One of the elements Alfred Hitchcock was known for was his preference for casting a blonde as the heroine. He thought audiences would be more suspicious of brunettes and many of his heroines were often icy goddesses that had a hidden fire.
Greg Rucka is known not just for his strong heroines, but for his lesbian/bisexual heroines. This is true of his comic book writing, as well as his prose.
All of us have things we drift toward in our characters. Stan Lee’s Marvel work in the 1960s featured female characters who might have seemed like cute window dressing, but were actually the most powerful members of their teams. (Ok, Wasp is an exception, but Sue Storm and Jean Grey could take on the rest of their teams by themselves.)
As much as I’d like to fight it, there’s one lovely lady that’s changed how I craft characters. I’ve mentioned her before, but Jean Grey(-Summers), the X-Men’s original Phoenix, is a profound influence on my characters.
The obvious connections are the physical ones. Jean’s a telekinetic telepath with long red hair. She’s pretty, she’s sweet, and (when she’s alive) she’s the leading lady of the stories she’s in. If she were to go mad, her rage would annihilate building in an instant or a star in just a few minutes. I plan to play a lot of similar elements with Kathryn Angel, but Autumn Shay’Nal of Tesseract has some of these elements as well.
In the initial creation of Tesseract, I saw the three main leads as a blonde–Daria–a brunette–Kahlan–and a redhead–Autumn. While Autumn isn’t a redhead, I thought of her that way for a while. Her plot involves her eventually doing some things that affect the fabric of society, which spans thousands of star systems.
Of course, the much, much more common element my writing takes from Jean Grey’s history comes from her encounters with the Hellfire Club, especially when she’d broken away from the X-Men and become the Black Queen.
Oh, mind control, how do I abuse you… No, I don’t try to make my characters look like the Black Queen. I’m not X-Men writer Chris Claremont and I’ve never been to anything resembling an S&M club.
I am a writer and I do play with ideas of the self and the influence telepathic powers can have on the psyche. A while back, I wrote a short story dealing with Christina Devlin, a woman haunted by the specter of another person while she tries to condition a prisoner’s mind. Want to read it?
One of the elements in Tesseract comes from a piece of technology used to impart skills and information at a rapid pace. These devices, protocols, can also rehabilitate criminals by making them incapable of committing the crimes they were convicted of. The same effect can be intensified in slaves, similar to how being “jessed” works in Maureen McHugh’s Nekropolis. Later on, another, much more invasive version of a protocol appears, specifically to make someone do something they otherwise wouldn’t.
In Vitamin F, my villain uses conditioning techniques to make his captives serve his purposes. In Ashes of War, there is a form of magic designed to make someone obedient to the mage.
So, for me, the immutable appeal I find in other stories, the element I try to play with more than others is the notion of controlling one’s self and controlling others. It’s a classic trope of storytelling, but with every generation, another wrinkle appears in society, giving it reason to be dealt with once more. At least, that’s the way I see it.
If you don’t like that reason, I guess I can live with being the guy who likes redheads.