By AB Plum
On my January 5th morning walk, I dodged an oncoming car. I banged into a cement barrier, broke 4 toes, sprained my ankle, and bruised a tendon. During the slow recovery—no weight-bearing exercise—I read a lot. The book I was looking forward to the most proved the most disappointing.
Maybe I was grumpy from being confined to a wheelchair for a month and wanted some vicarious exercise. I could’ve chosen from an array of main female characters who swim, row, box, jog, hike, climb rock walls, practice Tai’chi, and a myriad of other physical activities.
Instead, I selected a bestseller in which one of the main characters exercised by eating too many potato chips and pizza. She played basketball as a teenager, but Life 101 intervened and . . . okay, I got it. I was, after all, reading her story because of Life 101.
But here’s one lesson I learned: Authors should avoid putting a woman with the fitness level of 0 in a series of scenes where she’s drugged, kept in a car trunk unconscious, breaks her collarbone, fights mano a mano with the bad guy, and wins. Compared to this character, I’d suffered no physical impairment—yet I could barely walk after weeks of taking care of my injuries. Did the Author really want me to suspend logic?
Yes, adrenaline propels us to lift cars and other Herculean feats in emergencies, but c’mon.
Second lesson learned: Authors lose the hard-earned loyalty of their fans with this kind of character portrayal. I’ve read everything this author has published, but I’ll think twice about buying her next book.
There’s at least one other lesson here: The big-time critics gave this book rave reviews. Across the board. I should’ve read the reader reviews. No matter what, we writers cannot fool our audience.
By the way, I think the same lessons apply to male characters who somehow morph into Superman. I just didn’t read any of those while waiting to begin my morning walks again.
What about you? Are you more forgiving of an author’s over-the-top characterization for the sake of entertainment? Do you have favorite heroines who exercise regularly?