Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Bravery and trust - good things, surely?

At the start of my novel, Catch a Falling Star, my heroine, Caz, takes her breakfast on to her roof terrace. She is startled to see a man asleep, with a scruffy dog beside him. After a brief exchange, she allows him into her flat to use her bathroom, because she thinks he looks normal, not dangerous.

Most of my readers, on YouWriteOn and Authonomy, are okay with this. But a few people are shocked and incredulous. They see Caz's behaviour as too reckless to believe. I was puzzled by this, not least because in my twenties I did similar 'reckless' things, that involved reliance on my judgment of another human being. (Still do, come to think of it.) And I've never had a problem. Didn't they ever take that sort of chance? I don't regard myself as particularly rash, brave or trusting.

But then, while reading the umpteenth unpublished novel that involves females being raped, sliced up or having their heads cut off by males, I was struck by a revelation: evil psychopaths may be extremely rare in real life, but my goodness there aren't half a lot of them in fiction. And I think this informs a minority of readers' outlooks.

Or maybe they're just timid and suspicious. Poor souls...


  1. Lexi,

    Few people can make any real sort of leap of faith. They will engage in recklessly stupid behavior, such as driving while drunk or having "intimate relations" with person or persons not very well known to them, but ask them to take a chance that doesn't involve some sort of immediate gratification and they back off. So I think that, along with the proliferation of wackos in books and films has something to do with some readers' reaction to Caz's reaction to finding a stranger on her terrace. Heck, for a while I wondered just how credible it was.

    But I now thing that this is a characteristic which helps make Caz a terrific protagonist. Her courage can make us wince, but it can also give us the opportunity to cheer her on, wishing we were as brave and ready to engage with life as her.

    As long as her spunk level keeps being tested and maybe even backfiring on her at least once, giving her every reason to question her way of approaching life and then ultimately getting past that too, I say you're on the right track.


  2. That would be "think", not "thing".

    Sorry about the typo, but I was distracted by the young woman with the spaniel who suddenly appeared on my patio. I am contemplating going out there to ask just what she is doing there but I think I'll wait until she puts down the machete she is using to trim her toenails.

  3. Lol. You tell her to trim her toenails elsewhere forthwith, is my advice. And shout it through a closed window.

    Immediate gratification - maybe that's it. One guy who objected 'she ends up making him a cuppa and I'm thinking -- is she crazy?' has his hero inject Class A drugs in the first chapter. Now that's what I call crazy.

  4. I'm all for brave heroines and had no particular problem with Caz'z behaviour in that scene. Alan's use of a word which had me chuckling 'vive la difference' made me think though. Is there any trend in who disputes the behaviour in terms of UK vs US, female vs male, urban vs rural, younger vs older reader?

    Maybe CaFS is so firmly grounded in a reality the reader recognises, it's easier for them to project their own behaviour into the scene. Most of us aren't confronted with serial killers everyday so have never had to consider what we'd do in their presence. Most of us (well, urban, UK at least) have met homeless people and know how we react. Maybe you're shining a light on an aspect of human behaviour people are uncomfortable with in that most folk would be immediately mistrustful of a homeless person they found on their patio/balcony. Caz actually behaves much better than the majority of us would, and people don't like what that says about them.

    Hmm, I'm rambling without having ingested enough coffee this morning. My point was - I don't think you should change it. It made me like Caz.

  5. Thanks, K.

    I think you have something there.

    For now, at any rate, it stays.

  6. Spunk?

    Was that it?

    Good word, spunk.