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One highly opinionated feminist YA nerd's twisted, snarky and informative journey through the genre's perils, pitfalls and sparkles.

How am I writing? Another open thread.

I managed to write just under 1500 words of my book today so I'm feeling particularly jazzed up. The scene is mainly talking with a lot of exposition but I'm hoping that to others it reads as snappy and interesting. It probably won't but right now I just want to get the first draft finished by next year, my 2011 resolution.

Let's talk about protagonists. What do you look for in a hero/heroine when you write/read? I'm a strong supporter of a kickarse protagonist although true strength isn't just in how well you can kick and punch (although if I do say so myself, my heroine is a bit of a show off with a sword!) A weak heroine can kill a story stone dead for me, especially when it's left to other, usually male, characters to do all the legwork. I think through the process of attempting to write this story I've spent most of my worrying time (for I worry a lot) fretting over my heroine. I want her to be strong, confident and smart but not verge into the dreaded Mary Sue territory (true story; when I was writing her appearance I wanted to give her the initial characteristics of the archetypal Disney princess except have them end up not being attractive which I thought was a good idea until I realised the description sounded a lot like myself, so she now has a completely different appearance!) Being able to relate to a character isn't always necessary, although it does help with some stories, but being able to empathise with them is if you want to portray them as a hero.

Which book characters do you consider great heroes and heroines? If I had to pick just one character to be my absolute favourite it would be Sally Lockhart from Philip Pullman's Sally Lockhart quartet, which I actually prefer to His Dark Materials. Sally's a strong, independent woman working to look after herself in a time when it was uncommon for women to do so, she scowls then laughs in the face of adversity, uses her brains, can handle herself with a weapon and doesn't let anything stand in her way. She shudders at the idea of having a man own her and always makes sure equality is key. I'm such a sucker for Victorian detective stories and Sally Lockhart is the standard I hold every other YA heroine up to, and that's one bloody high standard for me. Just don't talk to me about the TV adaptation - I'm still annoyed at Billie Piper being miscast in that role.

Friends, writers, bloggers, how have you been writing today?

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8 comments:

fromthisgirl said...

Off the top of my head, Katniss from The Hunger Games and Alexia from Soulles come up as some of my favorite heroines (and although it's technically not considered YA, Hermione from HP is my all time favorite). I don't think too many people liked Katniss because, quite frankly, she's not a very sweet person but I totally love that she's like that.

I think I usually look for realistic flaws in me hero/heroine, otherwise I might get bored with them. I hate it when stubborness is made to be the only flaw, because that often turns into a thinly veiled attempt at getting the reader to think that the protagonist is more than stubborn but heroic. You know those scenes in which, against all warnings, a hero/heroine repeatedly does things that the other characters consider to be stupid yet the reader is supposed to think of as brave? There are situations in which I think that's done correctly, but most YA books fail at it.

R.R. said...

Sabriel and Lirael are my two favorite lead female characters.

I love all kinds of heroines, actually. But I stick to mostly strong, mentally as opposed to physically.

And 1.5k? I usually write 2k a day, but it's been hard to keep a regular schedule with my family over and me not having a nice quiet writing space.

Jean said...

I'll have to second Hermione, because she came instantly to mind when I think of great heroines. Ginny too - she wasn't just a love interest, but a fully formed character from the moment she appeared on the page. Sophie(Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones), George(Feed by Mira Grant), Joanne(The Walker Papers by C.E. Murphy), and Dru(Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow) are my top picks. For heroes - Kvothe(The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss), Harry Dresden(The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher), and John Geary(The Lost Fleet by Jack Campbell, which is dry reading at times, but a fascinating character)... I'm having a hard time coming up with many great heroes, I guess because I tend to read books with female main characters more often.

I like characters with agency, that Act as well as React. Characters that are clever as well as being intelligent, who use a mixture of their intelligence and strength in fights and are willing to acknowledge their flaws. I also like characters that always hold something back, because how many people really are completely up front with others? I have a soft spot for geeks and characters with interesting families and/or dark pasts.

I unfortunately haven't done any writing today, but I have put a lot of work into my novel this week, and as well a couple short stories.

Bronwyn Scott-McCharen said...

In YA, my current favorite heroine is Bianca from The DUFF by Kody Keplinger. Just because she's kinda fierce and didn't take shit from anyone, but at the same time, she didn't feel like a poorly drawn caricature of a "strong female character." She was real, at least to me. I also really like the narrator of Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak. She also felt real to me and was strong too.

Not in YA, my favorite heroines come from my favorite novel ever, The Invisible Mountain by Carolina de Robertis. All three generations of women she profiles remain super strong and amazing, even after they go through some terrible things (my favorite though is Salome, probably because she's an urban guerrilla who ends up imprisoned).

I actually finished two novels this year (both in December, which means I've done quite a bit of writing lately, which I'm super proud of) that I'm madly in love with. :D

Anonymous said...

It's weird that just today I was making a list in my head of my fave heroines, before I saw this. 0_o

Like another poster, I love Sabriel and Lirael. They're kickass but are realistic enough for me to relate to, and they undergo a lot of character development. When I was younger, my favorites were Eowyn from the Lord of the Rings, Lyra from the Golden Compass (she was kind of a brat, but very gutsy), Eilonwy from the Prydain books (her inane similes made me laugh), and Moql/Saaski from The Moorchild. The author did a great job of making a half-fairy half-human character that didn't really belong anywhere, and to date The Moorchild the only changeling-centered book I can stand.

I also like Karigan from Green Rider and Lale from Assassins of Tamurin. Not technically YA, but yeah. In recent YA, I just read "Plain Kate" and found it, and its heroine, quite good, though her development is more subtle.

As for writing, I haven't gotten much done since Christmas, though I had a couple ideas for future scenes yesterday and today. Getting the rough draft done is definitely my New Year's resolution.

Callie said...

My all-time favorite YA heroine is definitely Tiffany Aching. She's one of the most capable, smart, fascinating characters out there. I also love Cimorene from the Enchanted Forest Chronicles (a hilarious deconstruction of the fairy-tale princess), Kel from The Protector of the Small (the whole series is pretty much her out-badassing everyone else by being ridiculously determined), and Sophie from Howl's Moving Castle. Honorable mentions go to Ella from Ella Enchanted and Aravis from The Horse and His Boy.

As for male protagonists, one of my favorites is Kavi from Hilari Bell's Farsala Trilogy, a criminally underrated YA series. Eugenides the Thief and Artemis Fowl are also great. Sam Vimes from the Discworld series deserves a mention as well, even though it's not YA.

Meagan Elizabeth Hightower said...

I have to second Katniss and Hermione for some of the same reasons another person posted. I also agree with Ella and Sophie.

As for writing, I'm starting my new story.

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