Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Favourite Characters and Pet Peeves


Following on from Dave's excellent post on favourite characters -- Georgette Heyer is one of my all time favourite authors. My copy of Black Sheep fell to pieces about 5 years ago. I loved the interaction between Miles and (Sarah?) the female protagonist. Both were intelligent but more than that, they shared the ability to see the abdurdity in life.

Another favourite character of mine is yet another Miles -- Lois Mcmaster Bujold's Miles Vorkosigan. Talk about a protagonist with frailities!

My pet peeve when it comes to books or movies is characters who do dumb things. If I'm reading a book and the protagonist does the fictional equivalent of the horror movie babysitter, who goes outside to investigate a strange noise, I feel like throwing the book. I feel the character doesn't deserves the investment of my emotional commitment to them and their problem.

If I read a book and the characters live on for me afterwards, it means they've come to life for me. I love it when this happens.

What are your pet peeves?

13 comments:

John Lambshead said...

Dear Rowena

It just has to be political ideology. I hate being preached at about the necessity for a socialist, free-market, neo-con, etc etc.

John

Dave Freer said...

"Abigail, maids and Mashams" (the heroine from Black Sheep)

My pet peeve -- and (braces himself onslaught of outraged feminists) it's one female writers are more prone to than male ones -- has to be the gung-ho action-he man pausing for a long bit of angst mid-action scene. Note: there are plenty of female authors who avoid this death trap - I've never seen Sarah do it. It's notthat your gung-ho action-he man isn't capable of angst. He's just not capable of angst just then. Because the first time it happened, he would die. trust me on this. I often agonise over the singly stupid action I have/am going to take - whether lunging for the handhold you hope is there or stick your hand into the moray hole that you hope isn't full of moray. But never ever in the middle of doing them.

Amanda said...

Other than the Mary Sue who somehow manages to come through all manner of disaster with nary a hangnail, my pet peeve sort of follows what Dave said. It comes most often from female writers and I hope I'm not guilty of it -- the female character who has to be more macho, stronger, faster and meaner than any male in the story and yet who can, in the blink of an eye, become the brainless, panting sex goddess. I'm still recovering from the whiplash I got the last time I read one of those characters.

John Lambshead said...

Less about panting sex goddesses, if you please Amanda. At my age the mental images generated could be fatal.
John

Anton Gully said...

"I'm still recovering from the whiplash I got the last time I read one of those characters."

Kinky.

But seriously, I agree with John regarding ideology. It's ruined so much post apocalyptic fiction.

Amanda said...

Now you know how I felt when Dave mentioned the gung-ho action-he man, JOhn. Be still my beating heart [VBG]

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Gungho Male Heroes angsting during action scenes.

I love troubled heroes, but I get this point. Now I'm thinking back, ultra paranoid, about my hero's action scenes.

Female Heroes being more macho than males, then turning into panting sex machines.

I detest female protagonists who are five feet four and can outrun, out-wrestle 6 foot males. Even with martial arts training, weight to weight a woman cannot beat a man unless she gets in a lucky strike, then kicks him while he's down. And that is not hero material, how ever realistic it might be.

Preaching in any form.

Absolutely.

What about Miles Vorkisigan as the ultimate challenged hero? Anyone else read Lois Mcmaster Bujold's Barrayr series?

WangZheng259 said...

I greatly dislike being preached to about current day politics. I also dislike blatent research screw ups, confused thinking, good stories that stop without ending, and slams against the profession of engineering.

I think quite a lot of people here have read Bujold. I admire Miles' ability to overcome obstacles.

Dave Freer said...

(Smile)"I detest female protagonists who are five feet four and can outrun, out-wrestle 6 foot males." Erm. Rowena, I've know a couple of these. In my son's post matric bunch 6 girls 6 boys - 8 of whom had played some form of sport at provincial level, and the others at least first-team sport of some sort - it was a very physical crew. Only one of the boys was under 6", and not by much. Clare - who is about 5'5" and weighs nothing + a megtonne of bloody-minded determination, usually placed second or third (against different competitors) in every sport from swimming, running, cycling, rock-climbing, and top at various ball games. Your average 6 footer she would simply have mauled. As far as I know she never did any wrestling ;-), but I would rather pick on a bengal tiger. Oh and she's now placing in the top five in her subject at Cambridge so she's brighter than most 6 foot males too. As a relatively short but very aggressive schoolboy and young conscript I used to get into a fight about once a week (and I have the zig-zag nose to prove it). When you're talking about your martial arts matching some level of skills and aggression, what you say is true. However if your small protag is fast and nasty and experienced and determined against someone who isn't... it's not a foregone conclusion. A historical case of a woman wrestler beating men with monotonous regularity - see Khutulun :-). They're rare, but do exist.
The point is you do need to make sure your reader knows this and understands the reasons for it, or its a case of that's ok in real life, but too implausible for fiction.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Okay Dave, all things being equal.

The female protagonist knows martial arts. Her enemy knows martial art. She is just not going to have the muscle to beat him. I did 5 years Tae Kwon Do, the same for Aikido and Iaido. I was fighting guys my size or bigger all the time. They had the same training as me. I knew I could throw them, but if they got up angry and got inside my guard and it became muscle against muscle I didn't stand a chance.

Having said that, before I had any martial arts training, I fought off an attacker. And again after I had done 5 years of Tae Kwon Do, I fought off an attacker. He kept coming at me, I kept kicking until he backed off.

As for out-running someone, there's speed and then there's endurance. Sheer guts and determination is what counts.

I guess what annoys me is people writing fight scenes where the female character comes across as a super hero.

Dave Freer said...

What I was getting at was IF your female protag is going to win (and it is not impossible) you have to prime your audience. Eg - asking me to believe that woman tennis pro beat man tennis pro - as in martial arts eg, is a big ask. Asking me to belive Venus Williams gave the average male club player a licking is no ask at all. ie the top 2% against the top 2% - no contest, agreed. The top 2% against the bottom 50%... the top two will win, because it is fit, skilled, and knows it can't afford to get to muscle on muscle.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

And I was agreeing with you, Dave.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Er... Like Dave I used to get into fights with astonishing regularity. And I could beat MULTIPLE people my size at once. I'd peg it as once I was in the fight, I didn't give a damn, they were going down and I wasn't. So, yes, bloodymindeness. Also, if I may be permitted to be sexist, your average female is twice as evil-minded as your average male. We just are. Seems to be the way we're put together. But, yes, Rowena, the audience has to be primed, and I absolutely agree with you on the girl who can do everything because of grrrrl power or something. I used to DESPISE the stories of girls saving the world, sword in hand, while the cowering males shivered behind them.

Actually, though like John I despite -- at this point even fairly subtle -- preaching of any sort that doesn't feel "right" for the book or society, I HATE, LOATHE and despise a certain type of feminist who seems to feel the need to ... I don't know... compensate? in her books. In these books women are all wise and all powerful and men are washed-up dumb blonds, venal and abusing. This gets me to drop a book -- often in the trash can, with an exclamation of disgust -- faster than anything else.