Loose Characters: A Crankypants Reading Rant, In Brief

 

I’m feeling a tad pet-peevish about my reading lately. It seems everywhere I turn, there are a few tropes and archetypes that just keep cropping up over and over — ones that jerk me out of a story instead of feeling organic. Allow me to vent. Wait, this is my own blog. I don’t need your permission! So, without further ado…

1. The virgin or near-virgin heroine who has never known pleasure until the hero and his holy thunderstick come into the picture. Girlfriend, get a vibrator!

2. The manwhore hero who has never spent the whole night actually sleeping with a woman. Because when he hogs the covers and Dutch-ovens you, that’s how you know it’s true love.

3. The heroine who thinks all other women are slutty ho-bags who are too tall/too skinny/too blonde, etc. No. Just no.

4. “I’m recovering from emotional or medical trauma, and instead of seeing a therapist or considering medication, I’m going to visit a sex club and get a Dom! ” BDSM is not a cure-all. Being a submissive will not magically heal your soul, your cancer, your self-esteem or your genital warts. This goes for vanilla folk, too: The Love of a Good Man/Woman/Perpetual Threesome does not heal all wounds. For Pete’s sake (or mine), go see a medical professional or get a life coach and THEN get your sexual groove on.

5. The stripper who is only a stripper to pay for college/a relative’s medical care and, therefore, is allowed to snark on all other strippers as being sluts, whores and generally low-class people. See #3. Slamming other women’s choices is NOT an endearing quality in a heroine. Just because your hoo-ha is magic doesn’t mean it’s any more saintly in a g-string than the next girl’s.

[/rant]

Going Pro: What Gets Lost in the Move?

Years ago, when discussing fan fiction, I would make the analogy that it’s like babysitting your neighbors’ kids: You get to practice with these characters for a few hours, see what it’s like, and then give them back. In more recent days, I’m coming to see a flaw to that logic. Because no two children are alike. Ergo, borrowing Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s adorable twins for a few hours and taking them out for ice cream may not exactly prepare you for when you bring forth the Bad  Seed, who only knows the word “no!” and gains great glee from seeing you accessorize with mashed peas.

Writing fan fiction does not necessarily prepare you to build your own stories from the ground up, because — to use another metaphor — you’re renting a furnished apartment, walking around in rooms someone else has already designed. There’s only so much you can do with those walls…even if you’re writing a coffeeshop AU (alternate universe) or setting The Avengers in high school. You’re constrained, you learn to write within certain confines and your authorial voice takes on a certain tone as a result. It’s, dare I say it, almost like coming out of a college creative writing program where everybody expects you to write literary fiction and be as obscure and artsy as possible. There’s a…sameness, not necessarily in content or theme, but in structure and in how fic writers handle characters.

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