I’ve got an idea, several in fact, about women. Not the usual blokey waheey, oy-oy, hubba-hubba type (apart from Mrs. G.) but about the way they should be written in a chick lit story.
I know, I know. The majority of chick lit is written for women by women but I don’t see why I can’t join in all the fun. So to start I’ll tell you what the term ‘chick-lit’ means to me.
Regardless of the setting I see chick lit as a light-hearted, romantic, amusing genre that doesn’t really take itself too seriously. It’s not Shakespeare or Dickens but it doesn’t try to be. Chick lit to me should be an easy read, not particularly thought provoking but emotionally charged but above all, funny.
So the characters in them should follow that theme – fun, funny and not too serious. That’s not to say there can’t be dire themes in a chick lit story, I just think they should be moments that define the story rather than the character.
So what makes a good chick lit chick? Here’s my guide to five things a chick-lit protagonist should be (and five they really shouldn’t)
In order for readers to invest their time in a story the main character(s) HAVE to be realistic. That means warts and all, wobbly bits and cellulose, cramps and bad hair days, real. There’s nothing worse than reading about someone who’s perfect – perfect hair, perfect body, personality sense of humour. Boring! As a writer I have to have characters with flaws, especially if they obsess over them or manage to come to terms with them during the story.
Chick Lit Skin Flick?
This is a big no-no for me. I know I’m supposed to be a sex obsessed, base creature with no morals and make my way through the world salivating at every woman I encounter but I think chick lit should be clean. Sex happens and there’s nothing wrong with your characters enjoying it but it should be mentioned in passing, not described in gory detail. Erotica is another sub-genre and perfectly fine but chick lit is different and should be treated as such. Your protagonist should be sexy but not sex-mad.
Um, yes. This is the one thing your character has to be. If not actually cracking the jokes herself, she should be surrounded by humour. Funny and potentially unrealistic scenes that readers can relate to should pepper the story and in my mind, are the backbone of chick lit. We’ve all met someone who doesn’t fit the mould, someone who blurts the wrong thing at the wrong time and makes everyone laugh or doesn’t get the same jokes or references as the rest of the group. Characters like that, when they’re written well, can drive a whole story and keep your reader interested.
I looked up to see the mischief had spread to his eyes and his smile was even larger than before.
What is this, some kind of wind-up? If Lisa’s put him up to…
My thoughts were completely scattered as he brought his hand round to show me the longest, thickest, dildo I’d ever seen. I felt my jaw actually drop as I took in the sight. Sensibly he’d wrapped the thing – looked like a bludgeon – in loo roll but there must have been a good three inches of thick rubbery plastic jutting from either side of his fist! Oh and it was green too. I swallowed, completely mortified.
In a similar way to being 3D or realistic your protagonist has to be relatable to your readers. This is where knowing the chick lit genre can pay dividends as adding the right kind of protagonist can make or break a chick-lit story. Of course everyone is different but in the chick lit ‘universe’ there are certain expectations if not rules. Your character has to strike a chord with the readers you’re aiming at and be true to the genre. There’s no point in having a beer-swilling, foul-mouthed and mannish main character, it just won’t sit well with readers. As a comedy side-character yes, as your main character I wouldn’t risk it.
The very fact chick lit is a sub-genre of romance tells readers that, at some point, your characters are going to fall in love – it’s a given. It’s the journey, their journey, that keeps people reading. So whether your main character is desperately looking for The One or love creeps up and slaps them round the back of the head she needs to be romantic (or at least open to the possibility). She might be a successful, independent woman who ‘don’t need no man’ but at the same time should be at the point where she might quite like one.
So there you go, five things I think your protagonist should be.
Know someone who’d like this little post? Send them the link – they might just thank you.