Sunday, July 17, 2011

What Matters Most?

Most of the young adult fiction I write has to do with people saving the world. (Hell, that's what most of my fiction deals with in some way.) But as we know from super-hero movies, even when you're saving the world, you still have a life. So at what point does one fall prey to the other?

I have a tendency to come into popular TV series late. Buffy the Vampire Slayer? I started watching in season 6. Smallville? Uh...on DVD right around the time it ended its run. (Yay for jumping on Supernatural from the start! doesn't take place in high school, so we'll save that for another day's analysis.) But one great thing about watching so much of these shows all at once is that the trends kind of whack you over the head with a two-by-four.

Buffy and Angel I understood. He was instrumental to helping her save the world (or occasionally trying to destroy it himself) more than once. So that was a romance that fit right in with her being the chosen one. But her other romances? Not quite as much.

And don't even get me started on Clark Kent. Seriously, boyo, save the world or get the girl.

There's a delicate balancing act when you're dealing with world-ending matter and dating. How many times did Clark have to ditch Lana to go be a hero before she got the message that he had something more important going on? (Granted, he did, but since she didn't know, that isn't the point.) And Buffy? The only boyfriends that stuck for that girl were the ones who also weren't quite "normal", and every one of them that lasted knew she was the Slayer. And you know that the love interest always ends up in trouble, especially if they aren't super-(or supernatural)-powered.

So how does a character decide what matters most? The love-interest or "the world"? One's immediate and one's...kind of vague. The balance of one life you know and care intensely about weighed against the many strangers. And what does that decision say about them as a "person"? The copout, of course, is that they can manage to save everyone. Sometimes it works. Sometimes though, it just looks like a cheat.

As a writer, it's something I try to weigh very carefully, because reality says it can't work every time. At some point, the character has to decide and someone has to lose.


Kimber An said...

Good one!

To save herself and other diabetics and to protect her family and to rescue the boy she loves, Ophelia (heroine of my Ophelia Dawson Chronicles) must defeat the Newbloods.

Only, she realizes early on this does not mean *destroying* the enemy and maybe that's the difference between her and other similar heroines, like Buffy.

She realizes early in the series that, in her case, 'the Boogieman must be dismantled from the feet up.'

Diabetic blood is a powerful *drug* to the Newbloods, making her a prime target and threatening the boy she loves with addiction. She must learn how the Newbloods are put together in order to take them apart so that they are no longer a threat to anyone.

Kimber An said...

So, Ophelia really isn't faced with the same choice. Her goals are all interconnected. Protect herself, protect her family, protect all diabetics, and rescue her boyfriend, those goals are all accomplished by defeating (not destroying) the Newbloods.

Julie Particka said...

That's an interesting way of looking at it. I guess I always go back to the scene in Spiderman 2(?) where the bad guy has Mary Jane and a cable car full of people and Spidey is told he has to choose.

I don't know, it just seems to be a trope of saving-the-world stories, and at a certain point, saving everyone becomes kind of cliche to me. Then again, I'm feeling a little negative this week LOL.

Jeff Rivera said...

Some writers do love to have those damsel in distress and dashing heroines in their stories.