villain) and tried to keep her exactly as villainous. And then there’s a series starring Jane (Young and Scambitious) who steals and cheats. And now I’m writing a new and longer book about Andrea (Wedding Night Stand) the same girl who slept with a guy the same day she met him.
After that it’s going to be Iris (yet to be introduced in any of my books), who…I can’t say yet, but many of my difficult people will converge in this one, because this story has been in the back of my mind, and even though it needs the “feisty”/”difficult” people in it, I’ll write it because I need to get it out.
Maybe we can’t do books about these characters all the time, because that would be exhausting. But if you are, right now, please know that I’ve got your back. I think we need this.
Tags: chic manila