Thursday, March 6, 2014

Body Positivity in Fiction

When I set out to write The Unlove Spell, I was beginning a journey that was new to me. I’ve always written about magic, and complicated, dark haired (usually foreign) men, and I love to write with a humorous tone that wheels between screwball and dark, but a romance? That was a new experience altogether.

The Unlove Spell is the story of Marling, a young witch who accidentally placed a spell on herself to prevent her heart from ever belonging to anyone but Viktor Arson, the hot Russian writer she shared a passionate, but brief, fling with. Marling’s spent the five years since their fling alone, occupying her personal time with the internet and hot chocolate. Viktor, who is actually a fae prince, has gone on to become a world-famous writer. He can also still make a killer good cup of coffee and wear the hell out of some leather pants. Marling finds herself caught up in a screwball plot by one of her former magic teachers and winds up in Russia, hunting Viktor down and trying to determine if she really loves him, or if her feelings are just a product of the unlove spell.

Facing a story that is primarily romantic left me nervous about falling into the deep treads of BEEN THERE, DONE THAT. Let’s be honest… there’s nothing new that could ever happen in romance. Two beings fall in love with each other, face some kind of adversity, overcome it and live happily ever after. Or one of them freezes to death on a raft that could have likely supported the weight of two people. Ahem.

One of my biggest goals with Marling was to portray a girl we all know and can believe in, instead of the 'effortlessly cool' girls I see in a lot of romantic fiction. She’s a little flighty, she doesn’t know exactly what she wants to do with her life, she sometimes lies to her peers about having a stomach bug to avoid going to an awkward party. She likes to look at pictures of cute animals on the internet. She can't go all Black Widow and kick someone in the face with her high heeled boots. But my real starting point for Marling was this:

There were three things that Marling was not particularly pleased about in regards to herself. One, her nose was crooked. Two, her voice was a bit deeper than she’d like it to be. Third, even after two consecutive years of French tutoring as a child, Marling could only remember about a dozen French words. Of course, there were also three things that she was terribly proud of. One, she’d never dyed her chesnut-brown hair (well, maybe once she’d dyed it with a spray can of sparkly pink stuff but it had mostly washed out after five weeks). Two, she had always maintained a comfortable size 12 (petite). Third, she had over six thousand followers on tumblr.

Marling is never called plus-sized. Marling doesn’t endure pages of self-torture about diets, eating, losing weight, looking ‘fat’ or worrying about how thin other people are. In fact, the only time Marling’s size is called into question is when Viktor’s mother- a major antagonist in the story- calls her fat. The scene is painful for Marling, as it would be for anyone. Yes, Marling is a size 12. No, she’s not as small as some girls. Yes, she’s probably been called fat in her life. But she doesn’t obsess over her weight or expect others will either.

Marling Ellis is an average sized, brunette American girl, and she likes nice clothes and meets a great guy, no calorie-counting or salad obsessions or “aww, the fat girl gets a guy too, aren’t you shocked!?” plotline needed.

If I can make only one revolutionary wave in the world of modern romance stories, I’d be proud for this to be it.

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