manifesta: (Alex/Izzy)
manifesta ([personal profile] manifesta) wrote2010-03-22 09:38 pm

reading & writing female characters link roundup

Congratulations to Sarah J. Maas on her book deal with Bloomsbury for her novel, QUEEN OF GLASS! Sarah has been on submissions for many months now, and it will be wonderful to finally see QoG on the shelves in 2011/2012.

Also, welcome to new subscribers! If you're here because I added you, it's probably because I found you via the non-fandom friending meme. I usually try to introduce myself/comment relatively soon before or after adding someone, so if I haven't yet, I will soon! A general overview of what this journal's about can be found here.

Although I only post on DW, in support of Three Weeks for Dreamwidth I'm planning a series of original content posts that will go live during the three week celebration. If you have any suggestions, please feel free to comment or PM me.


Loving the Unlikeable Heroine from Dear Author:
"I often find their heroism in the lack of compromise to their characters, their lack of subservience to the traditional fairy tale model of Cinderella, the ultimate “cinder girl,” who humbly accepts social ostracism and the abusive attentions of the “wicked stepmother” (aka the Bad Mother). And it’s not just that I want to see these heroines “rewarded” with love. In fact, I appreciate that the genre can celebrate these women without changing them overmuch, even as I wonder sometimes if I am in the minority for liking them so much."
DA's definition of the what the "unlikeable" heroine is leans toward a woman who exhibits (and DA acknowledges this) traditionally male traits--rudeness, impatience, and arrogance, for starters. Call me crazy, but an unlikeable heroine for me is one who is utterly unable to stand up for herself or others or is so compromising that she constantly, and to her own detriment, puts others--particularly the lead male character--before herself. The bright side is that if the book can convince me to hang in there long enough, I can respect those characters if they eventually grow into their strength. One example would be Meiglan from Melanie Rawn's Dragon Star trilogy, who wasn't strong in the way that the majority of the otherwise fierce female cast were, but was able, in the end, to be strong in her own way. Of course, Rawn had an entire epic fantasy trilogy to develop Meiglan's character, meanwhile surrounding her with a very independent and diverse cast that carried the book. Nor was she a main character. A romance novel doesn't have these advantages, which may be why I'm less tolerant of what can be fatal flaws.

First Girl Ever by Marie Brennan at SF Novelists:
"What is fresh is the stuff that follows the First Girl Ever, the stuff that doesn’t get talked about nearly as much. And this is where I reveal why Pierce is my touchstone, because she didn’t just write a FGE story; she went on from there, too. The first two books of the Alanna quartet are about the heroine disguising herself as a boy and winning her shield; the second two are about what happens after. Because her problems don’t end there. She’s the first Tortallan lady knight in centuries, but not everybody likes that idea, and so it takes legendary deeds on Alanna’s part — and the rise to power of a younger generation, the guys who grew up with her and acknowledge her worth — before she’s anything like accepted at home."
Tamora Pierce was my introduction to fantasy, and especially my introduction to fantasy written by and for women/girls. I agree that we tend to take the First Girl Ever stories for granted, because girls doing something for the first time isn't considered all that revolutionary anymore, and there's this assumption in the air that women are engaged in this unstoppable forward momentum and it's only a matter of time before we're, y'know, Totally Equal. I think this is an accurate perception in and of itself, but danger lies in forgetting that we are still a long way from equality, or that there aren't any more FGE stories to tell. I also really appreciate Brennan's point that there's even more of a story in the details of what happens after the original story is told, and that a movement is not propelled by a single individual. If there's momentum, it's because a lot of people are moving forward, often in the face of immense opposition.


Up next, for the curious:
-my distinction between traditional and modern urban fantasy & a (long over-due) commentary on Philip Palmer's "Is Urban Fantasy Really All About Sex?"
-a discussion of the first three Bloody Jack novels by L.A. Meyer from a feminist perspective

[personal profile] miss_haitch 2010-03-23 10:11 am (UTC)(link)
There are three heroines I haven't enjoyed much recently. In one book the heroine felt superfluous to the story, and her female friends (who had some POV sections) were better integrated to the plot and other characters; in one I felt the author hadn't put much thought into what the heroine should be like considering her background and backstory; and in the other, the character didn't feel very boldly drawn - she was not UNlikeable, but not likeable either. Just bland, really. So I suppose for me an unlikeable heroine isn't someone who does bad/mean things (necessarily) but someone who doesn't pull me into the story?

Tamora Pierce love! She was my first encounter with fantasy for girls, and left a very strong impression on me that I'm only recently getting to grips with.

[personal profile] miss_haitch 2010-03-26 09:18 am (UTC)(link)
My main experience with the Tamora Pierce books is with the Song of the Lioness, though I've read First Test and most of the Circle of Magic series. It's Alanna who has left the strongest impression. I read the first Alanna book when I was in primary school, and it blew my mind. Before that I'd read fairytales and loved them, and Lord of the Rings and loved it. But I hadn't encountered any contemporary fantasy that dealt with everyday problems in a frank way, and had a female protagonist . Alanna was my new favourite heroine, because she was only a bit older than me and had to learn to fight, and got nervous when talking to people. Then after a few years I got to read the later books in the quartet, and adored them. A cat who talked! And I loved all the characters, and her making friends with Khalasin and her friends in the desert - I think The Woman Who Rides Like a Man was partially responsible for my long-standing fascination with desert environments.

Then it sort of phased out. I moved onto David Eddings and more high-fantasy fare, and then later in my teenage years I discovered fanfic and the idea of a Mary Sue, and I looked down on the Tamora Pierce books, thinking they were "just" wish-fulfilment and a bit, y'know, girly. And a bit silly, using the idea of a girl passing as a boy to do something she wanted. Sort of not as "deep" as the other stuff I was reading.

It was last year that I re-read my copies of the Song of the Lioness and fell in love with them all over again with older eyes. I love that Alanna has to work so hard, and how, as Marie Brennan says in that article, it goes beyond her getting her wish and shows her dealing with the repercussions of being groundbreaking. I find them really darn good stories, and I really like the relationships, friendly and romantic.

I also invariably cry at the end of Lioness Rampant! Yep, I'm a sap.
surpassingly: (scene: mantled with the night)

[personal profile] surpassingly 2010-03-23 08:12 pm (UTC)(link)
Call me crazy, but an unlikeable heroine for me is one who is utterly unable to stand up for herself or others or is so compromising that she constantly, and to her own detriment, puts others--particularly the lead male character--before herself.

Same here. Heroines "sacrificing" themselves for heroes set my teeth on edge. I hate it, too, when authors write heroines that won't compromise, and then because they are so ~*~*stubborn*~*~ and independent-minded they run off and do things that require them to be rescued by the hero-- Okay, so I don't like thoughtless recklessness either, but really, I don't think it's the unwillingness to compromise that's at fault here.

I've been sitting here for a while trying to think of other things that consistently make it difficult for me to dislike heroines and... I'm coming up with blanks. I don't like overdone, obnoxious arrogance, of course; I have this thing for being polite to people (comes with my upbringing) but that basically applies across the board, not just to female leads. I can think of quite a few things that make heroes unlikeable for me, though.