Days 44-50. Unbearable Fiction Fad #2: The overly insecure female

Unbearable Fiction Fad#2: The overly insecure female.

I was once a teenage girl.

In my teenage years, I dealt with the typical insecurities of a young woman. Growing up as a woman is difficult. From a very young age we are bombarded with images of women with perfect skin, big boobs, and high cheekbones. Ahem, Victoria’s Secret.

I know how it feels to think of yourself as inadequate. I know how it feels to see a beautiful woman, and suddenly hate a random part of your body.

I still hate my kneecaps. They’re weird.

So yes, I understand why there are so many insecure young women in literature today. As a writer, you want the reader to relate to your protagonist. If you’re target audience is young adult females, then you’d better throw some self doubt into your character.

However, there is a line and it’s not a fine one.

First of all, there is a time and a place for insecure thoughts. This is especially true in literature when our protagonists are dealing with conflict beyond the average person’s threshold. If she meets a dreamy man who is holding the hand of a gorgeous woman, it would be natural to take a hit to her self esteem. Why can’t I look like that?

For example, every time I see a picture of John Krasinski with Emily Blunt, I die a little inside.

BUT! It is not the time to worry about her looks when she is holding a gun (or other weapon) and she’s about to kill zombies (or other evil beings). That doesn’t make any sense. The ability to attract males should not come into question when your life is in danger.

Marco will never notice me if I continue to wear this bulky bulletproof vest! Wah 😦

Second, you should be realistic about her insecurities. If you’re going to make her into an overly insecure female then you can’t pair her off with the hottest guy around. Is she ugly or not? I understand you can use it as a way to show that even the most beautiful women struggle with self doubt and yadda yadda yadda. However, it doesn’t really support her idea of being “average and boring” if you just hand her off to the nearest underwear model.

At most, you should couple her up with the awkward male best friend who always saw her true beauty. It’s about time we inspire young girls to remove the nice guys from the friend zone!

Third, she needs to grow. Let’s say your character is Mona and she’s insecure. You choose to use Mona to save the world. She becomes a hero and a legend! She single-handedly prevents the demise of our beloved Earth.

If at the end of your story, Mona picks up a pint of ice cream and starts an internal monologue of self loathing, you’re doing something wrong. Mona just saved the world! The only thing Mona should be thinking is “Damn. I’m a bad ass!”

This is not to be confused with “Damn. I’m a fat ass.”

In conclusion, the majority of writers want their characters to inspire. I know I do. I want H to show that you can rise above oppression of any kind. I can’t depict this accurately if I keep her as the insecure, whiny butt head she was at the beginning. I want to use her as a tool to show young women that you can overcome yourself.

Sometimes, the only strong role model your reader has is your character.

I think I need a tissue…

I’ve come to realize that a good rule of thumb is to do the opposite of Stephanie Meyers. That’s my number one writing rule. Do not write another Bella Swan. Please.


19 thoughts on “Days 44-50. Unbearable Fiction Fad #2: The overly insecure female

  1. Funny you should write about that, I’m having trouble fleshing my female lead out because…well I’m not a girl, I can’t seem to be able to put myself in her place. She’s a very gorgeous woman with a kind of subtle sick desperation in her face. I’ll try not to fall in your those traps. I don’t really have a guideline set for her yet, but I do however have an understanding of her personality. As a serious writer, I guess all that’s left to do is have that sex chance operation I’ve been considering to entirely become her.

    • I think the only option is to have a sex change, obviously. If my lead character was a male then I would do the same. Or I’d at least shave my head and stick a cucumber (pickle? potato?) in my pants. I guess you could just wear a bra and stuff some tissues in it? Pay a friend to punch you in the gut for a week every month? Wear a really short dress and listen to all the catcalls from big guys named Bubba?

      I’m really trying to help you out here.

      If she’s gorgeous then please make her at least “semi” aware of that. Anything less will be annoying.

      Just by saying she has a “sick desperation in her face”, I am intrigued.

      • Yeah, she’s the kind of infuriating girl who’s unaware of her looks…that’s what made the character interesting I think. She ain’t no brat. She’s like that nerdy girl from high school you’d give everything you have for a night with her. As for the sick desperation in her face, she just can’t seem to fit in. She hasn’t found her place in the world yet. I don’t know about you, but sometimes, you can tell something isn’t quite right just by looking at a seemingly happy person. That’s her case. You just can’t put your finger on it, whether she’s simply sick that day, or she’s a violent psychopath craving her blood fix.

        And for that cucumber/potato pickle (see how genius I am, pickle really means problem here, all hail the king), don’t be a pussy. I’d go for the raging strap-on dildo.

      • Yeah, the nerdy girls at my high school looked a lot like me so I can’t say I completely understand the type. However, she does sound very mysterious and alluring. I think it will definitely add something to her character to have her unaware of her own appeal. I think there’s a difference between being oblivious to your own beauty and just being insecure. She’s not shopping for plastic surgeons on the weekend, right?

        Should I get the studded ones or just go for the plain? I’m a little lost when it comes to that type of purchase.

      • I’m not sure I understand what you mean by the nerdy girls at your high school looked like you…are you implying your were one of them, or just that they didn’t look any different than most people? Either way, that makes YOU sound quite mysterious.

        I’m not writing a typical strong female character, doesn’t really interests me, I think they’re overused. But that’s just my opinion. And speaking of insecurities, you’ll laugh, but I like to think of myself as a fairly decently attractive guy. And until VERY recently, I thought when an unknown woman smiled at me or was checking me out in the bus or down the street, she was LAUGHING at me! I was like, what the fuck is this girl’s problem! I found out like a year ago that giggles are a good thing. I’m such an idiot.

        I intend to put some of my own personality in her. Well, I infuse each of my four lead character with a bit of my personality and blend them with a mix of either people I know, or simply traits I make up along the way. After a while, you kinda KNOW your characters enough to instantly switch between their personalities when you write their lines. It’s weird. A bit like schizophrenia, except not the kind to put you in an asylum for the rest of your life. Fuck yeah, dynamics!

        Also, plain dildo. Can’t go wrong. No shame in it. Just enter the store, ask the clerk for a regular sized dildo. If he’s/she’s any good at their job, they’ll probably offer the strap-on as a complimentary sale, no questions asked. In and out in five minutes.

        PS: I want to take a line or two to make a point crystal clear: I have never, EVER, bought a dildo in my life. Also, I don’t know why, but dildos seem to be a recurring theme in our conversations.

      • Since I finally have a level of mystery added to my personality (which is most of the time predictable), I’m going to leave it there. I can finally cross “be mysterious” off of my bucket list. I must admit, this is a pretty proud day for me.

        I think the typical strong female is overused as well. I intend to do an UFF post on that. (Yes, I did abbreviate the name of my own blog series to make it feel more important). The problem I have with the strong and the insecure is when there is no growth. I don’t like reading a story in which the pivotal character is static. That was my main point.

        Your anecdote about the giggling girl is a clear representation of why you have a comedy writing blog and not a blog offering advice on women.

        P.S. I’m not sure I buy your line about never having bought one. You seem to know quite a bit about the process and overall specifications of the product. Also, you are correct that it is a reoccurring theme in our conversations. However, it can be proven that it’s YOU who brings it up. I was merely talking about harmless vegetables, and then off you went into talking about strap ons and dildos. It’s an interesting life you lead.

    • Let’s just say I’ve worked retail, we’ll leave it at that. And since you’ve threatened to unfollow me because of my empty SUV promises, I’m taking that mysterious back. Sorry. It’s called karma.

    • You (and the article) have a very good point! I honestly hadn’t considered that before now. I think it may make an appearance…

      Thank you for sharing that!

    • I constantly use her as my own cautionary tale. It’s worked really well for me so far. I think H is someone that Bella would be afraid of. In the end, that’s what I hope to accomplish 😉

  2. I don’t mind people being insecure. That’s part of aligning with a reader and helping to introduce them to a much large world (Harry Potter, Harry; Lord of the Rings, Frodo). However, I think the lesson, when comparing to someone like Bella in Twilight is the lack of character growth. Otherwise, there’s nothing inherently wrong with her initial character.
    For your character of Mona, I don’t think there’s inherently anything wrong with her not liking herself at the end of saving the world. Or having ego problems. Those are consistently worked (with fairly decent effect) in Japanese story telling or comic books. The X-Men and Batman are two examples that perpetually get away with this. On the other hand, there should be a reason that makes sense. If not, thinking “I’m a badass” could be just as unreasonable, depending on your characters evolution through the story.
    As for the female perspective, I’ve found that these issues also tend to play well with men. Though, they may be far less likely to admit as such.

    Hmm…. I don’t mean to appear to be picking a fight. I just considering a larger picture. After all, if we want to challenge our readers, we need to be careful of going so far the opposite way that we create struggles that are just as bad for the story. I guess it’s like being extremely Left or Right wing in politics. They’re both nuts.

  3. Another great post, Mariah. I found that I had this issue in one of the first books I wrote. My female protagonist was as whiny at the end of the story as she was in the beginning. There was no growth of character. Of course, I did not really realize this until I finished the book. One of the many reasons it was scrapped, but it taught me a little bit more about how I should be writing. Thanks!!

  4. I agree with the last statement. It made me laugh so hard. I’ve always thought Bella was too sappy and weak. Too damsel in distress like. I want someone flawed but strong and cool and does not depend on handsome men to rescue them from their towers. 🙂 Awesome blog. 🙂 It was so funny.

  5. THIS! So much this! There’s a disturbing trend, especially in YA, of the “doormat heroine” and I love your take on it. On the opposite end, the “fierce female” seems to be another heroine trope equally overused.

    We need some middle-ground, realistic heroines, stat!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s