//heroes and novel hearts

Yesterday I was chatting with Lauren about The Dying of the Light (NaNo ’15-JuNo ’16). I’d recently made a loose chart with three categories: white, grey, and black. Then I listed each character in one of the categories, with arrows pointing to other categories, indicating if they changed from antagonist to protagonist, or protagonist to antagonist. There were quite a few people in the ‘white’ area, but quite a few people in the ‘grey’ as well. And yet, there were a bunch of arrows drifting from ‘grey’ to ‘white.’ (I recognize nobody is purely good or purely bad, but this chart was for simplification + plotting purposes.)

saizou. he’s really trying, guys.


I pondered the chart while I wrote the next chapter. Lauren jokingly remarked how every character in the book was currently ticked at Saizou (the main character) for various reasons, even though he’s trying extremely hard to do the right thing as he knows it. Then she mentioned Hiro (the Will Scarlet character) and how he’s still technically in the ‘grey’ area, although he becomes one of The Gang later on.

I said, “You know one of the things that really annoys me is the whole ‘maybe there are no good guys’ mindset that’s so prevalent in tv shows and books and whatever and it’s just NOT TRUE and I want to write this book as kind of the ANTI-that.”

Lauren responded, “It gives people hope. I mean what’s this gang going to consist of? A couple of PTSD veterans with blood on their hands and scars on their hearts, an explosive kid who’s tough to hide his loneliness, an abused assassin, a mafia boss, an ex-mercenary seeking redemption…these aren’t heroes. They’re a mess. But they become the heroes and that’s what’s so hopeful about it.”

I thought about it, and was suddenly struck with the realization she’d hit the nail on the head. I’ve had the plot structure and themes in my head the entire time, but Lauren dug up the heart of the novel and held it up so I could see it. It’s what the entire novel is about – and, in fact, it’s the bent most of my novels have taken over the last year.

We need broken, flawed characters who make mistakes, who get kicked down and stand back up, as many times as it takes. Heroes who are interesting and conflicted and who wonder if it’s worth it. Heroes who continue to fight for what they believe in.

The Last Legion, a fantastic historical retelling of King Arthur, ends with this line –

“We need heroes, don’t we?”

And what I hope for my novels is that they answer yes. Yes, we do.


7 thoughts on “//heroes and novel hearts”

  1. ::laughing:: I’m surprised you’re just now realizing this! It’s the heart of why I love your novels so much: you show us ourselves in the broken and prove that we can be better than that. I appreciate that constant and consistent element. Lauren’s right: these characters aren’t perfect and we don’t need or want them to be. They’re real because they’re broken and they’re better because of that.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have always loved Agatha Christie’s summation of her villains: evil makes them less-than-human. Which also means her heroes are more-than-human.

    Heroes don’t have to be perfect, but they do need to be able to be GREATER THAN the sum of their parts. There has to be a reason they say to evil “you can come no further” there has to be a reason that they step between the hurting, broken, weak, frightened, helpless, hopeless, and the thing which is tormenting and killing. There has to be a reason that they are willing to give everything, including their lives, to stop evil or protect the weak or move forward what is good.

    And you’ve got to SELL me on that.

    Why does the Transporter suddenly stop? He’s run a lot of things for these people, illegal things. He’s flippant and full of himself and happy to outrun and out think anyone chasing him. . .UNTIL there’s banging in the car trunk.

    He opens that trunk of the car and there’s a woman in it.

    For one beautiful /beat/ the woman’s gaze meets his.

    Uhho. That’s his line in the sand. He’ll do a lot of gray things, but not this.

    And I believe it. I believe that this shady character who has his own set of morals, has hit that line and he’s now going to go through hell to keep the woman from the people who want her. It starts out as him being all “Not gunna do this for you, find someone else” and turns into “You keep shooting at me cos I’m near her and I’m gunna kill you” and then lots of explosions and chases later, he really does care about her. Does he show that perfectly? Nope. But he becomes GREATER THAN as he acts the hero and protects her.


  3. It’s part of character development, isn’t it?
    – Character has flaw
    -Character realizes flaw
    -Character starts journey to overcome flaw
    Of course, they don’t become perfect int the end. But their growth makes the story that much more meaningful.

    or the reversal

    -Character has flaw
    -Character gives in to flaw
    – Flaw destroys Character
    Of course, their humanity is not all wiped away. But they don’t (or rarely) turn back to redemption.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on The Nomadic Troglodyte and commented:
    Within hours of each other, my braintwin and I managed to post blogs about heroes and why they shouldn’t be perfect. It was unplanned, undiscussed, and unexpected. Just how we roll.


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