Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Written on

In: Making Characters Suffer. Out: Letting Characters Off The Hook

I love lighthearted action-adventure stories, I really do. But lighthearted doesn’t have to mean lightweight. This distinction came to mind after I recently finished a sci-fi romance in which the climactic action scene was full of obstacles for the hero and heroine, and yet they overcame them completely unscathed.

The hero couple spent the entire scene avoiding dangers so expertly, in fact, that when a few bullets started flying at them, the scene crossed the line to boring. No one was injured. No one was captured by the enemy.

It was, in the words of Vader, "all too easy."

I was never concerned/involved/caring about the couple’s safety—even when the characters’ introspection “told” me I should be—and guess what—that’s when I started to worry.

In fact, it was a little bit like this scene from THE CRITIC with a review of MISSION IMPOSSIBLE II:



See what I mean? Sometimes a hero or heroine can be too impervious to danger.

However, rather than rant about that disappointing experience, I decided to compile a list of sci-fi romances whose action scenes toward the end had high stakes and also felt weighty to me in some way. Meaning that the hero/heroine experienced setbacks that made me doubt their ability to overcome, which in turn ratcheted up the tension. Or that they had to sacrifice something important (e.g., safety, pride) in order to defeat the villain.

This is a short list because a) some books wouldn’t fall into this category and b) I’m using very specific—and also very subjective—criteria based on my personal reading experiences. I may very well come across other titles to add in the future. (The usual caveat: Your mileage may vary.)

 ALPHA – Catherine Asaro
IN ENEMY HANDS – KS Augustin
MOONSTEED – Manda Benson
ENEMY WITHIN – Marcella Burnard
SONG OF SCARABEAUS – Sara Creasy
BLUE GALAXY – Diane Dooley
GRIDLOCK – Nathalie Gray
UNACCEPTABLE RISK – Jeanette Grey
DARKSHIP THIEVES – Sarah A. Hoyt
ALL THAT GLITTERS – Erin Kellison
THE STARS BLUE YONDER – Sandra McDonald
THE SPIRAL PATH – Lisa Paitz Spindler
RULEBREAKER – Cathy Pegau

What are your thoughts on climactic action scenes in the sci-fi romance you’ve been reading? How would you rate them? How do you know a good one when you see it?

Joyfully yours,

Heather