Subtitle: Researching Romantic Fantasy, Part Two
I’m considering my definitions of romantic fantasy and the ideas I developed in this old post as my starting point here. I’m revisiting some of those thoughts but you don’t really need to go back if you don’t want to, I’ll explain as I go.
So why do I think Harry Dresden is a good choice as a Male Lead Viewpoint Romantic Fantasy Character? Well, I guess I can start by saying that despite their classification as Urban Fantasy, I’d probably classify them just as much as Romantic Fantasy.
Harry is a good hero. Lots of crap gets dumped on Harry but he keeps chugging along, doing his best, and trying to keep doing his best for everyone around him. He’s also not “lily-white” and clean but he has lines he won’t cross and they’re good lines. I’m a big fan of Harry Dresden, Wizard.
The Dresden books fit my criteria for RF pretty well though. Looking back at my old post, I think that despite the fact that the supernatural is still a secret in Dresden’s modern world (maybe an “open secret” but still supposed to be a secret), the first point is still made, “the fantasy elements are not compromised.” In any given Dresden book there is usually a magical duel or two, a sense of wonder and discovery, really scary supernatural bad guys, some fantastic locations, and a supporting cast both magical and mundane. In fact, I’d go so far as to say one of the great strengths of those stories is the successful juxtaposition of magical and mundane.
To reference the Blue Rose commentary again, I think that the use of “pagan/real world” stuff makes a decent showing in the Dresden books, they are primarily focused on a “human” point of view, and they do deal with power diversity/social issues pretty heavily. Dresden is constantly confronted by the monolithic social structures of both the mundane and magical worlds and his individual actions are often dwarfed by or in response to those power structures (and his constant need to flip them the bird). I don’t want to get into specifics because, you know, possible spoilers, but suffice it to say that Dresden’s navigation between the the various power structures of his world and his sense of injustice about many of them, is a significant and important part of the stories. And as with many RF stories, despite the fact that Harry is a “Grown Up” (ahem), his need to find a place and be a part of something is always there in the stories. Harry is looking for family all the time.
And, well, um… I’m just gonna have to say it… Harry Dresden has special pets/animal companions/spirit mentors. If you’ve read the books, you get it. I laughed as I was writing this because I was amazed at how little I’d thought of this until now.
To reference my own points from that previous post, Dresden is special, but he’s hardly a Mary Sue. Bad stuff happens to his life all the time — and not little bad stuff, big bad stuff — and Harry is forced to sacrifice for the things that matter to him. He has power, but he is certainly not the most special of all the snowflakes… the books just happen to be about him.
The Dresden stories are also very “civilized.” Harry spends a lot of time chatting with his enemies. His enemies are as important a part of the world around him as his friends and he is often forced to spend a lot of time in the company of those he hates. This is a very common element of RF from what I’ve seen, and it’s very prevalent in the Dresden books. He can’t just “fight” his enemies, intrigue is important as tool of both the heroes and villains, and treachery is usually afoot.
Finally, I guess I’ll wrap up this rumination with the thought that Harry’s biggest weakness is his heart. Harry cares. And because he’s always looking for belonging, he’s always looking for family, he desperately needs the people around him. Harry loves deeply, takes loss hard, and can be manipulated through the people he cares about. His supporting cast is filled with lovers, potential lovers, past lovers, children, apprentices, mentors, friends, family, and a ton of other characters tied closely to him — whether they even know how much he cares or not. The primary motivation for many of Dresden’s actions are caring for others, protecting others, and avenging others. He is defined by his relationships as much as anything else.
So, that’s my take on Dresden as a way of exploring lead characters in RF. I don’t know if you’ll all agree or not but it was fun for me. It was also informative.
Thanks for reading.