Inspiration from Vintage Times: Influence, Insecurity & Expectation

Late Wednesday evening I mentioned that my protagonist wears a corset.

This may seem like a very frivolous thing, but it’s actually connected to a rather intimate part of her character.  It’s not really about the corset at all; it’s about how it makes her feel.

Speaking of the intimate…

1930 Munsingwear Hosiery Ad.

Found it here.  That one is hard to see, so here’s another I thought was amusing (if not a tad bit gross, haha):

A 1936 ad for Lux detergent “for underthings.” (Click for full size!)

Found that one here.  It’s interesting to look back on the kind of attitudes that were prevalent about women in the past but also how they viewed themselves.  Though, I wonder have they changed all that much?

I don’t consider myself to be a feminist (unless you automatically consider being female being “feminist”), but I think it’s fun to consider these things.  I, for one, am not really the kind of chick that aspires to “popularity, romance, and a devoted husband,” heh.  Not that I’m saying I’ve never consider it, or that these things are bad.  It’s just right now, at this point in my life, these are not things that belong in my life.

However, I’ve observed that sometimes these things become points of insecurity for some young women.  Maybe this is just a cultural thing, but I think in high school the peer pressure to “get a boyfriend/girlfriend” is really high for young people, and that can carry on well past their high school years, sticking with them as adults.

I think this kind of influence is interesting; it’s something I explore in various ways in my WIP.  The power of peer pressure, typically associated with young folks, merely translates as the power of pure influence the older you get, as I see it.  It can be not only a micro (character) concern but a macro (global) one.  Influence, among other things, allows world powers to maintain the position that they do.  It also allows them to shape the world as they see fit.  This, alone, can make for some interestingly epic plot points.

Points to Consider with Characters: Insecurities & Expectations

The most interesting thing about that last ad, for me, is how it points out various sources of insecurity for women: hygiene, popularity, success in one’s career, beauty, and an expectation to get married.  As silly and superficial as the selling point of that ad may seem, these are still legitimate concerns for many ladies today, and I suspect some may even pertain to men.  (And maybe that’s why the ad held/still holds any power?)

So what can a writer take away from this?

I think it helps make characters more realistic when you consider their insecurities but also what society expects of them because most, if not all, people have at least one insecurity even if they don’t openly talk about it, and everyone is expected to do one thing or another.  Sometimes, the two can be tied so closely together that the expectations become capable of engendering insecurities.  If certain people are unable to meet certain expectations, they can start to feel insecure about themselves.

Some examples of expectations I place on my characters and insecurities I’ve given to them are a need to:

  • live up to the expectations of one’s parents (and feel lesser or unworthy when they do not)
  • please the job
  • please an enemy (only to avoid death or harm, or to sabotage them later, of course!)
  • just please other people in general

I don’t know, but maybe all insecurities can be traced back to a need to please or impress someone other than ourselves.  Of course, it’s healthy to have some concern about meeting the expectations of others, but to let that run one’s life…well, that’s debilitating.  You then allow yourself to become a pawn or tool rather than someone who’s capable of making their own decisions in life.

The influence of others can be good, to a certain degree.  I think the same goes for our characters.

Do you give your characters insecurities and consider expectations placed on them–either by others or themselves?  Or do you think this is a frivolous thing to do?


7 thoughts on “Inspiration from Vintage Times: Influence, Insecurity & Expectation

  1. I think that insecurities and fears make characters feel more real because we all have them. Some characters are more easily influenced by others in my stories. Outside expectation always plays a role in how people view themselves.


    • Very true. I just wonder if this is something writers consciously consider as they’re creating their characters–or maybe if it’s more of a subconsious effort, something you don’t really have to think about because it happens naturally?


  2. Vulnerability is an important element in creating characters. In my current WIP, the main character is very innocent and is led by blind faith. But as the realities of a harsh and cruel world shows him another side of life, he begins to question everything.

    Insecurities creep into even the most confident people.


    • For sure. Sometimes the most interesting characters can be those who appear to have no weaknesses or doubts whatsoever. (Superman first comes to mind, lol.) I guess there’s something immensely comforting in knowing that the most revered amongst us can be relatable as fellow human beings.


  3. Actually, Yoyo, if you are a fan of Smallville, the exploration of Superman’s doubts and fears are visited in very concrete ways. In fact, this is one of the reasons the show is popular because the writers give a human side to Clark versus the Big Blue Boy Scout that he was portrayed before. His insecurities is what make him tolerable to watch. 🙂


    • I used to love Smallville, but…other cool shows started coming on TV that I just had to watch, heh. But yeah, Smallville does take a much closer look at Clark’s character than I was used to seeing.


  4. Love Smallville. I’m so glad it’s come back to its roots after a few seasons of blah in the middle there.

    But Kryptonite is one of his weaknesses. And the other is his compassion for humans. Many of his villains exploit that in order to bring the Man of Steel to his knees.


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