Friday, September 12, 2014
My kick-ass heroine just wants to be normal
A kick-ass heroine is a brave, empathetic, critical thinker. She’s Lizzy Bennett and Princess Leia, and even Mary Poppins. Barbara Stanwyck, Bette Davis, and Katherine Hepburn played her. The Hunger Games and Divergent are resurrecting her. Herodotus wrote of her as, Cassandra, Clytemnestra, and even Helen. She’s the Goddess of the Druids and the Sumerians. She’s Boadicea, Joan of Arc, Lilith, and half of the Viking warriors. She’s a mother. She’s all women, when they choose to live proactively, in a world designed to keep them in a reactive place. She’s me.
I’m a fan of the reluctant hero, someone who would rather just be left alone to live their lives, but who also understands the impact of her participation with the social contract, with the greater good. A kick-ass heroine acts, because she recognizes that not to will be cataclysmic. A kick-ass heroine knows that in order to effect change, she must participate in it, dream it, maybe even instigate it. She knows that making something happen, is more potent than waiting for something to happen to her.
It’s a Nightmare’s kick-ass heroine, just wants to be normal, though it’s evident that she’s not. Mina was found inside a willow tree. She can race the wind, and jump into tall treetops, and she can dream, in a world where only nightmares are legal. She’s humane, though we suspect that she’s not human.
My kick-ass heroines, because all of my female characters are kick ass heroines, grew up with me in a girl’s finishing school, where we were raised to be gentlemen’s ladies, a moniker which never made much sense, since the nuns taught us. Single women, living in community, taught us how we were to behave in a world ruled by men. Wall yourself in, eat well, and pray? Yes, but they also taught us how to learn. They taught us to think. By the time the dogma was supposed to have taken root, my kick ass heroines had discovered that there was another way – first, do no harm, then do what you want without waiting for permission. So we also learned to apologize.
Kick ass heroines are not underdogs, but they are not part of the herd. The something that makes them different, also allows them to empathize with others who have not been made in a mold — the downtrodden, the misunderstood, the disenfranchised. My kick ass heroines, like me, enter worlds where they are not like everyone else, where they have been singled out, intentionally set apart. I’m not white, I’m of color, and so are many of my characters. I integrated that boarding school when I was eight, the year after my family moved into a white neighborhood, despite the petition drawn up to keep us out. So my heroines learn early to be brave.
I was adopted as a baby, and while I have flirted with wanting to understand the circumstances surrounding my birth, I realized early that my imagination was stimulated by not knowing. I could be anyone, from anywhere, and like me, my kick-ass heroines are not confined to what is, to the legacies created for them by those who came before. They are unfettered by the past, to be who they will.
Kick-ass heroines live in every woman who is not interested in being cast as a damsel in distress, as the victim. All of the women who do not dream of rescue, but dream of rescuing themselves. My kick-ass heroines enter inhospitable worlds and make them home.
They threw me into the dragon’s lair when I was eight. By the time I was finished I was seventeen, and I’d learned to breathe fire.
Nicole Quinn is a writer, director, actor. A member of Actors&Writers, she has written for HBO, Showtime and network television. Audiobooks narrated by Quinn include, Desiree, Hawk of May, and The Queen of Last Hopes,The Story of Margaret of Anjou. Her feature film Racing Daylight (writer/director), starring Melissa Leo and David Strathairn, is streaming everywhere. It’s a Nightmare is the first book in The Gold Stone Girl Trilogy. More at: http://itsanightmare.blogspot.com/.