Writing Reader Observation #9–Say What?!


I just finished a novel in which half-a-dozen characters told the heroine she was so strong. “You’re so strong!” “I wish I could be like you, you’re so strong!”

Yet, from my vantage point as lowly reader who read what felt like pages and pages of the heroine crying and whimpering–yes, whimpering–I wondered what planet they were from. Maybe they spent entire novelsย crying and whimpering in which case a few pages might seem like strength. However, I suspect that’s not the case.

Indeed, if hard-pressed, I didn’t find the character particularly strong. She was average to below average. I felt like the author was trying to convince the reader that her heroine was strong by having other characters say that she is strong. Maybe most of her readers accept this. I don’t. I know what I’m reading and interpreting, and it isn’t strength regardless of what other characters say.

So, yes, I understand. You want your heroine to come across as feeling and yet strong. However, pages of crying doesn’t do that. And let’s drop the whimpering altogether unless she’s physically hurt.

My feeling is that I would write this character with a steel spine, but vulnerable enough to let tears flood her eyes. Maybe she cries once because she feels things so deeply, but I’d be more likely to let a few tears fall from her eyes than let her outright cry…unless it’s over death. If it’s death, it’s a flood. Noah, here it comes. Sorry, that’s just the way I am.

Also, I felt that the heroine’s viewpoint was wishy-washy. I may review this novel soon, but I’ve been holding back because there is a rant-worthy topic which has its basis in religion disagreeing with science, and I’ve been trying ever-so-hard to be good.ย ๐Ÿคจ

I know a lot of you are writers. Tell me how you might make a character strong yet vulnerable. Let’s dialogue!


Thanks, Sascha


19 thoughts on “Writing Reader Observation #9–Say What?!

  1. My SIL told me I was ‘so strong’ last year after my radiotherapy treatment.
    I didn’t feel strong, and coming from her, the comment didn’t make me feel strong either. I just got on with it. It had to be done, so I turned up for the sessions. Maybe that’s how to depict a character, one who takes everything in her stride, then has the crying fit after the event.

    1. Oh, yes. I would definitely agree with you and your SIL. I think your attitude definitely depicts strength. Pretty much what I would say is the epitome of strength.
      I hope you are doing well.

      1. I am indeed Sascha, thank you. I was extremely lucky we found ‘Humphrey’ (as we called him) early and sent him packing to the big petri dish in the sky in Oct 2016. Just trying to get back on track with the weight thing now as I was asked not to lose any more for the duration of my radiotherapy last year as my tattoos didn’t line up!

  2. Ha! I get your irritation with wimpering females. Surely, her sensitivity can be shown without debasing her strength. It’s much more powerful to have a character strong throught then broken at one point of the story – one huge, painful moment – than gently wimpering throughout. Interested to know which book this, though I doubt I’ll read it o nthis review! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. I agree with you. Although the book doesn’t identify itself as such, unfortunately (because I wouldn’t have read it if given proper categorization), I would categorize it as Christian women’s fiction. It’s called Lessons Learned by Sydney Logan. It receives very good reviews on Goodreads, although there are readers, like me, who were offended by the character’s stance that she tolerates homosexuals although she disagrees with their lifestyle. I am pretty certain that in 2018, the majority of people are aware that it’s biological and not a choice. So, I’m not exactly clear how anyone can disagree with someone’s biology. But then I just learned that there’s actually an organization of people who believe that the earth is flat and as of yet no one, to my knowledge has fallen off the earth, except perhaps metaphorically. ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. Well, that genre would be given a big thumbs down from me too. Interesting that the book doesn’t identify itself as Christian fiction – did they think it would affect sales? People are prepared to believe all sorts of things that science has confidently sent to the Giant Pile of Outmoded Ideas. Interesting how humans can be so set in their beliefs despite all evidence to the contrary

      2. Actually, Lynn, I’m a little baffled. The novel did call to task some “Christians” who weren’t tolerant of homosexuality. But for me it’s an extremely fine line between disagreeing and being intolerant if there is even a line. I do wish publishers would be sincere in categorizing. Once I receive an ARC, I’m obligated to read and there are genres and types I just won’t read and Christian fiction is one of them.

      3. It is misleading, not categorising your fiction clearly – it’s as if they’re unsure themselves or don’t want to marginalise their market by claiming a certain genre. Well, then don’t publish that genre!

      4. I do think that’s it. If it had been labeled correctly I wouldn’t have read it. Of course, I’m not sure that she would benefit from my review anyway. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I believe that character is built through action ร nd reaction. If a character is always crying I am hardly going to perceive them as strong, emotional perhaps but not strong. If the others are telling the character they are strong then I need to see why they have come to that conclusion. I judge on that I see

  4. I’m not sure why but this post reminded me of an interview I did many years ago with Margaret Atwood. I started a question with :” the men in your books….” she cut me off and said “Are you going to ask why they are so weak? Well they can’t all be Mr.Darcy or Heathcliff!” Yipes!

    1. Oh this is great, Anne! An interview with Margaret Atwood. How fascinating. Have you written about that experience anywhere? And a big lol to her comment on Darcy and Heathcliff. Love it!

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