Divine By Choice

This weekend I finished Divine By Choice, the sequel to P.C. Cast’s Divine By Mistake (see my thoughts about this one here). I had trepidation about reading this book, because I remembered not liking it very much the first time. Come to find out, I didn’t like it much this time, either.

Once again, Shannon is yanked out of her world (only this time she is yanked out of Partholon and returned to Oklahoma), and has to deal with the mess Rhiannon is leaving in her wake.  There are a lot of things I could point to as reasons why I didn’t much care for it: This book introduces quite a few new characters that we’re supposed to care about, but it doesn’t give us reasons why we should. Shannon falls in love with a man who is the mirror image of her husband within days of knowing him and has a very cavalier attitude about her marriage. She fights the same evil she did in the first book, only pulled through between worlds, which I find lacking imagination. Shannon also suddenly has new magic powers that she conveniently uses once she’s back in Oklahoma to talk to the trees in the forest.

But the main problem I have with it is the weakness of the heroine. Now, I don’t consider myself a modern feminist. But I do enjoy a strong female lead, and I think women as a whole are strong characters who should be written like the well-rounded people they are. Shannon is not a strong female lead in this book. She wasn’t overly strong in the first book, but that can be mostly excused. She’s in a world she doesn’t know and has to learn the rules, so it makes sense that she would lean on other characters who are more experienced. She often showed her compassionate side, and truly desired what was best for her people, which is a more subtle type of strength. In the end, she joined her people in battle, and put herself in harm’s way to save them. While she wasn’t overtly strong, she showed growth, which is what readers need in a protagonist.

In Divine By Choice, though, I saw very little strength from her. To be fair, she begins the story sick from her pregnancy, and her body is physically weak. But even once the sickness abates, she is still helped in and out of the car and is helped to the door by the big strong man. There’s deep snow outside, but instead of walking in it like a big girl, she is either carried (again by the big strong man) or is clutching his arm for assistance. Even though she is back on her home turf, she relies on him to make plans and get her where she needs to go. She asks him to take care of her, to feed her (meaning to swing through the Arby’s drive-through), and to love her.

As I also noted in Divine By Mistake, Shannon doesn’t put a whole lot of effort into discovering how she was brought back into her own world. Clint (her husband’s mirror image) tells her what he thinks happened on his end, but she doesn’t bother to verify his information or figure out exactly what happened. She even waits several days to contact Rhiannon (who she knows is still in the same world), even though Rhiannon would be the perfect person to get information from.

In the final battle, Shannon doesn’t even fight. She gets snatched and stabbed, and watches while Clint saves the day. He summons Native American warriors to kill the evil creature, then sacrifices himself to send Shannon back to Partholon. She literally does nothing.

Overall, Shannon drove me nuts in this book. I have a policy about not putting a book down before it’s finished, and I’ve only rarely broken it. My main goal in reading this book was to bridge the gap before reading the next one, Divine By Blood, which is the only one I haven’t read before. It’s new to me, which makes it exciting, and I’m hoping I truly enjoy it instead of it just being something for me to finish and move on.

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I Like My Secondary Character Better Than I Like My Protagonist

Yeah. I’ve been neglecting my story, so I’ve gotten behind, and I’m still working on chapter 10. If you remember from Introducing New Characters Partway Through A Story, chapter 10 switches the perspective from the protagonist to the crown prince, to describe events taking place in a different part of the kingdom. It’s an essential part of the story, and I’m having a lot of fun writing it.

The problem is, I like writing about Prince Tynan better than I like writing about Callum. It may be that after 9 chapters I’m a little tired of Callum. It may be that Callum is a little whiny and sometimes stupid and I’m thinking about going back and rewriting him a little to make him more likeable. It may that I like Prince Tynan’s storyline better than I like Callum’s storyline. Whatever the reason, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a bit hard to revert back to writing about Callum.

I never intended to have much to do with the prince. As I’ve refined my plot his role has grown, and I intend for him to be important to the resolution, but I still don’t want him taking up a lot of space in this story. Partly because I don’t want to get into writing about the kingdom as a whole or castle politics. But mostly because this is Callum’s story. He’s the one who needs to learn and grow and ultimately save the day.

I like Prince Tynan because he’s smart, well-educated (they’re not the same thing), and family oriented. He listens to wise counsel and makes good decisions. He’s concerned about the future of his kingdom and is taking seriously the role he’s assigned to play. But as much as I like him, I need him to stay somewhat in the background right now. I’m semi-considering another story in which he can feature. At the end of this one, Prince Tynan lives, and will be needed to help pick up the pieces of the conflict. Maybe I can write a sequel just for him, and give him his own story. I have a half-formed idea of what that could be, but I’m trying not to dwell on it. One story at a time.

As for Callum, I need to work on liking him more. The re-write should help. Moving faster will help. I know from experience that the longer I stall on a story, the less desire I have to finish it. I just want to move on to something fresh and exciting. Getting back into his story and out of chapter 10 should help.

Talk to me in the comments. Have you ever felt more drawn to a secondary character than your protagonist?

2 Replies to “I Like My Secondary Character Better Than I Like My Protagonist”

  1. Totally been there before and I’m sure I will again. I’ve written a hundred short stories, and even a few longer ones, where I started, got pages into the project, then puttered out for one reason or the other. I didn’t like my character enough. Or I didn’t know where to take the story. Or, the original idea that spasmed in my head some saturday morning at 3am no longer appealed to me.

    What changed my perspective, after years of waffling in my starting-and-stopping approach, was actually completing an outline. It’s the first time I’ve done it, and I’ve enjoyed the results. I have so much excitement for what comes next. Sure, I’m sure pieces, small and large, will change and many things already have. But knowing what’s in store for my protagonist helps me stay present in what is happening. And keeps me excited for the next page I’ll write.

    Having an outline is like finding out one of your close friends haven’t seen one of your favorite movies. “For real, you haven’t seen this? Well, I know what we’re doing tonight!” And then you watch it together and you just know what is going to happen and keep watching their face for those moments you treasure. Yeah. It’s like that.

    1. I’ve never thought of an outline like that. I don’t have one, but There’s a basic one in my head. I also know how the story is going to end, and I think that’s why I might be struggling with Callum a bit. I like where Prince Tynan ends better than I like where Callum ends.

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Divine By Mistake

This week I’m reading P.C. Cast’s Divine By Mistake (spoilers). I read this book for the first time in college, over the summer while working as a camp counselor. It wasn’t something I would’ve picked out for myself at the time, but one of the other counselors had a copy and I had nothing else to read, so I asked to borrow it.

Reading this book the first time made me blush. It’s officially a fantasy, but carries some definite romance themes. The actual sex scenes are muted, but the lead-ups are graphic and intense. I remember thinking that I didn’t want anyone to know I was reading that kind of trash. My opinion on this has changed. I’m significantly wider read these days, and some of my favorite authors (looking at you, Kelley Armstrong) frequently write sex scenes so much more detailed than Divine By Mistake has. I’m desensitized, so they really don’t bother me anymore.

What struck me this time around was the complete unbelievability of the main character, Shannon Parker. If you’re unfamiliar with the book, here’s a basic overview: Shannon Parker is a run-of-the-mill English teacher from Oklahoma. One day she finds herself sucked through a portal into a fantasy world. The people there mirror people from her own world, and she herself is a mirror image of High Priestess and Goddess Incarnate, Rhiannon. Rhiannon, having discovered the mirrored world, traded places with Shannon to escape her own responsibilities.

Shannon awakes to find herself in this new world and everyone believes she is the real Rhiannon. This is where I find her reactions hard to believe. She has a few hours of “holy crap, this is all really weird”, then just kind of decides to go with it. For the next several days as the story unfolds she has fleeting thoughts of “I wonder what’s happening back in my own world” and “Rhiannon is probably destroying my life” but she seems perfectly content to just throw away everything she’s ever known without any notice. There’s no grieving for the relationships she left behind (she just replaces them with the mirrored people in the new world), there’s no crying over the life she lost, and there’s no freaking out over the strange new things she’s thrown into. On her first day, she’s told she’s been exchanged and then marries a centaur. Seriously? I think I would barricade myself in my room, convince myself I’d gone crazy and was locked away in an institution somewhere, or maybe just faint when the troop of centaurs walked into the room. Something more than “well this is my life now, it’s a little weird but I guess I’ll get used to it”.

What also strikes me as strange (and is definitely related), is she never tries to go home. There’s one or two places where she mentions that it’s impossible, but she never even tries to research how the switch happened in the first place. Her maid, Alanna, tells her about the experimentation and ritual Rhiannon performed, but she never seeks to understand it further. She never tries to determine if it can be replicated. She never even expresses a desire to go home. All of which is very unbelievable to me. In time, yes, maybe she could adjust to her new circumstances and come to accept that she can’t go home, but not immediately and not without fighting against it first.

That being said, I did enjoy the book. I’m looking forward to reading the next two, Divine By Choice and Divine By Blood. Once you get past the believability issue, it’s a beautiful story and a lot of fun to read. Shannon’s secret is shared among her close friends, she falls deeply in love with her centaur husband, and she saves her people from both disease and a deadly invasion. Rhiannon’s actions were steeped in selfishness and arrogance, but Shannon is able to turn the situation into something good and wholesome and find her true purpose in life.

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Heirloom Poetry

“Through this toilsome world, alas!

Once and only once I pass;

If a kindness I may show,

If a good deed I may do

To a suffering fellow man,

Let me do it while I can.

No delay, for it is plain

I shall not pass this way again.”

“I Shall Not Pass This Way Again”-Author Unknown

After nearly two weeks at my parents’ house, I’m finally home. I know my posting has been erratic, but it should stabilize now. Before I left, my mom wanted to go through the bookcase with me and send me away with their classics. I’m talking Huckleberry FinnGulliver’s TravelsArabian Nights, etc. It’s pretty cool. Although now I have a box of books that don’t fit on my already too-small bookshelves. She also gave me a book of poetry.

This isn’t just any book of poetry. It’s a family keepsake, handed-down book of poetry. It’s called The Best Loved Poems of the American People, and was compiled by an editor of the The New York Times Book Review. My mom got it from her grandmother, Daisy, and now she’s handing it down to me. There’s a handwritten inscription inside the cover: This book was presented to Mrs. Daisy Wilkins by her sister Mrs. Mina McAnally on May 24th, 1952 while in Mary Sherman Hospital.

1952! It smells musty, and there’s a little water damage on the cover, but I think it’s beautiful. My family doesn’t have much in the way of heirlooms, but I couldn’t have asked for a better one than a book.

 

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