Why I chose a plus-sized heroine for my novel
She’s strong, spunky, super-confident and FAT – you can’t miss her even if you wanted to. Shuchi Singh Karla writes a special post for SheThePeople on what she faced.
Fat girls are real and they are not even rare. Then how come nobody’s telling their stories? I’ve grown up reading romances, and believe me, I’ve read tonnes of them. At one stage, I got really bored with the profile of the average romance heroine – lithe, willowy and petite. Nothing particularly wrong there, except that not all women look the same. We come in different shapes, sizes and colors, and even when we yearn to escape into fictional worlds, we still look out for characters that are relatable and true to life.
The dehumanized representation of fat people in books, TV and movies has somehow always disturbed me. The big guy or girl is almost always the funny sidekick, the jolly friend or the butt of fat jokes. Even if a character starts out fat, it somehow takes a magical makeover or a complete transformation of self for him or her to have a happily ever after.
When I talk about plus-sized characters, I am not talking about women who THINK they are fat but actually aren’t. These were not the kind of women I wanted to write about either, because we already have too many women, in fiction and reality, who look at their bodies through lenses of self-loathing and cruel criticism.
Instead, I wanted to explore the life and mind of a character who is truly an outlier when it comes to conventional definitions of beauty. I didn’t want to make her out into a sorry, whiny character with zero self-esteem because I have known large girls who carry their size with immense grace and style. Roli is inspired by these women – the ones who don’t give a damn to haters, and who completely own their bodies and attitudes.
When I first pitched the idea to an editor, her immediate response was, “I hope she doesn’t have to lose weight and undergo a makeover in the end to get the guy.” I was both happy and relieved to discover that someone else saw Roli the way I did. From the moment she germinated in my mind, I never wanted her to change to prove her worthiness, be it to her family or the love of her life. I wanted her to love and accept herself the way she is, regardless of whether others around her did or not. After all, a woman’s beauty or worth isn’t dependent on whether a man finds her desirable.
I did not want to fetishize her either, because she is a real woman with real feelings and real aspirations, and not a dummy to tickle someone’s BBW fantasy. Her struggles and battles are the same as everyone else’s. She fights the same insecurities, hurt, pain and heartbreak as the next person.
Although it was not part of my agenda while writing the book, Roli’s story aptly portrays the scars that bullying and body shaming can leave on a person. How a seemingly innocuous comment in passing can severely damage an individual’s self-esteem and sense of worth.
The idea that big girls can afford confidence only when they cut themselves to a certain size needs to be shown the door. Roli’s troubled life as an awkward, marginalized teenager and her metamorphosis into a confident self-assured woman will hopefully serve as an inspiring lesson in self-love and self-acceptance.
‘I am Big. So What!?’ is available at all leading bookstores. You can buy it on Amazon too.