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Is She the First Girl to Make This Point?

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Mar. 26th, 2010 | 07:23 pm
mood: cheerfulcheerful

There's a great blog entry here about how frequently fantasy novels portray the First Girl Knight/Wizard/Master Thief/Whatevs, and how infrequently they show the arguably more complex, interesting, and currently-relevant stories of the Second Girl.

Those who follow the one mold-breaker into a field still dominated by men (or by people of a different race, orientation, etc.) still face crazy crazy challenges and prejudice, including whole new issues: Can you measure up to the shining star who went before? Can you prove that she wasn't an exception to a rule, but the start of a new rule - that she wasn't the one girl who has what it takes to be a knight, only the first to be allowed?

There's also an interesting comment somewhere about the commenter's perception of classism in fantasy as shown by how frequently the poor, suffering, lower-class protagonist was SURPRISE secretly a member of some higher order all along, by birth or fate. The commenter seems to be talking mostly about when a character is secretly a prince/ss or similar, but I think you could argue the same for a lot of "Chosen One" stories. Certainly this doesn't stop the character from being awesome sometimes, maybe from earning her/his Chosen One status - I think the relationship between Harry Potter and his own Chosen-ness, for example, is really interesting. Still, I can see how this kind of thing could come off as classist, because high birth/Chosen status could be seen as a prerequisite for awesomeness, just by dint of the infrequency of characters who really are nobodies who make themselves somebodies.

***

And now, for something completely different! I recently submitted a short story to a magazine, and I got a rejection letter with a reader's comment: "To be honest, the wording of the title distracted me throughout my reading of this story. It just didn't sound right."

The story is called "Silver's Say." I can promise that it makes sense in the context of the story, but I'm aware of the fact that it's virtually impossible to pronounce aloud. I wonder whether this could be what the reader meant ("didn't sound right"). So, I thought I'd ask: would you guys have a problem with the title based on this? I didn't pick it to be hard to say, and I'd be open to possibly changing it, but I think it matches the story very well and would rather not change it without at least understanding what the problem with the current one is.

Thanks!

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Comments {5}

"Also, I can kill you with my brain."

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from: toastedcheese
date: Mar. 27th, 2010 03:21 am (UTC)
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Ooh, interesting topic! My (rather cynical) modern drama professor in college made the point that the first black/female/gay/etc person in a given field is not the person with the most talent or determination, but the one whom the Man finally decided to let into the club. Now, to be fair I think the talent or determination of the person in question is sometimes the reason for the Man to say, "Oh, all right, you can play too," but it's still kind of a funny thing.

Re: your title - I don't think there's anything deeply wrong with it, but it is a bit puzzling without a context, "Silver" being an unusual name (if this is a name) and "say" being much more common as a verb than a noun. I guess the result is that at first glance a brain has a hard time figuring out the grammar, let alone the meaning.

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The happy phantom

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from: miss_maxine
date: Mar. 27th, 2010 02:46 pm (UTC)
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Both topics here put me in mind of the mysterious Fantasy Novel I may or may not write. (I really want to. I do. My flashes of inspiration need to not come while I'm in class or while my hand really hurts and I can barely type or hold a pencil). But: my chief heroines are Girls Who Do Things, but in a culture that already has a tradition of Girls Who Do Things, or rather Girls Who Started Doing Things. There's a particular legendary female figure their culture idolizes. Though the idea of writing specifically a Second Girl story sounds like a lot of fun too!

And: I already made the conscious decision to have all the protagonists be just people, not Chosen in prophecy and not secretly a princess or whatever. Some of them do have affinities towards magic, and one is particularly gifted...I was going to have her be a foundling but maybe reveal very clearly that she's not secretly of high birth, that her parents were the equivalent of blue-collar.

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The happy phantom

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from: miss_maxine
date: Mar. 27th, 2010 02:48 pm (UTC)
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Just as I posted I realized I'd forgotten to comment on the title "Silver's Say." It's certainly odd-sounding, but if it worked in the context of the story I'm sure I wouldn't have a problem with it. Odd-sounding means attention-grabbing too, and it's not like it's going to win any prizes for Weirdest Title Ever.

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Anica Lewis

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from: anicalewis
date: Apr. 1st, 2010 08:52 pm (UTC)
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That would be fun to read! It is pretty comical the frequency with which fantasy stories' orphans and foundlings come out to be the children of Someone Very Important. It's another thing I thought was neat about the Harry Potter books - neither Harry nor his parents were Very Important until the very circumstance of his becoming an orphan.

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sunshinecampusa

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from: sunshinecampusa
date: Mar. 30th, 2010 11:30 pm (UTC)
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Off the bat, I don't have a problem with it. Certainly nothing that would keep me from reading the story. I have not read books because I didn't like the title. However, usually this was because the title meant it was a type of which I was sick (ex. "Not ANOTHER Arthurian legend!") Nothing wrong with Silver's Say.

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