I am a wimp

I am a wimp. This does not come as a particular surprise to me, but it is a disappointment. I like to think I write strong heroines (not perfect, mind you, but strong) and yet I am not one myself.

This painful truth was smacked upside my head like a small but solid brick twice in the last two days. The first time wasn’t so bad. I was taking Monster Girl for her evening dog walk and since she had stopped to sniff at an extremely fascinating clump of grass (don’t you sometimes wish you had a dog’s sense of smell just to find out what’s so durned interesting?) I decided to see how long I could dangle from the monkey bars.

I had just written a scene where my hero wrestles with a giant carnivorous aphrodisiac clam while holding his breath, and needless to say, had it been ME trying to hold my breath in that scene, the story would have ended quite unsatisfactorily, what with the clam winning the day and all. But certainly, I thought, had I been an old skool helpless heroine dangling from a cliff/bridge/spaceship, I could hold on long enough for my hero to come save me.

Yeah, not so much.

I barely had time to squeak out a ladylike “Help!” (look, there’s not a whole lot of amusement to be had on a dog walk) before my fingers slipped off the wet metal and I plummeted to my doom.

Pathetic and sad, but should my lack of upper body strength deny me any claim to the kick-ass heroine Hall of Fame?

The next night, I decided to stop at this antler store on my way home from work to get Monster Girl an antler chew. I’d never been in this particular shop, but I pass it a lot and it always has a sign up saying something about antlers. So it had become “the antler store” in my head. I pictured something rather similar to the lobbies of the hotels in Vail, Colorado, where I lived for a couple winters, that always had pretty glowing chandeliers made of shiny antlers.

Yeah, not so much.

I pushed open the door and walked into an abattoir. The stench made my whole musculature constrict as my hindbrain whispered, “Death.” There was an 18-inch blood trail smear from the front door to the back room where I could clearly see a half dozen severed heads and three workers flaying an elk carcass.

So, in retrospect, the part of the sign that said “Taxidermy” should have been more important than the part that said antlers.

My gaze skittered away from the exposed red flesh and white connective tissue and the exposed chunks of bone. And the eyeballs. Gah. There were eyeballs everywhere in that place. I was actually shaking. This time I did manage to “hold on” long enough to purchase an antler chunk (after digging through a bin of hooves and jaw bones and assorted other chunks) for Monster Girl’s chewing pleasure. But I swore I was going to become a vegetarian and so was the dog. (I can survive on chocolate, right? Monster Girl can have the kale.)

Not only did I lack the upper body strength of a kick-ass heroine, I lacked her stomach too. Wimp!

I happen to be going through one of my Self-Doubting Writer Doldrums™ periods, so this multi-part revelation of my complete unsuitability to write strong heroines, or even mildly competent heroines, or anyone, really, who could make it out of a prologue without losing her grip or her lunch, was more than a little deflating.

Just who do I think I am? Not HER, obviously. Not the heroines I want to write.

I don’t actually believe I could roundhouse kick a zombie-ninja-robot-dinosaur’s ass, but I like to pretend that I can believe what it would be like to kick a zombie-ninja-robot-dinosaur’s ass. If you see the distinction. But now…

Am I living a lie? I mean, yes, of course I’m living a lie; I’m a writer and there are no zombie-ninja-robot-dinosaurs. Sadly. But am I lying to myself to think I can write a real lie? (This is getting complicated, isn’t it?)

Or worse, is the solution to my Self-Doubting Writer Doldrums™ to either A. simply hold on, or B. fight my bloody way through, both of which I’ve now proven myself useless at?

Dooooomed.

Or maybe, just maybe, putting those heroines on paper is getting me closer to who I’d like to be.

A few reps of crunches probably wouldn’t hurt either.

Is there a heroine — real or imaginary — who inspires you? Which aspects of her call to you most deeply?

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5 thoughts on “I am a wimp

  1. Jessa,

    So sorry you had that distressing experience with the taxidermy shop–shudder. For those who haven’t grown up with hunting, ranch&farm life, a sudden exposure to the food chain can be one heck of a shock.

    As far as owning the strengths of a fictional heroine … hmm. I think that’s why reading & writing is so therapeutic/cathartic. Nearly threw my Kindle across the room the other day when the heroine of a highly rated romance continued to be a doormat for her family for 9/10 of the book. I still haven’t finished the book, and don’t know if I will. She was just too irritating. She even said no to the sweetheart of a hero, because her family, who could perfectly well do for themselves, came first with her.

    In real life … ahem. Did I mention I have trouble saying no to my darling family? So when I read, the heroine is supposed to be my avatar, doing things that are a struggle for me.

    We are all works in progress, but in real life we get to take longer to gain strength. Fictional heroines better step it up!

    Off to say ‘No!’ to my mirror a few times–just practicing.

    Cathryn

    • I prefer all my food not look like what it used to be 🙂 Actually, I’m never all that psyched to pull carrots out of the ground. The sound they make as the tiny roots break really disturbs me. Yet another way I’m a wimp!

  2. Jessa, You have more stomach than I for staying in that antler shop long enough to buy anything. When I write my heroines, whether they are strong throughout or find a way to become strong, I am writing from that young, idealistic part of me that truly believed I could do anything. I think those beliefs were present from age 6-12, and then again for a year or two around 19-20. Could I have fought off a zombie-ninja-robot-dinosaur back then? Probably not, but that’s not the point. The point is if someone had asked I probably would have said yes. 🙂 So, I tap into that younger self.

    In other instances, when I’m being more realistic, I tap into my aspirational self. I prefer to believe if I am truly faced with a difficult situation I will rise to the occasion. None of us really know how we will react until we have no choice. Personally, I prefer to think positive.

    So, keep writing those kick-ass heroines. You are at least mentally exercising options and reminding yourself what steps you will need to take when faced with that zombie-ninja-robot-dinosaur. At least you will have thought about it. The rest of us will be flailing away with only distant memories of the last movie we watched and how stupidly the actors resolved that problem. Whereas you will have put to words, probably with several hours of practice and re-thinking, the actions that will work. I’m definitely standing right behind you when the attack comes. 🙂

    • When I’m out hiking with my sweetie, I always tell him I don’t have to be faster than the bear, I just have to be faster than him 😉 Yes, I realize this is not heroic behavior, but like you said, sometimes we just have to be realistic.

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