3 Lessons Learned about Fitness from a Recent Novel

By AB Plum
On my January 5th
morning walk, I dodged an oncoming car. I banged into a cement barrier, broke 4
toes, sprained my ankle, and bruised a tendon. During the slow recovery—no
weight-bearing exercise—I read a lot. The book I was looking forward to the
most proved the most disappointing.
Maybe I was grumpy from
being confined to a wheelchair for a month and wanted some vicarious exercise.
I could’ve chosen from an array of main female characters who swim, row, box,
jog, hike, climb rock walls, practice Tai’chi, and a myriad of other physical
Instead, I selected a
bestseller in which one of the main characters exercised by eating too many
potato chips and pizza.  She played
basketball as a teenager, but Life 101 intervened and    . . .
okay, I got it. I was, after all,  reading her story because of Life 101.
But here’s one lesson I
learned:  Authors should avoid putting a
woman with the fitness level of 0 in a series of scenes where she’s drugged,
kept in a car trunk unconscious, breaks her collarbone, fights mano a mano with
the bad guy, and wins. Compared to this character, I’d suffered no physical
impairment—yet I could barely walk after weeks of taking care of my
injuries.  Did the Author really want me
to suspend logic?
Yes, adrenaline propels
us to lift cars and other Herculean feats in emergencies, but c’mon.
Second lesson
learned:  Authors lose the hard-earned
loyalty of their fans with this kind of character portrayal.  I’ve read everything this author has
published, but I’ll think twice about buying her next book.
There’s at least one
other lesson here:  The big-time critics
gave this book rave reviews. Across the board. I should’ve read the reader
reviews.  No matter what, we writers
cannot fool our audience.
By the way, I think the
same lessons apply to male characters who somehow morph into Superman. I just
didn’t read any of those while waiting to begin my morning walks again.
What about you? Are you
more forgiving of an author’s over-the-top characterization for the sake of
entertainment? Do you have favorite heroines who exercise regularly?

AB Plum writes psychological suspense about jealousy, revenge, and murder. Her newest novella, The MisFit, is coming soon.

2 replies
  1. C. T. Collier
    C. T. Collier says:

    Loved this post! All my characters are keeping fitn, each is his or her own way, whether it's yoga or swimming or biking or walking or the gym. I really admire a fit heroine who kicks butt! The first author who impressed me with the protagonist's physical strength was Nevada Barr and her superbly fit park ranger Anna Pigeon. She set the bar high!

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