Character Analysis: Heroines Part 2

After taking a look at heroines I didn’t like, the next step is to take a look at those I did like. When I first started this post, I thought it would basically be the exact opposite of what I didn’t like. It turned out a little more complex than that.

I have to have the basics from my last post: characters doing something, not being stupid, and the author not telling me one thing and showing me another. But as I think through what I like about the characters, there’s more to it.

RedRiding

Finders Keepers – I loved Trilby Elliott. She was getting by with shoestrings and duct tape to keep her ship intact. She’s a hacker extraordinaire. She cared about her friends, once had a little childhood crush, and was still stinging after being jilted by her ex. She had compassion and skepticism, and used both to make decisions.

Stephanie Plum Series – I liked Stephanie at the beginning of the series. It felt fresher and funnier to me than later. I liked her tenacity, practicality and New Jersey “manners”.

Earl Next Door – I liked the heroine’s tenacity. I liked her courage to go out on her own. I liked that she still loved and missed her father. She was not the refined sophisticate you find in many romance novels, but I liked her spunk, wit and determination. I like the way she stands up to an earl and marchioness.

Mad about the Marquess – I liked the heroine’s practicality. I liked her witty dialogue and unconventional approach. I liked her compassion for the less fortunate as demonstrated through her giving all of her ill-gotten gains to the poor.

Militess and the Mage – I  liked how strong the heroine was. How unrepentant about her lovers and her scars. She was the protector, and she never expected anyone else to come to her rescue.

 

So, where does this lead me? It tells me it takes more than just not making me hate a character to make me like them. I need the characters to not do stupid things, but I also need more to go from feeling meh about a character to liking them.

 

Active Characters – I like characters that are actively out there doing something.

  • The heroine in Finders Keepers trying to fix her ship so she can take another run so she can better fix her ship.
  • Stephanie Plum trying to pick her life up after being laid off.
  • The heroine in an Earl Next Door trying to start a new life.
  • The heroine in Mad about the Marquess trying to help the poor. The Militess trying to prevent war.

You can identify with them in some way – I may not be a hacker or freighter pilot, but I understand some of what the heroines are going through.

  • I get the heroine in Finders Keepers being dumped and struggling to get by.
  • I sympathize with Stephanie Plum trying to pick her life up after being laid off.
  • I get the family troubles of the heroine in an Earl Next Door.
  • I understand the overwhelming helplessness in the face of human need that drives the heroine in Mad about the Marquess.
  • I can see the pain of the Militess feeling unattractive and being the bastard daughter of the king.

No Damsels – This ties back into active characters, but as the heroines are doing their thing, they don’t need the hero. Yes, he helps them. Possibly more than they could’ve done on their own. But they’re not Princess Peach waiting around for Mario to rescue them. They’re bringing the fight to Bowser. And were doing so long before they met the hero, and will keep doing so long after they’ve met him. They’re sassy, practical, tenacious, and never doormats.

Character Analysis: Heroines 1.1

I am rescheduling my normal Monday book review to answer Mariah Avix‘s question: “What would have made you like these characters?”

That is fuel for thought and helps me better understand what I like to see in a character.

 

Stephanie Plum Series – I would’ve liked to see her become tougher, more bad*ss as the series progressed. I was on book four, and there had been absolutely no character growth. Part of the joy of a series is seeing the character grow into the challenges life has sent to them. Have her enroll in a fitness program. In a formal gun care and target practice program. Have her learn how to hide her family and friends from the bad guys. Let her become an amazing bounty hunter.

This changes who she is, and maybe she’s not entirely okay with it. But it’s part of her story. You have a series. Give her a character arc worthy of one.

 

Journey’s End – This is actually a really tough one as it basically forces a rewrite of the entire story. If it were me, I’d begin the story when she was already in the US rather than on the boat through Ellis Island.

I’d show her as a cold, ruthless woman that has done whatever it took to get to the top. All so she can tear down her grandfather. We’d see this through her actions. See her as a shadowy figure with a name that could be male or female so everyone would take her seriously. No one knows who she really is, but she is feared and respected. We see the wits and cunning she developed on the streets on London in her business dealings and take-no-prisoner behavior.

She has built this, done this, all so she can destroy the man that ruined her mother and left her to rot on the streets. He enjoyed wealth beyond imagine while she picked pockets to eat.

Let her be self-conscious of her low-brow accent and manners that she slips into even after years of trying to drill them out of herself.

Let us see that she fought for every scrap of knowledge she has. Yes, she can read, write, and is a numbers genius. But she fought for it. Every bit of it.

Give her a jaded eye on American upper crust society. People being foolish because a woman wore the same dress twice. Let her mock them ruthlessly. Let her be as cold and callous as someone from the streets would be over these “worries”.

As she is building up to finally being able to destroy her grandfather, to stepping from the shadows and revealing who she is as she takes him down, let her then and only then consider the price of revenge.

Is this who she wants to be? Is revenge worth the price to her, to the people who’ve come to depend on her? Will it cost her the man she loves? (Romance novel, remember?)

And if she does decide to put revenge on hold, make it cost her. She doesn’t get a happily-ever-after ending right away. She has to earn it.

After living her life for revenge, the sole driving force that got her through some of the darkest days of her life, she has to find a purpose and goal worthy to keep her going. Love will be part of it (this is a romance novel), but it has to be more. Perhaps jobs for those that were once in her straights. Perhaps education for the poor. Perhaps a crusader for workplace safety. Whatever.

You’re not going to convince me a woman like this will ever be happily simply as a top 1% wife.

 

Earl Next Door – I liked the heroine quite a bit, until she lost all of her personality and became the proverbial doormat in front of her mother.

I’d have liked to seen the heroine stand up to her mother, send the woman packing, whatever. But then the mother would’ve needed to be a more robust villain to continue to have a part after this. She’d have either needed something actual to use against the heroine, or she’d have needed to be far more scheming.

Perhaps the mother needed to arrange an “accident” for her daughter. Yes, murder is quite the villainy, but this author already had mustache twirling villains, so add it to the pile.

 

Mad about the Marquess – I liked the heroine until she started robbing coaches. Yup, she goes from petty theft to full-on armed robbery.

I think this was the author being in love with the idea of her heroine robbing stage coaches. Rather than earning this with an appropriate villain, back story and the rest, (think Robin Hood – you hate the Sheriff of Nottingham, and you’re fine with Robin Hood stealing given what the poor have been through), she just sort of tosses it in there.

Ruining both the heroine with the action, and the hero with how he responds to it.

She already had a perfectly good plot going on. She didn’t need to escalate to the nuclear option.

I’d have rather seen the conclusion of what happened after the hero figured out the heroine was the one stealing the bits and bobs at parties. Liked to have seen the author resolve that, have the hero force himself to learn why etc. Maybe respect her for it, and love her all the more for her compassion and ingenuity.

I mean, he had no actual proof he could bring before a magistrate (not that this appeared to matter later int he story w hen he knows she’s robbing coaches and still not doing anything about it). But he could’ve convinced himself he was looking for this proof as he learns more about her.

 

Study of Seduction – I have no idea how to reconcile a rape victim to her world and how to help her find happiness. So, I would’ve never had the heroine raped. There could just as easily be another reason that the gentleman who raped her had something bad happen to him.

Perhaps he attempted to take liberties, and that’s when her brother called him out. But then her brother wouldn’t have been banished, and that gets rid of the reason to have the hero with her. Of course, her brother could be otherwise indisposed all these years later, and the earl steps in for his friend. Wouldn’t take too much creativity to come up with something.

Or, perhaps something she inadvertently says or does gets him killed. whatever. Be creative, but make it something other than rape.

Than you can show me this effervescent, witty young woman who feels some guilt over the man’s death. That may have dimmed her a little, but it doesn’t become this huge and massive thing that ruins the rest of the story.

 

Deliver Me from Darkness – I hated this heroine  and hoped the author would find some interesting way to kill her by the end.

The heroine desperately needed to channel some Buffy. She needed to be as awesome as the author tells me she is. Maybe not at the beginning, but by the end? I want to see her staking vampires and holy-smiting demons. I want to see the rest of the Paladins staring at her in awe as she brings down the holy wrath of the One God.

This means no stupidity.

This means not tearing apart a guy’s apartment in a childish fit of rage and impotence. It means surveying your surroundings, figuring out what you can do to take him down. When he wakes up, she almost gets him. And this is the beginning.

When the rapey paladins try to mark her against her will? Let her tear the mark apart and leave the man that did it lying in agony on the floor. Let her tell them if any of them ever do it to her again, she will send them to the One God. Let her mean it, and let the threat be real. She is super powerful, after all.

It means no being dumb and going out after dark alone. Or if she does, let the demons that try hunt her learn just how much of her powers she’s come into. No being stupid and leaving her vampire bodyguard to go into the sunlight. Make the bad guys who want her earn it. Big losses as they throw wave after wave to take her down.

Better yet, don’t let them get her. Let her save herself and her vampire bodyguard.

If the author so desperately wants to make her a vampire rather than redeem the hero, this is the spot to do it. She saved them both, but she’s dying.

Given that this is a series about Paladins, I’d rather see him bite her to change her to a vampire and her blood redeem him. Once redeemed, he can now channel the One God to heal her.

 

Goblin King – I didn’t much care for the heroine in the beginning when she acted like a doormat to her controlling and abusive fiancee.

To get me to really like the heroine, the author needs to give me a better reason as to why she’s marrying the jerk. Maybe she was adrift after her father’s death and he offered the illusion of protection and love. An illusion shattered when she finds him with another woman. That could be the opening of the story.

Or maybe she’s marrying him because it’s who her father wanted her to marry him and she doesn’t want to disrespect him even in death.

Whatever. Just make it something that doesn’t make her look like an idiot. Also, make sure she graduated from law school. C’mon.

Give the heroine more in the solving her lover’s issue. Let her find the cure. Let some insight she has lead to the cure. The entire second half of the book is a lot of sitting around whining about their plight and doing nothing.

Make them do something, and give her an integral part in it. Then, let their actions resolve the curse.

Character Analysis: Heroines Part 1

As I have been reading and posting reviews, I thought it would be a good idea to take Mariah Avix’s advice and do a bit more thinking about what I like and what I  don’t like.

Angel

To keep this discussion within the confines of reasonable, I thought I would break it up into a couple of different posts.

I thought I’d start with the past few books where I haven’t liked the heroine, or I started to not like the heroine by the end of the series.

 

Stephanie Plum Series – I actually liked Stephanie at the beginning of the series. She was thrown a curve ball with losing her job and did what she needed to do to get by. But I grew annoyed with her as the series progressed and she neither became a better bounty hunter nor attempted to find other employment. (No character arc in sight).

Journey’s End – Another heroine I strongly disliked. All the interesting and intelligent things she did were in her backstory. The novel itself showed her to be directionless and easily swayed.

Earl Next Door – I liked the heroine until she wilted in front of her mother.

Mad about the Marquess – I liked the heroine until she started robbing coaches.

Study of Seduction – I never really liked the heroine. I had a huge disconnect between the witty vibrant woman the author told me she was and the frightened rape victim she was portrayed as. She never really tried to take back her life and was “content” to let her brother stay in hiding to defend her honor while she spent her life as a spinster.  She didn’t even do a whole lot when the French diplomat started stalking her.

Deliver Me from Darkness – I hated this heroine  and hoped the author would find some interesting way to kill her by the end. She repeatedly did stupid things, and I was so tired of hearing how amazing and powerful she was when all she did was play the damsel in distress.

Goblin King – I didn’t much care for the heroine in the beginning when she acted like a doormat to her controlling and abusive fiancee.

 

As I think through all of these scenarios, a couple of things stands out to me:

  1. Passive Characters –  these seem to be #1 on my dislike list. I want characters to be actively solving their problems, and when they aren’t, they annoy me. A lot. In the Goblin King, I only started to like the heroine when she grew a spine and started standing up to her fiancee. In Deliver Me from Darkness, I hated the character all the way through because she never did anything for herself. Same with Study of Seduction. She endured a terrible ordeal, but she allowed her brother to reside in exile while she pursued the life of a spinster. Even when she’s being stalked by the diplomat, she does very little.
  2. Characters Different than the Author “tells” me– This is probably due to a certain amount of cognitive dissonance. I am “told” a character is one way, and they act another. In Journey’s End, I am told the character is form the worst part of London. Yet she walks and talks like an American from the top 1%. I’m told how tough she is and how rough she’s had it, but she’s trusting and foolish in the story. Deliver Me from Darkness was really awful about this. The author repeatedly tells me how powerful the character is. All I ever see is her being saved over and over and over again.
  3. Characters Doing Stupid Things – This is a big one. I started to dislike Stephanie when she kept doing things that kept getting her in trouble. She was an agent of her own misery. Mad about the Marquess was fabulous until the heroine decides highway robbery is the “logical” next step after pilfering forgotten trinkets. And the heroine in Deliver Me from Darkness did so many stupid things I wondered how she was smart enough to breathe. Sure, go outside after dark, and not even realize it’s still dark until after the door closes and locks behind you. And yeah, after your vampire bodyguard says not to go outside in the light, go right ahead and do that, too. Thank god she became undead before she could procreate.

 

How I Finished My First Rewrite

I finally finished my first rewrite of my second novel.

fireworks-574739_640
Let the celebration commence!

 

I’d love to tell you I did it through sheer determination and laser focus. The truth is it had more to do with my bad habit of not being able to set aside a crummy book than any inner will power.

The book I’m reading is terrible. I don’t like the hero or the woman he thinks he wants to marry. The woman the author is setting him up to fall in love with started out fine, but now she’s annoying me. The plot is so sparse as to be non-existent, and a single two minute conversation which could’ve and should’ve been had would have solved all issues up to where I am in the story. Which is page 239 of 321.

But it did mean when I stopped writing and opened up my kindle app, I didn’t actually want to read what was there. And I am terrible about putting a book aside . . .

So, I focused on my revision.

After finishing the revision, I went back through a couple more times to smooth it as the revision was more like rewriting over half of what was there. I’m sure I have a lot more fixes coming, but at the moment, I want to wait and see if my beta readers find any glaring errors in the characters or plot.

I am considering setting aside the fantasy romance I’ve been writing and trying my hand at a Regency novel. I read them and enjoy them as I haven’t been able to find much in the fantasy romance genre but can always find Regency. As such, I’ve read a great many Regency novels of late even as I’ve been looking for more with knights, magic, and maybe an elf or three.

Book Review: Finder’s Keepers

Rating: 6/5 stars

Title: Finger’s Keepers

Author: Linnea Sinclair

 

It’s been a long time since I have come across a book this good.

Best I have read all year. So yes, I am giving it six stars.

If you like science fiction and a good romance, this book is for you.  The romance is good as is the plot. The two are perfectly intertwined, and I feel like the book would’ve been flat without either. Really the first book I have read in ages where both the plot and romance are so well crafted.

For the story itself, imagine Han Solo is a woman and Darth Vader isn’t really evil and isn’t more machine than man. And there you have an amazing set-up for the story.

toy-932922_640

The story starts out with Trilby Elliot seeing a spacecraft crash near her own dilapidated ship. Nothing quite works right on her ship, she has no money to repair it, and even those things that work have a few faults, including her droid co-pilot. Sounds like the Millennium Falcon and C3PO, right?

She goes to the crash site to salvage it and instead of finding a ‘Sco enemy, she finds an Imperial officer who was escaping from the ‘Sco. She takes him back to patch him up.

When Tivahr wakes up in sick bay, he’s determined to get back to the Empire and tell them what he learned in ‘Sco territory. He thinks it’s important enough that the Empire itself is at risk. Rather than telling her he’s the High Captain of the Enterprise, err, Razalka (the fastest, best armed Hunter ship around and the height of Imperial technology), he lies and says he’s a lieutenant.

Eventually the two start working together to get her ship flight worthy. She’s had trouble with men and recently broke up with a man that was rich, wealthy and powerful. She is very happy “Rhys” is only a lieutenant. He “gets” what it’s like to have to take orders even if he does do it aboard a cushy top-of-the-line Imperial ship.

Things get steamy between them, and I love the fact that she jumps him.

They finally get her ship up and working. Rhys is a hacker extraordinaire, even better than Trilby. And that’s saying something.

On their way out, they get attacked by the ‘Sco.  They survive because Rhys is awesome, and he uses the opportunity to convince her to go back to Imperial space and rendezvous with his ship.

There are some hijinks as they meet up with his ship, but this was the only part of the book I wanted to hurry up. I was annoyed how long it took her to stop hating Tivahr because he lied and said he was lieutenant. Of course he lied. Who would make themselves out to be a better hostage?

It doesn’t take them too long to figure out that it was the data banks on her ship the ‘Sco were after. Why? Because her ship is old, and the data banks on it are even older. And there are some forgotten back doors into empire territory that the ‘Sco want, especially as they are making a deal with the Conclave. This could mean war all over again, and this time, the Empire will be at a severe disadvantage.

 

Pros

  1. The story has a plot. A good one.
  2. I loved Trillby. She’s strong willed, a skilled hacker, and a good pilot. She’s also compassionate, loves her friends, and does her best to keep herself fed.
  3. I loved “Rhys” or Tivahr the Terrible. Yes, he’s a demanding jerk when he gets back to his ship. In control. Powerful. But he still loves Trilby, and it makes him human and you can identify with him. He also did laundry for her and got the towels fluffy.
  4. I loved that Rhys changed by the end of the book. Still arrogant. But not loathsome.
  5. Their romance was earned. It wasn’t love at first sight. As a matter-of-fact, he had to overcome the fact he took her hostage at first sight.
  6. And he fixes her droid for her. True love, that.
  7. The romance is sweet and tender. A true romance.
  8. The steamy scenes are steamy, but also tender and passionate. Not something you’ll go back to reread, but fit very well in the story.
  9. The world building is spectacular. I don’t know what a mizzet is, but I know their farts are foul. Lots of colloquialisms unique to the world, and even snippets of an Imperial language. Never overdone, never bossy or in your face. Very well done, in fact.
  10. Easy to hate the ‘Sco and Trillby’s ex without either being over-the-top.

 

 

Cons

  1. The only con to the story was when Trilby was being irrational about Rhys lying, and the whole thing didn’t feel in character for her. I get that the author didn’t want to get them together too soon, but with all the other tension of the plot going on in the book, it would’ve been fine for this to be less of an issue than it was.

 

Okay, so yeah, only one con in the whole book. It was fabulous. I devoured it in less than 24 hours and had to force myself to put it down to go to bed Saturday night. So glad I started reading it on a weekend as I finished it Sunday morning! I am definitely going to check out this author’s other books.

 

Failure of the One Week Ban

I completely failed not reading for a week. As a matter of fact, I failed within 24 hours of making the post!

fire-1391676_640
Resolution up in flames.

It’s just too easy and too enjoyable to kick back and open a book while I sit with the kids and they play. So much better than Sesame Street, let me tell you.

And once I’m into the book, I want to see it through. I want to know what happens, and will usually keep on reading even if the story is a train wreck. That’s something I need to be better about, but then I do sometimes learn something from the bad as well as the good. I just don’t need to spend quite so much time with the bad.

Perhaps the ease is part of the problem. My Kindle app has made it so easy to get new books, and so easy to read them that I am perhaps spending more time reading that writing.

Okay, I am definitely spending more time reading that writing.

Not that it’s an entirely bad thing for a writer, but it’s still a thing.

I won’t lie and pretend it’s research or that it will make my writing better by simply reading. I know that it takes thought to turn what you read into a lesson of what to do or not do with your writing. Best of all worlds is to have someone to critique it with, especially if they don’t agree with all of your views.

While I don’t have a critique partner, I do try to force myself to think through and write a review. Still working out the best review format for others to decide if they want to give the book a try and for me to get the most out of writing the review.

I suppose there are worse things I could be doing than reading.

Or better. Like reading while on the elliptical. Or actually writing.