Monday, November 24, 2014

A Character with Agency: Harry Dresden

Every time the podcast team gets together, we wait for the moment Giles will mention Jim Butcher or the Dresden Files. We don’t usually have to wait for very long. Mention fantasy, mystery, detectives, humor, heroes, or great style, and Giles will launch into something about Jim Butcher.

This is not to say that it’s a bad thing. It’s just that until a few weeks ago, Emily and I were totally in the dark. We had never read Jim Butcher’s work, so the most we could do was nod and smile. But after we talked with Mr. Butcher, I knew it was time.

…and it was awesome.

If you haven’t read anything by Jim Butcher, go do it now. Right now. I could give you several reasons: the first book in the Dresden Files series is hilarious, it was a well-written rollercoaster crime show. It was like Castle meets The Thin Man meets your favorite fantasy series. I don’t think I’ve ever read an urban fantasy that so easily made me think its world could be real.

Harry Dresden is like a study in character agency. Every time he is faced with a decision, he walks through it using his own logic. I loved seeing him choose between terrible and awful things and then sticking with his choice. How can you argue with a guy who so plainly knows the consequences of each of his actions?

We talk about character agency in tomorrow’s brand-new podcast episode. It’s all about having a character who makes things happen – not someone who lets things happen to them. A character with agency makes decisions, moves the plot, and then makes more decisions. Butcher’s character of Harry Dresden does this with gusto. Sure, there are some plot things that are there to push back, like his backstory and the way magic works in this world. But on the whole, Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden (yes, that’s his full name) kicks butt in just about every sense of the term.

Michelle has a problem with reading the first book in a series, getting impatient to wait for the second to arrive at the library, and starting a completely different series in the meantime. Going from Storm Front to Steelheart to Divergent is interesting, to say the least. 

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