Today’s post is from Capri the reader, and not from the standpoint of Capri the writer. One of the biggest turn-offs for me as a reader is when an author’s prejudice shows up in a character. I’m not just talking about prejudice regarding ethnicity, because as anybody who understands the meaning of the word prejudice knows, it does not just encompass ethnic bias.
In both of the books that made me cringe, the prejudice was based on body appearance and not color of skin, or ethnic diversity in background. The first book hit me with that prejudice about chapter two. I had never read the author;s work before and so I really didn’t know what to expect. The author’s insecurities showing up in the character is to be a little expected because writing is such a personal art and I do believe that sometimes writers, just like other visual artists, have a tendency to work through their own problems by way of their art, or in this case, their characters. I won’t say that’s true of all writers or artists, but for a lot of the ones I have met on both sides of the fence it is true. But when I’m reading a book, I don’t want to see the author’s prejudice in the character that’s supposed to be one of the good guys.
In the first book, the book that shall not be named from the author who shall not be named, it came early on in the book. There’s the male character (lead) who is set up to be this great guy. He’s a military man, a Navy SEAL. And for some reason many people seem to equate that honorable position with being noble, so I, like some others, think he’s an above board guy from the start. He’s coasting along with winning my support as a character. He’s in love with a woman who doesn’t even know it, and he doesn’t care if she’s a little overweight. He loves her. And my first thought is, “great, a character who can look past the visual perceptions and stigmas and really love a woman for who she is.” I love that kind of emotional and psychological strength. But then, after spewing off dialogue that makes me think he’s this great guy who is more than just the shallow, superficial shell of human society, he goes into some rant about how he absolutely “abhors skinny women.” And there is where the author lost me. That is where the guy in the book just became another superficial jerk. You “abhor” a.k.a. “hate” a woman because of the way she looks. Wow! You don’t even know that woman.
I stopped reading the book at this point and decided to never buy that particular author’s work again. I really don’t want to read about your prejudice. And since it was the first book I had read by that author, I have no idea if her other books are the same way. But I can tell you, I don’t want to waste my money to find out.
The second book that I’m mentioning today (even though I have seen it in more than two books) is one that I read not so long ago. I also won’t mention the author or the book title here. Now I have read this author’s work before. One of the things I had liked about the previous works that I read was that the female characters always seemed proud of themselves, their bodies, thick or thin, wasn’t a definition of who they were as a person. And in those few characters where I saw some insecurity in the female’s perception of her own body, there wasn’t really much bashing of the people who didn’t look like her. However, the most recent book I read from this author did just that—assert the author’s prejudice, her own insecurities, and her inability to practice what she preaches. When you want acceptance for what you look like; when you preach that fanatically, then you can’t turn around and bully or shame somebody else because they don’t look the way you do. It’s hypocritical and I absolutely hate hypocrisy.
In this particular author’s book it happened closer to the end, another defining moment that really irked me and made me walk away from the book. I had respect for the characters. I actually cared about what was going to happen to them next, and then the lead male goes off on some drivel about how the woman staying at their resort looks like she wouldn’t be able to eat the meal he’s cooking, implying she doesn’t eat much and the meal he’s cooking would just be too much for her to handle. It’s like, okay. Here’s a thrown in character from the lead female’s past—a not so nice woman that the reader has already been set up to not like, and now we have the lead guy who is supposed to be this good guy spewing childish snide remarks about her weight. Well, there went my respect for this military man. Once the respect is gone for a fictional character I just don’t give a toss what happens to the character. Yes; hypocrisy and prejudice is the fastest way to ruin a book for me.
I know other people have their topics and moments in a book that can turn them off. For some people it’s the sex scenes. For others it’s political issues, or prejudicial stereotypes. For me, one of my biggest turn-offs is the author’s insecurities coming off as a prejudice towards somebody who doesn’t look like them. I don’t care if you’re skinny and you don’t like fat people, or you’re fat and you don’t like skinny people. I don’t care if you’re dark and you don’t like light skinned people, or if you’re light and you don’t like dark skinned people. I don’t want to read about it in the good guy/woman in a romantic themed book. There’s nothing less romantic in a book than insecurity and prejudice.
I try to stay away from that in my own books, even though I do know I work through some of the problems in my life through my writing, I try not to take other people down with me. I want my characters to rise above, and conquer, their fears and their insecurities without prejudice. I guess maybe my expectations that other authors can do the same might be asking a little too much of the human spirit…but it would be nice if they could recognize their own hypocrisy in their words and try to change. But hey, that’s just me. That’s coming from a woman who really does want world peace.