Monday, March 19, 2007

Betina and the Action Heroine's Handbook

So, how many books have you read lately where a woman had a knife fight, dangled from a helicopter skid, broke into a building or safe, dug herself out of a cave-in, or crossed a crocodile-infested river? Yeah, me too. Action-adventure is all the rage these days. Women in books --yes, even MY women --are expected to be able to take care of themselves. And sometimes even to save the hero!

So, where do you go to find out how to fight, escape, drive, track, chase, survive. . . you know, the stuff that action heroines need to be able to do?

I just found a book titled The Action Heroine's Handbook, which purports to give you the skinny on: "how to win a catfight, drink someone under the table, choke a man with your bare thighs, and dozens of other TV and movie skills." I snatched it up and headed straight for the checkout counter. I mean, who wouldn't want to learn how to choke a man with her bare thighs?

I settled in with a cup of International Coffee (Cafe Vienna, my sugar-free fave) and started taking notes. The book was organized into sections dealing with "tough chick skills, beauty skills, brain skills, brawn skills, and escape skills". . . with techniques gleaned from real life heroes and heroines identified as "FBI agents, stuntwomen, sexologists, beauty queens, drag kings, champion boxers, dominatrixes, and detectives."

The first advice offered: "How to win a high-speed chase in high heels and a bustier." The illustrations are of Wonder Woman. Special tips include: staying on the balls of one's feet, pitching forward, and countering up-and-down breast bouncing with side to side elbow movement, and as a last resort-- flashing your opponent a bare breast to distract him. Upon catching the quarry, the reader is instructed to use her shoe heels as weapons.

Gee. I felt more powerful already. I went on to "how to pop a nose wheelie on a motorcycle," "how to navigate a room full of laser beams" (involves a lifetime of yoga), and came to "how to drink someone under the table."

Unfortunately, in order to drink someone under the table, you have to get used to drinking liquor, to "build tolerance" before hand. [Thus, I will never be good at this.] According to their expert, before the competition you have to fill your stomach with a normal sized meal, agree to which kind of liquor to consume (avoid mixed shots!), and consume one glass of stout beer half an hour before the competition to prepare your body to metabolize liquor. During the contest keep a sober demeanor--no chit-chat. Choose straight tequila if you can, since it contains a stimulant, remain standing through the competition, drink your shots at the same time as your opponent, maintain eye contact and focus, and order a harder or potent mixed shot when your opponent shows overt signs of inebriation-- slurred speech, wild laughing, or inability to get additional liquor into his open mouth.

The next chapters deal with recognizing the "undead" and escaping them, outwitting a Sasquatch, and giving birth under pressure. Huh? Giving birth under pressure? They cite Dana Scully of the X-Files as an example and urge the reader to remove as many external stressors as possible. Then "dim the lights, light candles for focus, put on some soft music," and "ignore external distractions such as gunfire, aliens, and flowing magma." The rest involves two clean shoelaces, a clean sock, some scissors, two baby blankets or large towels, and a large drop cloth. I had to quit reading at the drop cloth.

Moving quickly on, I learned "how to make yourself into a hottie in five minutes or less". . . which seemed a little optimistic and involved additional mascara, hair gel or hair spray for "action heroine volume", using bright red lipstick to emphasize your mouth, and using bronzer to better delineate your cleavage. Then there were a few quick dance lessons. . . tango (which is NOT simple-- I know, I had lessons!), fast "maniac" dancing, and of course striptease. By then I was really ready for instructions on "How to hook a millionaire," which involves identifying millionaires by their watches and shoes and then playing coy and letting them pay for things until they fall madly in love and insist on showering you with information and/or material goods. Alternatively, the next chapter is titled "how to turn a man into a sex pawn." (Shrug.) Different strokes, I guess.

I began to suspect the guide might not be as good as advertised when I got to the section on profiling a serial killer and found it consisted of three pages and six easy steps. Hey, why hasn't anybody shown this to the FBI? This is where I skipped ahead to the "choking a man with your bare thighs" part, which was why I bought the book in the first place.

Imagine my dismay upon learning you have to knock the guy to his hands and knees (doggie-style position) before you can start. Then you straddle his shoulders, taking his head between your thighs and pulling his head up by the hair. They caution you not to sit on his back. . . bad form, I guess. For additional "stunnage," box your opponent's ears while he's under your control. . . like you're clapping your hands, only his head is in the way. Hmmmm. If I could actually get a guy down on all fours, I would be able to run away right then. . . so, who needs the whole choking thing? If I do it this way, it seems like gratuitous choking. And don't I lose reader sympathy if my heroine is too eager with her thighs?

Then there was the "how to fight with your hands cuffed" section. . . where I learned I should-- I mean, the heroine should kick her opponent in the throat. Go on. . . just stretch up there with your hands cuffed behind you and kick that 6 foot 4 inch baddie in the throat. Or kick him in the groin or head-butt him in the bridge of his nose. Also, the front teeth are sharper for biting through skin than side or corner ones. . . and can easily bite through an ear or the end of a nose. . .

Ewwwww. I stopped right there. Before I even got to "how to win a chase across rooftops". . . which was based on the moves in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." And, after paging ahead, I had been looking forward to learning how to do that flying stuff.

But, maybe I'm not cut out to be an action-adventure writer.

Or maybe I just need a different kind of guide book. Yeah, that's it.

Okay, I've decided to collect my own set of moves for action-adventure heroines. Starting now. So what mad skills does a gal have to have these days to survive big adventures and dangerous thrills? If you were a heroine, what would you need/want to be able to do to survive in the big story? I'll put 'em all together, figure out how to do them, and make the list available. . . I promise!


Cindy Gerard said...

You crack me up! This is too funny. You hooked me from the get-go. My eyes widened and I was thinking, wow, I need this book! For laughs, maybe, but for real action, I'll take my research from the pros.
In fact, for my last book I went to a weapons expert and learned all kinds of amazing things about handling firearms and self protection. What I learned is that any action heroine needs a good, basic knowledge of martial arts - there are many forms that will, of course, take years to perfect, but a few basic moves can be learned in a short period of time and can literally save your life. Another key to serious villain fighting is finding a hand gun or rifle that fits. And knowing that handguns are ONLY for very close range and if you're that close to a bad guy, it's probably too late to do anything but empty the clip and hope for the best.
Oh yeah - and the best tough girl survivor tip: save the high heels for the runway and the combat boots for the run-away.:o)

Helen Brenna said...

Oh, Betina, you made my day! LOL I think I'll come back and this afternoon and read your post all over again. Love the pic of Mila J - awesome!

And I have to admit ... I flashed once to distract, but it was for a good reason. Beach volleyball tournament. And, yes, it won the point! Does that make me a kiss-ass heroine, or what?

Candace said...

Be a blonde. Really. I'm serious. The typical kick-ass heroine is a brunette (Wonder Woman, Lora Croft). That's because even in this supposedly enlighted age, no one expects a blonde to be able to do much of anything, especially anything physical. (Remember the recent flap because the new Bond was - GASP! - a blond?)

If you add manicured nails and high heels to the mix (I'm thinking female here but I guess it would work for a guy, too), the expectation is that you're a totally helpless ditz.

This gives you an ENORMOUS advantage in the kick-ass department. The bad guy is expecting you to flutter and squeak ineffectively (but adorably!) and you up and kick him in the knee with your pretty pointed stilleto heel. Knees are much easier to kick than throats, BTW (a little tidbit I learned in a self-defense class). You don't throw yourself off balance trying to do a high kick and, if done right, or even almost right, it will cause excruciating pain and take your assailant to the ground, giving you time to run. Although, a kick-ass heroine would probably plant her stiletto heel in his throat and hold him there until the police showed up.

You could also go for the bad guys eyes with your long, perfectly manicured nails.

Being blonde is a secret weapon! And what kick-ass heroine doesn't need a secret weapon?

lois greiman said...

I love you, Betina. You had me laughing out loud.

And here all I thought a really kick-ass heroine had to do was fill out her tax forms correctly.

But, just to be on the safe side, I'm going to a karate class tomorrow. Really.

Michele said...

THe real kick-ass heroine needs to precede all her attacks with "I learned this on Oprah". That'll send the criminal fleeing.
But heck, the best thing I learned on Oprah, is 'never let them take you to crime scene two'. So kick, scratch, yell, make a kurfuffle. Heroines, I believe, should know how to kurfuffle. It's a very necessary skill. :-)


Betina Krahn said...

Wow-- you guys are terrific! Great material for my manual!

Cindy-- empty the clip in him-- gotcha. And guns for close range-- I never would have guessed. I thought the point of a gun was to be lethal at a safe distance! Yikes.

Helen says the tata "flashing" is good, but probably has to be used sparingly. check.

Candace. . . I love the idea of playing against type! Make your heroine a DANGEROUS blond and she's already got an advantage. cool! And yes-- I read a book recently where the heroine put her stiletto heel through a guy's cheek! Totally put him out of commission. I forget whether she left it there or retrieved it so she could run away. But still great action! Thanks, Candace!

And Not least-- Michele and the kerfuffle. "Make kerfuffle." Going right on the list!

You guys are terrific! I've decided ear twisting might be as good as ear biting, given the right circumstances. And yes, a few lessons in self-defense are surprisingly effective. I just spent some time with Christine Feehan, who is a martial arts instructor and a 3rd degree black belt. . . she was amazing to chat with! More info to come. . .

Lois. . . tax forms. . . hmmmm. . . maybe we could do something with paper cuts. . . wouldn't that be wicked?

Betina Krahn said...

Oh, and "I learned this on Oprah". . . Michele, that's guaranteed to lower a bad guy's defenses and allow you to score big!

So whaddaya think? Is there such a thing as gratuitous thigh choking?

Candace said...

I think the determination as to whether thigh choking is gratuitious or not depends on the circumstances. I mean, if the bad guy said something really offensive--like, say, something derogatory about the very thighs about to choke him--then, no, it isn't gratuitious. It's justice.

Debra Dixon said...

::Alternatively, the next chapter is titled "how to turn a man into a sex pawn." (Shrug.) Different strokes, I guess.::

Betina, I snorted my water.

Also action heroines must be masters of the Quick Quip and have studied MacGyver.

Cheeky Wench said...

OMG, Betina, you always give the best presentations, in cyberworld and real life. *ROTFL*

And I think Candace is correct about the gratuitious thigh choking--I got called Thunder Thighs (for no good reason, mind you)--so I could see this being played out "justice".

I think your next book review should be "The Art of Seduction" (not that you need it, I'm not suggesting) but it rates along the same lines as this, only not as comically done as this one. The first section is figure out what kind of seducer you want to be; the next section is (and I quote): "identify your victim" (and they have tag names for them too, like The Novice). Then the steps to seduce them--which if you look at the summaries of each, you get to laughing so hard at how awful it is, you can't believe this has ever worked. (Unfortunately though I think it probably has.)

Betina Krahn said...

Okay, Cheeky Wench-- I've gotta see this book. Sounds right up my alley!

And in MY action manual, any woman who has had to suffer being called Thunder Thighs has a British double-0 "license to choke." No questions asked. In fact. . . didn't Pierce Brosnan have some dialog with Ms. Whatsername Onatop about dangerous thighs in one of his Bond movies? Hmmm. Note to self: watch Pierce's Bond flicks. Legitimate research.

Christie Ridgway said...

I wrote a romantic suspense novella and I had to think of something kick-ass for my kindergarten-teacher heroine to do to get away from the bad guy. Except I couldn't think of anything or why a kindergarten teacher would know how to kick ass. So I had her take a page from her students...remembering how one "bad" little boy acted on the way to the principal's office, I had her become a dead weight as the villain was trying to take her from her apartment. It tripped the dude up and gave time for the better-trained hero to show up.

Hmm...I think that could go in the "thunder thighs" category. Y'know, thunder thighs would make her just that more difficult to drag off.

Betina Krahn said...

Christie-- I'm all over this "dead weight" getaway. Sounds like something even I could manage! You just have to make sure there's going to be somebody around to help once you've gone limp.

This is great stuff, you guys! Keep thinkin'!

Kaitlin said...

If we're being completely legitimate here (lol), one of the better ones is to use your keys. Hold them with the key part out between your fingers and swing. A friend of mine did that once when she got accosted by a homeless guy. Sliced his face right open.

I'm really tall and very strong and I remember when I was a kid one of my "brothers" decided he was going to teach me how to defend myself. Ironically enough, it ended with him having a bloody nose with me standing over him triumphantly telling him to never sneak up on me again. LOL!

Betina Krahn said...

Kaitlin, the key thing is really valuable. Cause what's one thing you always have with you? Keys!

And your brother. . . has my sympathy. Guys just often forget that while we may be "girls" we still have muscles and brains. Never good to underestimate the strength and determination of a sister!

Virginia Lady said...

Loved your post! This is one tip that seems a bit sadistic, but comes in handy if you can't get any velocity to kick or swing because the bad guy's holding you, er, the heroine too closely. Grab his crotch REALLY tightly and twist. Guaranteed to make ANY man fall.

There's also the biting of the tongue while he's kissing you, but that gets to be really gross.

I like the keys idea. Very effective, I would think.

Betina Krahn said...

Virginia Lady. . . this seems to be a version of the old "knee up" defense. Could prove quite helpful in a tight spot! Thanks!