Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Lessons learned from characters

Okay, it’s confession time – I’m a control freak. I hate having to give up responsibility for things (which actually made me a perfect first child). So the position I’m in now – not being able to control what happens with Secret Ones, having to rely on complete strangers enjoying it for it to sell – is a difficult thing for me to face.

I think that this is one of the drawcards for urban fantasy for me. I spoke in my first post about how wonderful it is that we have strong female characters in UF. Well, the stories often put these women through all sorts of hellish situations, times where they don’t have a lot of control, and often the key to surviving is giving up their control and letting someone else handle things.

A case in point is my newest obsession – Vicki Pettersson’s Zodiac series (hi Vicki!). I’ve only read the first two books, but I immediately then ordered the next three and they’ve just arrived, so I can dive back in.

To me, Joanna Archer is a classic control freak. She doesn’t want to let go of anything. If she can’t do it herself, then it doesn’t need to be done. However, she’s now in a situation where she can’t achieve what she needs to alone. In fact, by being a control freak, she’s often making the job harder for everyone.

Slowly but surely, she’s having to let go. To accept that there’s some things she just can’t do alone. To accept that there’s some things she has no impact on whatsoever. Stuff will happen – to her, to her friends, her loved ones – and there’s not a damn thing she can do about it.

Watching someone like Joanna having to relax her relentless hold on her life and everything about it is cathartic. Even though she’s fictional, Joanna is teaching me that yes it’s hard to let go, yes it’s hard to just focus on the things you actually can do, but it’s also liberating. You have time to see the world around you, to appreciate things you didn’t previously. You can also be more effective, because you’re doing the things you are focussed on BETTER.

Have you found yourself getting life lessons from the men and women of urban fantasy? I’d love to know.


Vicki Pettersson said...

Control freak?

I have *no* idea what you're talking about, Nicole.


Anonymous said...

Great post. Yeah, her zodiac series is addictive, isn't it. I never really thought of Joanna as a control freak, but I guess you are making me think twice about that. LOL.

Fun post!

Sharon S. said...

LOL! I just finished all the Zodiac books and you are in for a great ride.
I am a live and let live kind of person, quite the opposite of our favorite UF females. I could so be a snarky female, but that isn't nice so I live vicariously through them.

nymfaux said...

Great post!

I'm not exactly sure about life lessons, per se...but I know I am inspired whenever I read about a character doing something amazing--It makes me want to do something similar, or try it myself. Or if I see a character who struggles with something that I find difficult, and then I see the character get through it and accomplish their goals, I will see them in my head and try to focus on what I'm doing, using them for inspirations.

A lot of books I read as a kid made me want to learn about horses (Joanna Campbell's Thoroughbreds series)...things like that.

Tamora Pierce is one of my all-time favorites, especially her characters Alanna and Kel--both are girls who want to become knights, and travel, and go on adventures. And both also have to work really hard to be physical enough to be knights. I've been rereading these books for years and they still inspire me, and make me want to do amazing things, be an amazing person...

Pamela Palmer said...

I had an epiphany awhile back when it comes to being a control freak (which, yes, I am)...on a roller coaster. I'd always hated the things. I always felt so out of control on them (duh). But one night, after a long day at the amusement park, I got on the Big Bad Wolf at Busch Gardens Williamsburg and, for once, just went along for the ride. I didn't try to control the uncontrollable and I loved it! That one experience turned me into a roller coaster lover. But I always have to change my mindset when I climb on. To just enjoy the ride.

GB said...

I look up.

I know that may sound strange, but it was an observation made in one of the first Anita Blake novels.

The quote is something along the lines of 'millenia of being on top of the food chain has stopped humans from looking up'. We're the top of heap so we forget that dangers can come from above us, not just below or in line with us.

I've been looking up ever since. And not because I'm paranoid a dragon is going to swoop down and have me for dinner. Until I looked up, I had no idea that sunrise across rooftops could be so pretty and that lines of galah's (native Australian parrots) perch on streetlights near my work.

I've long since given up on the Anita Blake series, but looking up has stayed with me. And LKH isn't the only one to bring it up - I recently read Stacia Kane's 'Unholy Ghosts' where she mentions the idea a few times.

Nicole Murphy said...

Vicki - :)

Lynn - Would be interested to hear your thoughts on Joanna.

Sharon - I can be a relatively easy-going person too, except when I lose control :)

Nym - now I'm gonna have to go find me some Tamora Pierce :)

Pamela - lord, I could NEVER go on a roller-coaster - scares me too much. Although maybe you have a point - perhaps going out of the comfort zone like that would teach me to change my thought processes.

nymfaux said...

@Nicole--I have to say again what a great post this is!!!!

In fact, one of my favorite things about the Supernatural Underground is that their are so many people contributing, the conversations, the discussions, and I find myself thinking about a lot of things that I may not have thought of before, or in different ways!!!!

And I absolutely recommend Tamora Pierce 100%--besides her amazing books, she's the only author I've met so far in person--Twice! In two different states (because I've moved a couple of times), and those ended up being adventures in themselves, both being around 6 hour car drives (and then back again!)--Actually, now that I think about it, I've lived in a couple of remote places where I've had to drive an hour to the bookstore for a new release--And I've never been disappointed!!!!

Merrie Destefano said...

Isn't it almost unbelievable the stuff we can learn from imaginary people? Right now, my current character is OCD and my house has been so clean since I started "channeling" her! LOL.

Honestly, though, my fave thing about urban fantasy is the fact that the women characters can and do fight back when they're mistreated. I hate the old "woman as victim" in crime dramas.

Urban fantasy rocks!

Tracey O'Hara said...

Nicole - great post.

I am such a control freak - which is great for a computer programmer - but can make being a writer torturous.

Now back to Joanna Archer - I love her - can I have a girl crush on her?

Nicole Murphy said...

Hi GB - so another Aussie! We rule. Ah yes, the notion of look up is a fabulous one. Anything that convinces us to look at the world in a different way is fabulous, in my book.

Merrie - so that's the answer, create an OCD character! :)

Tracey - girl-crush away. I loves me a good girl-crush.

Bella@BeguileThySorrow said...

love this post!
I have definitely learned a lot from reading fiction,and even tv dramas lol
That sense of cathartic release when I read something that hits home and makes me either cry, laugh or scream obsenities is priceless, so I can totally relate :)

Nicole Murphy said...

Hi Bella

Oh yes, the cathartic element. And I love going along with the emotions of a character doing something that you know you'd never do. You can be naughty, or evil, or frivolous and not have to pay the consequences of it.

Crystal @ RBtWBC said...

A bit late...
I love this series. =)And I agree, very addictive. I got books 1-4 at once and couldn't put them down until I was done with them all.
I don't know if I can say I've learned life lessons really but I do admire a lot of characters for their strengths and the authors for coming up with them. And Joanna Archer is a very strong kick ass woman IMO. And I think is def girl crush worthy. LoL It's great to be able to get into a character in a book and basically live with them, laugh, cry, get angry, be bad ass, ect.