Are YOU the Chosen One?

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Think that you might be the protagonist of a YA Fantasy? Find out here, and discover whether you actually need to save the entire world or not!*

You’ve always been a Normal Plain Jane. You’re totally average looking, which is to say that you could be a supermodel. Which is to say that you are a straight white female with dramatic red hair living in the USA — and you have an improbable name like Satchel. Or Canada. Or Sage. Because why not. You’re kind-of-but-not-really in love with your quirky guy best friend.

If you are not a Normal Plain Jane-slash-supermodel, then you are likely to be Harry Potter 2.0. (Because every fantasy novel ever must be compared to the first fantasy series ever. Obviously.) This time around you are a straight white male with green eyes and messy dark hair living in the USA. You might have a slightly less stupid name, but you can’t be sure.

Anyway. Whether you are Normal Plain Jane-slash-supermodel or Harry Potter 2.0, you have recently been thrust into a brand new world at the tender age of 16. Whilst looking through your recently deceased grandmother’s attic (you just inherited her grand old house) you found a mysterious magical item that suddenly caused strange things to happen around you. Well, strange things have always happened around you, but you’ve only started realising it now because you’re super smart.

The strange happenings build up. Something dramatic happens that tips the scales. You can’t lie to the people in your tiny boring town anymore. You run out of your kitchen with tears streaking down your face. But just when you think everything is beyond fixing, a mysterious, beautiful, brooding boy with green eyes turns up to help you. (Only you’re Normal Plain Jane-slash-supermodel. Harry Potter 2.0 does things all alone and kisses the pretty girl at the end. There are no options except outdated gender roles and m/f couples.) He saves you but is also very rude to you. He told you that you should mind your own business and he doesn’t know you can see all the magical creatures. You’re confused and distressed — you insist that you’re just normal. Despite his rudeness, you find him mysterious and intriguing. You think that he probably has a tortured backstory that causes him to be this way.

You feel guilty about your guy best friend who you’re kind-of-but-not-really in love with. Whoops. But Brooding Boy is just awfully intriguing. You think that you might be the only girl to get behind his snippy façade.

Anyway. Somehow along the way here you manage to pick up a wizened mentor. This old bearded dude tells you that you’re actually the prophesied chosen one. You’re not any normal kind of magical being — no, you are a Special Combination that allows you to save the whole magical world from the Raving Evil Villain. The wizened mentor possibly gives you a bit more advice, but as soon as it’s convenient he dies.

Who even knows where your parents are at this point. Oh no, I remember: you’re an orphan! You’ve been living with foster parents all your life. Except they’re not around either… huh. Weird. Oh well, you have bigger fish to fry right now.

Like that dramatic prophecy. You have no idea how it could be true. You’re just a normal teenager! How on earth will you save the whole magical world? Ah, now you remember: the wizened mentor instructed you to find the a special magical object that will be integral in your defeat of the Raving Evil Villain. (He’s really evil, is this one. Wants to take over the entire world. What an original plan.)

You embark on a long and dangerous journey. Although this probably takes up a decent chunk towards the end of the book , it’s mostly walking and sexual tension with the Brooding Boy. The boring/mysterious forest just outside your boring/mysterious town is a lot further away than you had thought. But let’s just gloss over that because it’s not particularly interesting. (Though it would have been a lot easier if Wizened Mentor hadn’t conveniently died, to be honest.)

Yes. Once you find said special magical object, the Raving Evil Villain appears. Your heartbeat gets so loud that you are sure he can hear you from your hiding place. But it doesn’t matter, because you selflessly decide to reveal yourself and save everyone else. There is a dramatic showdown.  Potentially you are injured, but odds are that you live. (There are still another 2 books in this series for you to star in, after all.) The Raving Evil Villain explodes in a poof of darkness and evilness. Exhausted, you fall into the arms of Brooding Boy. Just as he professes his love to you, everything fades to black.

When you reawaken, you are preparing to leave. You have been unconscious for several hours but experience no serious health effects, which is dubious considering most people only faint for a few seconds. Anyway. Then you return home in a way quicker time than it took you to arrive. Everyone hails you as a hero, except for a few token pessimists who think you’re a fraud. You have been changed forever. You’re still struggling to deal with your whole situation. But whatever’s wrong inside you can be instantly fixed by the love of the Brooding Boy. Somewhere in all of this your best friend found his soulmate and he is happily dating her. The book ends on a final bittersweet domestic scene as you are recovering with Brooding Boy. Turns out he does have a heart of gold after all.

are you the protagonist of a YA fantasy? (if so, WHAT ARE YOU DOING STILL HERE?! you should be saving us all!)

*Not entirely serious. I am, in fact, a big fan of YA fantasy. 😛 If you enjoyed this, you may also want to check out its YA Dystopia counterpart! And just as a reminder: this is a scheduled posts, and I am currently away with no wifi.  But I would love to meet any potential Chosen Ones when I return on 4th August!

The Problem With the Strong Female Protagonist™

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You’re sassy, physically strong and person most likely to kick butt. You are Not Like Other Girls. You probably don’t like ‘girly’ things. But you’re in a love triangle with two guys either way. They’re in love with your unique bravery unlike any other bravery. Introducing: the Strong Female Protagonist™. *movie trailer voice*

I see the topic of ‘strong female protagonist’ come up a lot in discussions about books and feminism. I’d be a hypocrite if I said I didn’t enjoy any characters like this. I love Katniss Everdeen! I love Alina Starkov! I was always looking for girls having adventures when I was younger. I think this trope sprang from the typical weak damsel in distress figure (particularly in fantasy) and I have no inherent problem with it.

But. But. I often feel like now the only way to have a strong female character is to have a Strong Female Protagonist™. I see double standards from female readers: if male characters show weakness, it’s cute and makes the reader feel protective. If a female character shows weakness, she’s whiny. (I’m not ridding myself of blame. I’ve done this too, though I’m trying to be more aware of it.) Case in point: the Raven Cycle. I adore Blue Sargent with all of my heart, yet so many people say “She’s not a feminist; she lets Gansey call her Jane!1!!” but will ignore the assholery of the Raven Boys themselves. NONE OF US ARE PERFECT PEOPLE. I’m not a perfect feminist. Not all fictional characters are mouthpieces for the views of the authors.

Girls who want to be traditionally feminine are not weak female characters. A feminist character is just a well-rounded, realistic character rather than a cookie cutter stereotype. We’re all people.  In my eyes, a strongly written female character equates a strong female character! I think it’s very important to realise bravery manifests itself in different place, but I also want people to remember that not everyone is brave. I want cowardly and villainous characters as well as brave ones. Girls don’t have to act masculine to be strong.

I think the response to some female characters has made me like them more. (Always rooting for the underdog, me.) And I especially like to be angrily in love with characters. I will protect Agatha Wellbelove with every part of my soul; the backlash she’s received from the fandom has only made me like her more. AGATHA IS WEAK? Please. She literally tells Simon she doesn’t want to be an object to be possessed. That’s not weak. That’s bloody brave. I cannot fathom it. Of course I adore Penny too, and I like that she has to reconcile herself with the idea that feminism = giving people a choice. I liked the exploration of that — “What if I want the gingerbread men to be pink?” — but I think Agatha has been interpreted in different ways.

There are countless quieter female characters that I wish weren’t left aside or even demonised so: Eliza Hamilton, Genya Safin, Cosette Fauchelevent. (I’ve seen Sansa/Arya comparisons for this argument, but I’ve only read half the first book. So I don’t feel very qualified to make a judgement.) Cath Avery might on the surface seem like she fits into this, but I feel like SO many readers of Fangirl really saw ourselves in her. And it’s contemporary, which I feel is a little more ‘allowed’.

Fantasy and dystopia in particular seem to see the Strong Female Protagonist™ as a necessity. High fantasy draws a lot on history for its worldbuilding, and history does tend to be patriarchal. In this setting women are typically inferior, meaning the way to be strong is to act like a man. I’m just…a bit tired of that brand of medieval European high fantasy. Authors: it’s ok, you’re allowed to be creative! Obviously sexism still exists in modern-day world so, you know, you don’t have to turn it into a totally equal utopian society. Most books are based around conflict. But hopefully we’ll be seeing more books playing around with and further exploring the various balances of power in the future.

I don’t want Strong Female Protagonists™.  We never say that we’re looking for strong male characters; they’re just accepted as such. I want to see complex and rounded female characters within interesting novels. After all, women are people too.

further reading:

  • Women in fantasy Guardian books podcast — featuring Lucy Saxon, Samantha Shannon, Alwyn Hamilton and Sally Green. I highly encourage you to listen to the whole thing if you have a spare moment, but the particular discussion of this topic is at about 7:30 mins in.
  • Women Are People Too by Jupe @ The Awkward Dragon (plus the Savannah Brown video that inspired the post) — a discussion of femininity and “I’m not like other girls.”

what do you think about kick-ass female heroines? love them, like them, hate them? any other tropes that rile you up?

The After [writing]

This may not be the finest piece of writing in the world, but I guess I just wanted to put across an idea. It’s actually part of a longer story but the longer story doesn’t work that well (plus, it was pretty long) so I just decided to give you this to read. Fear not; I am completing my first ever award, which I am getting too excited about. Anyhow, I hope you had a fun St. Patrick’s Day if you celebrated it! Otherwise, I’m hoping you all are having an awesome March. Spring, here we come!
Apple xx

I am inside the glass box again. It presses in on me from every direction. It even presses into my thoughts, more and more and more until –
I shut my eyes. I see flickering patterns of light for a while, but then the darkness fades away into a different scene. I see white. I see a house. This is how it works here.

I’m sure I would be correct in assuming that you are still living a life of normality, of friends and gossip and food and internet and TV. Am I right? I knew it. I used to live like that. Then, one day, BAM, I wake up in a glass box instead of my bed. Just like that, my whole world was changed: just a careless dismissal of the hand, a distracted roll of the dice. Destroyed. The only thing I can see with my eyes open is my own glass box, and the never ending white. But with my eyes shut? Well, that is a different story altogether.