This week, I read a scathing review of one of my books. I try not to let negative reviews get to me, as we all like different things, but this one stuck in my mind. The reviewer took particular issue with the heroine. They said the heroine was weak willed, that she relied on a man to sort out her problems, that she behaved like a throwback to the 50s. They said she was a bad example to women. That she wasn't a strong, independent, contemporary woman and therefore the book itself wasn't worth reading.
Now, here's the thing: the reviewer is partly right.
I didn't write a strong, independent heroine who could sort out all of her own problems. The guy did step in to help her and she leaned on him. The reader is right about the character, but wrong about the heroine being a bad example. And wrong about the character not being a contemporary woman. The reason the reviewer is wrong is this: the heroine wasn't written to be an example for women.
Because I write a character who is weak, or troubled, it doesn't mean I don't care about the strong, amazing women who blaze a trail for all of us. I have two daughters. I want them to grow up to be strong, independent free thinkers, but I don't expect them to learn how to be like that through reading my books. I expect them to develop into amazing women because they are surrounded by other amazing women and because I have striven, through the way I live, to show them what it's like to be strong, independent and intelligent. My books are fiction. The characters in them are different from me. They don't say the things I say. They don't do the things I do. They don't think the way I think.
They are made up people. Invented for a story. Fleshed out to tell a tale.
There are lots of different types of women in our world today. There are women who are strong and independent. Women who are weak and insecure. Women who are dependent on those around them, and women who are responsible for everyone they know. Women who are intelligent and women who aren't. There are women with strong bodies, and skills, who know how to fight and women who faint at the thought of shedding blood. There are women with brilliant careers and women who choose to concentrate on raising a family. There are women who buckle under the weight of abuse and women who survive and come out stronger. There are women who find it hard to make decisions and women who are extraordinary leaders. They are ALL contemporary women. They all have valid stories. They all react differently in any given situation. If I were to only write about one type of woman, I'd miss out on all those stories. And there is beauty in all of them. We learn something from the stories of people who are NOT like us.
So, I feel I should warn you: I have no intention of changing how I write.
I know there are readers out there who only want one type of woman and who think that only one type of heroine is correct. I disagree and I want to write about lots of different types of women. So if you're looking for a book that promotes an ideal you adhere to, and it isn't in my books, then don't read my books.
I don't write propaganda. I don't try to push any belief or message with my work--although I have very strong beliefs and views on many things, including what it means to be a woman today. What I try to do is step inside the head of someone who isn't like me and make them as real as possible. If you don't agree with the actions of the character, then that's fine. The character isn't you. The same way she isn't me.