Love/Hate Trope #2: Damsels in Distress

I was originally going to make this my first post about tropes I’ve both loved and hated. And then I was reminded of one I mostly just hated, lol.

As a reader, Damsels in Distress frustrated me. If the main character is a guy, then having the main female character as merely a prize was pretty boring after a while, and I’d just lose interest in reading those authors. If the MC is a woman, but is still mostly a damsel, I also get bored. Why did the woman always have to be saved? I didn’t get it. I need to have the main characters drive the action, and not the other way around. And that has to include all of the heroes.

Once I started writing, I came to hate the trope with a passion. Mostly because I kept writing Damsels! It took me ages to figure out the importance of things like character motivation, delaying conflict resolution, etc.

I recently discovered a nasty truth about my writing; when I’m more concerned about wordcount than anything else (why, hello, Nanowrimo!), I get super lazy. I will meander along, writing piles of descriptions rather than plot. Later, having fallen desperately behind in terms of plot, I will ruthlessly do whatever it takes to force the story forward.

All of which leads to this confession: during Nano, many of my MCs devolve into Damsels in Distress. There’s even a trope for the process: Chickification. In my drive to get the plot back on track, I turn my lead characters into passive dolls that I toss around without a thought for their characterization. I end up with characters that are little more than stereotypes, filling in space till I theoretically go back and fix it. Except once it’s that messed up, the last thing I want to do is revamp it.

This year for Nanowrimo, I’m actually going to try and keep better control of my writing right off the bat; hopefully I’ll not only get the storyline done, but keep the characters intact!


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