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I read a small book this week that endeared itself to me because both the man and the woman protagonists were heroes and two of the other characters who were unlikely heroes acted in a heroic way, too. It was the Kassa Gambit by M. C. Planck. It is a space fantasy without the pretensions of the huge efforts of Jordan or Martin.
Of course, I will hope for a sequel with the same characters, but the story ended neatly. The way was open for more adventures, but there was a resolution and not a cliff hanger.
My thoughts about heroes:
1. The hero often wears a mask in the beginning. He may not know he is wearing a mask unlike The Lone Ranger, and it is part of the story for him to discover that aspect of his character which makes it interesting. He or she may have been taught to hide their thoughts, and to act as if they were tough and competent no matter what happened. It is good when such a rigid lifestyle breaks down and the hero can admit he needs help and accept it. That is the kind of hero who grows and changes in the story. I have often breathed a sigh of relief when this finally happens.
2. The hero is the one who acts while others are holding back. He may have acted before so it is easier, or he may be trained in what to do, or he may just jump in and do what must be done even if it seems foolish to try. To be an active hero, he may come out of hiding or retirement. He may surprise himself and he may make mistakes that he has to learn from and then work hard to fix which makes the story even more interesting.
3. He or she may be an unlikely hero and the last character that you would expect to do something brave. The hero may be sneered at, undermined, or betrayed because he does not fit the pattern. He may not be noble or experienced or do things “the right way”. He has to prove himself to others and often to himself. Instead of being praised he may end up in the jail or dungeon. It may take a while for the fact to sink in that what he did was right.
4. Some aspects of a successful hero are:
a. Ability to be flexible and to change plans as needed.
b. Ability to choose good team mates and to lead them despite having nothing like the equipment that the others have.
c. Ability to see the irony of the problem, to see beyond the present, to see other choices and weigh them, to see humor in bad situations.
d. Ability to keep trying and not give up.
5. The hero may have some strange experiences that now stand him in good stead. What had been crippling or unhelpful is now the very thing that is needed. Labeled a stubborn child, now it is stubbornness that wins the day. Hidden talents that she had been forced to deny are now important.
6. The hero may have a mentor who has to go missing or die so the hero can use what he has been taught. We have seen this with Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi. This is the one that I hate even when I understand it. In my ongoing story for Sensible Shoes, I see Hitch, a troll, as a mentor to the callow Jasper. I am determined not to kill Hitch. Jasper may rescue him some day in a role reversal.
7. The hero is often lonely. Because his ideas are laughed at or he is seen as too young or too different to be a leader, he is often left to suffer indignities for a long time. He has to hold on to some kind of belief in himself. Sometimes he meets a companion who believes in him and that helps him blossom. Sometimes he has to be lonely to get the job done without anyone else getting hurt. Sometimes he loses his companion and has no time to mourn. Sometimes there are no witnesses to his courage.
8. Sometimes the hero dies. I hate that, too. But it happens. Romeo and Juliet, Brutus, Anthony followed by Cleopatra, Snape, Dumbledore, maybe Shane.
Many of us choose to like different heroes for different reasons. We may not give a fig about Cyrano, but we care about D'artagnan. We may not like Fitzwilliam Darcy, but we do like Captain Frederick Wentworth. We may like darker heroes rather than those who always seem to win. We may mourn Prince Andre and not care about Pierre. I liked Lymond much better than Dunnett’s Niccolo. Others violently differ with me. That is fine. Some readers prefer Achilles to Hector.
What are your thoughts about heroes? Which heroes or anti-heroes do you like the most?
Diaries of the Week:
Write On! To plan or not to plan?
Contemporary Fiction Views: Can you live another life?
Robert Fuller says:
Chapter 13 of The Rowan Tree, the last chapter of Part 1 ("A Smiling Public Man") is now up:NOTE: plf515 has book talk on Wednesday mornings early
If anyone would like a free paperback copy, the Goodreads Giveaway is still running for another week:
These will be signed copies.