In Praise of Difficult Women
I like difficult women. Females unafraid to say exactly what they are thinking. Girls willing to bend the rules to do their version of the right thing. Strivers. Overachievers.People who will go to battle for what they want and who they love. I like sensitive women. People who get insecure and jealous and angry and sad–the host of negative emotions that we all feel at some point and, too often, are encouraged to compact into our guts and cover with a smile. Above all, I like complicated women. The kind of people who can be forthright, giving and kind in certain situations, but have days when stress makes them dismissive, selfish and dishonest–maybe even with themselves. I like women with chips on their shoulders and things to overcome. Vengeful and forgiving. Kind and selfish. Open-hearted and cagey. These are the women that I write. And, they’re not always likable. There is much debate over what makes a heroine in thrillers. Should the good girl be someone with whom the largely female book reading audience can root for the whole way through? Should she be a paragon of morality that has to fight through a dire situation? Or, should she be an amalgamation of positive and negative qualities? The kind of person complicit in her own misfortunes? The recent success of books like Girl On A Train and Gone Girl have shown that readers will relate to fundamentally flawed female leads. Rachel Watson, the protagonist in Girl On A Train, is a raging alcoholic who drinks to the point of blacking out on a regular basis. She throws up on the stairs in a house she shares with a generous friend and is too drunk the next morning to clean it up. If that isn’t the roommate from hell, I don’t know what is. While author Paula Hawkins gave us some reasons to excuse Rachel’s behavior, it’s not until the end of the book that we have a full picture which, I think, would make even the hardest hearted readers forgive the main character. Until then, though, Rachel is a hot mess that few people would bother to befriend in real life. For those who haven’t read Gone Girl, I won’t explain anything about Amy. But I think Gillian Flynn created a truly amazing character who isn’t particularly likable in either stage of the book (pre-reveal or post). Plenty of people disagree with me. They want their heroines to be people morally worthy of their emotional attachment. If they’re rooting for them to win it’s because they are unequivocally deserve to. What do you think?