Thursday, December 4, 2014

In Violation of the Man Rules?

So the other week I’m watching The Flash, and he’s up against some supervillain who can transform himself into living steel. This makes your typical superhero fight tough on Flash’s hands, even with those padded red gauntlets. He and the team of scientists he’s working with come up with a plan: if he hits the right amount of speed, comes in from like four miles away, and punches at just the right angle, he can knock the guy out. If any little thing goes wrong, of course, he could wind up badly injured, or dead. But now the bad guy’s captured his girlfriend, so if he can’t deliver the punch—

And I’m thinking, “Dude. You’re the Flash. You’re the Fastest Man Alive. Just run around the guy at superspeed and create a vacuum. Suck all the air out of his immediate vicinity. He passes out from oxygen deprivation and you win. You pal around with scientists. You’re a scientist. And nobody can figure this out?”

Guess not. He ends up punching the bad guy in the face so he can save the girl, because that’s how it’s done in comic books, and the action TV shows based on them. It’s how guys win fights.

Now Spider-Man is a different story. He has the proportionate strength of a spider, which makes him one powerful muthuh. If he punched a normal guy in the face, he’d probably kill the poor bugger. That’s why he uses his arachnid agility to dodge bank robbers’ gunfire and then trusses them up in his web. If he doesn’t punch a bank robber’s lights out (or smash his face in), nobody seems to mind.

Spidey is also, under the mask, Peter Parker, boy genius. On those occasions when his opponent is stronger than he is, Spidey has no trouble using his wits to win the day. If Spidey had super-speed, he would have used the vacuum trick to beat Steel Guy without a second’s hesitation. Spidey’s not only smarter than the Flash, he’s more practical. Spider-Man has figured out that simply punching the bad guy (and getting yourself flattened in the meantime) doesn’t always cut it. Again, nobody minds, because it’s Spider-Man.

I bring all this up because I’m hoping the ending of my latest WIP doesn’t alienate my audience. There’s a confrontation between Our Hero and a Bad Guy with no redeeming qualities. If Our Hero loses, the Bad Guy will kill the love interest. He’s made no secret of his intentions. Told you he had no redeeming qualities.

Just one little problem. These are shapeshifters. The hero’s a cougar and the bad guy’s a Bengal tiger. If the two of them stayed human it wouldn’t be a problem. Our Hero could pound the crap out of him. Unfortunately, the bad guy insists on keeping to his tiger form. Our Hero’s good, but his cougar’s just no match for a tiger in either size or muscle. As far as fighting him in human form, scratch that. Tarzan could kill lions with a full nelson, but first you’ve gotta grab the sucker, and a psycho tiger’s not going to just stand there while you set your hold. Our Hero left his gun at home and doesn’t have time to go back for it. Looks like he’s well and truly up the creek.

There is a solution, and I’ve already got it worked out. I’m just concerned I might be breaking the number-one rule of man fights here, by having my hero win by his wits instead of some physical skill. Because it always seems to come down to a physical battle, doesn’t it?

In a Western, it’s a gunfight. Fast draw wins. (In a Louis L’Amour Western fistfights are allowed, because L’Amour had been a boxer and knew what he was talking about.) Luke and Darth had a lightsaber battle. Harry Potter and Voldemort went at it with wands. Captain Kirk used to punch out damn near everybody. Sure, Spock used the Vulcan Nerve Pinch, but he wasn’t the hero. And my guy’s got … well …

To do him credit, he does briefly fight the tiger physically, just long enough to recognize he hasn’t got a prayer fighting that way. If he persists in following Man Fight rules he’s gonna get clawed into streamers, and where will that leave Our Heroine? So he has to do something outside the rules. In short, cheat.

I did something similar in another book. That hero was faced with a lose-lose proposition as orchestrated by the bad guy. He responded by tricking Enemy #2 into fighting Enemy #1, and letting both his enemies deal with each other while he cleaned out the attacking henchmen. He and the main bad guy never came face to face for a climactic battle. I was never really satisfied with that solution, but it was the only one I could come up with, given the corner I’d written myself into. Had the hero followed his natural impulses and just charged in, he most certainly would have been killed, and a lot of other people would have died nasty deaths as a result. Try explaining that to cheated readers, though.

My only excuse is that the heroine came up with the idea. Women are allowed to use their wits to win fights, since most of them aren’t Xena. Nobody thinks any less of them for, say, blowing up the bad guy with fireworks rather than challenging him to a sword fight (see: Mulan).

The guys, though, they’re pretty much stuck. They have to fight a superior opponent one-on-one. It’s practically written into the Constitution. So what if they’d lose in real life? This is fiction. In fiction, the hero always wins.

I want my guy to win, too. So forgive me if I tip the odds in his favor by having him be practical. He knows his limitations. He knows what’s at stake. He’s going to do whatever he can to keep Our Heroine safe. If that means out-thinking instead of out-punching the bad guy, then so be it.

I hope I don’t alienate too many readers or possible future readers with this choice. I just tell myself that somewhere, Spider-Man is giving a thumbs’-up.

# # #

Quick coda: I just finished reading the last book in a young adult series. The hero fights the bad guy, but he doesn’t stop him. The series’ secondary bad guy has a change of heart, destroys the main bad guy, redeems himself, and dies a heroic death while the alleged hero just stands there. It’s like following Harry Potter for seven books and then Draco Malfoy defeats Voldemort. Pretty much of a letdown.

I guess this is necessary in middle grade/young adult fiction. By Book 5 the hero is only 16, and you can’t have 16-year-olds going around killing people, even megalomaniacal bad guys bent on total global destruction. It’s the same reason heroes of TV shows have their climactic fistfights on rooftops, so the bad guy can conveniently fall to his death. The hero must remain morally upright while still punching people in the face.

If this also holds true for romance, as I suspect it does, then I don’t feel so bad about my ending now. It lets Our Hero remain upright and true while still defeating the Bad Guy and defending Our Heroine. Though it would have been a lot easier if she’d just taken Our Hero’s gun and shot the son of a bitch. I don’t think that’s allowed either. It’d be interesting, though. Who wants to write it? Let me know what editors say, besides no. Writing is a fun profession.


Savanna Kougar said...

Interesting... personally, I don't care if the hero uses his wits rather than his brawn, as long as the hero also uses his brawn at the right time, as a man.

And why wouldn't the heroine help her man??? Mine do, all the time. Or like in Branded, Kylie takes the gun Dillon gives her during a gunfight, and shoots some of the bad guys... maybe some readers don't like that... although one reader commented Kylie was a true Texas woman, 'cause that's what they'd do to save their man. And, there is NOTHING unmanly about Dillon.

So, why doesn't your heroine grab the gun if she can...??? Although, if she doesn't know how to use it, or might accidentally shoot the hero... that's one thing...Kylie had 'some' know-how.

Pat C. said...

She does pull a gun on Sergei when he attacks Rick ... and Sergei takes it away from her. Later Sergei prevents her from helping Rick in the climactic conflict because this is a test of character for Ravi. I'm thinking of including a line where he tells her she can deal with the winner however she wants, but first the two males have to go at it, and he won't let her interfere. This is mostly to stop readers from asking the question you just did, which I was asking myself.

For the record, Rick was teaching her how to use the gun before Sergei showed up. She might not be accurate, but she does have some training.

Savanna Kougar said...

As far as my reader side, Sergei better have a good enough reason to tell her why he's not letting her interfere... some old-school tradition, whatever... or that Zhere Ghan would accept Ravi's defeat by another male, but not by a female.

Pat C. said...

She's also pretty banged up from her own run-in with Ravi, so he's tending to her/guarding her as much as keeping her out of the fight so Ravi has an equal chance. I'm hoping it all makes sense on the page.

Savanna Kougar said...

I would emphasize her injuries then, and what she's going through emotionally.

As far as Sergei's motivations that might be a bit tricky. Although you write that sort of thing well.

Guess what!? I just got the ARCS for RIDE THE ROAN STUD... Release date is Dec 9... fortunately that's on Tuesday, so I have a post for SS.

Pat C. said...

Yay! M/M for Christmas!

Pat C. said...

Sergei's motivations will be made clear in the story. I hope.

Savanna Kougar said...

If you want me to have a look at the story... when you get to that point, let me know.

btw... LOVE TO THE RESCUE is live and free at AllRomanceEbooks ~

Pat C. said...

I was going to ask everybody if they wanted to beta, but that probably won't happen until after Christmas. It would help a lot if I finished the thing first. :)

Savanna Kougar said...

Yeah, Christmas is always busy. I'm going to do my best to promo roan stud... and I'm trying to get a Talbot's Peak short story finished to self-publish.

Pat C. said...

I haven't touched the porn, either. I may put off finding a cover artist at least until after Christmas. I think my next one after this will be a M/M for Siren.

Savanna Kougar said...

M/M still seems to be a hot trend.

Savanna Kougar said...

Pat, did you see this?


I’m sending out an invitation to Siren’s m/m authors to join me in celebrating MM Winter Fantasies.

Winter is here and it’s time to curl up with a good book, and hopefully a hunky character or two…or three. I’ve created a contest for all our mm readers and I’d like to invite you to join me…and all it will cost you is one of your m/m (or mmm or mmmm, etc) eBooks (KINDLE FORMAT ONLY).

I’m hoping to get enough Siren authors who write m/m to participate that we can have a new author showcased every day. An interview from your favorite character(s) on what their New Year’s resolution is and what they hope for the new year, plus a blurb, cover, excerpt, author links.

Readers will be encouraged to leave a comment and their email addy. At the end of the contest which will run an entire month of January 2015, a grand prize winner will be chosen at random to receive kindle (which I will provide) with all of the eBooks loaded on it. If you want to include swag for 2nd and 3rd place winners in addition to the ebook, that is fine too.

Anyone that wishes to participate needs to contact me as soon as possible. Interviews, blurbs, covers, excerpt, etc must be to me by December 25th, Kindle eBook by January 15th.


Stormy Glenn

Pat C. said...

Thanks! I deleted that email without reading it. I didn't know it was promo. I may take part in this. BELONGING seems to be my most popular MM book, so I'd enter that.

One last note on Sergei: In Louis L'Amour's book THE QUICK AND THE DEAD, he has an outlaw character called the Huron who's like the baddest of all bad guys. At one point the hero has a run-in with him, and loses. At the end of the book, when the hero has stopped the main bad guy and is injured, the Huron rides up. This is it; the hero's doomed. The Huron says, "It's been a pleasure," tips his hat and rides away. Characters of this stature, even the bad guys, follow their own set of rules.

This tone is what I'm aiming for with Sergei in this book. Sergei has nothing against Rick and Nilambari. He doesn't agree with anything Ravi does, but he works for Ravi's dad so he'll follow instructions. He's just going to do it his way. If Ravi doesn't live up to his potential, Sergei can still say he tried.

Savanna Kougar said...

I should have emailed it to you, but I took the easy route. Anyhoo, I just got a return email from Stormy, and she asked about an FB page. So, that may count me out, unless I can use Rebecca's SS facebook page.

Hmmm... understand about Sergei, and where he's coming from. I can't help but like the big tiger guy.

However, since I haven't read a lot of recent romances, I have no clue about how readers feel about this kind of anti-hero type. Do you know?

Pat C. said...

Sergei isn't the main character, so I don't think it's going to matter. And these comments are now officially longer than the blog itself. :)

Savanna Kougar said...

Probably not. I'm not the best at knowing what readers want, like, etc. I only know from my own perspective. I think other writers often have an instinct, a knowing and/or study the dickens out of what sells... which is tricky because there's so much behind the scenes manipulation of readers and authors by the big trad publishers.