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The Fine Line of Kick-Ass Characters




I’ve read a number of urban fantasy novels where the main character was a heroine who knew multiple languages and ten different martial arts, and had fifty different weapons packed into her vehicle and on her person.

As a reader, some of these worked and some left me cold.

It took me a while to realize why. I needed to connect to the character. If all she went through was some general angst while knocking out eight drunk vampires in a bar, I’d continue reading but would skip future books from that series.

Connection is important. It’s also a hard line to find. In fantasy, escapism is usually the reason I read the genre. I want to be away from the workplace, the bills, the supermarket. Take me to someplace that’s exciting and enthralling while I sit safely in my seat.

But make me care. Otherwise, it’s a ride on a roller coaster that lasts a moment or two and then fades away. And there are other rides to try. If you want me to keep coming back, make me feel.

That doesn’t necessarily mean I want tears and heartbreak. I’ve read fantasy that made me relate even while I giggled. A kind of “we’ve all had that happen” association. Or we know someone it happened to. Or it was just plain funny. Another kind of bond.

As a writer, the same rule applies. If I don’t care about my characters, who will?

In the novel I’m currently wrapping up, there’s magic and mayhem and even a car chase. But most importantly, what made me get up and write was wondering and worrying about the people on those pages. Were they okay? How were they going to manage?

This is what propelled me to write. Something I wanted to read.

So, write a story. If you want, give her the skills of knowing multiple languages and ten different martial arts with fifty different weapons packed into her vehicle and on her person. The characters can also be male or alien dragons who like to drive cars, it’s all fine. But make sure I care.


* Picture courtesy of

  • Jeff • July 14, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    I agree with everything you said, but I also want to point out that authors, in any genera tend to write characters cooler than themselves. I think its part of the escape-experience for the writer. Some authors just seem to go a bit overboard.

    • J. M. Levinton • July 14, 2014 at 3:27 pm

      LOL There’s no way I can reply to this!

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