I’m writing a YA novel, it’s not my main manuscript, but I work on it when I have a moment here or there. It’s called THE TROUBLE WITH SUICIDE. It is About a teen girl obsessed with killing herself after abuse as a child. Then is confronted with the ultimate choice when her boyfriend makes good on his part of their suicide pact.
Ya, I know, just some light reading.
Well, last night I wanted to just do a page one rewrite because I was feeling her story call to me. What you need to understand is that as a teenager I was skinny. I mean, to the point where teachers, friends, strangers, etc. often asked if I was anorexic. It was maddening. I ate a ton, I was just very active. And I had a high metabolism. There are some things you can’t control. I still get furious when I hear someone yell (or write), “Eat a cheeseburger!” These are the things that cause eating disorders. But that’s not actually my point.
I know, it’s random to be arguing on behalf of the skinny chicks, but hear me out on this one.
There is a moment in the first chapter where my MC (main character) is avoiding looking in the mirror but catches a glimpse of herself anyway. This is after contemplating a suicide attempt in the bathroom. In the first draft it read like this:
“…avoiding looking in the steamy mirror. I don’t want to know what I look like. I don’t want to see me. Still, I catch a glance of my foggy reflection out of the corner of my eye as I turn towards the door. I see my brown hair tracing my face and shout “Chicken shit!”
Here is the second:
“…I avoid looking in the steamy mirror. I don’t want to know what I look like. I don’t want to see me. Still, I catch a glimpse of my round face, pixie cut brown hair jaggedly tracing it. I hate my reflection and yell, “Chicken shit!”
I didn’t change it lightly. I will admit that most of my main characters are thin teenage girls because that’s what I was. However, I’ve gotten older and gained weight. I know now what it feels like not to want to look in the mirror. To wear leggings every day because you are too scared to find out your jean size.
I’ve read a lot on social media about MC’s always being thin and or white. Mostly in the vein of that needs to change. We need diversity. I have felt compelled to put more diversity in my stories but I hadn’t done so with an MC. Last night I thought, “What if Taci isn’t skinny?” It changed so many things about her dynamics. Her interactions with herself and her surroundings. I felt like I knew how to write that girl now. How to write a heroine that isn’t just skin and bone. There was some sort of relief I felt as I let Taci gain weight. I felt like if I were reading this book right now, I would better relate to her. Maybe some won’t, but isn’t that the same with writing petite girls?
We’ve seen a lot of change in movies for girls, from Moana to Wonder Woman. We’ve also seen an amazing change in representation, for example, Black Panther. These movies are so important because they open the doors to everyone and say, “Come in! You can be a princess! You can be a superhero! You can be a king!” and I think that matters to people. We need to be able to see ourselves in the stories we engage with. On the screen, in books, on the stage. Everywhere!
Art should be for everyone. And it should be there to inspire and lift us up. It should help us embrace each other despite our differences because we learn to empathize through these outlets.
What are some stories that either made you feel like the MC or made you feel that you couldn’t relate? I would love to hear from you! Meet me in the comments section!