Sunday Thoughts: Give me a White Knight

Image by Morket from Pixabay

I’ve noticed a trend in storytelling where characters are only applauded if they save themselves. Damsels in distress are right out. Don’t be needy.

But, as a Christian storyteller, I find this concept to be exceptionally distasteful. (On many levels.)

I need a savior.

I am completely incapable of saving myself.

I can’t pull myself up by my bootstraps and fix my life.

And I get it. I’m an American. We fought for our Independence. We celebrate rebellion. Our gene pool is stuffed full of people who went at it to explore, conquered, and carve out homes for themselves far from safety. Our mythos is the Cowboy and the WW2 soldier. We love stories of strong men and women out there against the world and winning. We love stories of the underdog who rises up and saves the day. I love those as much as anyone else. I love stories of bravery and courage, but I also love stories of sacrifice and saving.

It seems our culture finds it distasteful for a man to save a woman. She needs to save herself. She needs to not need him. But, what if she does need saving? What if you found yourself in an inescapable situation? Wouldn’t you want to be saved? How many times does the Bible talk about God hearing the cries of the oppressed? He doesn’t tell them he’s going to sit over here and let them save themselves because it will be good for them.  

Independence has its place, but we have given something that should be balanced with her sister Dependence, a seat alone. Independence can give us the ability to help others, the strength to do what needs to be done, creativity, but she should never be in the foremost. When Independence takes the lead alone she becomes harsh, bitter, selfish, and pushes everyone away. She’s not nice. We praise YA books that teach us women that we don’t need a man to save us, but I, as a women, have health issues. I actually do need my husband’s help. There are things he is better at than I am. There are times, yes in small, ordinary ways, he rescues me. I need to be saved.

I am a sinner. I can’t save myself. I can’t wash my sin away. I can’t, by sheer force of will, make myself acceptable. I must have someone stronger than I come in and help me. I must be saved.

As a child, I didn’t find the idea of the Damsel in Distress distasteful. I only found it distasteful when she stood in a corner and screamed, or fainted. I always yelled at her to pick up a rock and fight. Then, when I was in my teens, my goat herd got attacked by two dogs—our dogs attacked my goat herd. I stood at the top of the hill watching these dogs ravish this herd of sweet goats and I screamed. I couldn’t move. I was frozen in horror. It was one of the weirdest moments of my life. I literally could not move. I could not save the ones I loved. I was in deep distress. (I actually don’t remember screaming, but my Mom told me later she could hear me on the other side of the hill.) The one time I needed to pick up a rock, I could not.  

Being the Damsel in Distress is humiliating. Waiting around to be saved, finding out you’re weak, realizing you’re dependent on others is humiliating, but it is also so very good for us. It is good for us to need others. It is good for us to need our friends. It is good for us to need our spouses and families. It is good for us to realize we are finite.

And, it is good to remember that if you are struggling, being abused, fighting depression, or any other dark thing, get help. Don’t go it alone. Don’t let your pride or your belief that you must save yourself set you on a path of total independence. Admit to the fact that we are all damsels in distress at some points in our life and need saving. Then, at that moment, in the valley of the shadow of death, remember the fairy tales: knights come.

I think our stories would be better if we didn’t throw out the Damsel in Distress and the White Knight, but if we honestly realized we can’t handle it all, we can’t save ourselves. We do desperately need a White Knight. This isn’t some oppression tactic to tell little girls that they have to sit on their hands, and to tell little boys they get to have all the fun. This is to say that we all need saving, and we should all help others when we can, even when we are weak.

I saw a post about Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban that praised Harry for saving himself at the end. That the whole point of seeing himself and realizing it wasn’t his father was to show that Harry saved himself. I just laughed. Harry had to have so much help to reach that point, so much help, that it’s silly to think he saved himself. It was just one last step. He took the final step. That’s like a woman with a broken-down car who changes her own tire. The tire her father taught her to change, the tire her husband left in the car, or the tire that she purchased. We don’t’ save ourselves.

We always have help.

We have friends who support us or bop us over the head. We have people who hug us and people who drive us. We have stories. We have music. We don’t save ourselves, even when we have to take that final step.

And saying Harry saved himself is sad. It removes the magic of the fact that in a way his Dad did save him. It removes all the work Hermione did with the Time-Turner. It chases away the magic of finding out about the Marauders. It changes the whole scene, and not in a good way. The beauty of that scene is the longing of an orphan to see his dad, of realizing he is going to have a home, of all of that culminating in a twist of realizing he can do the magic he needs to do. Focusing on Harry saving himself belittles all the other things going on to make the magic of that moment. Yes, Harry was armed with the knowledge that empowered him to fight, we all need that, cause we can’t save ourselves. Harry realized he was capable of a difficult spell and saved Sirius, himself, and Hermione. But he didn’t do it alone. He was only the final step.

So, dear readers, you may crack open one of my books someday and find that there are Knights, usually a bit muddy, and Damsels in Distress, usually ones with brains, yes. Because I love them. I, as a woman, like being saved. I like having a knight. You will also find Bands of Brothers, you will find Best Friends, and you will find Teams, Found Families, and Communities. You will not find people succeeding when they go it alone, because we all need help, we’re all dependent, and we all need to be saved.

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Crumpled and Thrown Aside

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

I’m going to try and start posting on my blogs again. I had to step back cause of life, you know. My writing has also taken a major step back, but I have found ways of fitting it in here and there, in the cracks and crevasse of my life. In the spirit of posting again, I wanted to share a bit that got slashed, thrown out, tossed from my current WIP: The Stars are Still There. I had a whole scene in an antique store that just didn’t fit with the story, but I was very pleased with this description, so I wanted to share it.

(I’m not going to worry about giving you all the links to follow me on social media because I’m just not active on social media much any more, so just enjoy this, comment, and share as you please.)

The musty smell of old things—wood, cloth, leather, plastic, and glass—settled down around them. A wild menagerie of the past sat in every corner shelf, crook, hook, and socket available. Dishes filled with all the nostalgia of Grandma’s kitchen and home cooked meals. Clothing besotted with lace and glamor. Long gone games, music, and movie stars. Knick-knacks, baubles, and jewelry from an age of craft long forgotten in the age of mass production. Each once loved. Each once carefully selected to grace a home, or a woman, or given to a friend, but the story that they told, their storytellers were long ago buried and forgotten. The children’s children shed the burden of things, the soul connection severed by death and memories lost.
Now, in the crooks and on the hooks, piled, stacked, hidden, displayed, they wait, empty, alone, they wait for new connections or the final regulation to dust and decay. They wait to joyously find use, or the discarding into rubbish.
Imrie ran her hands over the glass cabinet displaying brooches, from garish to sublime.

Quote of the Weekend

Courtesy of Pinterest.

Some day I want to use this as the outline for a Faerie Story.

Quote of the Weekend

He loved soldiers. He had once thought all men who wore the red coat were rogues and thieves, the scourings of the gutter, and since he had joined the army he had discovered he was right, but he had also learned to love them. He loved their patience, their ferocity, their endurance, and their bravery.

This quote is from Sharpe’s Fury by Bernard Cornwell. I love it.

Quote of the Weekend

Image from Pixabay.

I’ve really enjoyed binging through Criminal Minds. I’m sure it’s not super accurate, but it’s not obnoxious, or maybe I just don’t know enough about profiling. I’m sure real profilers aren’t in the field making arrests nearly as often as the BAU are, but I still really enjoy it. I think it’s cause of the team. I love the team. Hotch is my favorite, but the team as a whole is perfect. In season 6, the episode called Lauren, Garcia leaves this message for Emily just before she ‘dies’. I love it. I love this so much! It reminds me of my Scarecrows. 🙂

Quote of the Weekend

Image from Pixabay, layout from Canva.

Fortunatus is one of my favorite characters. He’s an evil villain who experiences an undeserved rescue and is saved. He’s my first saved villain. He is a redeemed unlit and I love him.

What Am I Looking for in a Story?

Recently, I tried to join a read-along group on Instagram. The idea was to all read the same book, discuss, and share pictures. It seemed like lots of fun and not too time consuming, plus I was in a spot where I had the time to read. The book was announced and we all dutifully got our copies. I started mine at the proper time and knew right away I was in trouble.

I’m not going to mention what book it was because my problem isn’t with the writing. I don’t want to discourage the writer or the reading group. The problem wasn’t the book, it was me. LOL. I think I just friend-zoned a book. But, it’s true. I couldn’t get into the story. I didn’t care one bit about the character. I dreaded having to read it. I knew in an instant, I didn’t care about this story.

 There have been times when I’ve had to wade through a book, really wade through it. When I was a kid, I refused to leave a book unfinished. If I started it, I would finish it. As I’ve gotten older I give myself the freedom to put a book aside that I’m not enjoying. Life is too short to plow through books I’m not loving. I weighed being in the group, but hating every minute in the book. I worked on it through to chapter 9 hoping against hope that something would grab me. That happens sometimes. I’m unsure if I like a book, then this magical line pops out and I’m hooked. Chapter 9 and I’m not only not hooked, I’m despising every line. Time to let it go.

I looked the book up on GoodReads wondering if anyone else had the same issue with the book. I watched the comments of the other readers. Everyone loved the book. Everyone praised the book. Everyone talked about how they were strongly impacted by the story. It had glowing reviews, a lovely cover, and was enjoyed by people who also love Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Stormlight Archives and such.

So why not me?

Why didn’t I love it?

What am I looking for in a book? What matters to me?

I can’t say that the book was written poorly. I had no complaints about setting, magic, or description, though I tend to enjoy meatier and more unique description. There wasn’t anything wrong with the worldbuilding. I just didn’t care.

I sit in a corner and ponder. I flip through pictures of scenes I love in my favorite TV Shows and movies. I think about my favorite books. What am I looking for in a book, show, or movie? What am I looking for in a story?

The first element that may produce a lack of interest may be that I’m weary of the female protagonist who goes it alone against the world. I’m tired of stories with strong central female warriors. I’m tired of women against women stories, and this story was all about a mother and two sisters who didn’t get along. That turns me off right away. I love stories with strong male leads. I love stories with strong families, strong teams, and strong brotherhoods. I couldn’t get through the first few chapters of this book, but have binged through the first 9 Sharpe’s novels in a matter of weeks. Now, I don’t dislike women in stories. There are plenty of female characters I love. I’m just more intrigued by the women who aren’t at the forefront. I’m more intrigued by the HearthKeepers than I am by the female warrior. And, I’m more interested in stories of sisterhood, not female conflict.

You may see the theme of teamwork here. I love team stories: Band of Brothers, Firefly, Criminal Minds, Sharpe. All of these have big teams working together. I love it. I love stories of smaller teams, like Endeavour, Chuck, or even 24. Jack always has his team backing him up. I love stories of family like Blue Bloods and Fringe.

I grew up in a big family. We worked together, played together, moved across the country together, and still live within the same state, be it hours apart. We have ridiculous group texts, jokes that are so old we hardly remember where they started. Our family days are crazy, busy, and loud. We love nothing better than to be together. As a believer, I don’t hold with a me-myself-and-I mentality. We are part of a church, historically and locally. We aren’t going it alone. I rarely have any of my characters go it alone. I love teams and families.

 So, having a young female lead fighting with her family and going it alone, being different and isolated, just wasn’t appealing to me.

Hotch’s ear blown out.

Another problem for me was the lack of intensity. I don’t know how else to describe it, and it seems silly since the story was about being trained to kill people in their dreams, but it lacked some sort of intensity that I’m looking for. There was nothing offered up at the front to move things along. No impending doom. No murders. No war coming. The story was just a girl learning her powers. Harry Potter has Voldemort. He’s there, always in the background. Lord of the Rings may take many years to get going, but the threat of the ring is there from the beginning. It clouds everything in a growing darkness. In this story there was no lingering sense of horror coming. Nothing united reader and character in a fear that drove you to read, read, and read. It was just her training and learning her powers with the hope that a greater mystery would appear.

 If there is no impetus to move forward than there is no impetus to keep reading.

From this story, I learned that I really need some pretty big, frightening, and horrific drive to enjoy a story. And if it takes awhile for that to arrive, I need creative and intriguing writing that grabs my imagination, or I need a team.

Endeavour being helped by Thursday.

Lastly, back to the team idea. The story lacked the visceral-ness of a team in pain. When your friends are being hurt, or they’re watching you be hurt, the agony is ratcheted up. There is a pain in friendship and family so much deeper than when you’re alone. It’s the holding your best friend back as his girl is taken away because you know if he tries to save her now, he’ll die. It’s the pleading for the life of someone you love. It’s the tears in a warrior’s eyes as his team is slaughtered. A mother who doesn’t care that she’s causing you pain because you have to learn is way less moving than Molly Weasley watching her children die. Gandalf knowing what it will cost the hobbits to go to Mordor is so much richer than siblings competing and hating one another. Watching Endeavour get broken and put back together by Thursday is what I’m looking for. Watching Hotch scream in pain cause his eardrums are blown but still ordering his men to fire is what I’m looking for. Watching Harper keep Sharpe’s back time after time, loyally following him into hell is what I’m looking for. Watching the look on Winter’s face when he thinks Nix has been shot. Watching Walter willingly go to another world for his son, Peter. Watson being Sherlock’s best and only friend.

 

Winter when he thinks Nixon got shot.

 There is a friendship, a bond, a family that I’m looking for. It is a theme woven through so many of my favorite stories and books. It developed in me as I grew up in a loving family, as my Mom read Lord of the Rings to us, and the Fellowship became a central part of my life. It is my belief that as a Christian you are part of the Church, not just out on your own. I love brotherhood/sisterhood stories. I love the stories of weary cops holding each other up, of soldiers broken down but still there for each other. Of those who fight for good backed by a great team who would die for them. These are my stories.

There is a necessary driving force beyond the character themselves, be it a murderer, war, or the crashing of worlds. Sometimes it’s pushing out from the government but running into Reevers. Sometimes it’s terrorist in Burbank. Either way, the characters must have something to fight for, and fight against. I need to be able to bleed, die, and hope with them. These are my stories.

This is what I look for, this is what I love and yearn for. This was why a story about a young woman finding out she had this power but being isolated and at odds with her family didn’t hold my attention. This is why dream assassination without a reason for assassination didn’t hold my attention. Not for even three chapters. Sorry. It just wasn’t for me.

Sharpe and Harper.