Mukti, who you first meet in Chasing Pavements, Book 1 of this contemporary romance series, is strong, hard-working and takes care of the people she loves. Great! However, she also has insecurities and they sometimes get the better of her. It's not ideal, but it makes her real.
Either way, I hadn't actually intended for her ~ or any of my characters, for that matter ~ to be a role model for readers.
I watched an interview with Stephanie Meyer (author of the Twilight Saga) a while ago, and she was asked how she felt about critics saying that her female lead Bella isn't a good role model for young girls. Stephanie said that readers shouldn't look to fictional characters to be their role models. Instead, they should turn to members of their family, friends, colleagues, real people in real life. Those are the people that have a responsibility to lead by example.
I wholeheartedly agree with Stephenie. I don't think authors should only create protagonists that readers can look up to. Writers shouldn't have to shape their characters in a way that they won't be criticised, or so that they are adored by the masses.
These are the three main reasons why I don't think fictional characters should be idolised by the reading public:
1) More often than not, the hero or heroine will be the ultimate over-achiever (e.g. a really powerful assassin, the best in the world) or the ultimate under-achiever. The super-clever, super-successful and outrageously fantastic protagonists set the bar so high that readers will be disappointed if they can't meet those unrealistic standards. It will be particularly difficult for younger readers to digest, if they can't do the things that their favourite characters can. And of course, you shouldn't look to become an under-achiever, either, should you?
2) Fictional characters will occasionally take huge risks, which luckily pay-off (because they're in a book and have to save the day). This doesn't mean we'll be just as fortunate if we do something similar. In a book, a woman might quit her steady, well-paid job to fulfil her lifelong dream of... say, opening a coffee shop, and plough all her savings into it. If it's a romance novel, a rich, handsome guy might fall for her and invest in her new business (without her knowing about it, of course) and help it take off. What are the chances of something like that happening to you and me?
3) Protagonists in fiction need to make difficult decisions, and also make mistakes, to drive the story forward, grow as a character, and to pull other characters/sub-plots into play. Writers will sometimes bring out the darkest side of a character and have them hurt their loved ones to serve a higher purpose. To entertain the reader, the author will make their protagonists do and say things that we shouldn't in real life. In the majority of cases, everything will work out fine for the hero and heroine in the end, and they will have a happy ever after. If we follow their lead, though, how can we be sure that it will work out like that for us, too?
It's also good to note that even if you write a character that you want readers to admire and aspire to, not everyone will see it that way. Some readers might even criticise the character for being unrealistic or too perfect for them to relate to.
I've seen a couple of BookTubers criticise certain characters for being unrealistic because they always do the right thing, and don't have enough flaws. Those same people also criticise certain characters that are flawed and, in their opinion, don't set a good example. You won't be able to please everyone.
Therefore, I concentrate on writing a good story with well-developed, realistic characters that will make the book enjoyable and memorable. My priority is to write great books with interesting characters.
I, on the other hand, will do my best to behave professionally and set a good example for readers and writers alike.
Thank you for reading this post. If you'd like to check out my books, click on the links below:
And the first two books in my teen urban fantasy/YA paranormal romance series, the Poison Blood series, can be downloaded for free via:
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