Recently I was reading a writer friend’s manuscript and discussing how it could be stronger. (This is pretty much what writers do when they’re not writing: talking about how to make the writing better. We’re dreadfully boring people.) She’d written an urban fantasy, with a strong heroine – a kick-ass heroine, even – and told the story in the first person, from the heroine’s point of view. The heroine ended up being very much like my friend, only supercharged. She had the same interests, tastes and worldview as the author, but she could ALSO wield magic, defeat monsters, withstand mortal injuries without flinching and still banter with witty turns of phrase.
This could be partly the “Mary Sue”syndrome, where the heroine is everything that is admirable and wonderful, with no discernible flaws. But I think of this as the “avatar” syndrome – like in role playing games, where you build a character that acts for you. Or in the movie, where they could transmit their intelligence to work a powerful, more beautiful version of themselves.
I think it’s very easy for first-person characters to become masks that authors put on. I’ve done it, myself. After all, when you write a story in first-person, the author is looking through that character’s eyes. “The dragon breathed fire, raking me with its claws, but I stabbed it with my sword!” But really, the first person character should be the reader’s avatar. When you read, you want to be the one defeating the dragon, not sitting by while the author does it.
So, I’m curious – have you ever noticed this, as a reader? Does reading ever have that “role-playing” feel? What are the best books that don’t do this?
Jeffe Kennedy took the crooked road to writing, stopping off at neurobiology, religious studies and environmental consulting before her creative writing began appearing in places like Redbook, Puerto del Sol, Wyoming Wildlife, Under the Sun and Aeon. A BDSM novella, Petals and Thorns, came out in 2010, heralding yet another branch of her path, into erotica and romantic fantasy fiction. Since then, erotic shorts in the Blood Currency series—Feeding the Vampire and Hunting the Siren—have come out from Ellora’s Cave. Carina Press is publishing the Facet of Desire series, which includes Sapphire, Platinum and soon, Ruby. Her fantasy romance novel, Rogue’s Pawn, book one in A Covenant of Thorns, came out in July, 2012. Jeffe lives in Santa Fe, with two Maine coon cats, a border collie, plentiful free-range lizards and frequently serves as a guinea pig for a professional acupuncturist.