Might it be a little like reinventing the wheel? Am I attempting to fix something not broken? After all, literature is full of amazing heroes and triumphant knights, supermen, dragon-slayers, battle-scared soldiers, protectors, avengers.
Sometimes they fall out of favor. Have you ever read one of those “knights in shining armor” stories, and by the end you wanted nothing more than to punch the hero’s perfect face right in his perfect teeth? We don’t see many Prince Charmings anymore. They’ve all been hit soundly off their horses and have slinked away to the dirty bars where the dragons they’ve battled are waiting for them with a mug of skunked ale.
Many times movements in literature seem to come as the result of people becoming aware of the archetypes and wanting to change them. No book is written in the vacuum of its own story – separated from the history of other stories that are similar. In some ways, everything we write is a response to the other stories we’ve assimilated. They shape us and words that come from us. And as we recognize the stereotypes and turn them on their golden heads, so we have thrown the perfect heroes off their pedestals and onto the streets with the crooks.
And many of them have become the crooks. A lot of fantasy seems to fall into one of these two categories: bland, flawless Hero or dubious Antihero – Spiderman or Deadpool. And occasionally we find ourselves more enamored with the bad guy just for fun (ie. they are making a Venom movie). But I want to escape the stereotypes and the spin-offs and create a rare kind of protagonist. The flawed, but essentially good person. The hero who’s shadows haunt him or her – who’s recorded flaws are not just there to avoid the “flat character” category, but who’s still cheered for by an audience captivated by his or her goodness.
This is a rare thing, but the best stories stay with us because of these people. They are the stories in which the hero has to defeat the evil, but also the evil in himself or herself. They are those who grow and change. Who love. And their flaws are always an intricate part of events; the great chasm that almost defeats them.
Consider all the protagonists in literature who have made you truly believe in goodness and who (though they are fictional) are real enough to become our role models and make us better after the book is back on the shelf.
And as writers, we think to ourselves, “How can I create that?” Because these types of heroes are a rare phenomenon. And if I do anything right in my writing career I hope I will have created at least one.