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At SF-Site, my review* of Jim C. Hines’ newest novel, The Stepsister Sceheme, is up. As one can see from the cover what we have here are fightin’ princesses. Hines draws on various retellings of popular fairy tales and refashions the old tropes to appeal to contemporary readers.

When I first met cool, competent, highly-trained warrior Talia (AKA Sleeping Beauty), I wondered at first if Jim had worked so hard to present a kickbutt heroine who could take on the likes of James Bond, Superman, and the Hulk in unarmed combat without turning a hair that he’d fall into what I call Lara Croft syndrome. Your take on the movie might be different from mine, but what I saw was a heroine so incredibly perfect at everything, she transcended even Mary Suedom, and became about as interesting as a robot. No emotions except an amused, competent coolth—no personality.

Not to worry. One of Hines’ strengths is his characterization. In his previous trilogy, he contrived to make me care about goblins. And these aren’t Disneyized goblins, they are maggoty-meat-eating, nose-picking, stinky, treacherous goblins. As Hines shows, goblins, regarded by everybody as the lowest of the low, have their perspective, even their heroes . . . even if their definition of heroism is pret-ty skewed by anyone else’s definition.

So I noted Talia’s competent coolth, and read on. Sure enough. As the story progresses, we discover that Talia has at least as many layers as the other heroines, she just armor- plates her emotions. And we slowly begin to discover why. The novel is funny, dark, imaginative, and the characters deliciously complex.

I thought it would be interesting to talk with Hines about the problem of the kickbutt heroine. So many people in the discussion of Mary Sue/Gary Stu protagonists said that they really dislike heroines who seem like men with boobs. I wonder what makes them “men with boobs”—is it their lack of emotional affect? But men have emotions, despite the sixties and seventies films that tried to depict their anti heroes with an utter detachment. Eighties, too, exemplified in the mirrorshades character who kisses and kills without exhibiting any passion whatever.

What comprises the “man with boobs” heroine? What are the assumptions here, that women have different emotions than men, different goals? Or that there is such a lack of personality that this type of heroic figure can be male or female and unbelievable? Or that it’s only believable as a male, but the female, in order to be believable, has to exhibit . . .what?

I thought I’d ask Jim to comment on these questions, and maybe offer some examples of what he thinks are successful or unsuccessful kickbutt heroines—and why he finds them so.

Jim: First of all, thank you, Sherwood. That means a lot to me. And you know ... putting Snow White in mirror shades could be sweet. Jots down notes for the next book.

One of the things fairy tales do is to present characters, particularly female characters, as symbols. Do you know how rarely Sleeping Beauty or Cinderwench actually get names? They’re simply the embodiment of perfect feminine beauty or kindness and obedience. Given that fairy tales were meant to teach as much as entertain, those symbols have a place in the stories.

But a lot of what you describe, and a lot of what I’ve seen and read, still comes back to women as symbols. Lara Croft is The Strong Woman. Any flaw or weakness could erode that strength, and so she’s written to have none. (Or very few, at any rate.)

One of my favorite kickbutt heroines is Sarah Conner from Terminator 2. She spends much of the book coolly fighting and taking charge. She’s almost machinelike herself in her efficiency, taking on her own mission to terminate one of the architects behind Skynet. She fails, not through a lack of skill, but because she’s human. Because despite her best efforts to be that symbol of strength, she still feels pity and compassion.

When she realizes she’s failed, she breaks down. We see her not as a superhuman machine, but as a human being with both strengths and limits. I can enjoy kickbutt characters busting up bad guys, but it was this scene that made Conner a more complex, engaging, and all around interesting character to me.

Some could argue that her breakdown was a way for the writers to weaken and undercut a strong female character. They might have a point, but to me, it was a way of making her human. The fact that she continues on despite that “flawed” humanity is what makes her a truly strong character.

ME: I liked the filmic Sarah Connor for exactly the same reason—though I haven’t taken to the show. Maybe because the two eps I tried were midseason, and I didn’t know what was going on, and everyone seemed as expressive as bots.

Anyway, open question: what’s your take on kickbutt heroines?

* in which I managed to misspell “paced” as “past” argh, argh, argh
sartorias: (Default)
At SF-Site, my review* of Jim C. Hines’ newest novel, The Stepsister Sceheme, is up. As one can see from the cover what we have here are fightin’ princesses. Hines draws on various retellings of popular fairy tales and refashions the old tropes to appeal to contemporary readers.

When I first met cool, competent, highly-trained warrior Talia (AKA Sleeping Beauty), I wondered at first if Jim had worked so hard to present a kickbutt heroine who could take on the likes of James Bond, Superman, and the Hulk in unarmed combat without turning a hair that he’d fall into what I call Lara Croft syndrome. Your take on the movie might be different from mine, but what I saw was a heroine so incredibly perfect at everything, she transcended even Mary Suedom, and became about as interesting as a robot. No emotions except an amused, competent coolth—no personality.

Not to worry. One of Hines’ strengths is his characterization. In his previous trilogy, he contrived to make me care about goblins. And these aren’t Disneyized goblins, they are maggoty-meat-eating, nose-picking, stinky, treacherous goblins. As Hines shows, goblins, regarded by everybody as the lowest of the low, have their perspective, even their heroes . . . even if their definition of heroism is pret-ty skewed by anyone else’s definition.

So I noted Talia’s competent coolth, and read on. Sure enough. As the story progresses, we discover that Talia has at least as many layers as the other heroines, she just armor- plates her emotions. And we slowly begin to discover why. The novel is funny, dark, imaginative, and the characters deliciously complex.

I thought it would be interesting to talk with Hines about the problem of the kickbutt heroine. So many people in the discussion of Mary Sue/Gary Stu protagonists said that they really dislike heroines who seem like men with boobs. I wonder what makes them “men with boobs”—is it their lack of emotional affect? But men have emotions, despite the sixties and seventies films that tried to depict their anti heroes with an utter detachment. Eighties, too, exemplified in the mirrorshades character who kisses and kills without exhibiting any passion whatever.

What comprises the “man with boobs” heroine? What are the assumptions here, that women have different emotions than men, different goals? Or that there is such a lack of personality that this type of heroic figure can be male or female and unbelievable? Or that it’s only believable as a male, but the female, in order to be believable, has to exhibit . . .what?

I thought I’d ask Jim to comment on these questions, and maybe offer some examples of what he thinks are successful or unsuccessful kickbutt heroines—and why he finds them so.

Jim: First of all, thank you, Sherwood. That means a lot to me. And you know ... putting Snow White in mirror shades could be sweet. Jots down notes for the next book.

One of the things fairy tales do is to present characters, particularly female characters, as symbols. Do you know how rarely Sleeping Beauty or Cinderwench actually get names? They’re simply the embodiment of perfect feminine beauty or kindness and obedience. Given that fairy tales were meant to teach as much as entertain, those symbols have a place in the stories.

But a lot of what you describe, and a lot of what I’ve seen and read, still comes back to women as symbols. Lara Croft is The Strong Woman. Any flaw or weakness could erode that strength, and so she’s written to have none. (Or very few, at any rate.)

One of my favorite kickbutt heroines is Sarah Conner from Terminator 2. She spends much of the book coolly fighting and taking charge. She’s almost machinelike herself in her efficiency, taking on her own mission to terminate one of the architects behind Skynet. She fails, not through a lack of skill, but because she’s human. Because despite her best efforts to be that symbol of strength, she still feels pity and compassion.

When she realizes she’s failed, she breaks down. We see her not as a superhuman machine, but as a human being with both strengths and limits. I can enjoy kickbutt characters busting up bad guys, but it was this scene that made Conner a more complex, engaging, and all around interesting character to me.

Some could argue that her breakdown was a way for the writers to weaken and undercut a strong female character. They might have a point, but to me, it was a way of making her human. The fact that she continues on despite that “flawed” humanity is what makes her a truly strong character.

ME: I liked the filmic Sarah Connor for exactly the same reason—though I haven’t taken to the show. Maybe because the two eps I tried were midseason, and I didn’t know what was going on, and everyone seemed as expressive as bots.

Anyway, open question: what’s your take on kickbutt heroines?

* in which I managed to misspell “paced” as “past” argh, argh, argh
sartorias: (Default)
Those of you who like 19th C novels as much as I do, go read Jo Walton's take on the idea of Middlemarch and science fiction.

She also raises a good point about the problem with some sf and f in which the shiny ideas appear to be the focus of the story, to the cost of developing that resonated sense of the real in characters. Given that such things are subjective--one person's dynamic characters are someone else's standard cardboard cut-outs--it's a good point.

I mean, though we love genre, how many of our favorites have what we perceive to be a balance between the razzle-dazzle of magic or high tech, and complex interactions between characters who seem as real to us as people we know?
sartorias: (Default)
Those of you who like 19th C novels as much as I do, go read Jo Walton's take on the idea of Middlemarch and science fiction.

She also raises a good point about the problem with some sf and f in which the shiny ideas appear to be the focus of the story, to the cost of developing that resonated sense of the real in characters. Given that such things are subjective--one person's dynamic characters are someone else's standard cardboard cut-outs--it's a good point.

I mean, though we love genre, how many of our favorites have what we perceive to be a balance between the razzle-dazzle of magic or high tech, and complex interactions between characters who seem as real to us as people we know?
sartorias: (Default)
The brain, she does not like hot weather, so thinking is done with the finesse of a one-handed clock with chewing gum for gears. But as I sweated through yestereve's chores I was thinking about mimetic fiction, and placeholders.

Yesterday several said they have placeholder scenes--by which I understand scenes that are a snip of what must be written. I have a lot of those--of late (because I am always the last bozo on the bus) I'm learning to identify the unconscious ones as well as the conscious ones. One intends to come back on the next go-round and flesh it out.

At the same time I have been going on my galloping pace reading more YA genre for the Norton Award (today's read is Jenny Davidson's alt-Scotland The Explosionist, which so far is a real page-turner), and noting that so far, there haven't been any of what I think of as unconscious placeholder scenes in this one.

Unconscious placeholder scenes--mimetic fiction. I know the usual definition of mimetic fiction is "mimics life." Mimetic fiction is a label I find sometimes applied to what is also generally known as literary fiction. Slice o' life, realistic, etc etc.

There's another definition that blends with placeholder, at least in my head (after 49 years of being a heavy-duty reader) and that is, predictable. Mimetic as in another iteration of scenes, and characters, in this situation, in so many other pieces that you know what is coming next, how everyone will behave. To a certain extent, human behavior can be predictable--you jab me and I jump and yelp. A surreal response would be for me to stand on my head and offer you a slice of prune pie. For me, there is a very limited shelf life for surreal, because it only connects with life experience at extreme high fever temps, not a headspace I ever like to revisit. But predictable situation, characters, words, all add up to skim for me.

If the just-caught little thief has high cheekbones and emerald eyes, I know she's the heroine, and she'll come out of the supposed danger scene just fine, so I page on in search of story that I can't predict. (Though I have to say, if the voice is really distinctive--the way the scene is written can't be predicted--I'm okay with knowing the plot outcome.) Blabbity blah blah it's already getting hot, and it's only eight-thirty a.m. Gotta get the outside chores done. Wind this up, Smith.

So I did a search on mimetic fiction, and discovered this nifty little squib by Michael Chabon a few years ago.
sartorias: (Default)
The brain, she does not like hot weather, so thinking is done with the finesse of a one-handed clock with chewing gum for gears. But as I sweated through yestereve's chores I was thinking about mimetic fiction, and placeholders.

Yesterday several said they have placeholder scenes--by which I understand scenes that are a snip of what must be written. I have a lot of those--of late (because I am always the last bozo on the bus) I'm learning to identify the unconscious ones as well as the conscious ones. One intends to come back on the next go-round and flesh it out.

At the same time I have been going on my galloping pace reading more YA genre for the Norton Award (today's read is Jenny Davidson's alt-Scotland The Explosionist, which so far is a real page-turner), and noting that so far, there haven't been any of what I think of as unconscious placeholder scenes in this one.

Unconscious placeholder scenes--mimetic fiction. I know the usual definition of mimetic fiction is "mimics life." Mimetic fiction is a label I find sometimes applied to what is also generally known as literary fiction. Slice o' life, realistic, etc etc.

There's another definition that blends with placeholder, at least in my head (after 49 years of being a heavy-duty reader) and that is, predictable. Mimetic as in another iteration of scenes, and characters, in this situation, in so many other pieces that you know what is coming next, how everyone will behave. To a certain extent, human behavior can be predictable--you jab me and I jump and yelp. A surreal response would be for me to stand on my head and offer you a slice of prune pie. For me, there is a very limited shelf life for surreal, because it only connects with life experience at extreme high fever temps, not a headspace I ever like to revisit. But predictable situation, characters, words, all add up to skim for me.

If the just-caught little thief has high cheekbones and emerald eyes, I know she's the heroine, and she'll come out of the supposed danger scene just fine, so I page on in search of story that I can't predict. (Though I have to say, if the voice is really distinctive--the way the scene is written can't be predicted--I'm okay with knowing the plot outcome.) Blabbity blah blah it's already getting hot, and it's only eight-thirty a.m. Gotta get the outside chores done. Wind this up, Smith.

So I did a search on mimetic fiction, and discovered this nifty little squib by Michael Chabon a few years ago.
sartorias: (Default)
This morning I came across this riff on urban fantasy by [livejournal.com profile] jamesenge.

Here's the graph that caught my eye: The cultural stress that generates the flood of urban fantasy is different, but no less far-reaching. The women’s movement shattered traditional notions of what it is to be a woman—the roles and activities appropriate to women. And a good job, too: you won’t hear me complaining about it. But traditional gender roles were convenient because they give people a map with which to negotiate the chaotic territory of human relations. If the old map doesn’t work, some thinking and exploring are needed to create a new one (or maybe a set of new ones). That’s what I see happening with urban fantasy: its aboutness is part of the culture-wide redefinition of female identity. This includes issues of power but isn’t restricted to them.

I strongly agree that traditional gender roles were convenient because they gave people a behavioral map. So many people want to know what to expect of others—you behave this way, then in turn I do that, then you do this, and that’s my cue to do that. So much of kid play out on the schoolyard is the mimicry of what they see on TV, or around them at home, and then the other kids mimic the class leaders, and everybody sees everybody else obeying the cues, and if it works everyone is happy.

But it doesn’t always work. And there are times when it shouldn’t work—like when I was young and watched TV, the fat kid was supposed to be comical, the kid with glasses was supposed to be clumsy on the field and smart (an “egghead”) in the classroom, the girls were supposed to be rescued by the boys, the brown kids were expected to eat beans for lunch, and the black kids sat in the back of the room.

We’re breaking those behavioral models, but it does take time to see them and consciously change them. There are also the family ones (“in this family, you WILL go to college and become a doctor, none of that stupid drawing of cartoon characters for you!” “Your brother needs to go to a good college, but you’ll just get married, so we are not wasting college money on you.” “Nobody in this family ever went to college, and we did just fine. Why are you so pushy? You think you’re better than the rest of us?”)


Enough of that. I wonder what others think about the impulses behind the popularity of UF--both writing and reading. Do you think it's all about duh Grrlz?

I want to get into kick-ass heroines soon--I'm going to be doing a dialog with somebody about that, once I read one more book for a discussion I have in mind--but right now I'd love to talk about what others see in behavioral patterns, expectations, and current subgenre popularity. If anyone else shares my interest.
sartorias: (Default)
This morning I came across this riff on urban fantasy by [livejournal.com profile] jamesenge.

Here's the graph that caught my eye: The cultural stress that generates the flood of urban fantasy is different, but no less far-reaching. The women’s movement shattered traditional notions of what it is to be a woman—the roles and activities appropriate to women. And a good job, too: you won’t hear me complaining about it. But traditional gender roles were convenient because they give people a map with which to negotiate the chaotic territory of human relations. If the old map doesn’t work, some thinking and exploring are needed to create a new one (or maybe a set of new ones). That’s what I see happening with urban fantasy: its aboutness is part of the culture-wide redefinition of female identity. This includes issues of power but isn’t restricted to them.

I strongly agree that traditional gender roles were convenient because they gave people a behavioral map. So many people want to know what to expect of others—you behave this way, then in turn I do that, then you do this, and that’s my cue to do that. So much of kid play out on the schoolyard is the mimicry of what they see on TV, or around them at home, and then the other kids mimic the class leaders, and everybody sees everybody else obeying the cues, and if it works everyone is happy.

But it doesn’t always work. And there are times when it shouldn’t work—like when I was young and watched TV, the fat kid was supposed to be comical, the kid with glasses was supposed to be clumsy on the field and smart (an “egghead”) in the classroom, the girls were supposed to be rescued by the boys, the brown kids were expected to eat beans for lunch, and the black kids sat in the back of the room.

We’re breaking those behavioral models, but it does take time to see them and consciously change them. There are also the family ones (“in this family, you WILL go to college and become a doctor, none of that stupid drawing of cartoon characters for you!” “Your brother needs to go to a good college, but you’ll just get married, so we are not wasting college money on you.” “Nobody in this family ever went to college, and we did just fine. Why are you so pushy? You think you’re better than the rest of us?”)


Enough of that. I wonder what others think about the impulses behind the popularity of UF--both writing and reading. Do you think it's all about duh Grrlz?

I want to get into kick-ass heroines soon--I'm going to be doing a dialog with somebody about that, once I read one more book for a discussion I have in mind--but right now I'd love to talk about what others see in behavioral patterns, expectations, and current subgenre popularity. If anyone else shares my interest.
sartorias: (Default)
In the past couple of days, Justine Larbalestier has posted some nifty stuff, including this one on character building, which caused another writer to add a riff on what works and what doesn't for her in character building seminars and panels. She said she's squicked by techniques like interviewing characters, or pretending characters are in the room, or pretending to be characters.

I posted a comment that I thought I was the only one squicked by this, especially when the interviews are mutual admiration interviews.

Now a bunch of people are upset because it seems that those who spoke up for squickdom are saying that they, and their particular process (which includes interviews, characters posting, and so forth) are wrong, wrong, wrong.

At the very start, Writer A stated that the workshop that sent her out of the room was run by Writer B, whom she admires, so there is no hint of You are doing it wrong! there.

But writers are sensitive creatures--a whole lot of our lives are bound up in our creative work--so it seems worthwhile to take a look at the issues. Of course I don't speak for anyone else, just me, but here's my thought.

Re characters and writers and reality, there are several approaches I see everywhere.

*My characters are fictional dolls. I give them life, I kill them at whim--whatever the story, my editor, my mood dictates, and don't give it a second thought. Because they are not real.

*My characters may or may not be real. I can't even begin to define what "real" is. The only thing I can say for certain is, my characters have never entered my physical space, so I don't pretend that they have.

*My characters are more real to me than the people around me in meatspace. My characters talk to me all the time.

My own take is somewhere around in the middle one. I don't pretend my characters are in the real world because I can't, it makes me dizzy in kind of the same way that lolcat screws with my eyes. I don't tell anyone not to post lolcat. I don't look down on anybody who posts lolcat. I just don't read it.

If I try to read someone's character interview, I get caught in this weird reverb between who's talking, who's faking, is the person flirting with himself, or what? In other words, are the emotions real or not real, because they seem to be mixing this world with that one. So I tend to bail out of such things.

I think the mistake ( or my mistake, I don't mean to be speaking for anyone else) was in using 'squick.' I do try to watch these terms. I won't use 'grok' for example. When I first read the Heinlein, the cannabalistic overtones turned me off so much it's always caught me when people use grok, and I have to remind myself they probably mean understand, or comprehend, but not what Heinlein seemed to be implying, that you don't truly comprehend something until you consume it. Squick seems to have overtones that vary from person to person.

So apologies to all who read this and read there and might have been hurt by meanings that weren't intended, or on my part, anyway. Again, I only speak for myself.
sartorias: (Default)
In the past couple of days, Justine Larbalestier has posted some nifty stuff, including this one on character building, which caused another writer to add a riff on what works and what doesn't for her in character building seminars and panels. She said she's squicked by techniques like interviewing characters, or pretending characters are in the room, or pretending to be characters.

I posted a comment that I thought I was the only one squicked by this, especially when the interviews are mutual admiration interviews.

Now a bunch of people are upset because it seems that those who spoke up for squickdom are saying that they, and their particular process (which includes interviews, characters posting, and so forth) are wrong, wrong, wrong.

At the very start, Writer A stated that the workshop that sent her out of the room was run by Writer B, whom she admires, so there is no hint of You are doing it wrong! there.

But writers are sensitive creatures--a whole lot of our lives are bound up in our creative work--so it seems worthwhile to take a look at the issues. Of course I don't speak for anyone else, just me, but here's my thought.

Re characters and writers and reality, there are several approaches I see everywhere.

*My characters are fictional dolls. I give them life, I kill them at whim--whatever the story, my editor, my mood dictates, and don't give it a second thought. Because they are not real.

*My characters may or may not be real. I can't even begin to define what "real" is. The only thing I can say for certain is, my characters have never entered my physical space, so I don't pretend that they have.

*My characters are more real to me than the people around me in meatspace. My characters talk to me all the time.

My own take is somewhere around in the middle one. I don't pretend my characters are in the real world because I can't, it makes me dizzy in kind of the same way that lolcat screws with my eyes. I don't tell anyone not to post lolcat. I don't look down on anybody who posts lolcat. I just don't read it.

If I try to read someone's character interview, I get caught in this weird reverb between who's talking, who's faking, is the person flirting with himself, or what? In other words, are the emotions real or not real, because they seem to be mixing this world with that one. So I tend to bail out of such things.

I think the mistake ( or my mistake, I don't mean to be speaking for anyone else) was in using 'squick.' I do try to watch these terms. I won't use 'grok' for example. When I first read the Heinlein, the cannabalistic overtones turned me off so much it's always caught me when people use grok, and I have to remind myself they probably mean understand, or comprehend, but not what Heinlein seemed to be implying, that you don't truly comprehend something until you consume it. Squick seems to have overtones that vary from person to person.

So apologies to all who read this and read there and might have been hurt by meanings that weren't intended, or on my part, anyway. Again, I only speak for myself.

Chemistry

Oct. 19th, 2008 07:02 am
sartorias: (Default)
Some days back [livejournal.com profile] cakmpls posed a question about favorite couples on tv. The question went:

I Love Lucy premiered today in 1951, and has been on the air ever since. Although Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s marriage didn’t last off the air, Lucy and Ricky are one of the great couples in television history. Who is your favorite TV couple?

Some love the Addams family tango (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vm4TYFzUH0). So do I.

It seemed to me that the commenters were pointing out happy couples. Some of the couples, mostly parents of sitcoms, were indeed happy, but they appeared to be manufactured happy. I know that what might seem manufactured to me worked just fine for millions of viewers--the success of the shows testifies to that.

I kept coming back to character chemisty
Read more... )

Chemistry

Oct. 19th, 2008 07:02 am
sartorias: (Default)
Some days back [livejournal.com profile] cakmpls posed a question about favorite couples on tv. The question went:

I Love Lucy premiered today in 1951, and has been on the air ever since. Although Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s marriage didn’t last off the air, Lucy and Ricky are one of the great couples in television history. Who is your favorite TV couple?

Some love the Addams family tango (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vm4TYFzUH0). So do I.

It seemed to me that the commenters were pointing out happy couples. Some of the couples, mostly parents of sitcoms, were indeed happy, but they appeared to be manufactured happy. I know that what might seem manufactured to me worked just fine for millions of viewers--the success of the shows testifies to that.

I kept coming back to character chemisty
Read more... )
sartorias: (Default)
The other day I made a post about story payoffs. [livejournal.com profile] burger_eater made a comment to the effect that he's disappointed when the character he's invested in doesn't gain respect from the story. I asked him to explain that, and he did.
Read more... )
sartorias: (Default)
The other day I made a post about story payoffs. [livejournal.com profile] burger_eater made a comment to the effect that he's disappointed when the character he's invested in doesn't gain respect from the story. I asked him to explain that, and he did.
Read more... )
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The other day I got a letter from someone who wrote to say that they liked something, adding that they usually avoid reading sf and f by women, and so were surprised to discover on reading my website that I'm female. (I always forget that my name doesn't automatically signal female, because it does to me.)

When I was young, there appeared to be a huge gender divide--men would write about things interesting to men, women about things in the woman's sphere, and rarely did they meet, except in cases like Harper Lee. Then everybody read the work. It surprises me that there are folks now who share an interest in a genre, like sf and f, but cut out half of the possible authorship.
Read more... )
sartorias: (Default)
The other day I got a letter from someone who wrote to say that they liked something, adding that they usually avoid reading sf and f by women, and so were surprised to discover on reading my website that I'm female. (I always forget that my name doesn't automatically signal female, because it does to me.)

When I was young, there appeared to be a huge gender divide--men would write about things interesting to men, women about things in the woman's sphere, and rarely did they meet, except in cases like Harper Lee. Then everybody read the work. It surprises me that there are folks now who share an interest in a genre, like sf and f, but cut out half of the possible authorship.
Read more... )
sartorias: (Default)
How much to put in? is a question I see discussed so often. I liked [livejournal.com profile] madwriter's sensible ideas here, especially the question What would the characters care about?

So many of the other questions, while good ones, depend so much on taste and experience. But that one closed in just that most closer--or so it seems to me.
sartorias: (Default)
How much to put in? is a question I see discussed so often. I liked [livejournal.com profile] madwriter's sensible ideas here, especially the question What would the characters care about?

So many of the other questions, while good ones, depend so much on taste and experience. But that one closed in just that most closer--or so it seems to me.
sartorias: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] k_10b brought up a question that I thought a good one for discussion. The question was, how heroes/villains relate to one another? What do good stories need in this department?

Most writers want to avoid Dark Lord vs. Mary Sue. The Dark Lord wants to take over the kingdon/world/megaverse. Because why? Because he said so! Because that's what Dark Lords do! Because he was born "the bad one" when the gods were created, and after his first ooopsie was imprisoned for ten thousand years, and when he popped out, his first thought was of vengeance, so he equips himself with a black robe, enslaved minions, a castle full of skulls and evil stenches, and it's showtime. Marty Stu or his sister Mary will fight the Dark Lord because that's what heroes do, and after maximum suffering (often very pretty suffering), will prevail because Good prevails, and will end up with a crown and a clean castle and happy minions and a gorgeous princess or a handsome prince with whom to live happily ever after.

I think most of us work pretty hard to avoid this sort of central conflict. On the other hand, a story in which both sides are a collection of petty neuroses, motivated by a dreary combination of greed and expedience, might make a grittily realistic tale, but not everyone wants to read that. I sure don't. Villains with heroic traits, and heroes struggling against villainous impulses...those make good drama.

My feeling is that if we reach far enough back for villainous heroes and heroic villains, what we come up against are Shakespeare's magnificent hero/villains. Macbeth--Richard III--even Hamlet (for a hero, he sure racks up the body count) are brilliant characters who fascinate us with their complexities. I think Shakespeare invented the modern hero and villain, pole stars of dramatic tension. Milton's great Satan--Byron's tortured corsairs and outsiders--so many later poets and playwrights and writers inspired by one another, reaching back to the Bard. Well, that's my theory, anyway.

So how does the writer construct them? What keeps me reading is a balancing act, especially if I can't outguess all the action. The tension escalates when there is a match of intelligence, as the balance of power caroms back and forth. My own preference is to see a struggle to define and achieve a moral balance, even if the entire story is about the struggle as much as it is about the conflict, though I'd like at least a note of hope, if there is little resolution. I'm just not going to stay interested in a story in which both sides are equally amoral; I won't care if I find I cannot trust either side. Others of course might prefer the story to be a pure battle of wits, everything based on logic.

I find that I keep reading if the motivations for the action are not only convincing, but derive out of varying (even conflicting) causes. I lose interest if the hero or villain have a single motivation. If there are personal, emotional, economic, inspirational, religious, as well as political motivations, I am interested in the characters...(and if they display wit and panache, I'm hooked)
sartorias: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] k_10b brought up a question that I thought a good one for discussion. The question was, how heroes/villains relate to one another? What do good stories need in this department?

Most writers want to avoid Dark Lord vs. Mary Sue. The Dark Lord wants to take over the kingdon/world/megaverse. Because why? Because he said so! Because that's what Dark Lords do! Because he was born "the bad one" when the gods were created, and after his first ooopsie was imprisoned for ten thousand years, and when he popped out, his first thought was of vengeance, so he equips himself with a black robe, enslaved minions, a castle full of skulls and evil stenches, and it's showtime. Marty Stu or his sister Mary will fight the Dark Lord because that's what heroes do, and after maximum suffering (often very pretty suffering), will prevail because Good prevails, and will end up with a crown and a clean castle and happy minions and a gorgeous princess or a handsome prince with whom to live happily ever after.

I think most of us work pretty hard to avoid this sort of central conflict. On the other hand, a story in which both sides are a collection of petty neuroses, motivated by a dreary combination of greed and expedience, might make a grittily realistic tale, but not everyone wants to read that. I sure don't. Villains with heroic traits, and heroes struggling against villainous impulses...those make good drama.

My feeling is that if we reach far enough back for villainous heroes and heroic villains, what we come up against are Shakespeare's magnificent hero/villains. Macbeth--Richard III--even Hamlet (for a hero, he sure racks up the body count) are brilliant characters who fascinate us with their complexities. I think Shakespeare invented the modern hero and villain, pole stars of dramatic tension. Milton's great Satan--Byron's tortured corsairs and outsiders--so many later poets and playwrights and writers inspired by one another, reaching back to the Bard. Well, that's my theory, anyway.

So how does the writer construct them? What keeps me reading is a balancing act, especially if I can't outguess all the action. The tension escalates when there is a match of intelligence, as the balance of power caroms back and forth. My own preference is to see a struggle to define and achieve a moral balance, even if the entire story is about the struggle as much as it is about the conflict, though I'd like at least a note of hope, if there is little resolution. I'm just not going to stay interested in a story in which both sides are equally amoral; I won't care if I find I cannot trust either side. Others of course might prefer the story to be a pure battle of wits, everything based on logic.

I find that I keep reading if the motivations for the action are not only convincing, but derive out of varying (even conflicting) causes. I lose interest if the hero or villain have a single motivation. If there are personal, emotional, economic, inspirational, religious, as well as political motivations, I am interested in the characters...(and if they display wit and panache, I'm hooked)

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