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Gillian Flynn: Beating the Norm

Female protagonists such as Katniss Everdeen, Bella Swan, Nancy Drew, and Anastasia Steele, to name a few, have made a name for themselves in literature. Long gone are the days when only male protagonists are celebrated in the books that we find on our bookshelves. Heroines are no longer sidekicks or simple female versions of their male counterparts, but instead, they have their own backstory and developing characterization that set them apart.


Gillian Flynn

But who said heroines need only be badass and compassionate female protagonists? Sometimes, they can be dark, they can be cruel, and they can be bloodthirsty. Now, if we’re talking about writing ferocious and savage women characters, then author-screenwriter Gillian Flynn is the name that comes to mind.


Gillian's books

Gillian Flynn, 47, is an American author and screenwriter. She has written three novels up to date, Sharp Objects (2006), Dark Places (2009), and Gone Girl (2012), all of which have been adapted into film or television.


Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Flynn was raised in midtown Kansas City’s Coleman Highlands neighborhood. Her parents were both professors in Metropolitan Community College–Penn Valley: her mother being a reading comprehension professor and her father being a film professor. Ever since she was young, her parents influenced her into reading and writing. Upon growing up, her father often took her to the theater to watch films, although they weren’t the usual sweet and lovely films that most teenage girls take interest in. In fact, the movies that she watched with her father were usually horror films.


She then attended University of Kansas, where she received her undergraduate degrees in English and journalism. She originally wanted to be a crime reporter, but because of the pressuring nature of the job, she found herself unsuited for the position. She became a feature writer for Entertainment Weekly, wherein she was promoted as a TV critic. In 2008, however, she was laid off; thus, she decided to become a full-time novelist.


Flynn attributed her skills in writing to her journalism experience. In an interview with theguardian.com, she stated, “I could not have written a novel if I hadn’t been a journalist first because it taught me that there’s no muse that’s going to come down and bestow upon you the mood to write. You just have to do it. I’m definitely not precious.”


Flynn leaped to fame upon the publication of her third novel, Gone Girl, in 2012. Although her expectations on the novel were low as she was writing it, it proved to be one her most critically acclaimed work.


Gone Girl is a thriller novel published in 2012. The story revolves around Amy Dunne, who mysteriously disappears during her and her husband’s fifth wedding anniversary. What follows is a never-ending series of deception, lies, and cruelty as the main protagonists strive to uncover the ever-evasive truth.


Dark, gruesome, and disturbing—these are the themes often associated with Flynn’s novels. And although her novels often center on female leads, her main heroines aren’t always the likeable type because for Flynn, women can be cruel too. And because of this recurring concept all throughout her novels, she had been subjected to criticisms that call her a misogynist. In another interview with vanityfair.com, she denied the claim, saying, “It’s incredibly misogynist to tell me I can only write a certain type of women. Because that’s saying women must be a certain type or person.”


Criticisms like those never stopped her from writing her characters the way she wants though. She believes that feminism is painting women not only as saints but also to be free whoever they want to be. Despite the controversies she had to face, the film adaptation of Gone Girl, which was directed by David Fincher and starred Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, won the Hollywood Film Award in 2014.


Since then, Flynn has continued to write for novels and screenplay, with her latest work being the film adaptation of the ITV series Widows, cowritten by filmmaker Steve McQueen. It is set to release this November.


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