Monday, February 7, 2011

Adding a Little Weight to your Manuscript

Have you noticed that most female leads in movies and literature seem to be the perfect woman?  By that I mean they have just the right amount of curves, beautiful hair, and every male wants them.  Why do the big girls have to be the sidekicks?

One of the things I like to do is get a visual of my character in my head and usually I'll search around IMDB until I find an actor/actress that I think would be perfect for the part if it were to be made into a movie.  (I don't have much a life, so I do this for just about every novel I read and/or write).  So my lead character in HTDA is a bigger girl.  By that I mean she is about a size 8-10 which is by no means plus-size, but if you ready any magazine they seem to think that qualifies as plus size.  So I decided to just do a Google search to look for bigger actresses.  After getting alot of girls that didn't fit the part, I stumbled upon an actress named Gemma Arterton.

Recognize her?  She's beautiful.  She's a bond girl and recently starred in Prince of Persia.  BUT that didn't stop some big names in Hollywood, from directors to designers, from making comments on her size.

Her size?  Yeah Gemma Arterton is a size 8-10 (the size probably of the average woman).  But designers had commented that they didn't think she would fit in their sample sizes and a casting director even said it would be hard to hide her double chin.  SAY WHAT????

I couldn't believe it.  I was so shocked after reading these articles about Gemma, but then I started to think about Hollywood in general.  We all know that every actress put on the screen is usually the ideal woman, so that moviegoers will either want to screw her or want to be her.  The same goes for literature.  But should it be like that?

I tried looking through all my novels looking for a main character that wouldn't exactly fit into the category of "physically fit."  The only ones I could find were either in Jennifer Weiner's novels or were the quirky best friend.  You may be able to find some quirky main characters, but that's usually in their personality.  The only thing that usually separates them from anyone else is that they're a loner, a redhead, or paranormal.

So I ask you, fellow bloggers, are your characters physically fit?  Do they complain about their flat chest, but are skinny as a rail?  How about we put a few pounds on them and see what happens?  Better yet...who the heck said that a size 8-10 was fat????


  1. Hollywood says it's fat, unfortunately. It's not REAL. One of my characters is very thin but only because of her eating disorder so she maintains "perfection" by the choice of her mother. It weighs on her heavily, though.

  2. My main character is a petite ball of fire. However she's arrogant and disabled. I think if you do have physically perfect specimens for characters, they need to be downplayed with flaws in personality, mentality, and have issues. That's life in a nutshell, there are discrepancies and cracks in the idea of perfectionism. (Hugs)Indigo

  3. The MC I'm writing right now falls into the not thin category. She's like your picture above, average, maybe 5-10 pounds heavier than her size, but she spends a lot of time trying to hide it with baggy clothes.

    Good points you make here. Funny how society's opinion shapes so much of what we do.

  4. My main character at the moment is physically fit because he's an athlete. But yes, this perception of women bugs me to no end. A size 8, fat??


    Here's to hoping diversity stops being The Plague soon *crosses fingers*

  5. I wrote scene in a manuscript where the MC looks at herself in the mirror naked and jumps, watching all her jiggles and thinking if the boy she loves will think she's pretty. It's one of my favorite things I've written because I feel like more of this should be in novels. I think books need to show more variety in the physical body, especially YA when young girls feel so much peer pressure.

  6. I see my character as physically fit, but this is because of her position in 18th century society and the physical labor she has done all her life.
    I'm surprise they consider size 8-10 as overweight.

  7. I think overweight main characters are some of the least represented MCs of any minority group. Like you said, if an author wants to make their MC different, they give them red hair or a gap tooth (that some hot guy inevitably finds attractive). Also, there seems to be a propensity toward making the overweight character hate herself and self-depricate to the extreme; the entire book becomes about their struggle to overcome weight. You can't have an overweight girl fighting dragons or flying a spaceship or riding a horse into battle--oh no, the entire book must take place in close proximity to a bathroom scale. Blargh. I'm totally writing a YA fantasy with overweight characters now. And not just a funny sidekick!

    You should read this article from the Horn Book called "YA Fatphobia." Very informative.

    And I never knew Gemma wasn't super thin. In all her movies, I just think she looks perfect and beautiful. I guess that proves to Hollywood that if you put average-sized people in movies, our heads will not explode.

  8. Yep, Hollywood says a size 8 is fat. The lollypop heads are usually a size zero. Or negative zero! Unhealthy if you ask me.

  9. So curvy is fat? I think she's lovely and looks like a real person not a stick. I enjoy characters in books and movies who have to struggle to keep the weight off, since I can identify. I also like knowing what people are eating in books. One thing that drives me nuts in American movies and TV is that no one ever eats. They order or prepare food, sit down at the table, talk without eating, then leave the table, the food untouched. I love shows on the BBC where the actors actually eat. It's so much more realistic.

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  12. That's really interesting because I don't think we think about that problem as often in books.

  13. Yup, size 8-10 in the model industry is plus sized. Sadly, those models often get weight ADDED to them instead of being airbrushed off. Gemma is gorgeous, so she just needs to star opposite a big, handsome man. Harder than it sounds in Hollywood, since all the guys are small, too!

    My current mc is about 5'6" and curvy. Pretty average for a 16 year old. Except for me. I was 5'8" and rail-thin. I wished I had curves in HS!

    I tend to describe the way my mc looks based on how the mc feels about their looks, which, to me, is more important than the way they actually look. If that makes sense.

    Thought-provoking post!


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