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Confessions of a Hero Whore

30 Mar

dresdent_files

More often than not when you ask me who my favorite character in a book, film, or television series is, it’s the hero. Not that I don’t appreciate the grayer characters, the morally ambiguous types–tricksters, shady allies and informants, double-agents, self-serving baddies with sympathetic pasts and motivations. But I think sometimes those grayer characters get overvalued, proclaimed “way more interesting” than the heroes, who are decried as boring and predictable when the do the right thing, and lambasted when they make a mistake. Similarly, fans who like hero characters are made to feel like throwbacks to 1952.

But where would we be without the heroes? A story full of characters whose primary motivations are self-serving or up for grabs may make an interesting read/viewing experience, but an abundance of stories like that leave me feeling ungrounded. Morally gray characters are like icing without the cake. I need to have someone in the story who I can root for without feeling like I washed myself with a dirty rag. Someone far from perfect, but who shows genuine courage, and who I know is trying to do the right thing, even if they mess it up a lot along the way. Even if, in the end, they fail.

An engaging hero character requires work on the part of the writer. Many heroic characters face odds so steep that their success, or the traits they possess that allow their success, make them larger than life and difficult to relate to. Giving them flaws that humanize them, though, is tricky. If a hero character is flawed in ways that make him or her unlikable, a reader/viewer can feel manipulated by the narrative–as if they’re “supposed” to like them, even if they don’t.

One thing to remember, though, is that there is a difference between the viewer/reader rooting for the hero even though s/he’s a better man than you, gunga din, and being able to “relate to” him or her. I often don’t relate to the heroes that I find myself rooting for. I can’t imagine being them. But I root for them nevertheless, because the writer has made them sympathetic, human, and likeable.

It’s a bit embarrassing, though, to be asked who your favorite character is and have to “admit”:

Oh, Highlander? Duncan Macleod
Harry Potter series: Harry Potter
Merlin BBC: well, Merlin, of course
Angel the Series: Angel
Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Ben Sisko
Once Upon A Time: Emma Swan
Harry Dresden: Harry Dresden

…and so on.

It’s not always the case though. My favorite ST: TNG character was Data. But of course, he was the epitome of the awkwardly sincere trying-to-be-the-best-of-humanity. And my favorite character on Lost was Hurley, but y’know, Everyman with a Heart of Gold, he was. On ST: Voyager, I liked Be’lanna Torres. I have a thing for the fucked-up tough girls. But I’m not sure I would have stayed glommed onto the angry, screwed-up babes if they weren’t flawed-but-trying-to-be-a-good-person. To wit: Faith on BtVS/AtS. Although she was never my favorite character on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I never really had one, except possibly the foursome of Buffy+Giles+Willow+Xander. The collective heroic.

Do I get points if my favorite Anne Rice vampire was Armand? He was no saint. I could never stand Lestat, but I liked Louis quite a bit. I prefer my vampires with a soul.

NaNoWriMo Day 23

23 Nov

New words: 1,670
Total words: 38,730
Goal: 50,000

38730 / 50000
(77.46%)

As my story fleshes itself out, I see myself taking an approach that I can only call the fantasy equivalent of “hard science fiction.” Hard science fiction attempts to bring scientific accuracy to the speculative elements of a story, either by basing them in actual contemporary scientific fact, or extrapolating from that fact to theoretical ideas that are likely to be confirmed in the near future based on what we know now.

The “fantasy equivalent” of this, for me, is to have the fantasy elements in my story–whether it is strange beings, their powers, or the “magic” humans do to interact with/effect these beings–be, not supernatural, but natural phenomena. I am only straying from the “hard” line by saying these fantastical elements are natural phenomenon that scientists at present just don’t have the theoretical concepts or observational techniques to deal with yet.

I sort of can’t help this naturalistic approach. Although I am perfectly comfortable with the supernatural in fiction, there is something I want to say with this story that makes taking this approach important to me.

But as a result, it is feeling a bit like I’ve sucked all the sense of wonder out of my novel. I did a Harry Potter marathon this past week since I got the final movie on DVD/Blu ray, and the thing that makes HP appeal to so many people, I think, is you can see and do so many fascinating things in his world, whether it is turning a loathed relative into a human balloon, or riding over a lake on the back of a half-bird, half-horse, or visiting someone else’s memories inside a sink full of mist. Magic is afoot in his world, and there is so much more to his world than an ordinary muggle ever suspects.

Similar case with Buffy, or the Dresden Files, or Star Trek, or anything like that. There is an element of each of these story worlds that is beyond escapist and actually transcendent, because, for a short time, these stories allow you feel as if you are touching something beyond the mundane. They do this by starting very much in the mundane, and taking you on a gradual journey to fantastical places where you can do and see these amazing things.

I have to figure out how to do that, to make my world more interesting, without turning it into a cartoon version of itself.

I don’t want to write “just another fantasy novel” with elves and magic and evil sorcerers and whatnot. I need to find a way to take my more “serious/rationalistic” approach and imbue it with a sense of magic.

Pottermore

12 Sep

I’ve only dipped my toe into Pottermore, which I finally got access to this morning. Actually, I didn’t find out about it until I got to work this morning. So there I am, overwhelmed with stuff to do and looking at a busy week ahead of me, and now they decide to give me access? Murphy (of Law fame) is obviously their head membership bigwig.

Anyway, the website is down for the moment, so I thought I’d record a few initial impressions. The main one which is, the “new content”? LOL, I will bet all my sickles and knuts the “new content” is coming straight out of Rowling’s old story notes and discarded word count. Any writer (even me of overwriting fame) has a ton of content they wrote way back when that didn’t make it into the final draft, not because it wasn’t good, or relevant, or “the wrong direction for the story”, but just because it was tangential, or background information. Or became tangential/background info as the plot of the story developed.

So how much of this “new” content is new from Rowling’s POV? Probably none of it. But as someone who enjoys deleted scenes on DVD extras, and writer/director voice-over versions of movies/episodes explaining their creative process, I vote this “pretty darned cool.”

ETA: And now that the site’s back up and I’ve read along a little further, I have found the page where she admits to all this. ; )

Original fiction project – week of 12/06/2009

12 Dec

Continue reading

No hero’s journey for Harry?

27 Jul

I was wondering what other HP fans on my flist think of this article:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/csm/20070725/cm_csm/ysawyer_1

“J.K. Rowling’s towering achievement lacks the cornerstone of almost all great children’s literature: the hero’s moral journey. Without that foundation, her story – for all its epic trappings of good versus evil – is stuck in a moral no man’s land.”

Personally, I feel it’s dead wrong, but I can’t quite put my finger on why.

Initial Deathly Hallows thoughts

22 Jul

Book 7 spoilers

Broomsticks over London

11 Jul

Just got home from HP & the OOtP. It was a tad unpolished in places, but I liked it a lot and now I know what I want for Christmas!

Oh, and it really sets you up to be chomping at the bit for book 7. I know they did *that* on purpose…..