True Heroes Are like Shadows, Both Light & Dark, Good & Bad

Part V of Conflict, War, and Mortality

I think when we write fantasy, sci fi, lit fiction … any fiction, when we join our own “what ifs” to the ink in our pens and spread a part of ourselves across each page, we invest our characters with everything that experience has taught us, everything that life has shown us. Line by line, page by page, chapter by chapter we labor to fashion heroes and villains who step out of our imaginations with all the surety of flesh and bone, their words and thoughts, hopes and dream as solid and compelling as our own. They reveal themselves bit by bit with each line read and page turned.

Good and evil; light and dark; day and night. The soul’s great divide. Oft ruled by gods and devils, the two stand as life’s twin pillars. From their heights we writers launch our tales, pages spread like wings, quills dark with ink like life’s blood, eagerly searching for fresh characters.

Heroes & Champions

There are as many heroes as there are novels. Somebody, some character, has to have some skin in the game. That’s where our heroes and villains rise up from. Even better, sometimes it’s hard to tell at first just where a character is going to land – on the dark side or the light side, with the force or against. My take, as a reader, is the more difficult it is to figure out, and not just in the novels opening chapters, the more real are the characters, the more compelled is my page turning. Here I’ll refer to my previous blog on villains. No way George R.R. Martin’s Hound could have a troubled soul, a questioning conscience, a soft spot in his heart born of self-reflection, or something very close to it. Until he did. Until that shocking revelation, he stood as the apex villain, hard abuser of child and man, killer, unquestioning in his blind duty to his liege. And then … Oh yeah, I loved that scene.

Back to heroes … And yes, I do tend to love the bad girls and boys more.

I think it’s because the well written bad characters are conflicted, part monster part saint, wide-eyed awake to the flawed contradictions found in truth, faith, loyalty, and love. So yeah, give me a hero who’s torn, self-destructive, insecure, distrustful, and cautious; give me someone I can find a measure of empathy for. Touched both by light and dark, a smearing of boundaries, a blending of extremes; let them inhabit the twilight chasm between good and evil; children of shadow, they are conflict made flesh and bone. They howl despair and weep joy. They know the depredations of defeat and the glory of victory; the splendor of noble sacrifice and the cut of betrayal. Oh yeah, these are heroes to die for. Or at the least, read until my eyes at last flutter shut and my chin finds rest upon my chest. And a good night to all …

Find out more about Drew’s latest myths and legends book “Years of Bone and Ash” and pick up your copy of Upon a Legacy Sworn.