**Today's Topic: Second & Third Thoughts vs Too Stupid to Live**
Wherein I present a hated or loved trope and discuss it using examples.
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**This discussion contains major spoilers for The Iron Trial (I have hidden them), and may contain minor spoilers for the other books. If you avoid all spoilers, you can just read the portion above "The Raves"**
Characters Who Think (or Not)
In August, I debuted my new "Rants & Raves" (a sub-feature of "My Musings") with a discussion of one of my biggest pet peeves, Dangerous Secrets kept by parents & other responsible adults.
This month I'd like to turn it around and talk about one of my favorite things. I am very fond of characters who are deep thinkers, and especially those who consider the consequences of their actions ahead of time and/or debunk the rhetoric of villains.
For me this category will forever be identified with Tiffany Aching, and Terry Pratchett's description:
"First Thoughts are the everyday thoughts. Everyone has those. Second Thoughts are the thoughts you think about the way you think. People who enjoy thinking have those. Third Thoughts are thoughts that watch the world and think all by themselves. They’re rare, and often troublesome."
And in the hands of a skilled author, a thinking character doesn't have to be a Mary Sue or other "too perfect" type of character. They can still make "bad" decisions for a myriad of reasons.
Tiffany Aching (Discworld)
By: Terry Pratchett / Narrator: Stephen Briggs
"There's trouble on the Aching farm: monsters in the river, headless horsemen in the lane—and Tiffany Aching's little brother has been stolen by the Queen of Fairies. Getting him back will require all of Tiffany's strength and determination (as well as a sturdy skillet) and the help of the rowdy clan of fightin', stealin' tiny blue-skinned pictsies known as the Wee Free Men!"
As I said, Tiffany defines this type of character for me. She scrutinizes the world closely and questions everything. Her comments on the family's book of fairy tales...
“The stories never said why she was wicked. It was enough to be an old woman, enough to be all alone, enough to look strange because you have no teeth. It was enough to be called a witch. If it came to that, the book never gave you the evidence of anything. It talked about 'a handsome prince'... was he really, or was it just because he was a prince that people called handsome? As for 'a girl who was as beautiful as the day was long'... well, which day? In midwinter it hardly ever got light! The stories don't want you to think, they just wanted you to believe what you were told...”
Callum Hunt (The Magisterium) I am featuring Book #2
By: Holly Black & Cassandra Clare / Narrator: Paul Boehmer
"Callum Hunt's summer break isn't like other kids'. His closest companion is a Chaos-ridden wolf, Havoc. It's not easy for Call...and it gets even harder after he checks out his basement and discovers that his dad might be trying to destroy both him and Havoc.
Call escapes to the Magisterium - but things only intensify there. The Alkahest - a copper gauntlet capable of separating certain magicians from their magic - has been stolen. And in their search to discover the culprit, Call and his friends, Aaron and Tamara, awaken the attention of some very dangerous foes - and get closer to an even more dangerous truth. "
My Comments:(show spoiler)
Maia Drazhar, aka Edrehasivar VII
By: Katherine Addison / Narrator: Kyle McCarley
"The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an "accident," he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir."
Maia is an extremely interesting example. He had a very good mother, who taught him well and whom he loved very much, and who died when he was young (long before the book began). After that he had an emotionally, verbally, and physically abusive guardian. Because of this, his thoughts are like the devil on one shoulder and angel on the other, alternating berating him & encouraging him to make the right choices.
Mari & Alain (The Pillars of Reality)
By: Jack Campbell / Narrator: MacLeod Andrews
"For centuries, the two Great Guilds have controlled the world of Dematr. The Mechanics and the Mages have been bitter rivals, agreeing only on the need to keep the world they rule from changing. But now a Storm approaches, one that could sweep away everything that humans have built. Only one person has any chance of uniting enough of the world behind her to stop the Storm, but the Great Guilds and many others will stop at nothing to defeat her.
Mari is a brilliant young Mechanic, just out of the Guild Halls, where she has spent most of her life learning how to run the steam locomotives and other devices of her Guild. Alain is the youngest Mage ever to learn how to change the world he sees with the power of his mind. Each has been taught that the works of the other's Guild are frauds. But when their caravan is destroyed, they begin to discover how much has been kept from them."
On the surface, these are two characters who should never have ended up in a relationship. Their separate guilds have raised them to despise each other, plus neither knows what the other is talking about half the time. But what makes it work (IMHO) is that they are both deep thinkers & questioners.
One of the things I especially like in this series is the complexity of Mari's character. On the one hand, Mari is very much a rational thinker; but, on the other hand, she is also very emotional and inclined to outbursts that her more logical side then judges. Or sometimes, she makes a well thought out decision but ends up going with her heart anyway.
The other thing I like is the way that their upbringing & limited information can cause very careful thought processes to still produce a completely wrong answer.
And a perfect quote:
"Listen...Mage Alain! I don't...put spells on boys! Or men! Or anybody! I have no idea why you think that you are thinking about me, but I assure you that it has nothing to do with me thinking about you or making you think that you want to think about me!”
Although I could probably do a separate rant post on each of the many types of stupid decisions that are too typical in fiction, I'm just going to focus on my least favorite aspect of "characters who don't think." I get so frustrated with characters who give the villain what s/he wants in order to save their parent/significant other/child/best friend etc. despite the fact that 1) the villain is obvious completely untrustworthy and/or 2) giving in is going to ruin, or even end, the lives of everyone (including the person they're attempting to protect).
Two books that take thinking characters and put them in this situation to interesting, non rant-worthy, effect (hover for descriptions):
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The 2016 Discussion Challenge is hosted by Nicole @Feed Your Fiction Addiction and Shannon @It Starts At Midnight. “So often book bloggers mean to post more discussions on our blogs, but we just don’t quite get around to it. Well, we wanted to give everyone a little motivation to keep the discussions going, plus give us a place to link up our discussions so that more people will see our precious words of wisdom (or … you know … our GIF-filled rants).”
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