Monday, September 15, 2008

I hate WIMPs

Seven comments to move on. You guys have gotten the hang of this, right?

So....someone needs to die. Her name is Jasmine, and she's got to go. She's a WIMP and I have no patience for Women in Mortal Peril.

Jasmine is the reason I'm always hesitant to pick up women-centric suspense novels. She's the heroine of a big national release who's title I will not metion here, but I will excerpt it to illustrate the point...(I am so determined to make this point that I'm going to do an excessive amount of typing to get it across. Good thing Typer Shark puts me at 65 wpm).

The person who'd stolen her purse had a key to her room. He didn't have her room number, but that didn't reassure her. It was such a small hotel he could easily have gone door to door until the key worked. You're totally right. Let's work out an intelligent plan. Like calling the police who know your purse is stolen and that whoever did it locked you in a basement and then asking them to check out your hotel room, because that's totally reasonable.

Was he in her room, waiting for her? Yes. It's a formula. Of course he's there. Why are you the only one who doesn't know that?

The letdown after the adrenaline rush of the afternoon had left her exhausted but not relieved. She still felt apprehensive, (duh) although she couldn't say why (could it be that a bad guy has a key to your hotel room?). If the person who'd pushed her into the cellar had wanted to harm her, he'd already had the chance. At this point, she was pretty convinced that was Phillip, who didn't strike her as all that dangerous (except for the part about smacking you in the skull and locking you in with a dead body where no one could find you). Besides, even bad guys celebrated Christmas (Sure. Here, honey, I know you wanted a spa day and manicure. This one just happens to be on a hand I already dismembered from one of my serial victims. She went back to her hotel room even though she knew I had a key to it). If she'd learned anything in profiling, it was how normal--at least on the surface--criminals could be.

Hopefully, the man who'd taken her purse had a family and all the usual Christmas obligations. (Sadly, no. He's waiting in your hotel room for you, hoping you're dumber than he thinks you are. And guess what? You are.) She'd simply get her room rekeyed and hole up until morning, when the money would arrive and she'd be able to move to a different hotel.

Her decision made, she drove a few blocks to the public lot, where she'd already paid for a week in advance. She parked the sedan and got out.

Her footsetps echoed on the pavement as she walked through the fog. She felt strangely bereft without the security offered by the contents of her purse and wished she had her Mace. (Let's pause for a recap: violent guy who locked you in a basement after knocking you out now has your hotel key. But it's Christmas and even bad guys take a break so maybe he's not there. Rather than call the police or even tell the owner there might be a crazy man on the loose, you're going up by yourself. Because you are brave and resourceful, if exceptionally stupid. Oh, and maybe not resourceful seeing as you are arming yourself with exactly nothing.) But maybe she was being paranoid. She could buy another can tomorrow, after the money showed up. (Might be hard to do since you're going to be dismembered and whatnot.)

As she reached the entrance to the alley, she glanced up at her hotel--and froze. (Whew. It might have taken a few minutes too long but at least now she's onto the fact that something ain't quite right. Good girl.) The fog was so thick she couldn't be sure, but she thought she saw a light shining in her room. Had she left it on herself? Nevermind. Still dumb.

The fears and doubts she'd battled only moments before descended gain as she wondered what to do. She couldn't return to her room alone, not without a weapon. She could call the police or ask Mr Cabanis or his wife or daughter to accompany her. (Yes, absolutely. Do what 99.9% of the female and oh, wait, even the male portion of our population would do. Good.) But chances were she was jumping at shadows. And even if one of the Cabanises walked her to her room, there was no guarantee someone wouldn't be hurt. Let's just make sure it's you, then. At this point I am totally okay with that. Git her, bad dude!

Then she remembered the fire escape. She could use it to take a quick peek, see whether it was safe to go back.

Grazing her fingertips along the gritty brick surface of the building, Jasmine walked slowly. She didn't want to twist an ankle or fall over a pile of garbage or worse. She might be risking more by coming into this dark alley than by returning to her room (You think?), but her curiosity about that light coaxed her on. Curiosity, now would be the time to kill the cat. Please. We need to thin the herd and she's too stupid to live.

A rock skittered across the ground, and she halted abruptly. She was pretty sure she'd dislodged it with her own feet, but the noise heightened the foreboding that'd settled over her when the wind died down and the fog rolled in. It took her a few minutes to recover the nerve to press forward, but the closer she got the more certain she was that the light was coming from her room. Well then, by all means, keep going...you have NO REASON to think that crazy murderer man would be waiting to try again. It was just a fluke that he attacked you the first time. I bet this time, he's here to talk.

The metal of the fire escape felt cold and clammy beneath her hand. It shook as she stepped on it, and she wondered if it'd bear her weight without pulling away from the building. The metal squeaked loudly as she gave it a strong jerk, but when it held fast, she managed to summon the confidence to climb it. If everything was okay, she'd be able to enter her room, at which point she'd pack up her belongings and ask to switch rooms. But if it's not, she's totally dead meat because the screeching, clanging metal has now alerted the bad guy to get into optimal knife-swinging position.

But everything wasn't okay. Her room wasn't as she'd left it.

Someone had come here, just as she'd feared...

With a scream, Jasmine scrambled down the fire escape. She thought the locked door would give her a good lead (and why not? Your judgment has been stellar to this point) but the fire alarm sounded briefly, and she knew he was coming after her. She could feel the fire escape shimmy as he jumped down a few steps with every stride.

She slipped and fell on the wet metal (Yes! She's going to die!) and had to get up again, which cost her valuable time. Still, she hit the ground before he reached her. But it was so dark she tripped on a pothole a nearly fell into a puddle. What?! Really? The dumbest woman on the planet now trips over her own feet while escaping because she's probably wearing stilettos? I'm shocked.

I got another of this author's books free and there's no way I can read it because I cannot deal with women protagonists whose peril is purely the result of stupidity or naivete. I guarantee you if a guy were in the same boat, at the very least he'd be going down the alley with a gun but most likely not going down the alley at all.

I get the need to create suspense but not at the expense of your character's credibility. And not with stupid stuff like falling. Let it at least be the result of a cunning opponent or a vast conspiracy, not a dumb thug who gets the drop on your heroine because she's dumber.

And that's my little rant. I'm just saying...it kinda bugs. Can't we do better than that even if it is popular fiction? Do you have little things like this that irritate you in genre fiction? Tell auntie Melanie all about it.

And now after saying all of that, karma is totally going to bite me in the butt....but, I sent off my manuscript today. It was a surreal moment. And granted, my protagonist, Jessie, is more likely to worry about a spreadsheet than a serial killer, but I guarantee if she ever was in a dark alley (which she would never be), she'd have a SWAT team behind her and probably Jack Bauer on speed dial.

If you know of any great romantic suspense authors, let me know, would you? I'd like to read more of the genre but I'm nigh unto quitting due to my extreme WIMP allergy. Are there any tough chicks out there in fiction land?

10 comments:

Stephanie Humphreys said...

I agree, and thanks for the breakdown. I had a good laugh. My book went into the mail today and now I'm thinking back hoping I got every WIMP moment out of the manuscript.

Iguana Montana said...

I am certainly glad that I am not the only one who has actively rooted for the death of a protagonist of a novel simply because they are too stupid to live.

I have actually yelled "YES!" aloud (scaring my wife, dog, sleeping children in the process). That point usually marks the spot where the page-turning increases dramatically in speed.... Y'know, so that you can still say you "finished" the book. You never know.... There may be a worthy surprise waiting at the end.

But you know there won't be.

Kimberly said...

Umm. This was published? It hurt my brain just reading those excerpts. Eww.

Heather of the EO said...

This is why I stay so far away from romances of any kind. I have yet to hear of an intelligent one. Sorry i am of no help to you.
Oh, you are so funny. That was so much fun to read!
I'm not a terrific writer, especially fiction, but I think even I could have pulled this off! :)

Alison Wonderland said...

Now you have me all nervous. I don't think Emery's that dumb.

You sent off your ms?! That's huge! Congrats!

Oh and, Amelia Peabody. start with "Crocodile on the Sandbank" by Elizabeth Peters. Dumb title, I know but trust me on this one. That one's not the best but it's the first and it's definitely good enough to get you started.

Jami said...

Nicely articulated. Too stupid to live.

Lisa said...

What fun!! I am really not all that well read outside some of Victorian classics. I have a really hard time reading a lot of modern stuff because it does seem so far fetched and I can't imagine people actually acting that way.

Congrats on sending of your manuscript! That's awesome!

Nancy said...

Well said...
I am excited about your manuscript...fingers, toes, eyes crossed.

I do like Maisie Dobbs...girl sleuth : ) I thought of the movie Gas Light is it? I wonder if there is a book?
ximrdznn: girl too stupid to left alive!

charrette said...

This is my favorite thing I've read all day! I love your witty comments on this really bad novel. (I MUST know the title so I don't accidentally buy it and read it!) Actually, there's little danger of that, since I've never been a fan of romance novels...we spent too much time mocking them as teenagers and I've never fully recovered.

Confession: I LOVE people who get all snarky about bad work in their respective fields. I knew it was true love when my hubby and I sat and criticized all the ads in the symphony program on our first date!

That was just hilarious! Thank you!

charrette said...

p.s. My favorite line? was this: (Might be hard to do since you're going to be dismembered and whatnot.)