Friday, October 19, 2012

Loki, Back When He was More...Low-Key

Sorry about the title.  Couldn't resist. 

One thing you need to know is, I’m a superhero freak.  I write superhero fiction, chose a superhero theme for my room when we moved this summer (which weirded my mom out, since I’m a seventeen-year-old girl), and carry around an X-Men encyclopedia with me on a regular basis (I also have a DC version, but Marvel dominates).  So within five days of The Avengers coming out on DVD, I’d watched the film and its commentary several times.

Possibly I have a problem, but it does come in handy sometimes.  After analyzing the heck out of this movie, I’m still only finding the same flaw that bugged me throughout my first viewing.

Whedon turned Loki into a complete [insert preferred synonym for “jerk” here].

Granted, he wasn’t exactly Little Miss Sunshine in Thor.  He did all sorts of unpleasant things to Thor in his first movie, like getting his brother banished, telling him he was responsible for their dad’s death, and coming about this close to killing him—but despite all that, I still found the trickster god a little bit likeable.

The way I see it, there are three main, semi-connected reasons for that:

1.      He was sympathetic.  He may be a royal Norse god, but at the end of the day, he’s also quite insecure.  He’s the younger brother, physically quite a bit weaker than both Thor and all the other warriors running around his world.  Asgard is obviously a warlike place, so that’d make being scrawny even worse.  He finds out he’s a Frost Giant by birth—Frost Giants being the Asgardian’s biggest enemies—and originally just adopted by his dad, Odin, in case that could help bring about peace.  That doesn’t help his outlook much.  He feels used and betrayed, ashamed of himself for what he really is, and like everyone thinks he’s worthless.  And the audience—at least, everyone with a soul—can feel sorry for him about that.
2.     He was relatable.  This one ties in with the sympathy thing, but it’s a little deeper.  On a baser level.  Because even if we’ve never tried to get our brother out of the picture so we can take his throne, most of us can relate to being in someone else’s shadow—and wanting out of it.  Absolute power may not be your thing, but most of us have really, really wanted something—a position or role or even some sort of object—only to be turned down.  A lot of people can relate to his insecurity, because that’s part of being human.  Not only can we sympathize with him, we can empathize with him.  And because of that…
3.     We understood the reasoning behind his motives.  Even if we can’t agree with or condone what Loki does to reach his goals, even if it wasn’t always good for him, it all made sense from his viewpoint.  For his situation.  All he really wanted was the throne, to prove himself to his dad—quite possibly because of the aforementioned Frost Giant insecurity.  Probably the most obvious example of this is when Odin discovers everything Loki’s done, discovers his son hanging from the bifrost bridge, plans ruined, and Loki calls up, “I could have done it, Father!  For you.  And for me, at least, that’s when it hit home—when I realized exactly why I liked the Elizabethan-talking punk.  All these reasons combined.

So.  Anything I missed?  And how do you feel about Loki?  In Thor, he was actually one of my favorites, but my mom disliked him even from the beginning.  Who are some other characters you like, even if you feel like maybe you shouldn’t?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Separating Your Foils (Not a cooking lesson, I swear)

Sometimes I feel like I blog more about Catherine Fisher’s Incarceron than about anything else.  And if I do, it’s definitely for good reason.  But while I obviously love the book, I love its sequel, Sapphique, even more.  I figure that’s partly because my favorite character gets more screen time (page time?), but also because most of the supporting characters are fleshed out quite a bit.

Throughout most of Incarceron, Finn was the viewpoint character.  And that’s great—I love Finn—but in a way, his supporting cast just serve as foils for him.  In the second book, Finn gets separated from Keiro and Attia, and I feel like it allows all three of them to grow as characters.  Keiro is deeper, more complex and conflicted, than he seems at first—his indifferent cool guy mask slips a little, and he shows some redeeming qualities, even if reluctantly.  Attia also becomes less one-dimensional: instead of being some slightly pathetic, awestruck girl dedicated to protecting Finn, she turns out to be clever and resourceful.  And now that Finn isn’t always around and Attia’s more exposed to Keiro’s harshness, we get to see that she has more than enough fire to hold her own against him.

Happily, the character development is a come-one, come-all sort of thing.  Away from his posse, Finn’s more confident, less self-conscious—even while Keiro’s leaving Finn’s shadow, Finn is able to leave Keiro’s.  One of those cheery, “everybody wins” situations, yes?

All in all, I figure that’s the best thing about this lesson in foils.  It’s an example we can apply to our own stuff.  If you have a secondary character who’s coming off a bit flat, try to find some way to separate him from your MC.  Even if it ultimately doesn’t work out plot-wise, it’ll probably teach you something about both that character and your main one, and you can incorporate that later.  Rah, character development.

So, what do you think?  Have you ever tried an exercise like this before—how’d it work out?  If not, do you have any other examples of an author separating her foils for the better?