I just read an excellent post on Fatness in YA Literature over on Book Riot today, and it made me start to think about my own characters, and how I get to know them.
None of my characters are thin, and none of them have a perfect relationship with their bodies. Some are heavier than others, given time, temperament, and circumstance. March, for example, in MARCH MADNESS, runs five miles a day so that she can eat whatever she wants, burn off her nervous energy, and maintain fitness. Yet she’s still a size 10-12. Alexandra in BECOMING is much larger, a 16-18, albeit in a time in which there were no such sizings (the Victorian era). The novel I am currently working on, my YA/New Adult project MARVEL AMONG THE DEMONS, features a size 14-16 woman, who has no interest losing weight, but does fully know that she has issues with her body because she is a young girl, growing up in a thin-obsessed culture.
“Maw-Maw is definitely a Midwestern woman,” I agreed. I polished off my last bite of sausage and sank back in my chair. “Is every breakfast going to be like this? Say yes, please.”
“If you want it to be,” Uncle Geoff said. “You’ll be doing a lot of walking, so don’t worry about calories. Aren’t all young women your age worried about calories for some reason?”
I shrugged. “I never worry about calories.” Lie. “I’ve come to terms with my body structure.” Lie, lie, lie.
“You are built like your mother,” Aunt Sandra said, appraising me.
I tugged down on my t-shirt proclaiming “SELF-RESCUING PRINCESS,” trying to fit it more securely over my hips. Fail.
While I never come out and say, “I, as a size 16 young woman, who weighs blah blah blah and is blah blah tall…” because I feel such designations too much for a novel (I don’t like to overdescribe my characters, and I CERTAINLY don’t like my characters to describe themselves!), I have an image of her in my head, and she’s a cute, perky, kind of punky girl who’s in love with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Doctor Who, and David Bowie.
But she’s tall. Because all of my characters are tall. All of my female characters in the novels I’m currently active with are at least 5’9, if not taller.
(I am obsessed with tallness in women).
But I need more. Marvel needs more fleshing out because it’s been a while, you see, since I’ve written her, and I need to get to know her again.
So how do you get to know your characters, Gentle Reader?