Creating Sympathetic Characters: A Lesson From Lost Girl

I think I mentioned last week that one of the reasons that I avoided Lost Girl as a show was because the heroine was a succubus.  A demon (or, in this case, Fae), who feeds off sexual energy.  Historically I steer clear because this invariably sets up a dynamic that does not fit with my One True Pairing desire in romance.  The only author who’s pulled it off for me was Larissa Ione in her Demonica series.

But anyway, I liked the first couple of episodes, so I had a nice little marathon over my sick day Wednesday and made it all the way through Season 1 and into the first couple of episodes of Season 2.  And damn if I’m not emotionally invested in this girl.  They’ve taken a type of character that I do NOT have any natural sympathy for and made me like her, made me root for her.

So I have to ask myself how the writers have achieved this.

First: They made her more than WHAT she is.  Bo isn’t a cardboard cutout, she’s not two dimensional.  Yes, she’s a succubus, but she can’t help that and she (mostly) doesn’t glory in it.  She needs this chi to survive, same as we needs food and water and air.  She’s not going around indiscriminately boinking anything that moves and she really struggles (in the beginning) because she can’t control her abilities.  I mean, how much would it suck to go to bed with someone and wake up to find them dead?  That’s pretty traumatizing.

Second: They’ve thrown her in to an impossible situation.  She finds out she’s a part of this world she never knew existed.  And instead of making an uninformed decision to join either the Light or the Dark, she created her own choice and stayed unaligned.  I like that she didn’t take the obvious path.

Third: She was raised as human by humans, and, as such, she has a lot more empathy and humanity for humans and Fae alike, which makes her very different from most others of her kind.  And that creates all kinds of potential for conflict that they capitalize on episode after episode.

Fourth: Yep, she’s a succubus but she wants just one man.  The delicious and selfless wolf-shifter Dyson (what can I say, wolf shifters work for me, we all know this), whom I love even though I always think of the vacuum cleaner.  Of course, they’ve totally mucked this relationship up and hooked me well enough that I have to know how they fix it.  :glares at show writers:

Fifth: She’s powerful and kick ass, but she’s still vulnerable.  And this is something I’m very intrigued by, something I need to work on in my own heroines.  I have no problem making them kick ass, but vulnerable?  That’s tough for me and something I usually have to go back and fix after the first draft.  I don’t do vulnerable well as a person, and thus I find it hard to write.

Sixth: They gave her a fabulous, snarky, wonderful side kick in Kenzi.  I have so much love for Kenzi, who always seems to have awesome one-liners even if this isn’t a Whedon show (for which I am grateful, otherwise we all know he’d NEVER fix that relationship with Dyson–or he would and then he’d send Dyson to hell or skewer him with something because that’s what it means to be Whedoned).  Kenzi is wonderful in her own right as a character, and she provides a lovely foil for Bo because that’s when Bo lets her guard down, lets us see who she really is underneath the kick ass.

Are you a Lost Girl fan?  Why do you like Bo?

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3 thoughts on “Creating Sympathetic Characters: A Lesson From Lost Girl

  1. i LOVE this show, and I completely agree with you. When I started reading your article, I was ready to defend the show. Unfortunately for me I cant get it in the US, so I have had to find other means of seeing it. I really like this show a lot, but there were some things I didn’t like about it… like why Kenzi got almost automatically adopted in the beginning. That friendship was rushed way too fast. Both of those characters are probably not the types that would jump into this situation from the beginning. There are a few other tweaks, but nothing big.

    Something that intrigues me, and even makes me a little ‘oh crap!’ for the Bo is that she has a bigger uncontrolled power in her. One she doesn’t really understand. It just makes the whole thing so much more complicated.

    Third there are all these strange lore powers that have filtered through history.. and they get used! How cool is that?

  2. I love Lost Girl! Just started Series 2. My favorite show (after Downton Abbey, Supernatural, Being Human, and Doctor Who). I’ve heard it only gets better in Series 2. You can tell they rushed some things in the first. It was only distributed in Canada to start and I wonder if they thought the show would last.

    That said, Bo is my least favorite character. She’s likable enough to carry the show, but it’s really all about Kenzi for me, plus Dyson and Trick. Especially Kenzi. Did I mention Kenzi?

    How someone can cast Ksenia Solo and not make her the hot succubus boggles my mind, but she is awesome as Kenzi.

  3. Despite raging plot holes and some very corny and contrived situations I LOVE this show. The characters play well with and against each other, and the show even seems to poke fun at itself at times. It’s like a dirty little vice that I know I shouldn’t like but can’t help myself.
    As for what I like about Bo, it’s her vulnerable side, the fact that she needs help. Either help diagnosing a problem, or fixing the problem, and especially healing from the problem. No matter how tough the hero/heroine is, it’s overcoming and admitting their weaknesses that makes them come across as more heroic. And Kenzi, every show needs a Kenzi.

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