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"Chloe Harris" really is the pseudonym for two writers, Noelle and Barbra, who've joined forces to write intriguing and sexy stories. A quintessential eccentric southerner, Noelle seems to find a story in almost everything. Ever ambitious to change her stars, she has a degree in Communications. Barbra lives together with her cat ('Princess Mimi'), who isn't very happy that she is spending so much time on writing. But this folly of the living can opener with opposable thumbs is mostly tolerated.

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Friday, April 3, 2009

Protagonists 101, Part Five

by Barbra

In my blog series “Protagonists 101” I’d like to analyze the basic stereotypical patterns of our heroes and heroines. Part One dealt with The Boss and The General. In Part Two we had a closer look at The Bad Boy and The Trickster. In Part Three we discussed The Best Friend and The Gal With Courage. Part Four examined The Charmer and The Lost One. In Part Five we’ll talk about The Prodigal Son and The Spitfire.

Jaded, The Prodigal Son is a tortured soul, regretting all the wrong paths he’s taken in his life. He is unforgiving, but he’s also a mysterious outsider — perhaps because beneath all that lies a restless, vulnerable man? He always works alone. He doesn’t have any friends.
Should The Prodigal Son be in that basement (unconscious lady time bomb, you remember?), he’ll most probably do... nothing. He’ll just make his peace, because from his point of view he should have died a long time ago anyway. Thank goodness the lady in this scenario is unconscious only for a short while, because she reminds him that he is responsible for her safety... and then he’ll remember the secret passage out of that vault (he knows about all secret passages because he’s spent most of his days hiding in them).

The Spitfire jumps into bloodcurdling situations without second thought (and probably with a broad smile on her face). She’s in deep water most of the time and she needs the hero to help her out of it on a regularly basis. She believes she has to take care of everything and everybody, but all she does is wreak havoc. Her good intentions, the goodness of her heart and her charm are what keeps others from loathing her.
The Spitfire is usually responsible for the bar fight. Either it’s something she said or something she did. She’ll be among the onlookers and cheering the hero on. She wouldn’t want to be saved by the hero right now in the midst of all this excitement. You see, to her the situation would never seem dangerous... as such.

I don’t know about you, but that definitely reminds me of Nicole Lassiter and Derek Sutherland in Kresley Cole’s The Captain of All Pleasures. Can you name any other fictional characters that fit this mold?

7 comments:

Samantha Kane said...

Again, not my two favorite protags. Most prodigal sons I just want to slap upside the head and give them a prozac. And the spitfire has to be REALLY charming for me not to loathe her, because her stupidity gets them into trouble and then she'll turn around and do the same thing over again.

I haven't read that Kresley Cole. To be honest, I've only read the first book in that series, but I really liked it. The rest of the series is on my TBB pile.

I can't really think of a book. This pair seems to show up a lot in both paranormals, which let's face it is a good fit for the prodigal son, and bdsm books, because you have to have a dark hero that frightens the heroine with his brooding, jaded nature until she figures out he's a good dom, and she has to drive the dom crazy with her independent, untameable, except by him of course, streak. ;-)

Barbra said...

You’re absolutely right, Samantha. Every time I read a book with those protagonist types I groan inwardly, which is usually followed by a silent prayer that despite that H/H combination the book turns out good somehow... which it usually doesn’t.

I want to slap the heroes, screaming at them “C’mon! Okay, you made a mistake. So what? Who doesn’t? Get yourself together!” and I want to shake the heroine and slap her afterward, telling her, “I know you can’t help your being sooo stupid but please don’t waste my prrrecious time!!!”

Honestly, I do think that pairing is another example for lazy plotting because if (big if here) you really get any comic relief it’s stilted, overdone... not original at all (and only has me rolling my eyes and take a look at the next book I want to read).

I guess Paranormals are overdone and not only because it seems people can't come up with anything new. Even if a character is promising, as soon as you start to read his story, he turns out to be another Prodigal Son, which is very disappointing imo. It's like one mold that fits all.

As for The Prodigal Son perhaps being a good dom... I’m not sure. I know that’s the common prejudice (“a dom’s got to be daaark”), but I wonder. Can The Prodigal Son really display a mature and responsible attitude and still be playful and respectable for a fictional dom even if he's just a wounded kitten that needs a selfless sub to care for him until he turns out to be a tiger? *scratches head*

Samantha Kane said...

Per your comments on paranormals and doms as Prodigal sons: I guess that was my point. In both it's overdone. I'd love a good beta paranormal hero, but who writes that? I want one funny and self-deprecating, and, you know, The Best Friend. Delilah Devlin did that in her vampire series for EC, but I can't think of the name right now. It's one of the reasons I like her paranormals. But even in those she had to throw in a bit of P.S.

And the doms, yeesh. I just put down a bdsm, and it's a DNF for me. The hero is sooooo unlikeable, such an a** that every time the heroine got hot for his BS I wanted to slap both of them. Ugh. It's the "mature and responsible attitude" and the "playful" where I think most bdsm stories fall way short. Clearly I don't read many of them. The best I've ever read, seriously, is one Mari Freeman did for a Phaze antho called Coming Together With Pride. Her story is called "Don't Look Down." This is the one and only bdsm I have ever read that was believable, that explained the lifestyle in terms I could understand and relate to, and that had two likeable protags.

Oh, and lazy plotting? Yep. Right there with ya. Sorry, off soapbox now.

Barbra said...

I know I should let it rest, but I can’t. All those points make me so mad... they’re like the red flag to the bull.

Yes!!! You’re right!!! PR has become dull because of that one mold for all. “Authors” rather have their infinitely tragic and not one bit heroic chars weep and wail and curse and die (not necessarily in that order) in their futile quest for something “original”. No wonder PR will fade into oblivion in a few years (I am aware this is rather optimistic of me). They'd better try something really NEW.

And I’d better not get started on the (questionable? fantastic? hilarious? - I don’t know which word would fit best) notions of BDSM in BDSM fiction. I stopped reading them, simply because:
“95% of what is out there on the market that claims to have anything to do with BDSM is an insult to my intellect. Let’s be honest: Who of you authors that claim to have written a story featuring BDSM elements has done some research if any at all?
I expect there’s silence in the room now, maybe an insecure murmur every now and then, embarrassed shuffling your feet… Exactly. Just as I thought.
Well, at least you got the safeword right. You totally messed up the concept, but at least you tried. But still, you failed. Miserably.
Let me tell you what you did: You took your deepest, darkest fantasies that you deemed were kinky enough that they could be regarded as having something to do with BDSM and lived out something on paper you’re clever enough to never want to experience in real life. Why? Because you wrote about abuse, rape and violence and nothing else.
Sure, they might be fantasies involved in SM play. But still: unsafe, insane sex and intercourse that is not consensual has nothing, I repeat: NOTHING to do with BDSM.
What you wrote has as much to do with BDSM as a goat has with fishing. Yes, a goat may come close to the pond where there are fish because the grass is a lush green there, but it will never ever catch a fish (even if it wanted to).
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a RL dominatrix that has a serious problem with tolerance. I just did my job, which is research in case you’ve forgotten, and found out a thing or two. I’d really appreciate it if other people, who think they’re authors just because they wrote something and it got published by coincidence, did the same.”

That’s what I wrote in a blogpost in November 2007 - quite a long time ago. As you can tell I was very annoyed then. I don’t think BDSM fiction has changed much if at all. I mean, I know there are different ideas for BDSM - everyone practicing it sees it slightly differently BUT I do know that there are some things that are JUST WRONG. That’s what had me write that post back then.

Up to now I’ve searched the market and I must say that last year I read a German BDSM which hit the nail on the head. I guess it’s true that even a blind hen such as me finds a grain of corn every once in a while! *lol* Hope springs eternal, right?

Samantha Kane said...

Sorry, didn't mean to wave the red flag, lol. Oh, who's kidding? Of course I did! These seem to be sentiments that are resurfacing with more frequency among some romance author and reader/reviewer sites. Didn't Dear Author just do something about the "malaise in paranormal"? And over at Kiss&Tell Eliza was just bemoaning bdsm authors who don't do their research. We all are feeling the pain, apparently. Hopefully authors will get the message.

Noelle said...

I've been A little lax in commenting lately. I've had a bit of a crazy weekend.
I participated in the discussion @ K&T. And what I said was “I agree there is a difference between fantasy BDSM in fiction and a real lifestyle relationship BUT I still think writers need to do their homework and portray it in a responsible way.

And if you have an editor that's not versed on BDSM and only knows it sells, I can see how it gets published. Sad but true.”


I’d like to add to that, that I don’t have a problem with there being differences as long as they aren’t ones that appear to be irresponsible and/or unhealthy.

One of the books I received from Kensington to give away was one such book. After reading the back cover I was leery and didn’t feel good giving it away without reading it. I will never subject anyone else to that book!

No wonder the Aphrodisia line has had problems in the past. Its three stories that all go this way: Hero forcing Heroine to submit against her will because he’s read her mind and knows she really wants it. Then Big Bad rough kidnapping Hero proceeds to give up intimate personal details about his feelings in midst of a “lesson” then they quickly fall in love. WTF. K is very lucky we came along. :)

Samantha Kane said...

K is very lucky we came along. :)

Yes, they are. ;-)

Honestly, that is the scripted storyline for most bdsm books, particularly contemporary. In the one I DNF he actually lies to her so he can fondle, violate her in public. As I said, total a-hole.

And it's not that I'm a stickler about breaking some rules when it comes to bdsm, as you said as long as it's not unhealthy or irresponsible, but that I don't feel these books deliver a believable romance or HEA, or even believable character arcs. I get the feelings that character development and the romance take a back seat to the bdsm, and that's not what I'm looking for.