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?