Sunday, September 11, 2011

So much harder to stand than it is to fall

Have you met that one character that pulls at you, that nags until you finally open your eyes and really see? Does your sight allow you to see more than the written words about this character? Do you then remind yourself that this person really isn’t real? What do you do then? I have met a lot of fond characters that have stood out to me, that I remember. Some I even admire. But there have been relatively few that I wish was a real person. I like reading fiction for the simple fact that no matter how real it seems, it is totally fake. I don’t think that’s too much to ask for when reading is an escape from the mundaneness of life.
But there are times when characters are so real, and they embody traits that scream ” I deserve to be real!” I haven’t figured it out, maybe they are based on real people and the author simply changed their name so that the person wouldn’t be bombarded by accidental fame. Right now, the character that is screaming to be real to me is Elena Michaels in Kelley Armstrong’s Frostbitten. If you don’t know what I am talking about, check out an earlier post about Armstrong’s Living With the Dead. In fact just check out the Otherworld series for yourself.  I am not going to talk much about the actual book. One because I haven’t finished it, almost there but not quite. Two, I will post a review. Three, finally this is more about Elena than the actual story.
But for those who have never encounter Elena on a reading adventure, let me give you a brief history. She is the only bitten female werewolf in the North American pack. Jeremy is the Alpha and Clay is her mate. Clay, who is at times more wolf than human, bit her in a panic. Growing up Elena is raised in foster homes where she was met with abuse by her foster fathers and foster brothers. She still has emotional scars from her childhood. But this is where the good stuff happens; she’s a fighter. Literally and figuratively. She has taken and mastered a form of martial arts, she’s a boxer and wrestler. She is a strong female who runs into danger to save someone more than she should and more than she runs away. But she’s not a fighter girl. the kind that runs off and brags about it. Yes, when her and Clay are sparring and she bests him, she relishes the victory and gloats to him. But he’s her husband who wants her to be as strong as possible. This means that while sparring with her, he doesn’t take it easy on her. He doesn’t lighten his punches or kicks and he doesn’t giver her an out when wrestling. She bests him through sweat, calculated thinking, muscles and a whole lot of “umph”. When she faces a mutt, an unfriendly non-pack werewolf, she is just as calculating and just as vicious. They fear her because she truly is someone to be feared.
But that is not all that she is. She has to face her past daily, whether it’s because a mutt thinks that he should have a turn with her body or she is asked to do something and she doubts herself. Sometimes everything in her is screaming “Run!” when she is faced with a threat.  If at the moment it is the right thing to do, she will run. But if it’s fear telling her to run when really she should stay and fight, she sucks in her fear and throws a bestial punch that lets her opponent know that in no uncertain terms, he has picked the wrong one. It is this immersion of two conflicting drives that makes Elena stand out. This is why I admire her so much.
While I would never wish that anyone would ever have to face a horrific childhood of abuse as Elena has. I already  know lots of young women who have and who continue to face it. I trained with mixed martial art fighter and know first hand how confidence and self-esteem is built through fight training. I do not know firsthand the scars of abuse. Elena Michaels (now Danvers) does, and that is why I wish that she was real. She knows how hard it is to not only survive abuse, but to overcome it in a such a way that you remain who you are only stronger, and more confident. Thank you Kelley Armstrong for creating a character who knows how hard it is, but still chooses to stand and fight.
Always Shine,

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