Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Searching for heroes, Part 2

I've established that George R.R. Martin's characters are not black and white, but they have various shades of grey, and are altogether a shady lot. But if Jaime Lannister had Leonard McCoy's mouth, he might say: "Dammit, man! I'm a knight, not a septon!" (In Jaime related news, I'm working on a watercolour of him and a couple of other characters. I'll post it if I finish it, and it doesn't get screwed up.)

Pure knights (or heroes in general) don't always make for interesting characters anyway. Sir Galahad may have been the best knight ever, and the only one to find the Holy Grail (at least until Indiana Jones came along), but dammit if there aren't many more stories revolving around his father, Sir Lancelot. (See Robert Taylor and Monty Python.) Best knight in Camelot, yet he had an affair with the wife of his best friend and king. Tsk, tsk. Talk about being mortal.

Anyway, what does this mean for my own writing? I can't tell you how many times I've worried about my main character. Is he believable? Is he bland? I mean, it'd be terrible if readers love the secondary guys and girls, but they hate the bejesus out of your Number One. So I've been wondering how my young, scared, pessimistic hero-to-be realistically evolves into a Purveyor of Awesome.

As Leigh Butler writes, over at Tor.com: "So many of these protagonist hero types’ personalities tend toward the bland precisely because that makes it easier for the reader to map him/herself onto the hero as a proxy. Wish fulfillment and alla that."

I guess that's alright, but I wanted my guy to have a bit more bite. So I cut him off from all his friends about a fifth through the book. (Does this count as a spoiler if I haven't finished typing up the good copy of my thrice-edited manuscript? I think not.) The nature of my story is less world-in-madness-and-chaos than George R.R. Martin's Westeros, but I'm glad he opened my eyes to the possibilities that come with darker, unsavory characters.

That's about all I have to say on the thousand faces of the Hero. No, I'm lying. I would like to read up on Neil Gaiman's Sandman. There. That's it. For now.

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