Monday, June 30, 2014

Heartless Girls and What My Novel Taught Me About Feminism

Lividia and her Boogeyman
Since I started this last series of revisions for A Shadow Story, my subconscious has been working overtime to help me produce the best work possible. My research has made me keenly aware of the mistreatment of women throughout history and today. In my book, Lividia faces an engagement she's deeply opposed to for several reasons, but her fiance is tenacious and her father has final say. My brain (which is smarter than I am) has been pointing out to me instances in other books, movies, and real life that draw a direct parallel to her situation.

The last book I read showed me how to make an admirer so repellant to a reader that the reader hopes for escape more than the MC herself. After reading this book, I realized how disgusted I am at the concept of the captured bride. I became even more aware of how the captured bride is similar to the abusive boyfriend in so much YA lit. (The only difference is the captured bride puts up a fight.) If you're not familiar with the abusive boyfriend, it's the surly bad-boy who treats the girl like crap, but the girl is weakened by his charm to the point she won't stick up for herself. (I hate this trope as much as I hate the whiny female MC pining over the guy who doesn't know she exists.)

I've learned a lot about my book by reading other books. I've learned what to do and what not to do, and I've learned I have a lot to revise and improve upon. But with Lividia, who I'm getting to love as dearly as a good friend, I'm learning about the struggle between social pressures and independent thought. What she truly wants is buried so deep within her that she's never been able to properly voice it. She might not even know it herself. In this book I get to explore it with her. She challenges the status quo, battles conflicting desires, and ultimately has to turn her back on a part of herself to forge ahead down a path she's not entirely sure of. She just knows she has to take it.

I love this girl. At first she faded into the background, outshone by her cousin who was only an antagonistic secondary character, but the more I fleshed her out, the more she blossomed. (The quiet ones always take awhile.) I learned that Lividia is strong, fierce, hopeful, and brave. She's even tinged with a little apathy. Catherynne Valente uses the term "heartless" in her Fairyland books. It refers to children who can separate from their families and familiar lives without a second thought. Alice was a little heartless, and so was September. For a teenager like Lividia, it's just the independence and wanderlust that's common for so many boys, but girls aren't allowed to have. I'm hoping to add Lividia to the growing ranks of wandering, half-heartless girls.

Is your MC heartless, half-heartless or all heart? What impact does that have on your plot-line?


  1. It sounds like you know Lividia really well :) And yes, that YA trope is definitely not one of my favourites. It doesn't really promote healthy expectations of relationships.

    Hmmm... depends on the MC. I have one of each ;)

  2. I've definitely gotten to know her better since revisions. I love that you have a variety of MCs. There is something to be said for a 'heartless' girl. ^_^


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