Different Strokes - Detectives and Mentors
This month Holly March runs us through two archetypes that transcend gender bias and stereotyping to add to your arsenal of characters: The Detective and The Mentor.
Since I’m aware my articles have tended towards a traditional and outdated binary gender system, I’m going to broaden out a little. I can’t promise to always be good, but this month in particular I want to focus on non-gender role specific archetypes.
First off, The Detective.
Oh look, an opportunity to use pictures of Benedict Cumberbatch and Lyndie Greenwood. Mwahahaha…
The Detective is often set apart, even within their own family. Their analytical brain―and you’ll have to learn the difference between deductive and abductive reasoning―can make them abrasive or aloof to others.
And let’s face it, we all love watching walls come crumbling down. The moment the cold, dispassionate detective finally breaks, shouting “Don’t touch them!” or “Don’t leave me!” and it’s so…damn…good.
The moment the hard-bitten detective finally gives in and kisses with wild abandon is beautiful. (Not a pure romance, but Caldyr finally kissing her love interest in the second Glass Fate book by John Cordial made me cheer so loud the cat jumped off the bed!)
Now, I am not smart enough to read a lot of detective stories or thrillers, so please, please comment with your examples for this one. I do, however, really recommend as ever Alyssa Cole’s Loyal League series. A Hope Divided, especially, features both a male and female protagonist with the analytical mind and determination to stay focused on the task in hand. [edit: An Unconditional Freedom is amazing! Each book in this series is the best!]
I also recommend Stephanie Laurens’ Bastion Club series. Again, they blur the line towards spy rather than pure detective but the comparison stands.
The Detective is a good conduit for neurodiversity. Benedict Cumberbatch played Sherlock Holmes as autistic, and Robert Downey Jr at the very least played him with ADHD.
What is interesting is that the Holmes books were written almost exclusively from Watson’s point of view. In the Hound of the Baskervilles Sherlock is absent for most of the book, basically waiting in the wings going, “Tee hee hee, this will blow John’s mind!” Detectives are often seen as a thing apart (which means you don’t have to actually write them realising plot twists, phew!) something to be admired and annoyed by like, A Shadow’s Child is rubbed wrong by Long Chau in The Teamaster and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t include the steps to working out the crime/situation by the way. I just cannot. I can’t do problems! My brain shuts down and refuses.
This lends itself perfectly to the Enemies to Lovers trope, a perennial favourite. Also, a case is an excellent way to force two people together for a time, and to have them see each other as intelligent, useful, and irreplaceable equals.
Mentors, however, are intrinsically linked to power imbalance. Even if the mentor isn’t a Svengali asshole, there is bound to be a point where their influence and power over the mentee shifts as the pupil outstrips the master, leaves their tutelage, or graduates.
Eliza Doolittle leaves the house after the grand ball, having achieved everything that was intended. Anakin turns to the darkside. What? I mean… Obi Wan and Darth Vader aren’t doomed lovers… ahahahaa…
I love mentor/mentee ‘ships. I crave them! One of the reason I stopped reading mainstream fantasy was people like Guy Gavriel Kay and Brandon Sanderson killing off the hot, multi-layered mentor and leaving the heroine with a blander romance option. It drives me nuts!
And sure, I’m a slut for authority, but there doesn’t have to be that teacher and pupil vibe. Christi Caldwell’s More Than a Duke is a glorious example since the mentor is a rogue-type. A mentor teaching someone how to be sexy and seduce? Perfection. The first Maisey Yates I read, Take Me Cowboy (because who could resist that title?) has a similar set up.
Having someone realise they want the person who has been teaching them? Hot!
If someone can find me a Shapeshifter romance about someone learning how to accept the animal side of themselves with some hot but slightly impatient teacher, please gods, tweet me! I need it!
Another way to take this is of course “What have I done?”. Having the teacher realise they changed a person they loved into an average, normal person can be a gorgeous exploration of human interaction. The lessons worked too well! OH no! Now she’s flirting with Duke Obvious-Red-Herring. *Knuckle bite*
It takes the teacher down from their pedestal. It opens their eyes to what they lost in trying to make a unique person seem like everyone else. Love is worth the struggle, and it is what is unique that creates romance. It is worth long-distance, culture compromise, and sacrifice for each other's dreams (it occurs to me that all three can be found in Bend it like Beckham, by the way).
All archetypes should be One Size Fits All. These essays are titled “Different Strokes” but to be honest, it’s a misnomer. The point of these is to show that the same strokes can be applied to different characters. Every time I try and think of examples of an Archetype applied to any gender or a person who has none, I should be able to call them to mind.
I am limited in my reading to Happy Endings and Fluffy Fantasy. It’s why I read romance. I cannot read hard books anymore, and hard is not long words or deep context but rather emotional manipulation. I genuinely do love recommendations so you if you read one of these and think “Damn, why didn’t she mention My Favourite Book?” Please, tweet me! The link is below and I love getting new authors, but I’m an aspie, so I’ll happily reread the same book over and over and over.
And by now you’re all reading Christi Caldwell and Maisey Yates, right? Right!
Who are your favourite detectives and mentors? Do you have an archetypes you want Holly to cover? Comment below or tweet to her.