The writing prompt that inspired this blog asked: what book has a protagonist that you relate to best? I wracked my brain for a few weeks trying to think of one in the hundreds of titles I’ve read. Non-fiction doesn’t count, or I’d have a literary review for you about writing and publishing, perhaps more on personality disorders and those who survived people with them.
Then, I sat down to really focus and get the answer on paper. The sun came over the question’s horizon: I didn’t need one. Instead, I’ll talk about the lack of representation and how that is inspiring all on its own.
I’ve read almost 400 books. I have hundreds more in my to be read list. None of them have provided me with a protagonist I could relate to. I pined for film, because Brave (2012) had Merida. Although the family structure was a bit off from mine, I still saw me and my family, back when I was a girl becoming her own woman. The struggle between me and mom was real, and it broke my heart at times, because I love her so much. Defying her, disappointing her, it hurt. She was hurt. I couldn’t make her understand I needed to make choices without her. In her mind and eye, I was still her wee girl. Butting heads did eventually dissipate. She still remembers it as only me being difficult, and not our mutual growing pains. It was an amazing film, which reaffirmed there was no changing either of us, just accepting and loving.
But, there is no book in which I see such a clear similarity. I’ve enjoyed almost all of the books I’ve read. Not relating to the characters was never a deal breaker. I saw reading as a journey to other places and problems. I did not want to wallow in myself. Thus, I was never disappointed. Yet, I can’t help but think, with the question posed, that a few relatable stories could have offered some great catharsis. Brave was wonderful to experience, but the experience was neither a book nor timely. Seriously, it’s not adapted from a book. Thus, I couldn’t list a single title, and that made me sense that I have missed out on sharing a dearly held story with my readers.
Regardless, there was a glimmer. That there was never a K in the books I read revealed the root of my desire to write. The result of never seeing my own reflection created an opportunity to make my own. This brought back a flood of beautiful memories, and some euphoria just like I had in the olden days.
Not finding me in another writer’s tale inspired me to write my own. And, I think that is powerful beyond relating to someone else’s work. That is the power of both need and creation. Desire. Without that, many authors would not be where they are today.
No, that’s not narcissistic. Is it narcissistic to see yourself in another person’s writing? It is merely the desire to create a mirror of yourself, and hold it up to society, then see how they respond. Are there others like me? What flaws am I missing that people will find in my characters, things I miss about myself that could help me grow should I learn of them and cultivate a change? Do others accept me? Where do I belong?
More importantly, it is a nest in which to lay the egg for your future writing. Your own nest. This is not to say that it isn’t similar in shape or size to another nest, but it will be far more unique than the borrowed nest of another. Either kind of nest can create a wonderfully full writing career. Fan fiction has launched some interesting works. But, doesn’t there come a time when an author needs to build her own house, and bring up her own kids for the world to see? I think so.
Not relating made me feel a bit sad, until I realized all of this. If you don’t relate, do not despair. It’s more likely you’re meant to create your own.
Relating, in my opinion, is overrated. Be different. Write your own tapestry.