The Legend of Sookie: Poor writing in fanfic

Someone recently said to me that the only person’s side I was on in this community is Sookie’s. Oh how true it is. There is this idea that it is hard to write Eric in the community – and maybe it is. But the character I see little thought put into is Sookie.  Eric’s hard to write because he never gives us much tangible information – when Eric’s in the room, he’s all about Sookie and what she thinks. So why the hell is she written badly as well?

I don’t have severe problems with deviation from canon – otherwise I wouldn’t read fanfic. But fanfic should not in fact be contradicted by canon – that’s when you need to check your source material and check that things are working fine. To be honest, along with a lot less Sookie hate, there’d be fundamentally better writing. When Sookie in fics contradicts Sookie in canon, unless the author has thought it out, then the chances are you’ve taken aspects of yourself and put them into your fics, and haven’t broken out of your own character to write Sookie. If that engenders hate, well, that’s kinda sad – because the reader isn’t really hating on Sookie, apart from the rare irascible cases I see who see Sookie as their competition for the fictional Eric (and they tend to hate her no matter what she does), they’re hating on the personality of the writer.

So here’s some myths that I see all the time about what’s written about Sookie that have absolutely no basis in book Sookie’s personality. If the writer doesn’t have it that way for a reason (and some of my favourite authors do deviate, but with good reason because I can see they’ve thought it out and this is really only acceptable in AH because they have different lives that way), well, the writer isn’t thinking at all, and all the Sookie hate should rightly be interpreted as reviewers hating on the writer – whether as a protest to bad writing, or just aspects of your own personality.

Sookie is stupid

This one drives me particularly mad.

As a woman with post graduate degrees up the wazoo, I think I’m a good judge of how smart someone is. I have a high IQ, and I argue with future lawyers and police officers for a living – I’m hardly living life in the intellectual slow lane.

Sookie is by no means stupid. She’s not even average. She’s what I value the most in my life because I don’t have that ability – a lateral thinker. Most of the people who think Sookie is stupid love Eric. So what does Eric have to say about Sookie’s intelligence (when he’s not throwing around “Stupid woman” epithets when she refuses to do what he wants).

Well, he tells Andre before Rhodes that Sookie has a knack for thinking outside the box. And so she does. Sookie often thinks of stuff that escapes thousand year old vampires – mainly because her lack of arrogance and the thought she puts into stuff means that she doesn’t come at things the usual way. Sookie also has a remarkable ability to think quickly – and not just wait for someone else to tell her stuff.

So thanks to Sookie, there’s inklings of some sort of takeover a couple of months before it happens – in the form of “Did they hire a weather witch to delay the summit?”, the vampires find out that Hallow intends to drain Eric specifically in the witch war – and no one else was thinking about that one. She works out that the takeover is coming just before it does – based on very limited Eric vetted information.

So I think that unless you think Eric is a mouthbreather, stop it. He’s called her intelligent at least twice (implied in LDID, in DTTW, in ATD, implied in DAG, implied in DITF), you’d be better off thinking about the assertion that Sookie is stupid.

Now, as I’ve said before, the headline was quoted out of context to get readers, but that doesn’t mean the headline is the news story. Once again, CH did not say Sookie was stupid. This was the quote:

“I didn’t want to write about being a vampire,” Harris said. “I wanted to write about
people who were interacting with vampires. I thought it would be fun to write
about a woman dating a vampire, so I imagined what kind of woman
would do such a stupid thing. It’d have to be a woman who
couldn’t date humans for another reason.”
Source

As you can see, in context, CH did not call Sookie stupid. But that big chunk of quotage makes one hell of a crappy headline, so they went with “Author calls Sookie stupid”. Who she called stupid was all those fangbangers. I personally take umbrage myself at being called a fangbanger. They are a little silly – everyone lectures them not to get involved with vampires – including ambulance officers who’ve stitched up silly girls who have sex with vamps for the thrills. Girls who go to be with vampires for shits and giggles are stupid. Sookie doesn’t do it because it’s rebellious, outrageous and fun.

Most of the time, the people I notice who call her stupid most often are people I don’t think are very logical. They expect Sookie to know stuff that she couldn’t.  One of the popular arguments for “Sookie is a dumbarse” is that she didn’t know that Bill had an agenda. That requires Sookie to believe that no one would ever genuinely love her – and that’s the exact same thing they complain about when it comes to Eric. “Oh why won’t she just trust in Eric” – well, don’t you think that’s antithetical? Trust no vampire would love her when it’s Bill, but not when it’s Eric? The fact that Eric’s saved her – yeah – Bill did that too. There were those Rattrays who beat her almost to death. Bill looked as trustworthy as any vampire. If that’s your measure of “smarts” then for goodness sake, apply it evenly. Then Sookie can end up with not a vampire, and your want for her to be smart will be fulfilled.

Speaking of even treatment, since Eric gets himself shot no less than four times, if we’re concluding that getting injured when it can be avoided, then Eric is a way bigger idiot than her. Eric got killed before he was 23 – that’s how he’s around. Sookie made it past that without dying. Eric has taken a lot of injury from not watching woods, or from trusting work colleagues, and he was hardly onto Bill’s plan from the moment he saw him – CH says he didn’t know until he got to NOLA.

Sookie should do…..something that involves money, like go to university, like get a nicer house

Well, that’s said from the place of privilege. It’s easy to have options when you have money and stuff like savings. Since the majority of us here on the internet had to pay for computers and internet, odds are that we’re not on a limited income like Sookie. I recently saw Sookie being written as “middle class”. My left foot! Sookie is not middle class, unless you count the homeless as the “lower class”. Sookie is at the very bottom of the social rungs as far as money goes. One step above homeless – which makes her blue collar/working class.

Know how much waitresses in the US earn? Just under $25,000 per year.

Real life waitresses I’ve spoken to on the net say it just isn’t enough to live on. That’s including tips by the way, which wouldn’t be terribly high in Bon Temps either. That’s barely enough to scratch out a living – and maybe, if you’re really strict, then you could do a little more with your money, but it’s just not an unlimited resource. Here, Sookie wouldn’t qualify for a credit card or a home loan, and from my cursory look at HBC bank, she would have a tough time getting either in the US either.

There’s numerous incidents of Sookie freaking out about money in the books. Sookie often laments the expensive cost of True Blood, and she freaks out over big expenditures that eat into her savings, like the kitchen fire, her car, the hospital bill for when she got shot by Sweetie. Sookie doesn’t even get a mobile phone until Amelia moves in and helps her a little on the rent – and that’s the only reason she gets one – because it’s given her a bit more pin money. If ever someone needed a mobile phone, it’s Sookie with her crappy car and tendency to get attacked, but she can’t afford it until after DTTW.

So there’s only the money that she earns, and she doesn’t have unlimited people to lean on when it comes to that. She has Jason – who isn’t much better off, and Sam, who has more money, but really, he’s not an endless pot of money that she never has to pay back. Sookie has an abysmal support network.

There’s other richer supernaturals out there, but how the hell is she going to pay them back? I know all hopes are pinned on one Eric Northman, that he’s handing out money, but he’s really not. That is contradicted by canon as well:

“I will not have you going without anything you need, and I know you enough to be
sure you wouldn’t ask for money for something frivolous.”
Dead and Gone, p. 95
That’s not “let’s go crazy Broadway style” – that’s if you’re in a bind and you need something, don’t go without it. For all the fanfic cars Eric’s been desperate to buy Sookie, he certainly hasn’t done it. But hey, you can always keep that little fantasy alive by saying he hasn’t done it because he’s considerate or some such bullshit. The car remark was supposed to point out to Amnesia Eric (and the reader) that Sookie is a hell of a lot poorer than the rest of the supes, and they still put her on the front lines of battle, while being inconsiderate pricks with way more to lose than she has on the line.

Personally, after watching women I’ve known have ex-boyfriends take back stuff they’ve given their girlfriends, I’d prefer to have nothing than to have a lavish gift from someone who will take it back off me cause they don’t like me any more. Furthermore, when it comes to supes, Sookie has an object lesson – Tara.

Tara got a whole bunch of gifts from Franklin Mott, and only after he owed a debt to Mickey’s maker did he tell her that they weren’t in fact, gifts, but rather a debt to be repaid. So Tara went with Mickey because she certainly didn’t have the money to pay Franklin back. Lots of girls in real life are caught that way too – poor girls pimped out to pay for the drugs their pimps deliberately got them addicted to. Poor girls who find themselves indebted and who can’t survive long.

Even Patrick Furnan tells Sookie that Calvin won’t keep helping her for free – and all the help Calvin gave was unsolicited, Sookie wasn’t using him, couldn’t return it, and Calvin didn’t mention upfront it came with debts and obligations to marry. Maybe if you have rich relatives, or grew up middle class you wouldn’t get this. I was lucky enough to grow up in a poor household, where I know what it means to have to pinch all the pennies. Sookie is no different.

The idea that she could sell her house and use that money? Yeah. Not possible. Real estate is in the toilet for houses in Northern Louisiana (they have some of the lowest property tax rates in the country based on house valuation) in small towns, that are conveniently adjacent to woods, vampire neighbours and cemeteries. No one is going to buy that house. Without a considerable bit of money, Sookie isn’t moving anywhere.

In all honesty, the vampires prey on Sookie because she doesn’t have money. People with money have security systems, bodyguards and the resources to move the hell away from vampires. Poor people are invisible. If Jason, road crew worker goes missing to bring Sookie into line, no one will care. If Jason, heir to the Stackhouse fortune goes missing to bring Sookie into line, then someone will care. Vampires use the poor to hide their bullying, and poor people have no way to defend themselves. So ever it is with organised crime – it only affects the rich when they get greedy.

Sookie is a prude

What do I think is at the heart of this belief that Sookie is a prude? For some I think it’s their own personal stance imposed on the character – they’re uncomfortable with their own sexuality, and thus Sookie’s. But for others, well, who will read it if you don’t porn it up? So in order not to think so deeply about it, they cite the whole “Sookie is a prude” thing.

Sookie shows the absolute opposite of prudish behaviour. She jumps into bed with Bill within a couple of weeks. Sookie kisses Bill on their first date – she was the mover and shaker in that relationship. Sookie’s also always thinking with eagerness about having sex. Just because she’s into serial monogamy doesn’t mean she’s a prude. After all, I doubt many readers wanted her to throw down with Claude when he burst into her shower in DITF.

Sookie’s also a telepath. Imagine all the thoughts you’ve had over you lifetime to do with sex – now imagine what it’s like if you got an unfiltered pipeline from the time you were a child from not just one person, but a whole town full. That’s how much sexual education Sookie has had. The rest of us aren’t usually exposed to explicit sexual material at such an early age. People don’t filter their thoughts at all. Sookie doesn’t need to read about any sexual technique – it has come unbidden to her. In fact, she narrates:

“…he’d be thinking something provocative, trying to get me to say something….he
pictured me cavorting with my brother….I was beyond getting angry and
into the realm of tears. It reminded me of the less sophisticated tormenting
I’d taken when I was in grade school.”
Dead Until Dark, p. 117

Sookie has not only seen this stuff unbidden, but she’s also been teased with it. So anything you can think up, I’m sure Sookie’s seen it in her head a billion times. She doesn’t need any manual at all. Sookie doesn’t need the internet – she’s had porn popups her entire life. You can only imagine what she’s seen.

Not to mention, that some of the stuff that was originally written in for her character was actually edited out. Charlaine Harris originally had a sex scene while Sookie was menstruating:

they certainly know when women are having their “lady time.”
“I wrote a great scene about that, but my editor made me take it out.
For some reason, she thought it was in bad taste . . . go figure! ”
Source

In fanfic, that’s seen as a risky subject – but it was always built in as a possibility for Sookie – she is the type of woman who would do that, because that’s in CH’s original conception. Any squeamishness or shyness you’re seeing has little to do with what she finds acceptable as far as sexual practice.  Sookie hasn’t made any judgement on sexual practice – just the feelings involved, the way that it’s done and who it’s done with.

Furthermore, re-read all your sex scenes – not one single time does Sookie attempt to cover herself. When Eric hops into her shower, she doesn’t try to hide her body. The first time with Bill she doesn’t hide. It’s only when Bill asks Sookie to tell him about it that she says she’s embarrassed. But for a near virgin, that’s pretty daring – and it’s clear from Bill’s later use of the word “fuck” that they often talk dirty to each other.

It is of course that people have interpreted Sookie not sleeping with Eric as prudish. Except it’s not. Sookie states clearly that her reasons include power, politics and being head honcho in Shreveport. Not to mention that if she were really worried about it, she wouldn’t have slept with him in DTTW – she doesn’t know that at the end of the book he’ll lose his memory. She just has her own conditions for why she doesn’t want to sleep with him, that have to do with not being stupid.

Sookie is beautiful and cares about her looks

Sookie herself says that she has big boobs, and blonde hair. The only thing Sookie does care about is her hair. All the rest, well, that’s less of a concern for her.

For Sookie, her hair is the one thing she hates being fucked with. She gets upset in Dallas not when she sees the bruises all over her body, but when she sees her hair is all fucked up. Same in the opening chapter of Dead Reckoning. She comments all the time on the benefit to her hair that vampire blood has.

Other than that, Sookie doesn’t much care about how she looks. She has scars on her back from the Maenad, one on her side from the stake, and a dip in her thigh from the fae torture. If she were really that concerned, she’d ask for plastic surgery or access all that vampire blood vampires try to pump into her.

CH says that Sookie would look most like Reese Witherspoon. So if you’re envisioning some Rubenesque beauty – think again. Sookie always talks about how she feels ugly compared to the other supes.

Not to mention that if you’re attributing beauty to Sookie to explain Eric’s attraction – whoo boy, you sure think Eric is shallow. Eric doesn’t care about her looks either – as he shouldn’t. No one stays in love with just looks except vapid people.

Bill put Sookie off Eric, and without him, she would have loved Eric immediately

If this was Bill’s intention, he must be the crappiest planner in the world. This is what Bill said about Eric:

“The vampire over there is handsome; he has scanned you twice. “Then Sookie thinks:

” Kind of like the guys on the cover of romance books. He scared me to death.” Dead Until Dark, p. 105

Seriously. Bill didn’t need to make Eric scary to Sookie. Eric did that all by himself by being over a thousand, slightly menacing, and then calling her into Fangtasia.

Furthermore, I get the impression that Bill and Eric have a fundamental difference. Eric is fine with making more vampires. Bill is not. If Sookie got beaten by the Rattrays (which was not planned in the books) then I think Eric would have either let her die or turned her. Book over.

Bill hasn’t made more vampires, shows no wish to do so. At that fundamental plot point, that’s built into Bill’s purposes not to make her a vampire. Bill never thinks to even offer it – when Sookie refuses to turn, Bill says there is another way. I doubt Eric would have shared his blood with a telepath at that stage.

Sookie is not stealthy

This one drives me nuts as well. The idea that Sookie asks strategically stupid questions. Sookie in the books is a vastly different creature from the Sookie in the show, who has had all the brains sucked out of her. That Sookie, she’s an idiot. Our book Sookie, she’s the girl you want in a crisis, and she’s not an idiot.

She saves Bill from the Rattrays.
She saves herself from Rene Lenier – she stabs him with his own knife, while Bill is away in New Orleans.
She gets away from the Maenad – not by screaming for Bill – but by staying quiet in the treeline and awaiting Bill’s return.
She gets herself out of the Fellowship – not by being escorted out by Eric – but by making her own way out until Luna picks her up.
She gets herself away from the Maenad – by crawling on her hands and knees.
She is asked to go to Mississippi by Eric – and gets all the information he asks for. Eric gets bupkiss.
She gets Bill and herself out of the mansion at Mississippi.
She gets herself out of the service station on the way back to Bon Temps by sneaking around – and discovers Eric has been abducted before he finds her.
When Eric wants her to fall silent before the pledging is announced, she says nothing.
When the bonding happens, Sookie is calm and reasoned, even if she doesn’t want to do it.

Sookie in the show can barely find her arse with both hands. Sookie in the books has saved Pam, Bill, Eric – she’s no fool, and but for her, they’d all be dead. So stop with the complete contempt already. Please, please authors, remember that this isn’t Twilight. Sookie is rarely a passenger – she’s a pivotal character.

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