Etymological discovery of the day:
Self-pity is not a recent term. And by “not recent,” I mean older than sibling, hello, and aristocrat. It goes back to the 1620s (!).
I checked because I thought it might be some modern pop-psych formulation. Apparently not! It seems we’ve needed to describe this particular phenomenon for a very long time.
On Tumblr, there was a discussion of race in fiction, kickstarted by the suggestion that people (read: people of colour) should identify with characters of any race, and are shallow if they need specific similarities.
My take (originally here, but in case of the Tumblr apocalypse):
And it’s been shown that, for instance, girls will readily identify with girl or boy leads, whereas boys struggle to identify with girls. POC are used to identifying with white characters, but white people will often resist identifying with POC characters (particularly ones they can’t mentally editorialize as white: for instance, white fans often conceptualize Japanese characters in Japanese media produced by Japanese creators directed at Japanese audiences as European or North American).
So the issue at hand is really, really, really not POC who call for more diversity being unable to identify with white characters. Most of them can and do identify with them all the damn time, because that’s what’s overwhelmingly there and what everyone is socialized into doing. It’s white people who struggle to identify with characters of colour, and/or dark-skinned characters particularly.
(Remember how people screamed bloody murder over a sweet, innocent, murdered child being played by a black girl? Even though she was obviously written that way? Because suddenly it was harder to see her as pure and sweet and childlike? God.)
I am increasingly aware that I don’t want to write a fantasy novel so much as a domestic novel that happens to be set in a fantasy world.
CHARACTER RELEVANT BATHS. CHARACTER RELEVANT HAIRBRUSHING. I WANT IT ALLL
But really, I’ve always been annoyed when authors barely touch the interesting stuff-of-daily-life to focus on drama, even though … that’s where the story is. So I tend to linger on ‘okay, this language has so many irregular forms, it’s very hard’ and ‘OH MY GOD PUBLIC BATHING???!’ more than the devouring roses.
We’ll see how it fares in editing, of course. But that’s where my instinct lies.
I occasionally feel daunted by the sheer breadth of other people’s fantasy universes. Much of Lhûn is vague to me—I’m not a visual person at all, beyond the occasional vivid scene (roses!). Even in terms of cast, mine seems narrower than so many other series. There are various major characters, to the point that I worry about the lack of focus, but the sense of a wider world … I don’t know.
So I actually went through the first half of the novel to see how many people are mentioned at all.
It’s, uh, fifty-one. Of these, seventeen actually appear. Only seven are more or less major characters: Arceptra, Loraya, Giva, Ariana, Tal, Lian, and Rei. Another is slated to show up in Chapter 9. That gives us ten minor characters (people like Giva’s father or Magister Nolani), and thirty-four mentioned but not actually showing up.
The ghost characters include a theologian, offscreen Alayr, the queen, various other students, and members of the Elentian pantheon, among others.
Well, it’s not Tolkien (or Martin, for that matter), but … I wouldn’t say narrow. Comforting, anyway.
My friend India Valentín has a great discussion of “the fallen woman” in the Victorian years. Something I found interesting, if horrible, is how similar it is to the mores and tropes around the issue in the eighteenth century, which had very different conceptions of women in many ways.
Of course, the ultimate discussion of this in England is Mary Wollstonecraft’s famous treatise, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. She discusses multiple scenarios for how women could become unwed mothers—teenage ignorance, seduction, exploitation by predators—and then moves onto the shaming of rape victims:
When Richardson makes Clarissa tell Lovelace that he had robbed her of her honour, he must have had strange notions of honour and virtue. For, miserable beyond all names of misery is the condition of a being, who could be degraded without its own consent!
I’m studying for the GRE-Literature, and this is one of the few things Wordsworth said that I agree with:
Hence I have no doubt, that, in some instances, feelings even of the ludicrous may be given to my Readers by expressions which appeared to me tender and pathetic. Such faulty expressions, were I convinced they were faulty at present, and that they must necessarily continue to be so, I would willingly take all reasonable pains to correct. But it is dangerous to make these alterations on the simple authority of a few individuals, or even of certain classes of men; for where the understanding of an Author is not convinced, or his feelings altered, this cannot be done without great injury to himself: for his own feelings are his stay and support, and, if he sets them aside in one instance, he may be induced to repeat this act till his mind loses all confidence in itself, and becomes utterly debilitated.
—William Wordsworth, 1802