Scott Lynch Nails it on Agency

Elizabeth Bear Book Covers

Two covers from Elizabeth Bear's Promethean Age series

… and I want more writers doing a better job treating non-typical characters with it!

I mentioned yesterday on Facebook & Google+ that I wish Mark Hodder’s novel The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack had at least one female character with enough Agency to make meaningful choices and affect the story.  I think this is a pretty big problem in a lot of the fiction I encounter. Well, today I was reading the blog of author Scott Lynch wherin he talks about his appreciation for fellow-author Elizabeth Bear and in the process he put forth his definition of “agency”, and I resonate with it a lot. So, when I rant about non-typical characters having more agency in fiction, this is pretty much what I mean:

[Elizabeth] Bear pries secrets and desires out of the unlikeliest places; she reflexively invests her creations with agency the way too many authors habitually rub it out. Agency, by the way, is not a synonym for political authority or combat prowess or physical strength or social sanction within a narrative. Agency means that an author recognizes and respects that each character has motivation, wants, and an inner landscape; it means treating them as something more than props and puppets. It means writing them as though their hearts and heads have actual contents deserving of examination. The ability to swing swords and wear crowns and command ships has nothing to do with it.

via Scott_Lynch: What We Talk About When We Talk About Bear (II).

In case you might be wondering, I also happen to think that real-life humans – ALL of us – deserve to be treated ” as though their hearts and heads have actual contents deserving of examination”. Let’s get to work on that.

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