Sunday, December 20, 2009

Plucky Protags

Warning: Rant ahead
Disclaimer: My accusing finger also points back at me

I am a writer and teacher of writing. I am blessed to have just cause to spend hours a day messing around with language and story. I did not always want to be a writer; as a child my career aspirations were usually influenced by whatever book I was reading. When I was reading Cherry Ames, I leaned toward medicine. When Nancy Drews littered my bed covers I remember thinking about criminal law. I don't recall that Johnny Tremain triggered an interest in silversmithing, but then many details of childhood daydreaming have fortunately floated away into the ether.

But because most of my reading hours were spent rereading the Little Women trilogy and the Betsy-Tacy books, I often imagined myself as a writer. And Presto! Here I am.

I've published nine YA novels, and lo and behold, my protagonists have often--not always, but often--been independent, smart arts-oriented young women. This is all a long-winded introduction to the rant, BTW. One intended to establish my own guilt.

Yesterday I saw An Education, a recent movie about a teen in Britain who slips and slides on the road to adulthood. And I walked out of the theater nearly pulling my hair out. Could we please have a moratorium on plucky protags who discover that the path to heaven/adulthood/independence/LIFE is pave by books and writing? I don't care if it's true! I don't care if it's my own story! Enough!

I want stories I haven't seen before. I want to write those stories too. Make it up, imagine--tell a lie, for heaven's sake, and find the way to make it true.

Time for a walk. MQ


  1. I, too, grew up with the help of Betsy-Tacy and Jo and always find myself trying to write about artists. I get them, I can write about that. I have to force myself to write about other things (i have elaborate soccer scenes in a couple books--difficult for a girl who usually missed the ball when trying to land a kick. I'd just rather have been reading.) But as a girl I loved reading those stories--I needed them. We need our 21st century Jo Marsh's.

    Anyway, I like pluck. The alternative--see: Twilight--is too gruesome to bear.

  2. But I agree with Marsha, it's a lot of preaching to the choir in these saved-by-books stories. I, too, would like more literary novels and artsy films in which the road to salvation is ice fishing or belly dancing or NASCAR. Rent Talladega Nights, Marsha. It will clear your head!

  3. Plus I said "Jo Marsh." I better get some coffee.

  4. I love Talledega Nights. Of course, I'm a sucker for any movie that opens with an Eleanor Roosevelt quote.

  5. I, too, read and re-read the stories of Nancy and Betsy and Jo, characters not unlike me, but I also loved Huck and Holden. Francis Bacon said that some books are to be tasted, some to be chewed, and some to be digested. And this may be a matter of a particular hunger for reader as well as writer. So crave on, rave on, Marsha!