Monday, April 8, 2013

G is for Gold-digger

G is for Gold-digger

Actually this post is about stereotypes, but gold-digger is a pretty vivid one. Okay, I want you to take a second, don't close your eyes because you can't keep reading with your eyes closed, and visualize a gold-digger.

Another second.

One more.

Got it? Do you see that gold digger in your mind. Great.

Now, was it a woman?
Did she have blond hair?
Was she tall?
Did she have big boobs?
Too much make up?
Clingy dress that showed all those curves?

Maybe, maybe not. But I would bet money you have some sort of stereotypical idea of what a gold-digger looks like. Now I'm not here to tell you that your writing has no place for stereotyped characters, stereotyped characters sometimes make great secondary characters. Maybe even a background character in a single scene.

But you need to watch out for this type of lazy dependance sneaking into the descriptions of your main character and antagonist. Why? Because stereotypes are cheap. Worse, they are boring. Stereotypes don't make me think very hard or try to understand your characters on a deeper level.

If you want to have a gold-digger (or any often easily stereotyped individual) as a main character, here is the example of how to do it right. Tell their story. Show us the WHY and the HOW and help us to leave our judgements at home.

Fancy, Reba McEntire
(Bobbie Gentry)

I remember it all very well lookin back
It was the summer I turned eighteen
We lived in a one room, rundown shack
On the outskirts of New Orleans
We didn't have money for food or rent
To say the least we were hard pressed
Then Mama spent every last penny we had
To buy me a dancin' dress

Well, Mama washed and combed and curled my hair
And she painted my eyes and lips (lips) then I stepped into a satin
Dancin' dress that had a split on the side clean up to my hip
It was red velvet trim and it fit me good
And standin' back from the lookin' glass
There stood a woman where a half grown kid had stood

She said "Here's your one chance Fancy, don't let me down.
Here's your one chance Fancy, don't let me down."

Mama dabbed a little bit of perfume on my neck
And she kissed my cheek
Then I saw the tears wellin up in her troubled eyes
When she started to speak
She looked at a pitiful shack
And then she looked at me and took a ragged breath
She said your pa's run off and I'm real sick
And the baby's gonna starve to death

She handed me a heart shaped locket that said
"To thine own self be true"
And I shivered as I watched a roach crawl across
The toe of my high heel shoe
It sounded like somebody else that was talkin'
Askin "Mama, what do I do?"
She said "Just be nice to the gentlemen Fancy.
And they'll be nice to you."

She said "Here's your chance Fancy, don't let me down.
Here's your one chance Fancy, don't let me down.
Lord, forgive me for what I do, but if you want out
Well, it's up to you
Now don't let me down hon, you're momma's gonna move you uptown."

Well, that was the last time I saw my Ma
The night I left that rickety shack
The welfare people came and took the baby
Mama died and I ain't been back

But the wheels of fate had started to turn
And for me there was no way out
It wasn't very long 'til I knew exactly
What my Mama'd been talkin' about

I knew what I had to do but I made myself this solemn vow
That I's gonna be a lady someday
Though I don't know when or how
But I couldn't see spending the rest of my life
With my head hung down in shame
You know, I mighta been born just plain white trash
But Fancy was my name

She said "Here's your one chance Fancy, don't let me down."
She said "Here's your one chance Fancy, don't let me down."

It wasn't very long after a benevolent man
Took me in off the streets
And one week later I was pourin' his tea
In a five room hotel suite
(Yes she was)

I charmed a king, a congressman
And an occasional aristocrat
And then I got me a Georgia mansion
And an elegant New York townhouse flat
And I ain't done bad
(And she ain't done bad)

Now in this world there's a lot of self-righteous hippocrits
That call me bad
And criticize Mama for turning me out
No matter how little we had

But though I ain't had to worry 'bout nothin'
For nigh on fifteen years
Well, I can still hear the desperation in my poor
Mama's voice ringin' in my ears

"Here's your one chance Fancy, don't let me down."
Oh. "Here's your one chance Fancy, don't let me down."
"Lord, forgive me for what I do
But if you want out
Well, it's up to you
Now don't let me down hon, your mama's gonna move you uptown."

Oh, and I guess she did


  1. Interesting, I pictured an actually swag-man gold digger. But true, characters must be individuals!

    1. I love discussing the different perceptions/thoughts that people have...so interesting.

  2. great point--i love that song ;)

    1. It makes you relate. That, to me, is what a good story does.