I am reading Sharon Shinn’s fantasy novel MYSTIC AND RIDER and really enjoying it. Yet, as I read it while walking on the treadmill, I have been wondering whether it is “cheating” for the main character Senneth — a strong female protagonist — to always use magic to get out of trouble. After all, she is no slouch with defensive weapons and has previously been hired as a sword arm. So why so much dependence on magic?
I’ve been thinking about this partly because I’m in favor of strong female protagonists who can defend themselves and partly because of the homework assignments in the online ScreenwritingU.com course I’m taking. In this course we’re working on character development and creating conflicts for our ordinary protagonists to overcome.
And while I love MYSTIC AND RIDER (staying longer on the treadmill to read more of the story), I’d love it even more if Senneth overcame some (or all) obstacles without resorting to magic.
This seems particularly important to me because Senneth and her small band are on a classic Joseph Campbell hero’s journey. This group must enter unfamiliar territory to bring back to their king the boon of vital strategic information.
I’m also contemplating this question of fictional characters “cheating” by always using magic to get out of trouble because, in my Kindle fantasy adventure story ROAD TO ZANZICA, so far there is no magic. And I don’t want to add magic because I want Leeze am Holden — the sword-wielding strong female protagonist — to have to rely on her own abilities and those of her companions rather than having an “easy out” with magic.
For an example of a strong female protagonist in sci fi or fantasy who does not use magic, you have only to think of the new STAR WARS film. Rey does not use magic to overcome obstacles; she uses intelligence, determination and the willingness to pick up a lightsaber and defend herself.
And speaking of ordinary fictional protagonists undertaking extraordinary feats:
Screenplay writers are often taught to include, early on in a screenplay, an “indication” that a character can later realistically undertake an heroic act. The one example that immediately comes to my mind is in the 1996 film EXECUTIVE DECISION. In this film Kirk Russell’s character is shown at the beginning of the movie learning to fly at a local airfield.
Then at the climatic moment, when he must fly and land a jetliner to save everyone on board, we the audience believe that, with some coaching from the air traffic control tower, he can land the jet. (Note that this “indication” was achieved with visual storytelling and not with dialogue that said “Hey, I hear you’ve taken a few flight lessons.”)
In conclusion, I’ll continue to be on the lookout for strong female fictional characters who can defend themselves by ordinary means as well as magical means.
Click here to read for FREE with a Kindle Unlimited monthly subscription (or for 99 cents) my fantasy adventure story ROAD TO ZANZICA. And if you enjoy the story, I’d appreciate a good review on Amazon.
© 2016 Miller Mosaic LLC
Phyllis Zimbler Miller (@ZimblerMiller) has an M.B.A. from The Wharton School and is the author of fiction and nonfiction books/ebooks. Phyllis is available by skype for book group discussions and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Her Kindle fiction ebooks may be read for free with a Kindle Unlimited monthly subscription — see www.amazon.com/author/phylliszimblermiller — and her Kindle nonfiction ebooks may also be read for free with a Kindle Unlimited monthly subscription — see www.amazon.com/author/phylliszmiller