11. Do You Have What It Takes?

Ladies – a query has flooded into my inbox…

Dear Miss Cally Coe,

More than anything in the world I would like to be an “ASJ Fanfic Heroine”.

How do I know if I have what it takes?

Yours sincerely,

Mary Sue.

Wittering-on-the-Wold

-oooOOOooo-

I thought I would share my answer with you all (I’m generous that way)…

Dear Mary-Sue,

Help IS at hand.

I have, single-handed and without recourse to any research whatsoever, devised the ultimate test.

Simply answer the questions below, to see if you could be the lucky lady favoured by the attentions of one of our two loveable rogues.

“Do you have what it takes to be a ASJ fanfic love interest?”

(Patent unlikely.)

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Basically female leads fall into one of two categories:

a) Gorgeous.

(“Hey,” says the writer, “…it’s MY alter ego in MY fantasy world – She’s gonna stop traffic, okay!”)

b) Plain.

(“Hmmm?” muses the writer, “…I don’t want to risk the boys seeming shallow by going for ‘looks’…” ponder, ponder, scratch, brainwave, “…I know!”)

So take an honest look at yourself.

Not THAT honest! Sheesh! This is the 1880s. You can turn off the cruel overhead 100 watt bulbs and ditch the magnifying mirror. Take an honest look at yourself from four feet away, by the light of a moderately flattering oil lamp…

All done?

Right – Gorgeous gals – head for Section One. Orderly queue please. No shoving.

Plain Janes – go straight to Section Two.

SECTION 1 – Gorgeous Gals.

1) Figure. Do you have: (Tick all which apply)

a. Voluptuous womanly curves

b. A slim, yet womanly frame

c. A girlishly slim frame

d. A boyish, yet still feminine frame

[Roughly translated – Fairly slim, slim, slimmer, extra slim. Same old, same old.]

e. A waist slender as a young sapling

f. A waist which the hero can span with his hands

g. A heaving bosom

[It is not recommend you allow the hero to span your bosom with his hands until after you have been introduced.]

h. Softly curving hips over which your skirts skim, to froth, foamily, at your dainty feet

i. Shapely legs, which we occasionally see as you step, delicately, into a creek after peeling off stockings

2) Hair. Do you have: (Tick all which apply)

a. A wild tangle of unmanageable curls

b. Curls clustering richly around your neck

c. Curling and nodding tendrils escaping from the hairpins struggling to hold them in place

d. Hair cropped short – though somehow this makes your face still more piquantly feminine

e. Shimmering hair cascading smoothly down your back.

[Roughly translated – straight.]

f. Hair of a rich chestnut / vivid auburn / titian hair / hair flaming in the kiss of the autumn sunlight – bringing to mind the many hued marvels of a New England fall

[Roughly translated – redhead.]

g. Hair which reminds the hero of sunlight on a field of ripening corn / sunshine generally / the glint of gold at sunrise…

[Roughly translated – blonde.]

h. Hair with the indigo sheen of a raven’s wing

[Roughly translated – black.]

3) Eyes. Do you have: (Tick all which apply)

a. Eyes which show every emotion chasing across your sensitive mind

b. Eyes in which the hero can get lost

c. Eyes with an seductive upward slant

d. Eyes which are described as startling / amazing / wonderful / unbelievable / indescribable (though the last word obviously has its uses if the cat has fallen asleep on the thesaurus)

[If you actually DO have unbelievable eyes which – say, can see through lead, have infrared capability, come in a set of eight like a spiders, are located somewhere other than your face – you need to mark your test paper ‘Science Fiction Cross Over Fanfic Only!’ in BLOCK CAPITALS.]

e. Eyes which appear to change colour in moments of heightened emotion

f. Eyes fringed with richly curling, lush lashes

g. Eyes of a colour not usually seen in real life (well, amongst our species anyhow) – violet, vivid emerald green, golden…

[Yes I know Elizabeth Taylor is always described as having violet eyes – they are gorgeous, sure, but where I come from violet is purple.]

h. Eyes which can smile

i. Eyes which can deliver a disarming wide-eyed stare

[Now – does this ACTUALLY disarm an armed villain. Be honest, as you may well find you are required to demonstrate!]

j. Eyes which can speak / carry a silent message

[Useful for when the dialogue dries up!]

k. Eyes which show what is in your heart

[And, we suspect this is not major arteries and an intricate pumping mechanism.]

4) Face. Do you have: (Tick all which apply)

a. A heart shaped face

[Again we suspect this refers to the pip on a playing card, not the organ in your chest.]

b. A face which is a perfect oval

c. A flower-like countenance

d. A delicate roseleaf flush which steals over your cheeks

e. A complexion like cream / peaches and cream / roses and cream (Are you prepared to be whipped? Are you a clot?)

f. A tip-tilted nose with a delightful dusting of freckles

g. A tip-tilted nose with a delightful dusting of dust

h. Lips like petals / roseleaf lips

i. A soft and kissable mouth

j. A smile which invites kisses

k. A smile which lights up your face

l. A torch which lights up your face – Hey, if you’ve got it, flaunt it!

5) Miscellaneous gorgeousness. Do you have:

a. Finely turned ankles (Careful on those rough streets ladies.)

b. Dainty feet, which can nestle – warmly – in the lap of the hero

c. Tiny hands, with rosy tipped fingernails, which can nestle – trustingly – in the strong grip of the hero

d. Teeth like pearls

e. The grace of a gazelle / shy fawn

f. A swanlike neck

(If you also claim to possess a swanlike beak – its time to put the cork back in the wine, love.)

SECTION 2 – Plain Janes.

Now, like your literary ancestress – Plain Jane Eyre – it is acceptable for heroines to lack looks, BUT – you knew a “but” was coming, huh? – you have to be plain in the right way.

Cruel but true, I’m afraid.

The boys rarely fall for gals who are plain in the wrong way.

You will also need the odd redeeming physical attribute – for when the writer needs to show you ARE attractive, to people (reader flattery alert) who see you ‘properly’.

1) Your acceptable flaws. Do you have:

a. A figure that is too skinny / lanky / flat-chested / insignificant because you are ‘a tiny little thing’

b. Legs that are too long – like a fawn’s. A body that seems ‘all legs’

[I think we get the picture on the acceptable type of figure flaws, huh ladies? Sigh.]

c. Mouse coloured hair.

[Dormouse, not white-mouse. White hair and grey hair are unlikely to pass the heroine filter. Dang!]

d. Untidy hair. Say – bangs that hang over your eyes; a hank of hair you are constantly pushing back.

e. A mouth that is too generously large for your face.

f. Eyes that are too widely set for your face

g. Insignificant features

h. A complexion tanned by your outdoor life

i. Lots of freckles

j. A crooked smile.

k. A gap toothed smile. (However – buckteeth will probably not pass as ‘acceptable flaw’.)

l. Ink stained fingers / face (writers / school ma-ams)

m. Workworn hands / face (generic honest toil)

n. Grubby hands / face (outdoor work, wholesome cleaning activity)

o. Flour covered hands / face… well, you get the picture…

2) Your redeeming physical attributes. Do you have:

a. Mobile features / animated features / speaking features.

[Unfortunately, possession of a mobile will not get you through.]

b. A face which lights up as you smile / talk.

c. An upper lip which lifts, enchantingly, as you listen to the hero

d. A determined little chin

e. A worried frown, which puckers your brow in a way the hero finds delightful

f. An eyebrow possessed of a teasing lift

g. An indescribable (cat on the thesaurus again) charm, which the hero does not understand

BACKGROUND AND EXPERIENCE

You may have the looks – but do you have the past history suitable to an ASJ fanfic heroine?

The key question for a girl hoping for a long-term relationship with one of the boys is: ‘Have you had a hard life?’

No – a really hard life.

No – a REALLY hard life.

1) Family: Have you: (tick all which apply)

a. Lost your parents

(This is almost obligatory. I cannot, off-hand, without of course going to the trouble of doing proper research, call to mind a heroine who had both parents alive, well and in regular contact at the time of her romance with one of the boys.)

b. Lost the first love of your life. (First husband, fiancé, childhood sweetheart.)

c. Lost a variety of family and friends.

d. An adorable child from your first marriage. Or an adorable younger sibling. Or an adorable orphan you are caring for.

e. Fertility problems.

(These may develop later. However, a Doctor gravely shaking his head over your chances of having children is the usual signal that the stork will be paying a surprise visit either later in the story, or in a sequel. An alternative scenario is you bravely rejecting a marriage proposal because you ‘cannot give him children’.)

f. A wicked stepmother / stepfather / guardian.

g. Memories of a grim orphanage.

h. Alternatively – memories of an idyllic childhood.

[All of the above will allow the hero to admire you for your resilience and fortitude – while, at the same time, giving you – despite being strong, independent, spunky, spirited – justifiable reasons for a good cry. Crying is required of heroines so they can: be folded in strong arms, be tenderly dried with a bandana, peer up through diamond-dewed lashes, summon up a brave smile… etc.]

2) Hardship: Have you been: (tick all which apply)

a. Ravished?

b. Ravaged?

c. Savaged?

d. Rummaged?

e. Scrummaged?

f. Falsely accused?

g. Lusted after by the villain?

h. Tied to a stake / railway line by the villain?

i. Jeered at, leered at, sneered at and peered at by the henchmen?

j. In a cave in?

k. In a fire?

l. Buried alive?

m. Buried in paperwork?

n. In dire peril?

o. In dire straits? (Can you get me their autographs?)

p. In a right state?

q. Threatened with imminent death?

r. Threatened with a fate worse than death?

s. Threatened with a fate even WORSE than a fate worse than death?

[This is good practice for your later married life. These incidents will be all in a day’s work for you once you have tied the knot with either Heyes or Curry. Then EITHER you will have a tragically early demise – for a good dose of partner hurt/comfort; OR after five to ten years or so of the above adventures, you settle down for a half century of conjugal bliss all dealt with in an economical paragraph or two.]

3) Four legged friends: Have you: (tick all which apply)

a. A marvellous way with horses?

b. A loyal dog – who seems almost human?

c. Ever rescued a puppy? Or a kitten? Or a trembling fawn?

d. Ever removed a thorn from the paw of any animal thereby winning its trust?

e. A propensity to be attacked by cougars?

f. Or bears?

g. Or mad bulls?

h. Or wolves?

i. Or any animals requiring Kid / Heyes to come to the rescue?

j. Do you bathe in creeks where you are likely to encounter rattlesnakes / alligators / killer turbots – requiring you to be rescued semi-nekkid?

4) Working life: How do you intend to earn your living until you meet the ex-outlaw of your dreams:

a. School ma-am, or perhaps a profession where a woman has to fight to be accepted in the 1880s. Lawyer / Doctor / Journalist / Democratic party candidate for the presidency of the United States.

b. In a hardy outdoor occupation – where a woman has to fight to be…ditto. Ranch owner / farmer / cowgirl / ostrich breeder / lion tamer in an all female, open-air circus.

c. In something less respectable – where a woman has to fight to be…you know the drill. Adventuress / outlaw / gunslinger / safe-breaker / casino owner.

[Any of the above will allow you to treat the reader to your thought processes, as you wrestle with whether you will give up your hard won independence, just because the ex-outlaw you have your eye on is likely to deliver a mind-blowing performance between the shee… I’m sorry. Did I say that out loud? I meant – just because you share a rare intellectual affinity / mutual sense of justice and decency / unique spiritual connection / love which is SO deep – it is difficult to put into words. Difficult until that dang cat moves anyhow.]

d. In the respectable arts. Dancer / singer / actress / fiction writer / painter.

[Qualms similar to ‘a’ above. In addition, you are almost certainly gifted with a rare talent. Your art will have a meaning for you, which is – due to the position of the sleeping cat – indescribable.]

e. In a poorly paid position, where you struggle to stay chaste (well, in the intervals of being ravaged, savaged…) Saloon girl WITHOUT the extras / Saloon singer / Laundry wench / Laundry wrench / Mangler / Wrangler / Rat-strangler / Drudge in the steaming kitchens of a cruel orphanage.

f. In a touchingly worthy situation. (Includes rich heroines who just do good works.) Founder and manager of an orphanage full of sweet, freckle-faced tykes / Founder and manager of a cats’ home full of tiny kitties, all needing teeny bandages on their weeny paws / Nursing sick racoons / Digging bullets out of passing ex-outlaws.

g. You are a Native American princess.

h. You are European royalty travelling incognito in the American West.

5) Other information:

a. In each of lines below circle the adjective MOST applicable to you

i. Feisty. Flirty. Thirty. Forty.

ii. Selfless Shelfless. Helpless. Hopeless

iii. Brave. Brazen. Chaste. Chased.

iv. Special. Specious. Precious. Priceless.

v. Sappy. Happy. Bashful. Dopey.

b. Which of the following items would be of most use to an ASJ heroine? (Circle one in each line.)

i. Railway timetable. Picklock. Map of Wyoming.

ii. Cougar trap. Snake oil. Duck call.

iii. Pack of cards. Pack of wolves. Pac-a-mac.

iv. Love potion. Invisibility cloak. Crystal ball.

v. Colt revolver. Harpoon. The script.

c. Pick the best ending for the following sentence:

“I would like to an ASJ heroine because…”

i) I am a glutton for punishment

ii) I am glutton for all American steak and deep dish apple pie

iii) I need the extra handbag space offered by magic saddlebags

iv) I bought twenty years supply of ex-outlaw strength bubble bath and need an ex-outlaw to use it on

v) I bought the gingham dress and bonnet and it looks silly when I wear it to the office

-oooOOOooo-

Please send your completed test paper, together with a well-thumbed photograph of the partner of your choice (no drool stains, please), to:

Miss Cally-Coe

Assistant Under-Secretary in Charge of Nothing

Ex-Outlaw Appreciation Society

Dun-Wittering

Strangely-Passing-Water

-oooOOOooo-

[NB: No offence intended to any ASJ heroine, nor to their writers. We only tease what we’re fond of, huh? And, besides, I am fully aware a well known phrase about ‘pots and kettles’ utterly applies.]

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