I'm writing a book with two protagonists: a young man and a young woman. The young woman is a typical high-school girl who isn't used to having major events happen around her. Life-shattering, paradigm-shifting events that shake up her world and make her realize how small and insignificant humans actually are.
I'm having a hard time figuring out how to balance making this character realistic—with human reactions that mirror a real person's responses to such enormous changes in their life—with making sure she's not just someone who lets things just happen to her. I want to stay true to her character. She's someone who's lived a calm, normal life without anything life-threatening ever happening to her.
But I don't want her cowering in fear. I want her to take charge of her life in a way that shows genuine personal growth. But I also want to make sure that her life's bubble pops in a believable way.
This is a tough line to walk for me. Part of me worries about what other people might think of my portrayal of this character, but the larger part of me realizes that remaining honest with the human experience is more important. She's a capable character, just way out of her depth. And figuring out how to make her learn to swim is proving a struggle. Not because of my fears of being judged as an author. Screw the judges and their petty grievances. I want a character who is real. A person who accurately depicts the struggle to survive in an unfriendly universe. Who has a will to survive, and does so, even if it costs her something.