Mr. Pond

Last night we were watching a Midsomer Murders episode, ‘The Axeman Cometh’, and I told my mother* that this is the episode where Cully meets the man she will marry.

I won’t get into tonnes of detail, because boring!, but when we realized which guy it had to be, my mother frowned and said, “That guy? Ugh. He’s so… bleh.”

I shrugged and said, “Hey, he could be a Rory.” And that made her reconsider and nod.

For those not in the know, Rory is Rory Williams, a companion from Doctor Who. He’s also regularly referred to as Mr. Pond (an inside joke). When we are first introduced to Rory, most of us viewers were perplexed; what the hell did Amy see in this dude? After a season or so, however, he becomes one of the favourites, and without whom the show would have been a sadder and more terrible place. The character helps to forge a new path for romantic male leads, avoiding all the more toxic male tropes. While not the first of this type, he’s probably one of the most well known.

So now whenever we run into a less than promising new male character, we give him a chance, because he might be a Rory; slow to grow on you, but eventually he wins your heart.

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*Midsomer Murders are one of the shows my mother and I managed to compromise on; we’re still catching up, but we’re getting there!

Love/Hate Tropes #3: Sexy Villains

Who can resist the allure of a Sexy Villain? Whether in movies or books, there’s something so delightfully wrong about a bad guy you can’t quite manage to hate.

The Marvel Studios: "Thor: The Dark World" And "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" - Comic-Con International 2013

Except for the fact that they are, actually, the villain. They hurt and maim people. They’re selfish and egotistical, and they lack the ability to care about others. Which is pretty unsexy.

I think this happens when the MC is either really fucking boring (Hi, movie Thor!) or is sexually attracted to the villain because the writer wanted to add some tension.

With the first one, I have noticed that it’s more obvious in movies than in books, though it certainly exist there too. Some writers have a harder time fleshing out the hero; it’s like they have to be Perfect with only a couple of minor flaws. But that only makes them harder to identify with. In the comic books, Thor has more personality (no, really!), but it seems to have evaporated in the movies in favour of rock hard abs*. Abs are fine and dandy, but I’ll take depth of personality any day.

A secondary version of this type is that the writers go too far with the flaws, making the MC harder to like, while the villain is easier to relate to. I’ve seen this one more often in ‘chick lit’, where the female MC spends all their time fretting over life, rather than owning her choices. The ‘bad boy’ she shouldn’t chose at least generally has his shit together, at least in comparison to the MC.

For the sexual tension between MC and villain, it can be a very tricky road to go down. I remember reading about how LKH originally planned to have her MC Anita Blake to kill off Jean-Claude, but by the time the writer got to that book, she just couldn’t do it. She then had to create more backstory to validate keeping him ‘alive’; not necessarily a bad thing, but definitely more work!

So unless you don’t mind the villain sticking around and taking over the whole story, be careful about making them sexy!

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*Why yes, I do have some issues with the Thor movies, why do you ask? 🙂

 

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!