I was talking with my husband the other night about tropes in fiction. You see, I really like to muddle with the typical “expectations” and breaking a trope is as exciting to me as a roller coaster is to a normal person. In the end, the topic came around to popular presentation of women (by him, not me!)
In his esteemed opinion, men are typically attracted to strong, capable women. Shrinking violets and dainty, demure damsels are an affectation of women – in today’s world. While sure, there’s still a segment of the population who thinks women should be seen and not heard (and probably always will be, sadly) he insists that men like a woman who is sure of herself, no matter what that self might be. His proof: Katy Perry over Zooey Deschanel.
Now, I’m not saying he’s right. I do find his opinion to be interesting from a writing standpoint. How often do we present our female leads as quiet, overlooked, obedient little ladies? If not, do we default to snarky and brazen? Where are the women who can kick ass while wearing designer heels? Never mind how hard that would be, I mean, there still should be a few, right?
Which kinda brings this back around to writing. Every time I create a female character who is proud of her sexuality, unconcerned with social norms, or otherwise deviates from the standard “bookish girl with high intelligence whose beauty has been overlooked due to her shyness” I wonder if my readers will hate her. So far, they have always enjoyed the characters who inhabit my mind. When I wrote the first Wolf of Oberhame book, I was sure that Leyli would be scoffed at. She is too girly. She is too calculating and manipulative. She is too stereotypically a GIRL. Never mind that she promptly takes the damsel in distress trope and craps all over it. She’s most certainly not “masculine”.
But, she is very VERY strong. When her world turns upside down, she doesn’t break a heel and freak out. She SURVIVES, because really, that’s what most normal people would try to do in her situation, right? And I’m still getting emails, direct messages on twitter, and facebook inboxes from fans who adore the story. She’s sexy because she is confident in who and what she is.
From tomboys to fashionistas, evidently “sexy” is defined by the comfort a woman has in her own skin. Thick, thin, short, or tall, a little self-confidence is ten times more attractive than some photoshopped ideal that is impractical. And the more I thought about this, the more I realize how very true it is. From my little fan girl crush on a certain guy who streams my favorite game to my husband’s “perfectly respectable” appreciation for a rather deviant music star, we all find personality to be much more appealing than any physical trait that exists.
So I’m taking this as a challenge. Can I make a character more sensual than their physicality? Can I write love interests who society would not typically find “appealing”? Can I convince the reader to fall in love alongside the characters in my stories? I think so, and I plan on proving it.
I’m also feeling really inspired to write another book. Oh, this is going to be a lot of fun.