Literary Tropes

It bothers me quite a bit when, in order to make a female character interesting, writers make her some sort of damaged goods.  She’s been raped, beaten, her father never loved her, her mother never loved her, she’s an orphan raised by wolves/hateful relatives/on the streets, she had an affair with a prominent member of society and his bastard baby was stillborn, she murdered her abuser and buried his body in the garden, etc.  And from the pain of this backstory she manages to pull herself up by her bootstraps and carry on and this makes her beautiful/desirable/interesting.  It makes me a little ill that writers resort to this sort of storyline.

Are they really telling me that a woman can’t be interesting without being damaged in some way?  She can’t be interesting because she’s smart?  Because she reads?  Because she invented something?  Because she made a scientific discovery?  Because she’s really good at fixing cars?  Because she’s spent twenty years studying ballet and is now considered the world’s greatest dancer?  Is a woman really only interesting because of her sacrifices, because she’s overcome some sort of diversity?

I say all this because it’s true: but also because I’m a little annoyed with myself.  The story I’m currently crafting, which I really like, involves my protagonist’s (somewhat) dark past.  She never talks about it, and I don’t really want it to come up at all, really.  But I want it implied that she left America, in part, because she was leaving something [someone (a man)].  But she also leaves America (and this man) for herself.  I want that to be abundantly clear.  But she was also leaving someone and that is actually important.

The real trouble I’m having is plot.  I don’t know what causes the rising action or the climax.  I’ve had a number of ideas that bring her past into the story, but I don’t like that idea.  I don’t want to dredge it up because I don’t want her to only be interesting because of something she’s done before the story starts.

I think I really need to flesh out the rest of the characters.  Maybe something will develop there.

I also don’t want it to be a romance, or about the “friendzone” even though it sort of is.

I’ll keep working.

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Boston, December 29, 2013, 11:55 pm

Pulling into South Station –

The platforms are empty of people,
only barren trains sleep beneath
lamps that look like paper lanterns
illuminating the concrete rows.
I imagine dozens of couples,
women in long gowns, men in tails,
dancing under the paper lanterns that
aren’t lanterns at all.

They secretly waltz where hundreds of
people trod earlier
thinking only of making it to their destinations,
getting window seats, losing luggage,
giving no thought to dance.

The couples glide majestically,
unconcerned they were not
considered by their predecessors.
They move in the silence:
Step, step, slide.
Step, step, slide.
No music is as lovely as that heard, collectively,
in their minds.
The only sound, a monkey
tapping time
against a piling,
echoes across the
empty space.

Text by me, Bex; photos taken from Daniel Lampariello at Boston to a T until I can go back and get my own photographs which will never be as pretty as his.