I'm working on a teen romance. The event is the high school play, the "Sound of Music," in which there are two main contestants for the role of Liesl. They are designated "A" and "B," because those are the grades they received in drama class.

A, a very worldly, boy-chasing girl, is initially elected by her fellow students for the part (by a margin of one vote). After a week, she is shifted to playing the worldly and seductive Baroness von Schroeder, (who loses the Captain to Maria), because in A's own words, "As Britney Spears would say, "Oops I did it again, because I'm not that innocent.'"

B, who has dated only one boy in her life, is awarded the role of Liesl, and plays "herself'. "I am sixteen, going on seventeen, I know that I'm naive."

Is it plausible that B's weaker overall acting abilities and lesser life experience is actually a "virtue" or at least not a fault when it comes to her playing Liesl? That is, B, a shy, reserved girl plays a better Liesl, than the other girl who is too slick? Especially when she "compensates" by being "Rolf's" everyday girlfriend?

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    Have you integrated singing into the casting in your novel? In my experience, the singing voice is important and the Baroness has no songs (I believe.) The better singer (regardless of 'personal' strength) would be cast as Liesl. Perhaps there can be some intentional confusion about why B was cast as Liesl. OTOH if you want weakness to be the reason for the casting, it seems the call back reads with Ralph would naturally place a more demure ('weak') Liesl in that role.
    – SFWriter
    Apr 26, 2018 at 2:18
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    @DPT: Singing was a defining issue for Maria (the best singer beat the better actresses), but not for Liesl, who has only one song. And so does the Baroness "How Can Love Survive?" in the stage version (not the movie), The defining quality is that B is demure and A isn't. The drama teacher tells the "A" student, "You shouldn't be so forward with Rolf."
    – Tom Au
    Apr 26, 2018 at 2:21
  • I think the answer to your question is yes.For sure people get cast for all sorts of reasons, like if they have the right kind of hair (true story) - I assume the student votes are not only decision in casting, but it may not matter ...
    – SFWriter
    Apr 26, 2018 at 2:36
  • @DPT: In the story, the right to vote is an incentive to try out. "To vote, you must first try out." After everyone tries out, everyone votes. Some of the "voters" will be "rejected," unless there is only one candidate for every role.
    – Tom Au
    Apr 26, 2018 at 2:59
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    Incidentally, unless you're setting this in the nineties, I'd run the Britney Spears reference past a current high schooler. I suspect that the quote may stand out as outdated Apr 26, 2018 at 3:27

3 Answers 3


Do you recall the horrific murder in Amish country about ten years ago, when after the murder the amish community invited the murderer to pray with them? (It may have been his family - I don't recall, but it was striking.) They took the assailant (or his family?) in briefly, because they held to the belief that he, as a murderer, suffered as much, or more, than they did, as victims.

It seemed like an atypical, 'weak' response on their part.

I think there is a profound truth in the community response. I think the 'weakness' in the Amish response in this true story is their great strength.

Naivety, innocence, weakness, inexperience ... lack of ego ... there is something 'in this ballpark' that is both a strength and a 'hole in the market.' (At least IMO). Write the character. I want to read it.

I think you could develop an amazing character who is inexperienced and placed in the position of 'center stage' in the production and the novel.

She would hold certain beliefs held from childhood, which are truths. Hold hands. Help one another. Look both ways before crossing the street. Eat cookies several times a week, at least. This creates a nice contrast with the common crop of superheroes and teen role models. I think it's a great idea if you can develop the plot satisfactorily.

My answer: Yes. Weakness, as you define it, can be a strength.

  • "Center sate in the novel." She is the "science queen" from a previous question, trying her hand at acting, an entirely new area for her.
    – Tom Au
    Apr 26, 2018 at 3:02
  • Aha, @TomAu - yes, I remember and want to read about her. Make her Liesl.
    – SFWriter
    Apr 26, 2018 at 14:39

Strength and weakness will often (possibly always) need to be judged in context, so something that appears weak out of context may be a strength and vice versa - the person who uses a sledgehammer to crack a nut will not eat many nuts.

From the part of the plot you've given us, it sounds like the person or people making the casting decisions don't think either of the two are accomplished enough actors to play against their own character (ie. both would play a version of themselves), so the more demure B would be the best fit to play that particular character.

The plot as you've described it sounds both logical and plausible.

  • The other students voted on the casting decisions. This is high school, not Julliard drama school, so no, the girls play best as characters similar to themselves. A is a more skillful actress who does the "wrong" things; B does the right things, but with less skill.
    – Tom Au
    Apr 26, 2018 at 11:18

I don't understand how the answer to this question is even relevant to your writing.

(a) Are you writing a nineteenth century educative novel that you think in terms of "virtue"? Virtue is no longer a concept relevant to the education of the youth of today. We don't teach them to abstain from masturbation, we have sex ed and help them understand their bodies better. We don't tell our young women to be meek and servile, we hope they will voice their opinions, say "no", and send them to self-defense class.

(b) Your protagonist is B. What does it matter whether she is "better" than A? B needs to find her own path in life, and A's path may simply be wrong to her. No judgment needs to be passed on A or B. Today's novels for teens generally aren't morality plays but have realistic characters that are neither good nor bad.

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