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.