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Real Characters: She Can’t Be That!

Allison, the fell warrior-princess, drew her sword and advanced on the band of ragged louts confronting her. “You’ll soon feel the fiery claw that is ‘The Tigress’, you cowards.”

The men laughed and doubled-over. “You can’t hurt us!”

Her faced scrunched and a flush rose on her cheeks. “I can’t.”

The leader stepped forward with a grin. “You don’t know how to use that. You can’t be a warrior.”

“I can’t?”

“No you’re just here, well, for the women to identify with.”

Allison scratched the back of her head. “I am?”

“Sure, now run along and sew or something but try to be serious and well-respected.”

Joan of ArcThe other ruffians guffawed. “Yeah! And try to look beautiful while you’re at it.”

Allison walked away shaking her head. “I don’t understand, I trained an everything.”

You’ve read it. I’ve read it. It’s a common complaint on internet discussion threads; the female warrior is overdone and become farce. Such characters are written merely to gain and keep women readers but they aren’t realistic – not a reflection of reality in the real world so they can’t be in the fictional world. The complaints go on and often twirl into other complaints about overdone tropes of various sorts. Frequently, one wonders if these people are just tired of the grand trope of fantasy altogether (and my advice would be to read some other genres for a while – or better yet some non-fiction).

But I say, the woman-warrior is welcome in fantasy and should even be celebrated! Why? Well lets examine some of the reasons.

She’s been there all along

Now I’ve heard some people complain that female characters should be a warrior and domestic – it would be unique. Others retort that it’s not realistic and can’t be done. Well, it has been done and it is realistic.

The best example is from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Eowyn is a princess of Rohan who has taken care of her king in his magical dotage. We meet just after she has cared for her brother as he died. When trouble comes, Eowyn is called upon to lead her people while the men go off to war. But, being wearied of her life and finding trouble in her back yard she chooses to take up the sword. And it’s a good thing she does so, because she does what no man can do – kill the Lord of the Nazgul. Tolkien has been accused for years for his sexism in not having more women in the story as well as implying that women shouldn’t fight. But he places Eowyn right in line of danger, giving her, arguably one of the best scenes in the whole trilogy – not to mention a great line. It translated to the big screen well.

But that’s not realistic

What’s that? Still arguing about this trope? It can’t happen? Do you think women can’t and won’t take up the sword when necessary, even coming from a domestic background? Think again because history provides us with a singularly excellent example: Joan of Arc. She was a farm-girl and you can imagine what that life was like – very farm and domestic-like. But after seeing a vision she heads off to volunteer to save France from the English. It’s the stuff of a great fantasy tale. Somehow, my character, Limbreth in The Bow of Destiny, even picked up a few similarities with Joan of Arc.

What’s that? It’s only one example? Wrong again – what about the Amazons (check the part about Sarmatian burials). They’re just a myth? Well, think about that again. Secrets of the Dead had an episode where Amazons were examined as historically real. Apparently they lived in that area of the world and later migrated across the Russian steppes.

VikingStill not satisfied? According to a recent archaeological study, women may have make up almost half of Viking warrior burials. Yep, that’s right, almost half. All those Vikings storming the shores of Europe to raid villages and towns had plenty of women in the fray and pillaging. Surprised? I’m not. While woman often have domestic duties in most cultures throughout history, they too need to be momma-bears when necessary. Regardless, there are multiple cultures which recounted tales of the Shieldmaiden.

As for the princess idea, lets put that to rest as well. Ever heard of Boudica? She was a Celtic queen who led an uprising against the Romans. Before the “rebellion” was put down she and her people won several battles against the formidable Roman legions.

So take a deep breath and let’s not get worked up about the trope and whether aspects of how female warriors are portrayed are possible. They are indeed possible, however the character, like all, should be presented authentically as possible.

Authenticity

So there can be shown that women were part of many tales about heroic feats.While the female warrior is historically present in many accounts all the sexy depictions are not. Many of the tales recount that Amazons and Shieldmaidens were dressed as men. What does this mean? Those hot-looking breastplates are not accurate. In fact, breast bulges would not even be structurally sound defensive accoutrements.

The importance to understand is that heroic female characters do belong but should not be cast as sex symbols because those easily become unrealistic. In this case, Martin’s female knight, Brienne, is both realistic and authentic. So I say, “Long live the trope!” But only as long as it fits and is presented well which is what all readers ask of any story.

What fantasy tropes bother you and why? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

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IMG_4154-EditAbout the Author

P. H. Solomon lives in the greater Birmingham, AL area where he strongly dislikes yard work and sanding the deck rail. However, he performs these duties to maintain a nice home for his loved ones as well as the family’s German Shepherds. In his spare time, P. H. rides herd as a Computer Whisperer on large computers called servers (harmonica not required). Additionally, he enjoys reading, running, most sports and fantasy football. Having a degree in Anthropology, he also has a wide array of more “serious” interests in addition to working regularly to hone his writing. The Bow of Destiny is his first novel-length title with more soon to come.

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Clip art licensed from Microsoft Office.

 

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What Got Cut – Excerpt from The Goddess’ Veil

Introduction

Today, I thought it would be a bit fun to share a small bit that was cut from The Bow of Hart Saga. It was meant for a sub-plot that ran parallel to the main story but in a different part of Denaria – which doesn’t even appear on the maps in the book. However, all of this sub-plot was cut to create a simpler plot that was less confusing.

However, I have so much written it seems a waste not to use it at all so I’m seriously considering the publication of this material as a novella series or a single book. Here’s a short portion of what I wrote about a character named Sramsurash who is a monk who’s done something quite rash. He’s now thinking back over what he’s done which is what this scene describes. Read on and I’ll share more of why this was cut at the end:

Excerpt

A distant, rumbling growl echoed down the length of the pass. The monk froze in his steps hardly daring to breathe. Had that sound been some animal or the passage of wind? Maybe it was a falling boulder whose crash onto road had echoed strangely in the gorge. He swallowed hard at the thought of some ravenous animal tracking him. Sramsurash hurried on while looking over his shoulder as thoughts of worse things than bears flitted through his mind. The temple kept terrible creatures and he suddenly wondered if one had been sent to track him.
Sramsurash frowned at the thought. He had been rash in his actions, having planned for nothing of a trip – no food or clothing suitable for his needs. While he had walked the hallway to the goddess’s chamber with growing trepidation his only thought had been to take the veil. In sudden conclusions after long meditation, the monk had acted. He remembered pausing outside the rooms, wearing his padded slippers so soft and quiet but his heart pounding in his ears loudly.

The monk knew he had trembled but he had still crept into the rooms. He had shuffled across the carpets hoping to avoid anything in his way but there had been nothing. The goddess had been reputed to be a light sleeper and the slightest of disturbances would have awakened her. Indeed, Sramsurash was still surprised he had actually been able to take the filmy cloth from the stand where it hung in the pale moonlight that spilled across the inner chamber where the indescribably beautiful avatara lay upon her bed.

He had been sweating profusely when he exited the goddess’s rooms and found to his surprise he held the veil dangling in his grasp in plain sight. But it was more than fear that had distracted him he now realized. He had stowed the wondrous item within his voluminous robes and slipped noiselessly down the halls to his chambers, thinking he might hide the goddess’s sole garment until he could decide what to do and thus steal power from her by rendering her incapable of appearing in public. But along the way a blinding realization had struck his mind that he must leave the temple or be discovered and slain. Had not the guards seen him go and return?

The monk had diverted himself and left by a little used door. There was no thought to destroying the veil. He had seen the veil lain over open flames and simply smother them out. Sramsurash could only assume the veil held some magical or supernatural power that, thin as it was, it could not be quickly destroyed by a simple flame.

The monk had fled until he could decide what best to do. He had traveled west in the night opposite to the direction he was supposed to be going in the next week for his lone pilgrimage. All through the night he had stumbled down the road as fear grew in his mind that he should hear the sound of pursuit from the dreadful knights of the avatara. Indeed, such was his fear that as dim dawn grew on the horizon behind him that the monk had paused along the way to consider his next actions carefully. Holding the veil he had gazed at the seemingly frail cloth. He was not used to this fear since his life as a priest had been one of ease and repetitious ritual but now he knew he must decide a precise course of action.

Sramsurash remembered now his foolishness as he stumbled down the cold mountain road. Lost in his reverie of careful thought, the monk had not heard the swift approach of horses until they were just around a bend and almost on him. He had turned to run and fallen. But the veil had fluttered down over him and covered him with its large expanse. In the scant time it took the monk to take a few shuddering breaths the horses, carrying the fearsome knights had thundered into sight and passed him where he had lain on the side of the road in plain sight with the item of his offense in just as plain sight.

This event puzzled the monk even now. He could not see how the horsemen had missed his cringing form along the ditch but they had. He had wondered at this and thought at first if it was just the near darkness. But Sramsurash now doubted this as he hugged himself in the cold and slapped himself to stay warm. Had the veil some quality of hiding such that it had saved him from the knights and certain death?

Commentary

As you can tell, this is a very rough draft and needs a lot of work which is one reason it was cut – as a sub-plot it made the rest of the series cumbersome. I also wrote this before I start using deep point-of-view that is used in my current series novels so the style is rougher. There’s a lot of telling and almost no conversation until much later on in the scene. I’ve learned much better about developing the beginning of a book than I knew back in 2011-14 when I was working on this (don’t form an opinion about The Bow of Hart Saga based on this – it more of a sample of what got cut, why and how I’m going to use it in the future once it’s re-developed).

However, there are more problems that have to be corrected. This bit of remembering by Sramsurash should be show as its own scene to open the book and introduce the character and his motivations. Additionally, the setting of the far western empire of Gantura should also be better established – something which I did not have time to do. There are a number of other issues with it being a sub-plot such as tying it together with the main plot of The Bow of Hart Saga – these two stories just did not have enough overlap to make them mesh well. I concluded that it was best to pull this out and work on it another time which I’ll likely begin pretty soon after completing some other novel rough drafts.

Conclusion

Thanks for stopping by to read the excerpt today. Please excuse both the lack of artwork and how rough the work is but I hope it shows why I cut it from my series and on direction I’ll be going in the near future. Feel free to leave your questions and thoughts in the comments section and I’ll reply as soon as I can (I’m traveling today so it may take some time).

Also, please remember I’ve just released the digital boxed set of The Bow of Hart Saga on Amazon just this week – have a look at it!

About the Author

The Bow of Destiny Commentary Pt. 1: The Beginning

the-bow-of-destiny-by-p-h-solomon1I thought it would be interesting to share some commentary about the beginning of The Bow of Destiny now that the book has been out for a while, sold well and the next book should be released in just a few months. The Bow of Destiny has a curious beginning for many people that’s at once perplexing, confusing and intriguing. This effect is done on purpose and I’ll share a bit about it now.

The Bow of Destiny is written using the technique of deep point-of-view where readers hopefully become deeply engaged with the perceptions of the point-of-view character. There are a few other aspects mixed into this, one being that there are little, to no, dialogue tags in the book – all the dialogue is contextual. Secondly, with the deep point-of-view, internalization is signaled – or tagged – with physical actions by the character. As such, the internal thoughts, mood and emotions of the character are not italicized since these are deep enough into the chracter-reader engagement to not be set apart in such a way. Lastly, when italics are used it is for a specific, ongoing experience for the POV character. In such cases, hallucinations, dreams, memories, visions and other such experiences of the character are italicized as a special indicator that something different is happening for the character. I also used a present tense instead of past tense to cue the reader that this is a present experience for the character. It’s important to note that the tense only has changed and not the character POV.

There are other details to consider in the opening of the book of which a reader should be aware. For instance, Athson is hunting small game when the story begins and he has a choice between his prey, a pheasant and a wild rabbit. This signifies that Athson will be presented with choices all along his upcoming journey in the series. Athson believes that he’s making the best choice for his shot with his bow and arrow – the easiest one. However, when presented with more information, he makes a split-second decision and changes his aim to the pheasant.

AthsonThis quick change from rabbit to bird amid varying wind conditions shows that Athson is an expert with the bow. He is also functioning under the belief that he makes good and wise decisions with the information he has. Thus the stage is set for him to begin making decisions which become increasingly difficult and challenging to him and the overall outcome. This one decision shows both what the character thinks about himself and his relationship to his world and that this belief will be challenged in ways he has not considered.

Athson is a challenging character for many reasons, some of which I’ll get into during some upcoming commentary about him in this opening set of scenes. However, Athson’s choice, mixed with the discussed aspects of writing this blog series, couple to allow the reader to experience Athson’s belief in himself for good or bad.

Next week, I’ll dig a little deeper into this opening scene and attempt to offer a bit more about Athson’s state of mind. I found this scene difficult, tricky and daring all at once so there are a lot of layers to what’s going in with Athson that set the stage for the whole story. Thanks for reading today. Please leave comments below and check back next week for another post about this topic.

To find out more about The Bow of Destiny, click over to where you can also find it in Kindle Unlimited and now Audible (Whispersync available):

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IMG_4154-EditAbout the Author

P. H. Solomon lives in the greater Birmingham, AL area where he strongly dislikes yard work and sanding the deck rail. However, he performs these duties to maintain a nice home for his loved ones as well as the family’s German Shepherds. In his spare time, P. H. rides herd as a Computer Whisperer on large computers called servers (harmonica not required). Additionally, he enjoys reading, running, most sports and fantasy football. Having a degree in Anthropology, he also has a wide array of more “serious” interests in addition to working regularly to hone his writing. His first novel, The Bow of Destiny was named 2016 Book of the Year by Fantasia Reviews and is the first book of The Bow of Hart Saga. The sequel novel, An Arrow Against the Wind, was released in April of 2017 and was named Fantasia Reviews 2017 Book of the Year. The third book of the series, The White Arrow, was released October of 2017. P. H. Solomon also authored the award winning short story, The Black Bag, which won best published short story at SCWC 2012. P. H. is also a member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).