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I've noticed a disturbing trend in my books....

Every one of my novels so far has the female lead break down into tears at some point.

In my first book, I Need a Job, Julie cracks under the stress of unemployment and has an extended meltdown that lasts for the better part of twenty pages.  In my second book, Bitter People Without Souls, Mary is devastated by insurance shenanigans that render her incapable of paying for her daughter's cancer treatments.

In the draft of "Born Loser," my upcoming comic thriller about gaming nerds who rob a bank, Lacey is overwhelmed by the first act turn that throws a whirlwind of mayhem into their plans.  And in the draft of the post-apocalyptic comedy that I'm currently writing, I just wrapped up a scene where Molly, a young prepper who is coming to terms with her new world, confronts the damage done to her by her abusive father.

So now I fear that readers will think I have a backward view of genders where men are strong and stoic while women are weak and emotional.  Four books in a row where the female lead breaks down and cries isn't a coincidence - it's a trend.

Each of these is defensible when scrutinized individually - I sure as hell would cry, too (and did, in the real-life situations that served as inspiration for a couple of them).  The problem is that I don't know how to defend all of this as a whole.  Or if I should.  Or if anyone else would notice if I didn't point it out now. Two of them have already been published, so there's no going back there.  But should I revise this in the two that are still drafts?

On the one hand, I'd like to believe the reason these characters are crying is because I've fleshed them out enough that I'm probing deep into their insecurities and fears, which naturally leads them on an emotional roller coaster and occasionally pits them against bouts of crippling depression.  And to be fair, men cry in my books, too - just not as much.  The only two I can think of are Bob in a late scene in Bitter People Without Souls and the male protagonist of "Born Loser."

It's ludicrous for me to obsess about this right now, I know.  First of all, I don't have enough of a following for anybody to pick apart my work and tear it down on this kind of level, so I don't currently have to worry about critics or other bloggers accusing me of misogyny or anything like that.  And even if somebody did want to try that, I think my characters are three-dimensional enough that the claim would be laughable on the face of it.

I guess it just goes back to one of my deep-seated fears about being accepted.  I write something and I want people to see it.  I want people to enjoy it.  But there's a paranoid part of me that fears rejection from anybody, no matter how slight, so I worry about the inevitable bad reviews on Amazon.  And I've seen how the Internet enjoys public shaming, even when it's undeserved - so what would I do if somebody read all four of the books I'm talking about and wrote a scathing "expose" on their website about how I hate women?

I know there's more to it than just "women in my books always break down."  But it's something readily identifiable and just stereotypical enough that the Internet Outrage Machine could register it.  I've seen how that Machine chews up other media, and it's not pretty.  Not to compare myself to the greats, but it's like people saying Huck Finn is a racist book just because it has the N-word in it, even though the entire point of the book is that Jim is a human and deserves to be treated with respect.

People don't like to look at the bigger picture.  They like to look at stupid little details and take them out of context.  And that's why I'm obsessing about this now, even before anybody has objected to it, even before anybody has actually noticed my books, because I don't ever need that kind of bullshit controversy in my life - especially not if it swells out of only the first four books out of the fifty or so I hope to write some day.

And what really kills me is that I think I'd make my books weaker if I cut out or altered the crying scenes that are in my two working drafts.  The one in "Born Loser" is a little more malleable and could be altered more easily, but there's layers and subtext that would be lost.  And the scene I just wrote in my post-apocalyptic book?  It's good.  I know I'm not supposed to toot my own horn, but it's a powerful moment that reveals a lot more about the character.

So what do I do?  Do I just insert more crying men to even it out?  Do I sacrifice one of the teary scenes?  Do I change the sequence of books I plan to write?  There's one I've stopped working on for awhile that was tentatively called "Don't Be a Dick" (except I later found out that's like Wil Wheaton's catchphrase or something, so I can't use it), and that one is full of men crying - should I release that one somewhere in the middle to break up the trend?  I'd so much rather people just think of me as "that guy who always makes his characters cry" instead of "that guy who thinks only women cry."

Sigh... this is the kind of paranoid crap that makes it hard for me to get work done.

All the Other Nonsense That Got Pushed Off the Main Page (Post Archive)

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