Another review of A Traitor to Dreams, another opportunity to talk about interesting aspects of writing:
Lonely cat ladies worried about being closer to forty than thirty aren’t your typical main character for a sci-fi/UF book, and that is one of my favorite things about this book. Instead of a springy, naive and doe-eyed teenager leading a resistance, we’ve got Elpida, a decisive, driven and kind of abrasive New York career woman. This deviation from common tropes is worth a read.
I also love all the Greek touches in this book. Once a classicist, always a classicist, I guess.
The concept is interesting. The pacing could be improved a bit, but overall an enjoyable read. I’ll definitely pick up the next one.
First, positive reviews are always appreciated. Second, reviews that point out potential issues are even better–the review I wrote about previously similarly pointed out the pacing as an issue, and I’m assuming this review likewise refers to the beginning. As I said in that post, the slow start was deliberate; previous attempts to start in medias res just didn’t work right.
But the thing I liked about this review was its assessment of Elpida. The point was she isn’t the typical main character in an action-packed, swashbuckling sci-fi/urban fantasy. I wanted her to be sympathetic, yes, but also the last kind person you’d expect to see in a story like this.
So why does this matter? Because similarly to my discussion about underused cultural settings to base a work of fiction on, I’m also fascinated with the idea of underused character types. Let’s get into a few that you don’t see too often. Or at least, that I don’t.
The elderly. Every once in a while there’ll be an old man or an old woman, but rarely as the main character in a fantasy or sci-fi where they’re in the thick of the action. Gandalf is the only one I can think of. You see an old man in cowboy movies, for example–the grizzled old gunslinger trope–or other action films, but not so much in books. You never seem to see old women. I have a story outlined and partially started where the main character is an octogenarian old wizard who has to delve into a dangerous dungeon in order to rescue his former apprentice, who happens to be his granddaughter’s fiance. It’s been fun writing challenges for him. (As an aside, this is in my fictionalized version of Renaissance-era Crete I teased in the “Cultural Inspiration” post.) I need a story with an elderly woman as the protagonist. Maybe a survival-horror . . .
The disabled. I remember in Black House by Stephen King and Peter Straub, there was a blind supporting character, but not a blind main character. A story with a blind main character would be very interesting. Or someone missing limbs. I’m not trying to be gross or sensational. I just think the opportunities to write a story where a character bravely overcomes all odds would be fantastic. Or a main character with Down Syndrome.
This could be construed in very poor taste, even though that’s not my intention at all. I’m just going to move on.
Main characters with Autism or Asperger’s. This is another type of main character you just don’t see. I have an unpublished novel where the main character is an undiagnosed Autist, and while it hinders him in some ways, it helps him in others, figuring things out that the other characters are incapable of doing. Yes, I did my research. Yes, I’d love to spruce it up and publish it some day. No, it’s not a retread of Rain Man or whatever, this is an isekai-type science-fantasy story.
Babies. I don’t mean the infant as a main character, but ever since I had children, and especially since I have one who is still an infant, I’m fascinated by the idea of someone woefully unprepared to care for an infant stuck in a survival situation. Think Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, but with a man and a baby and not nihilistic. I mean, a man wouldn’t be able to breastfeed, right? How would he feed the baby? Diapers? An infant’s schedule? What about keeping the baby quiet while trying to avoid bad guys? I’ve never read Lone Wolf and Cub, so if this has already all been done before, please let me know. But this is a concept that really strikes me as an interesting one.
Unsympathetic people. What if we go the other route? What if we have, say, a virulent and unrepentant racist as the only person who can save the world (or at least the day?). The opportunities for character development are enormous. You could even get darker with this type of main character if you wanted.
What unlikely main characters would you like to see?
See what this reviewer meant about Elpida and get your copy of A Traitor to Dreams today! On sale for an $0.99 eBook download until tomorrow!