I’ve recently entered a writing exchange with my talented friend Allison, who works mostly in fiction. We’ve been friends for years but never thought of partnering to critique each other’s work. I knew she was gifted, but I never thought I’d be refreshing my inbox, hoping to see her name there with another amazing short story attached. She’s incredible.
I’ve read many, many a short story. One of my writing groups (yeah I’m in more than one, nerds) dabbles almost entirely in short stories. Rarely does one cross my table that has any female characters; but if it does, she’s a sexpot, a bitch, a sweet mom, or dead.
Not so for Allison. Her women have deep inner lives—they question, rebel, act naively, judge other people, and feel terribly sad. They are flawed, and flawed in very personal ways.
Flaws are a badge of honor. Reading a character’s flaws means at least one of two things:
- the character has made an active decision that reveals the flaw, and/or
- the author has given us a glimpse into the character’s thought process.
Believe me, neither happens very often for female characters.
Flaws also give long-term possibilities to the character. Perhaps—dare we dream—this woman will get to go through a change by the end of the work. It’s amazing how many shows (I saw one yesterday) star female supporting leads who never develop into anything beyond who they were in the first scene.
Flawed women are whole women. They are the kinds of women who make decisions and suffer for them, who hurt the people around them, and who have skeletons in their closets. I’m that kind of woman, and so are my friends. We say mean things we have to apologize for later and would rather judge people than hide their updates on our Facebook walls.
And we come bearing Kindles, too. So write for us.
(Like the picture? It’s almost Halloween after all. Creepy image courtesy Jean Scheijen)