Category: hero


Badass girls rule!

Badass girls rule!

The title might sound a bit juvenile to some but I need to come clean. I have a question. Why are not more people badass? Why can’t I be bothered with non-badass style?

Ok, science and fact books are exempted. I am talking fiction and fiction only here.

I came to notice that the authors I do tend to read and like to re-read are essential badass guys.

– E.A. Poe – William Shakespeare – Charles Baudelaire – Arthur Rimbaud

There are heaps more and also quite a number of more recent ones and this whole post would be pretty tiring if I started enumerating them but it really struck me why I get such a kick from desasters, chaos, mayhem, destruction and real bad story endings. Why instead don’t I feel the same intensity and need to reach for serene books, for happy endings, for nice, politically correct people, for something light, for something that does not end in death or in chaos, or in both, for that matter.

Triggered by a friend’s post (http://networkedblogs.com/Htmkc), I thought about which books we get to read in our lives, and which ones we happily skip reading and why we choose them. I guess, after all, when you take off the mask of being more or less academic and the natural question of whether or not you like a certain style of writing,… you end up with what?

Yes, that’s right. It’s a purely biological question. You end up with the same choice as on the playground, at school or at uni or at work: Are you going to be enchanted and swayed by the cultivated and silent guy with the sweet smile or are you deep down a little bitch, yourself a little badass (guy or girl) who wishes for something darker, something a little menacing, with a little bit animal inside?

The kind of guy who is not such good marriage material and who you’d rather seeing and enjoying for a short while, have the time of your life, and cry when he’s gone. Ok, ok, I got you. The one who is cultivated and clean, that’s the guy you date, you present your parents with, the one you keep at home. The other one that’s the one who have the dirty dreams about. I totally get it.

In fact, it is not so uncommon at all. You don’t have to be ashamed to have made this decision. And that is so understandable. Cos when you have kids, you need someone reliable, plus in the current climate and the world pretty much being a pretty fucked up place, you’d rather just muse about than head for the badass guy in real life. That could be pretty tiresome.

So, what are we after all? Cowards? Dreamers? Sentimental beings who always want what they can’t have? Are we simply acting according to a great master plan, being the cornerstone of the mere biological necessity of reproduction, that lets us women believe that the badass guy will be a good breeder (sorry guys), and that the good guy would physically not come close to the animal?

Hmm, tricky question that one. I guess that is something I cannot entirely answer myself. Of course, we are governed by biology, but there is also the intellect and some other factors which make this whole match-making thing all the more exciting. Plus there is always the chance of development.

I guess you c-a-n eat the cookie and keep it, but that’s another story. Let’s stick to topic.

I don’t know. To be perfectly honest, I do believe that we – both men and women – are really way more biologically governed, and way more badass than some of us care to believe. Deep down inside, there is this want for something raw, something essential and archaic. Something you lose your breath for, something that keeps you panting. That lets you smile because you hardly have the power to turn over after having had the sex of your life, because you just gave it all and feel totally wasted and empty.

So what’s the story?

The recent heyday of books like “50 shades of grey” is a nightmare, no, sorry, it is just one of these polished books that I refuse to read. Even held at gunpoint, I would not read it. Well, ok that one might do it, but still. Nothing I believe in will make me read it voluntarily. Not because it is “too dirty”, not because I would be “shocked”. No, I can safely rule that one out, as far as I am concerned. I just can’t be bothered. I just don’t like books which have been hyped too strong. And 50 shades of grey seems to belong into the category “one size fits all”. Well, let me tell you what. It ain’t.

I read a lot. A lot. And a lot of different books. What I do like is when sex is a minor character, when sex comes in as a kind of bonus, something unaccounted for, something casual. Something that happens and where you are utterly led astray. When I read a sex scene, which I would love to do more often, I end up mostly being bitterly disappointed. Some scenes may be too decorated, too rehearsed, to fancy, too overly clean or too kinky-hip… When I read about sex I want things to be worth my while. I want to read about the real thing. I want to be get the feeling, that there are two people (man/woman, man/man, woman/woman, I don’t really care) who are really engaged with one another. The ultimate climax (sorry for the pun…) for me as a reader, but also as an author is that the reader is led to a moment where he/she can imagine something which turns on.

Things can get too visual. Therefore, the treatment of sex in books is something which is difficult to achieve plus a tension which makes the scene believable.

I want to be able to find the words prick, pussy and fuck in a mature and modern way, grown up sex without the excuse of being kinky, and without having to hide like a six-year-old having used a four letter word. I don’t want to be afraid that someone puts a piece of soap in my mouth to have it washed.

Sex is a beautiful thing. So why waste it with the authors who act like mental wankers?

Sex is one of the never-out-of-date and never-out-of-style topics. Why is it so damn hard to get it right in the picture and in the book? We show so much flesh, so much skin in every goddamn commercial, but we get so prudish and Victorian about something that is surely more human than other things that get spread each and every day.

So. Basically, sorry I got carried away for a moment. The main topic: Is badass style something we need and if so, why?

To me, it is a necessity since it is part of human nature. There have always been the good heroes without a flaw, the badass guy, the antihero, the essential lost boy and the lost girl as a topic. If you look at literature, even the most classic ones, you will find it. No doubt. And it does tend to be the badass character, who is more interesting and more three-dimensional.

So, whenever you get to choose, think of my words: The badass character is the more interesting one. The one that lets you dream. The one you lose your tightened grip on reality for a small moment and paints a smile upon your face, thinking what if…

Long live the badass characters. And the authors who are brave enough to create them.

Long live the badass guys and girls out there.

Ok. Admitted, I like wild story turns. The wilder, the better. Today I am going to talk about an old story topic, Amor and Psyche.

I have to go back a little bit for this. I grew up immersed in the world of Ancient Greece and Rome, with books about Mars, Apollon, Zeus, Artemis, Hera, and all the others. My passion for Ancient Greek and Roman mythology and its surrounding culture was kindled early in life since I attended a classic grammar school from age 9 and started out with Latin as a first second language to be followed by Ancient Greek later on, and some more languages. Through the love and passion of my Latin teacher who also happened to be my class teacher (thank you so much, Mrs Elisabeth Lebek), this passion grew and spread like a wild fire. And I was not tyhe only one. All of our class were the same, we all kind of fell in love with the ancient mythology and the world of gods and godesses, heroes and heroines. We explored all the myths, looked at the tales, discussed them, perused all the school library books, we acted in plays, we re-enacted scenes on the playground, we devoured all the writings where immortals and mortals would mingle. It kept us enchanted, we looked at its beauty wide-eyed, mystified and with immense awe. And what’s more, we would always hope for a good story ending, set alight by the story, it was a feverish and never ending wish, we would pray for one good story ending, and go on to read the next one straight away… and rarely we were deceived. All the ancient mythologies have a good ending or at least an ending that can be called “fair” to some extent.

I can safely say that this was a strong impression and it somewhat reflects the classic mindset that the good has to win and the bad has to yield and / or has to be destroyed. The inherent order of the golden age could and must not be destroyed. All sounds pretty naive when you think about it from a post-post-modern point of view. But as children, we could not tear our eyes away from these tales. I remember many nights spent with a torch underneath the duvet so I could read on and would find out if my heroes would fare well. And so they did. In most cases anyway.

I will now share one of my favorite tales with you: Amor and Psyche by Apuleius.

“Amor and Psyche” is a tale about Amor, the beautiful son of Venus, and the immensely beautiful but mortal (!) daughter Psyche who happens to be a king’s daughter. It is a very early version of Romeo and Juliet in my book only this one ends differently. Mortals and immortals don’t mix. So, where is the punchline? I would say the punchline is that because this love is so utterly and immensely forbidden, it is a red-hot searing and all consuming love. The one where your knees go weak. And that’s the nice bit of this story. Somehow, because a more adult theme is played, and because the protagonists don’t exactly do as they’re told (they both don’t, Amor does not obey his mother and Psyche does not do as told by Amor) and so you don’t really expect a good ending.

You think that Amor and Psyche have tried the patience of the ancient gods a little too hard and therefore, they might be punished and they might be cast asunder. But this does not happen, stop, it does – but the ending is still one that unites the couple, never mind the hair rasing twists in this story: This tale ends well. And the reader is amidst the action. He is carried with the frenzy, it is not boring, not in one moment. It simply works. The reader wants the couple to reunite, even though they have been playing against the rules. And they do reunite.

But it does not end where all our children’s fairy tales end, in a dreamy, soft coloured, plush, marshmallow, sugary sweet candy world. It ends well, it is a nice tale, but a twisted one. So far so good. No?

The thing is… Lately, I have been thinking about the need for logic, for exactness, for accuracy, for a plot which is logical and also for authenticity. In terms of being a writer, I really prefer to go a long way to be pretty accurate to being so-so and wishy-washy. But when it comes to artistic freedom, I also like to have a fair portion of that too. So, isn’t that a bit too much to ask for? Can you have both?

Can you have authentic tales with a fairy tale ending? Can the human imagination take this or is it simply too long a stretch? I think it can. I will show you how this one goes.

First, I would like to come back to Amor and Psyche which is a fantastic example of how a tale can manipulate the reader as long as the underlying story or the concept is a good one. The concept underneath the story is pretty clear cut: immortals don’t normally mix with mortals. Don’t mess with Venus. She is one to dish out straight away. An enraged Venus always spells BIG trouble back at the Olymp. But there is something that can overrule this.

What could that be? What concept could be overriding Venus if not LOVE itself?

Yes, of course, Amor falls for Psyche as well. He does not obey his mother, whose plan was that she wanted to marry Psyche to an ugly and horrible demon. Only because Psyche was a wee bit more beautiful than she was and therefore Venus basically wanted to get rid of her. Sounds all too human? It certainly is. The depiction of the gods and godesses in ancient times bear witness of the nature of a perfectly human character. So, in effect, Venus wants to get her throne back as the most beautiful goddess and as a woman. How so? Since Psyche was so incredibly beautiful, people stopped being devoted to Venus, worshipping her. This in turn of course did not wash well with her.

Seeing Psyche, all these people adored and worshipped her instead, this mortal child, which enraged her.

Amor, Venus’s son, with an order by Venus sets out to obey his mother and tries to marry Psyche off to an ugly demon so she would be basically out of the picture. What did Amor do? …

He spoke to the god of winds and had the trustful and obeying Psyche (about to marry the demon) swept away by winds and brought to his little hide-away where he could meet up secretly with Psyche since her beauty had also swept him away. … Because he did not want anyone to know about his little tête-a-tête he only saw her at night when she would not see him at all. Um, so far, so good.

He hid away with Psyche at night, not disclosing his identity to her in fear she might talk to other people and they would be found out.

However, Psyche’s envious and down right bad sisters tried the naive Psyche by telling her into thinking that she did not marry a man but a snake instead. Accordingly, she waited upon him one night and held an oil lamp and a sword above his body to find out who he was. A drop of hot oil fell down and burned Amor who woke up and in turn was enraged with Psyche who did not do as told. He went away and left her alone which made her desolate and only added onto her feeling to miss him awfully. So far so bad.

Venus also found out since the sisters were also present and blabbered out the secret. I don’t want to record the whole story here but the tale continues with some really hair-raising story turns…  And yet, it ends well. Even though there is a long way around, there are some severe obstacles, the thorns indeed help to make the rose more beautiful. And so, I guess, Amor and Psyche is a typical example of why some stories even though they are not credible, in a strict sense, may still work for the reader.

There is a huge twist needed here to reunite our lovers again. But it does happen… Read for yourself. This is a link to an English translation of the Latin original by William Adlington http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/cap/index.htm

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And guess what? Now I am totally intrigued. Could this concept also work the other way around?… Can you imagine to have a story that ends really badly for a hero and still have lots of hair-raising story turns without losing your readership and / or losing your credibility? How much can a reader take in terms of wild story turns or why do some stories work and some others simply don’t?

(To be continued)

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