Monday, February 28, 2022

My Mama Didn't Raise No Protagonist

The first book I ever sold, Brand-New Emily, started out with a very different kind of heroine. Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20, so I now realize that the first version of my character Emily was frightened, weak, and far less interesting. 

I learned this when a big-time agent requested a look at the manuscript, only to respond with a nonchalant, "I prefer a feistier protagonist" when he passed on representing me. It took me a while to understand what he meant.

Based on his comment, I changed Emily to be much more in charge of her own destiny, which made her a much more interesting character. It also made her disobey her dad, tell some "little white lies," and even be downright cruel at times. After all, protagonists have to want something and want it badly--even if it means breaking some rules in order to get it. Why hadn't I thought of this in the first place?

I blame my parents. 😜

It didn't occur to me at first to make Emily do these kinds of things because I was following the old "write what you know" advice, and when I was Emily's age, I feared the wrath of my mom and dad. Actually, I didn't fear their wrath so much as I feared their disappointment. I was a pleaser. As you can imagine, this made me extremely popular in junior high in addition to later affecting my career as an author!

Now when I write, I go for protagonists who won't give up...who will do whatever it takes to meet their goals. And I save the pleaser kids for moral conscience supporting characters. 

"Well-behaved women seldom make history," as the saying goes. And well-behaved children seldom make feisty protagonists.

Ginger Rue's current book, Wonder Women of Science, is co-authored with rocket scientist Tiera Fletcher, who is currently working with NASA on the Mars mission. The book profiles a dozen amazing women (besides Tiera!) who are blazing new trails in their respective STEM fields. 


1 comment:

  1. This is so true--so many of us live vicariously through our feisty protags!