Sunday, May 2, 2010

Confessions of a Wimpy Author

"If a girl's too wimpy, the reader hopes she dies."

~Bryan Davis at the Florida Christian Writer's Conference

After reading a blog post on heroines, I started thinking about my female characters. Upon reflection, I came to the painful recognition that my novella heroines are "wimpy." On the other hand, my short story heroines are both bold and loving. So I will quickly introduce them to prove that I can write strong characters, and then contrast them with my novella heroines.

In my story Sakuntala, Laia, a nomadic outcast from a desert tribe, stands up against a false religion at the risk of her own life:

Gripping the radona with both hands, Laia raised it above her head. “I am no longer Anista, the Cursed, or Sakuntala, one of the Lady’s Children. I am Laia, daughter of Adonai, the only true god!”Before the final syllable passed her lips, Laia brought the radona down upon her knees.

In my story Tiend, a young faerie named Aine is chosen as the tiend, the tithe, to the dark Seventh Lord, but her love and the love of her brother destroys the Seventh Lord forever:

A young man stepped forward, followed by an old woman. The Tiend poured forth from the oak like a gushing spring after the frozen winter. Each of their footsteps on the emerald grass added seven years of age to Saman’s face till it resembled a bony mask. AinĂ© rose to her feet, staring the Seventh Lord in the eyes. “Your time has ended.”

Finally, Skye, a potential novella-in-waiting, focuses on two half-human, half-avian, girls who escape from imprisonment in a lab. Even after one of them dies, the other returns to rescue their friends:

Go back.

Images of the past months—of life—burned inside. The ever-changing sky—platters of steaming cookies—Hannah’s wrinkled, compassionate face—

I can’t, I protested. I can’t—Lark, I have to leave. But I’ll be back. My own words blew against my protests. I promise. See the blue?''

All three of these girls--ranging in age from twelve to early twenties--showed courage rooted in love. One of my novella heroines lacks the courage; the other lacks just about everything, including love.

Loren of Fettered Wings, who I mentioned briefly in my post "Of Characters," is a sucidial, depressed cutter. While I can attempt to blame this on her mother (who is somewhere between a physcological disorder and demon possession,) Loren also suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and has bound wings.

Well, maybe she's not "wimpy," but she's angesty and very difficult to work with:

“What is love?” Loren’s expression seemed to gaze into a past distant beyond count. “I don’t remember anymore.”
She leaned over the edge.
“DON’T!” Aurel screamed. She lunged at Loren, wrapping her arms around Loren’s legs just before Loren would have jumped.
“Let go of me,” Loren snarled. Her face twisted in rage, and I feared the demon of anger that held Mother captive had taken her too. She reached in her pocket and grabbed out a knife. Loren stabbed wildly at the air. “Let me go!”

So I switched to her brother's viewpoint for NaNoWriMo 08, but that's another story that might need its own blog post.

My other "wimpy" heroine is Abigail from Three Dark Roses. To be fair, she does have untreated anemia, and her entire family dies barely a fourth of the way into the story.

But it wasn’t home anymore. It was so empty now. If I opened my eyes, I might expect to see Mother leaning over me. If I listened, I might imagine Father’s cello. So I stopped up my ears and squeezed my eyes shut. Now my hands were cold, so cold, freezing like the snow and the breeze that had struck down the roses. At the same time fever ran through my veins, burning like coals and fire in my body. And where the ice and fire met the pain twisted my limbs from the inside. I screamed, screaming, but the sound might not have left my mouth. Elizabeth hugged my closer, rocking me back and forth like an infant. “Shh, shh…Abigail, Abigail, hold on. Hold on.”

On the other hand, her love is much stronger then her frail body, and by the end of the story, she stands up to evil despite physical torture.

Maybe one reason my characters are kind of wimpy is because I'm kind of wimpy physically. I'm a stringbean, all length and no muscle, plus allergies for over three-fourths of the year and sometimes sinus infections. But heroes don't have to be physically strong.

In the VeggieTales film The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything, one character says, "The hero isn’t the tallest or the strongest or the best looking. The hero is the one who does what’s right."

That's something everyone can do.

No matter how wimpy.


  1. I don't have problems with wimpy. My characters are too heroic, and I don't know how to fix that.

  2. "I'm a stringbean, all length and no muscle"
    Heh heh... me too. ;) Although, I'm kind of a short stringbean...

    I think the last thing you said is very important. Even if your main character is physically "wimpy," they can still be a wonderful hero if they have "inner strength." Also, I think it is important that they grow and gain more resolve throughout the course of the story.

    Your short stories sound fascinating! I love the excerpts.

    P.S. Do you think any of the characters in Bluewillow are wimpy? (Be honest)

  3. Aidan...that's an interesting problem. How are they too heroic? Is it Sue-heroes, where they can do anything and never get hurt, or do that not care about others?
    Evergreena, the short stories--not the novellas--can be found at ApricotPie under the name of Kestrel. And no, I think your charries are well-rounded and unwimpy.

  4. A day late. ^^ Do pardon me. I was absent from the computer for the most part yesterday.

    Wimpy heroines... I don't know if I've have that problem. I could almost agree with Aidan and say that it's very possible for them to be too heroic. One of my main characters keeps going even after numerous wounds. She's seriously disabled - both mentally and physically - but she never stops fighting. Sometimes I think that I might be writing too much heroism in her. ^^

    I like Abigail. So either I like wimpy characters or she doesn't exactly fit the category. :P

    And indeed your short stories are fascinating. Is Skye part of a longer work? Because I simply loved what you posted on ApricotPie. It brought the tears to my eyes.

  5. Huzzah for stringbeans! =D And oh! allergies. *fetches kleenex box* =P I share your pain.

    Hmm... I think my heroines are either wimpy or cheesey. =/ Not a good combination.

  6. Gwen, Skye might become a longer story. It lost to Three Dark Roses for the dubious honor of NaNoNovel 09.