One of the sessions that I went to at the FWA conference was titled something like, Putting the Super in Your Hero and it was a fun look at what makes superheroes entertaining and what authors can do to make their characters more like superheroes. Characters should be decisive — they should make decisions, not just let the universe push them along. They should be active — even if their action fails or has negative consequences, characters that simply react are less interesting. Then, for the superhero thing, they should be courageous, take the high moral ground, be colorful, do extraordinary things, be flawed, and be likeable. The two that most interested me were the first two, though — making decisions and taking action. I’m definitely adding “Make decisions, take action,” to my little mental list of rules to remember. (Others: “Abandon reality” and “Solitude sucks”.)
And I have no idea why I got onto that digression. I started this post meaning to write about searching tvtropes for a name for a trope that I’ve decided I hate, hate, hate. Hate with a deep passion. Wish to never see again and will always stop reading when I uncover it in use. But I can’t find its name. It’s some kind of a mix of Broken Bird and Bratty Half-Pint only… she’s playing the heroine.
In the case of a book that I downloaded yesterday, started, and returned to the library after fifty pages or so, the heroine is a grievously abused teenager. Parents dead young in a tragic accident, she’s been sold as a slave multiple times, starting from when she was five years old. In the first few scenes there are repeated incidents of violence against her, as well as plenty of implications of the miseries of life as a slave, scarring, and implied sexual violence against children. And yet… she has absolutely no hesitation about talking back, being defiant, doing exactly what her new owners ordered her not to do, and being incredibly rude to people who have not offered her threat or unkindness. What kind of caricature does that? I like urban fantasy’s damaged, kickass heroines just as much as the next genre, but I don’t like it when they’re stupid. And I don’t like it when abuse is trivialized, so that years of torture just become a convenient backstory for why a character is wary. I like unrealistic genres, but I want the characters I read about to behave like real people might, even when they’re super tough, magically gifted, super-hero characters.
It’s funny, I hated the book so much that I have immediately forgotten its name. It had a pretty cover, though.
So many interruptions today — it’s almost 5 and this blog post, which I started at 8:30, is my sum total of accomplishment. Well, except for phone calls and laundry and cooking and assorted other useful things. But words must get written, so on to the real work!