Furthest Thing from Perfect: “Weak” Female Characters in Urban Romance
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I was on Facebook a few days ago, just scrolling and minding my business, when I came across a status that made me pause. [NOTE: It has been edited for profanity]
“Every female out here has gotten played, embarrassed and mislead by a man they deeply loved, even me! I don’t even call girls dumb anymore. Love is so dangerous; it’ll have you dealing with things you know you’re too good for.”
This immediately made me think about the urban romance/urban fiction genre and how as authors, we are sometimes criticized for creating and/or depicting “weak” female characters, especially when it comes to love and relationships.
Now, before I jump too deep into my thoughts, let me just say that I don’t know if this post is going to be a vent/rant session or what, but, in the words of 90’s superstar Kel Mitchell, Aw, here it goes.
Let’s face it, every real-life relationship isn’t picture perfect, so why as authors (fiction or not) would we write about perfect, cookie-cutter characters who are so “strong” that they flee at the first red flag or never, ever, ever take a man back after he’s done wrong?
Real Talk: As women, we don’t always pack our things and chuck up the deuces at the first sign of trouble (even though sometimes we should), ESPECIALLY when we’re in love with someone. I don’t think that makes us weak. I think that makes us human. You want real life proof? Take a second to search Twitter for #SBCCHAT and just see the things REAL PEOPLE are going through in their lives/relationships and asking for advice on. You want more proof? Tune in to any reality TV show on VH1.
Every relationship isn’t like Martin and Gina, Synclaire and Overton or Whitley and Dwayne. Real relationships are messy, gritty, hard and imperfect. Sometimes our relationships turn out to be more like Lucius and Cookie Lyon or Lawrence and Issa.
My point is, readers want to feel like whatever story they are reading is “real” enough that it could happen to someone in real life. Now, I’m not saying that you’re going to wake up tomorrow, be out minding your business and instantly get swept off your feet by a sexy, savage street king—but you get my point.
To play devil’s advocate, I understand that readers read to escape from their own realities. But, the genre of urban fiction/romance has never been “fluffy.” When reading these types of books, you should expect to get raw and very flawed characters. You get them at their worst in hopes to later watch them at their best.
Personally, I like to show growth in my characters, especially when writing a series. One of the best ways for me to do that is to take a character that may or may not be semi one-dimensional at the beginning, have them go through things that will make or break them, alter their mindset and outlook on people, life, situations, and show through my writing how that changes them.
As human beings, we are always evolving (some faster than others, but evolving nonetheless). As a reader, why would you not want to witness that firsthand with the characters whose lives you’re so invested in?
I’ll end this post with a question to you: How do feel about “weak” characters when reading urban romance/urban fiction books? Do you love ‘em, hate ‘em? Comment below!