In books, it’s considered something of a taboo to have a female character who cries more than once. Especially if she is the protagonist. Especially if she is to be considered a ‘strong’ female character.
This is for good reason — there’s nothing more annoying (or cliched) than a main character bursting into tears at the drop of a hat. Tears are sometimes used in fiction as a cheap and easy means to convey emotion in women. If used too liberally the characters tend to come across as shallow and weak.
But that’s in fiction. In real life, it’s permissible for strong women to cry on occasion… Right?
The reason I bring this up is because I’ve had an emotional roller-coaster of a week. Well, three weeks, actually. I finished up at work today after a company restructure, and I’ve been quite shocked at how the whole ordeal has affected me. Let’s just say I haven’t quite been in control of my emotions.
It’s made me contemplate the frailty of the human psyche, even in someone who considers herself a strong woman.
Doubt is normal. Fear is normal. Emotion is normal. Tears are normal.
Sometimes, I don’t think tears can be helped, actually. They seem to be part and parcel of certain emotions. (I know this, to my chagrin, from experience!) Perhaps some women are able to summon stoicism more readily than me, though.
I’d like to think tears — genuine tears — are not a sign of weakness. That a strong woman may still shed tears and not be diminished by them.
I’d like to think strength is demonstrated in how we act in response to the trials of life. How we pick ourselves up off the floor and keep going after the tears. (And as trials go, mine is fairly low down on the scale. I can honestly say I have friends undergoing far worse ordeals.)
In fiction, though, I daresay the non-crying rule still stands. Tears are to be used only very sparingly — and it is up to the skill of the author to make the reader truly feel the grief/frustration/despair/futility felt by the character in question.
It’s an interesting illustration of how unlike real life books truly can be — in some aspects.
It’s probably a bit weird, but this is my inspiration of the week. Anything that gets me thinking about how to channel emotions into fiction, can be considered such, in my view.
What about you? Do you get annoyed when characters weep too much in books? Have you ever completely lost control of your emotions and teared up in front of the most inappropriate people (gulp)? How do you define a strong person?