I am a wimp. This does not come as a particular surprise to me, but it is a disappointment. I like to think I write strong heroines (not perfect, mind you, but strong) and yet I am not one myself.
This painful truth was smacked upside my head like a small but solid brick twice in the last two days. The first time wasn’t so bad. I was taking Monster Girl for her evening dog walk and since she had stopped to sniff at an extremely fascinating clump of grass (don’t you sometimes wish you had a dog’s sense of smell just to find out what’s so durned interesting?) I decided to see how long I could dangle from the monkey bars.
I had just written a scene where my hero wrestles with a giant carnivorous aphrodisiac clam while holding his breath, and needless to say, had it been ME trying to hold my breath in that scene, the story would have ended quite unsatisfactorily, what with the clam winning the day and all. But certainly, I thought, had I been an old skool helpless heroine dangling from a cliff/bridge/spaceship, I could hold on long enough for my hero to come save me.
Yeah, not so much.
I barely had time to squeak out a ladylike “Help!” (look, there’s not a whole lot of amusement to be had on a dog walk) before my fingers slipped off the wet metal and I plummeted to my doom.
Pathetic and sad, but should my lack of upper body strength deny me any claim to the kick-ass heroine Hall of Fame?
The next night, I decided to stop at this antler store on my way home from work to get Monster Girl an antler chew. I’d never been in this particular shop, but I pass it a lot and it always has a sign up saying something about antlers. So it had become “the antler store” in my head. I pictured something rather similar to the lobbies of the hotels in Vail, Colorado, where I lived for a couple winters, that always had pretty glowing chandeliers made of shiny antlers.
Yeah, not so much.
I pushed open the door and walked into an abattoir. The stench made my whole musculature constrict as my hindbrain whispered, “Death.” There was an 18-inch blood trail smear from the front door to the back room where I could clearly see a half dozen severed heads and three workers flaying an elk carcass.
So, in retrospect, the part of the sign that said “Taxidermy” should have been more important than the part that said antlers.
My gaze skittered away from the exposed red flesh and white connective tissue and the exposed chunks of bone. And the eyeballs. Gah. There were eyeballs everywhere in that place. I was actually shaking. This time I did manage to “hold on” long enough to purchase an antler chunk (after digging through a bin of hooves and jaw bones and assorted other chunks) for Monster Girl’s chewing pleasure. But I swore I was going to become a vegetarian and so was the dog. (I can survive on chocolate, right? Monster Girl can have the kale.)
Not only did I lack the upper body strength of a kick-ass heroine, I lacked her stomach too. Wimp!
I happen to be going through one of my Self-Doubting Writer Doldrums™ periods, so this multi-part revelation of my complete unsuitability to write strong heroines, or even mildly competent heroines, or anyone, really, who could make it out of a prologue without losing her grip or her lunch, was more than a little deflating.
Just who do I think I am? Not HER, obviously. Not the heroines I want to write.
I don’t actually believe I could roundhouse kick a zombie-ninja-robot-dinosaur’s ass, but I like to pretend that I can believe what it would be like to kick a zombie-ninja-robot-dinosaur’s ass. If you see the distinction. But now…
Am I living a lie? I mean, yes, of course I’m living a lie; I’m a writer and there are no zombie-ninja-robot-dinosaurs. Sadly. But am I lying to myself to think I can write a real lie? (This is getting complicated, isn’t it?)
Or worse, is the solution to my Self-Doubting Writer Doldrums™ to either A. simply hold on, or B. fight my bloody way through, both of which I’ve now proven myself useless at?
Or maybe, just maybe, putting those heroines on paper is getting me closer to who I’d like to be.
A few reps of crunches probably wouldn’t hurt either.
Is there a heroine — real or imaginary — who inspires you? Which aspects of her call to you most deeply?