I caught some flak from a handful of SOVRAN’S PAWN readers about my heroine being too weak. I had the unenviable task of deconstructing her from the kick-ass warrior woman of BARRON’S LAST STAND into the ingénue she was when her story started. Those readers may not realize that THE BLACK WING CHRONICLES is as much about Bo’s evolution from naïve, sheltered young princess to bitter, disillusioned warrior queen as it is about clearing her name.
Good fiction is about change and the growth of the main character. Bo had to start out young and uncertain in order to make her growth into “The Scourge of the Seventh Sector” that much more poignant. THE BLACK WING CHRONICLES is a character driven story, and in character-driven stories, your main character must go through profound changes to find the truth of who he or she really is. When you’re talking a story arc over several books, the changes may not occur quickly enough to suit some readers, but they need to unfold organically or the story will fall flat.
In SOVRAN’S PAWN, Bo is barely twenty years-old. I was inspired by ROMAN HOLIDAY with Audrey Hepburn. It’s a similar principle. Here is a young, privileged woman who finds herself outside her comfort zone and away from the trappings of her title. Despite her training, she’s been insulated from interacting with ordinary people and is at a loss for how to deal with them. For the first time in her life, she is making her own decisions and responsible for no one but herself. In the process, she is learning who she is and what she has to contribute to her society, and she makes mistakes.
Unlike the Hepburn character, people are trying to kill Bo, and she has military training. However, her military training is entirely theoretical, not practical. Her jaded guides on this journey are highly trained special operatives with considerable field experience who, for reasons of their own, are driven to protect her, keeping her out of trouble whenever possible. In their own way, both her Uncle Royce and Blade Devon take it on themselves to fill in the gaps in her training. By the end of SOVRAN’S PAWN, Bo is taking the first real steps towards independence, with her own ship and a romantic interest in Blade, who is a wholly unsuitable partner for her politically.
Roughly two years pass between the end of SOVRAN’S PAWN and the beginning of HERO’S END. In that intervening time, Bo has settled into a routine with a public role as Blade’s Joy Babe Companion and a private role exploring her more larcenous endeavors. In her early twenties, Bo has learned how to be light-hearted and how to have fun. As any young woman her age, she is aware of her responsibilities, but not overly burdened by them, doing the bare minimum to meet them. She prefers to party with her friends and spend time with her boyfriend, the exciting and dangerous Blade Devon, much to the disapproving censure of her uncle. Bo still has some growing up to do. She isn’t always likeable. She isn’t always sympathetic.
HERO’S END is different from SOVRAN’S PAWN in that the plot is exceedingly more complex with more point of view characters and more plot threads woven through it. Where the theme of SOVRAN’S PAWN had more to do with false identities, HERO’S END is about the nature of faith, and not necessarily the religious kind. It’s about optimism and trust versus cynicism and doubt.
Still somewhat of an ingénue from being sheltered and protected by Blade, her uncle, and her brother, Bo has a naïveté about her relationships with the people around her. Over the course of HERO’S END, both Bo’s and Blade’s faith are tested. Bo loses her innocent faith while Blade gains a new faith. Bo embarks on the hero’s journey, gaining the streetwise confidence she’ll need. Blade, on the other hand, must resolve the dichotomy between the lying, ruthless, borderline sociopathic behavior he’s been guilty of, and the paladin hero he plays in holofeatures.
By the time BARRON’S LAST STAND begins, seven years has elapsed from the date of Bo’s trial and escape. She has seen too much and done too much. Her innocence is long gone. Her only faith lies in her own abilities. Tough, dangerous, and street-wise, Bo is no longer the weak ingénue waiting for rescue. She will rescue herself, thank-you-very-much.
Blade, on the other hand, has spent the intervening years doing penance, trying to redeem himself as the real-life version of the hero he played in holofeatures. Their roles reverse and he is the one who ends up being rescued by her more than once.
By the climax of BARRON’S LAST STAND, Bo Barron will be a heroine of epic proportions. She will have been tested and tempered by fire and hardship. THE BLACK WING CHRONICLES are the story of how a young, naïve princess, accused of treason, earns the right to command the precision combat wing whose loyalty and service can tip the balance of power in the Commonwealth from one house to another.
5 thoughts on “From Ingenue to Badass: A Heroine’s Journey”
I absolutely abhor characters that are just stereotypes, whether it be the damsel in distress or the bad-ass that shoots straight, flies perfectly, and is gorgeous to boot. The characters we celebrate the most in literature are those that are most human: a mixture of good and bad traits and constantly evolving (or devolving).
You keep doing what you’re doing.
Thanks, Cassandra. I’m like you in that I prefer characters with flaws as well as virtues. Life is about growth and change. I gravitate towards fiction that reflects that. It’s much more interesting reading to me than stories about static characters that lack dimension and depth.
You tell ’em JC! I’ve seen some rather “artificial” transformations in stories I’ve read, and I found SP very refreshing. Especially in that she doesn’t appear to change too much.
Thanks, Laurel. I know what you mean about “artificial” transformations. I lose faith in the author when I come across those.
One of my favorite slow, but completely organic, character changes was in The Lord of The Rings trilogy. The Hobbits, all four of them evolved according to their role in the fellowship and their experiences in The Shire and on the quest. Along the way, they made mistakes and revealed their character flaws, but they also managed to find a courage none of them realized they possessed.
In fact, to me, the greatest hero of the series was Samwise Gamgee. Sam evolved from an unassuming Hobbit, too shy and frightened of rejection to speak to the lady who captured his fancy, into the fearless adventurer who eventually took on the ring and Mount Doom itself. He started as a sidekick, but became a leader and a hero in his own right. That’s a transformation that didn’t happen overnight.
I’d stick to how you feel your character should progress. I catch a lot of flak for Aston not having enough sex in his novels and stories…heh.