Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Anti-heroines in Women’s Fiction – Where Do You Stand?

Originally posted on Linda's Book Bag on 17th October 2016


Most of my writing day is taken up by writing fiction. If I’m not writing a blog or magazine article for a client, I’m creating fictional characters either in my own stories or as a ghost writer. Most of the fiction I ghost write comes under the women’s fiction umbrella, mainly romance. In every outline I’m given the heroine is always likeable, kind, well adjusted, good looking (if not absolutely beautiful) and everything she does makes her worthy of the handsome hero.
I know we pick up a book because we like to escape the real world but I always prefer to ‘keep it real(ish)’ when I write – particularly in my own stories.
So when it came to writing Single by Christmas, I knew straight away that I wasn’t writing my female protagonist in the typically expected style for women’s fiction. Alex Marshall wasn’t going to be the heroine, she was going to be the anti-heroine.
When writers create anti-heroes – the bad guy who womanises, drinks too much, puts his needs first – it seems to be acceptable because he is a man. But how do you react to a woman who does all those things?
Typical Anti-Hero/Anti-Heroine Traits (in brief)
  • Self-absorbed, selfish
  • Shows little remorse for bad behaviour
  • Imperfections easily identified
  • Has the reader’s sympathy but has questionable morals
I knew that when I embarked on my Christmas story that Alex Marshall wasn’t the type of woman who owned a cake shop and sold mince pies to the man of her dreams, neither was she going to get stranded with him in a snow storm in a remote and picturesque town. But I had to be careful. I didn’t want to lose the spirit of Christmas. I didn’t want Alex to be an out and out villain who ambushes Santa and holds the pressies for ransom. I had to tread carefully and let the reader see her ‘naughty’ side in the events of the story and hopefully understand her motives as the scenes played out in typical anti-heroine fashion.
I also had to bear in mind that this story was a romantic comedy – emphasis on the romantic and the comedy. So how could I make Alex edgy and still leave room for the odd laugh or two (or more, hopefully). My answer: I made Alex a little too fond of booze and gave her a very selfish streak.
One early reader of Single by Christmas said she wanted to slap Alex. Maybe you will, too, but the fact remains, her motives are questionable and so is her behaviour.
I knew I was taking a risk, especially since I’ve created a female character in a previous story who, potentially, put the whole sex in a bad light. One reviewer didn’t appreciate that and deducted a star from her review because she hated when women are not portrayed in a positive light.
But I say, ‘Hey, we’re only human, and we all mess up sometimes’ – even women.
I guess when it comes to romantic comedy there may be a strong argument that dictates that the leading lady ought to have nothing but flawless qualities. But I argue that there’s nothing wrong with upsetting stereotypes and Alex Marshall is no stereotypical heroine.
So what’s your view? Do you want all the women you read about to be ‘perfect’ or can you handle the odd flawed character once in a while?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for dropping by, see you next time!