On Catfights and Cliches

I could have chosen to write this post a couple of different ways. I could have framed it as a feminist criticism of a certain tired trope, and drawn on my own writing as an example. In fact, that’s what I intended to do when I came up with the idea for this post.

But I just finished a week of non-stop, intense academic work, and then I went to the Dean’s Christmas party and broke the cardinal rule not to eat English pizza because I’d had too much wine and not enough sleep, and then I sat on a plane for eight hours, came home, and fell on my face.

I’m tired.

So instead I’m just going to talk a little bit about two of my characters, and why I made some of the choices I did in writing them and their relationship.

Kel and Tav

If you’re  a regular reader of the blog, you’ve met Kelisin and Tavaril already. But to give you a little more context:

Kelisin is the protagonist of the novel. She’s intelligent, energetic, competitive; she loves her family fiercely. When they are killed in a coup Kel is forced to flee to the neighboring country of Valloras, home to her prospective fiance, Teoden.

Tavaril is a member of the Valloran royal court — her father is a diplomat — and one of Teoden’s friends. When Kel arrives they quickly fall in together, and she becomes Kel’s firmest ally.

But things could have gone very differently. In my original outline, Tavaril was supposed to be an enemy instead of an ally — a rival for Teoden’s affections. And at the end of the third act, she was going to betray Kelisin to the king. (Uh…spoiler alert? Although this is the old version so I guess it’s okay.)

So why, exactly, did I choose to change my outline?


So, so, so often, there is only one woman. The Woman. Smurfette, Leia, Black Widow, the Pink Ranger, and on and on.  Too often her existence in the movie/book/TV show/piece of media is defined entirely by her position as a love interest. If there are two women, they are rivals.

And frankly, I was just tired of it.

There was no need to introduce that source of tension into my novel — Kel’s already got a lot on her plate, trying to rescue her sister and save her country and outwit a real bastard of a king and figure out her feelings for Teoden…

Love triangles are tired. Catfights are even more tired. I’m sick of them, and I don’t want them in my book. The women-as-rivals trope is already so pervasive in our media and in our society (“I’m not like other girls…”). I don’t need to add to it.

I wanted this part of Kel’s world to be a reflection of my life. And I am fortunate enough to have a lot of wonderful, wonderful friends who just so happen to be other women! And I’m thrilled to be able to include even one example of those relationships in my writing.

Your Thoughts

This is one of the tropes that really gets me riled up…but what are your pet peeves? What are you sick of seeing in your media?

Alternatively, recommend me some reads (or watches) with great female friendships. The more the merrier!


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