In my previous post, I mentioned being uncomfortable writing an overweight character because of my own body weight issues. This is only part true, but may very well be part of the reason why I keep forgetting about Maggie Witherspoon (no relation to Reese).
She seems to be a relatively minor character in my novel Farmer's Daughter, but she's far more important than might be suspected. Mentioned through the novel at several different spots, usually in connection to her red sports car, we don't actually meet her until almost three quarters of the way through. It is a short scene, and we are left with the impression of a large woman uncomfortable in her own body. She hides her plump curves with baggy cargo pants and large t-shirts.
I portray her this way on purpose, because I want her to remain a mystery. No one pays attention to the fat chicks in life. Even when she's mentioned in connection to the kidnapping scene, I want people to wonder about Maggie. How is it that this plump awkward woman is capable of moving in such a confident manner Who is she really? At the end of the novel, we're aware that Angela goes to see her, but the reader remains clueless as to what the two women discussed. Book two will illuminate us more on the true nature of Maggie's part in the story, but I will then plunge us back into darkness.
Not because fat women are supposed to remain in the background. How often did I get that impression while I attended church? Women in general are meant to serve in the background...quietly doing their chores, making coffee and tending to the dinners. Fat women even more so. Sometimes I am amazed that I was allowed to be on the dance team during its peak...after all, no one wants to see a fat woman dancing, even in worship. Maybe especially during worship, if you consider the fact that a few times I was asked to take my dancing self to the back of the sanctuary where no one could see.
I keep Maggie in the background, because when the truth about her quiet work comes out people will be astounded that a large woman could pull it off. Hopefully not in the veiled contemptuous way I was complimented for dancing with the group. "You're so much more graceful than I expected." Unsaid is: for a fat woman. But I always heard it. Hopefully the readers will be more appreciative than that.
Maggie is beautiful in part because she works in the background out of love. A friendship with Angela was forged in those few short scenes, although they may never have the chance to explore that friendship. And her love for Angela compels her to break rules, go deep undercover in rough situations, and even put her own romance on hold. I keep us in the dark about Maggie, because that's her nature. It has more to do with her character than her looks. And like any beautiful woman, she uses her looks to disarm people. Instead of wowing people and distracting them, Maggie makes herself invisible.
All to often I myself have felt forced to remain in the background. Maggie chooses to do so. We all get to choose, which image we present to the world to see. And sometimes, we chose to surprise people when we allow ourselves to shine. Will Maggie ever allow herself to shine? Or will she insist on remaining invisible? Time will tell.