Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I've Got a Theory: The Daredevil Gene

As part of our city's celebration, the carnival was in town last week. As I watched my nine-year-old daughter climb aboard the cage of the Zipper, get locked inside (while I focused on breathing so empathetic claustrophobia didn't take over), then spin around uncontrollably in the cage while the cage spun controllably around the ride, I came up with a theory. Here goes:

There's a daredevil gene, and everyone's got it.


There's a self-protection gene and yes, everyone's got that, too.

Sometimes the daredevil gene is teeny, and the self-protection gene is a giant pair of hands, locking fingers around the daredevil gene, trapping it in a giant cage. And sometimes the daredevil gene is enormous, and the self-protection gene is a little tiny hand, wrapping itself around the pinky toe of the daredevil gene, attempting to hold it back. Sometimes they're evenly matched and it's anyone's guess who'll win.

Me? My daredevil gene is pretty darn huge. But sadly, it's too easily swayed by logic, and my self-preservation gene is very good at talking logic. So, as much as it's always dying to break free, it stays tethered to that dental-floss thick hold Self-Preservation Gene has on it.

Maybe it's because of that, or maybe it's not, but I LOVE me a good daredevil character! I love watching them, reading about them, writing them, vicariously being them.

Maybe a daredevil character works because we like our characters to actively DO STUFF. Or maybe because a daredevil character tends to get themselves in trouble, and thus adds to the conflict in a story.

Or maybe it's because DEEP INSIDE, we really just want to do those things, too. We want our daredevil gene to break free a little more often. Only in a controlled environment. You know-- without the possible unpleasant side effects of getting into trouble or dying or being maimed.

I don't know about you, but Self-Preservation Gene is saying right now, "Seriously. You don't want to be maimed." Daredevil Gene is inclined to agree.


Kristine said...

My self preservation gene is a little too strong. For that reason I like the daredevil in a book too. Oddly enough, I want my kids to have a stronger daredevil gene. Seems crazy, but I know how bad it sucks to have a stronger self preservation one. It's boring.

Peggy Eddleman said...

Yes! That's it! Boring. I find it helps to hang out with daredevils. Maybe that's why we want kids with strong daredevil genes-- they rub off on us. :)

K. Marie Criddle said...

This is a brilliant theory, Peggy. I think as I've gotten older my DD gene has gotten a little quieter, much to my dismay and SP just points to my daughter and frowns if I want to do something stupid. But I agree on the daredevil characters! (Hence my fascination with a recent manuscript...) I like them active and rough and tumbly! And if they get hurt, you're right: more conflict! (Oh, we writers are a sadistic bunch.)

Peggy Eddleman said...

I think you're exactly right, Marie. Having kids is like feeding SP gene steroids!

And what. Who us? Sadistic? Nooooo. We just like... We just like... Okay, fine. We're sadistic.