Can a female main character of a story be weak in a way that no woman wants to be? Can she be stuck in an abusive relationship when it's obvious that she should run away faster than a woman in a torn t-shirt woman with a chainsaw-maniac coming after her?
When it's a horror movie, we expect stupidity. But what if our literary heroine is living a normal life, seems relatively intelligent, and yet won't quit a man who is domineering, jealous, and mean? Is this character believable? I'm struggling with this question as I write Frankenesque. Some early readers say she is weak. That's the point. She's in an abusive relationship, but she's going to grow and learn to take care of herself. Plus, it's real; many woman are in these kinds of relationships.
It might seem like pitting readers against a main character, risking they won't believe the character could be real, could hurt an indie author’s book sales.
From Publisher's Weekly: "Try telling that to Gail McHugh, who, after selling almost half a million copies of her debut self-published romance novel, Collide, has seen the recent follow-up, Pulse, top the list of Amazon bestsellers—all while driving readers crazy over the relationship choices made by the series’ heroine."
I think it's important to portray woman who aren't making smart choices. I recently rediscovered a childhood heroine who I didn't even know I idolized: Lucille Ball. When I was sick around New Years, I watched the movie, Lucy, (click here to learn more about) and listened to an excellent podcast by Studio 360, too. (click here to read/listen) Wow! What a woman. Lucille Ball was ambitious, confident, and capable. And funny!
But even as I love her for her strength, I recognize that she was also still subservient to her husband…and the norms of society at that time. I think many of us struggle with a similar dichotomy today: capable yet surrounded by glass ceilings and walls, and psyches, too. I'm not going to go on a feminist rant. I ask that you support your girlfriends with sympathy, rather than judge woman in abusive relationships. Most likely they learned to accept being treated that way by what they learned in childhood in the home, or from the media––today's or the past. And support books that portray weak woman, and how they got stronger.