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The Imperfections of Chick-Lit Protagonists

If there’s one chick-lit Writing Rule you can count on, it’s going to be that the main character doesn’t have her life in order at story’s beginning.

Something about your chick-lit protagonist’s life starts out as a mess.

As for the ending, that’s up for grabs. But the beginning and even the middle, not so much.

Whether it’s a romantic conundrum, a job issue, a social catastrophe, a money challenge or a mom problem, your chick-lit protagonist needs some help.

Here’s a hint of how much you can run with this Writing Rule:

Your protagonist does not have her life in perfect order.

If there’s one chick-lit writing rule to swear by, it’s that your protagonist doesn’t have all her ducks in a row.

That may not be your protagonist’s fault. She might be a perfectly mature duck-herder. It’s just she’s been assigned some seriously problematic quackers.

Let the big ducks run the plot and any little ducks run the subplots to make this chick-lit writing rule easiest on you.

As with Tuesday’s Definition and Thursday’s Writing Challenge, I’m very well aware how generic-sounding Innovative Editing’s advice is concerning the chick-lit genre, chick-lit plots and now chick-lit protagonists. So here’s some further explanation to help you round out our Writing Rule…

Yes, every worthwhile novel starts out with a problem in need of solving. And most worthwhile stories display some character growth: life lessons learned, maturity accepted, fears faced…

But it’s more pronounced with chick-lit protagonists. It’s also more entertainingly established.

For example, take chick-lit protagonist Rachel, who is terrified of spiders. Flat-out arachnophobic, in fact. She once had a hyperventilating fit in the car because there a little yellow one crawling across the inside of her dashboard.

Fortunately, she wasn’t driving.

Then she decides to study abroad in England, parts of which feature an appalling number of wolf spiders. And they get huge over there! Unbeknownst to her until it’s too late.

Over in Britain, she promptly gets involved in tons of fun and drama alike, including boy drama. Naturally. Because what else is an American girl abroad supposed to do.

That’s why, one evening, she’s sitting at her desk crying over boy drama while a friend sits on the nearby bed trying to console her – neither of them noticing the humongous wolf spider crawling up the wall.

Here’s how a chick-lit writer might describe her chick-lit protagonist’s reaction…

Reaching for yet another tissue, Rachel bleakly contemplated how she’d have to run out to the co-op sooner than later to get another box. Stupid James. He owed her at least ninety-nine pence for this. Not to mention compensation for time and energy expended for the trip there and back.

Honking her nose loudly into what she estimated was the seventh-to-last Kleenex, she knew she’d get over him eventually. It wasn’t like she’d done more than kiss him, after all.

Bawling over the bloke was just a temporary situation.

She didn’t realize exactly how true that was until she looked back up at Sierra. That’s when she noticed the biggest non-tarantula spider she’d ever seen outside a wildlife documentary.

On her dorm-room wall.

Suddenly, James just wasn’t looking so problematic. Broken heart, shmoken heart. Somebody, kill that spider!

How can you tell that's probably chick-lit. Try the word choices alone.

Our chick-lit protagonist doesn’t blow her nose. She honks it. And she’s not crying or sobbing or weeping. She’s bawling. These words automatically lend to lighter-hearted readings.

They also indicate that Rachel might have some maturing to do on a personal level.

Incidentally, Je – Rachel grabs a sneaker, conquers her fears and smashes the thing into oblivion, thus expelling her arachnophobic inclinations once and for all. Oh, she’s still not friendly with them, but the hyperventilating never happens again.

Go chick-lit protagonist! The end.

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