We live in a cynical, jaded age. There aren’t a lot of heroes left unsullied. Sports icons turn out to be hiding secrets. Celebrities are mere mortals. Politicians—well, don’t even get me started on that one. Historical figures, once the researchers are through with them, turn out to be less than god-like. And of course, as we all get older, we look back on the people who loomed so large in our lives, parents, grandparents, mentors and teachers, and realize that they were fallible people who sometimes made mistakes or could not transcend the prejudices of their era.
Heroes are an endangered species.
There’s a trend in certain circles to write “realistic” protagonists who may be interesting, memorable and entertaining, but who fall short of being heroic, or even admirable. I’ve heard people say this is a nod to the way the world really works.
I say, balderdash.
I still believe in heroes—real and fictional. To me, that’s not naïve or hopelessly idealistic. But it does require a caveat. Here it is: no hero will be heroic in everything he/she does. And the corollary to that caveat: Even heroes make mistakes.
The hero-bashers want perfection. They’re always going to be disappointed, because no one is perfect. What that means in real life is that someone who is a fantastic athlete (and a hero to fans) may not be a good husband or father. A talented celebrity (who is a role-model to aspiring artists) may not be an otherwise nice person. A soldier or first responder who shows great valor in dangerous situations might not be a great co-worker or next-door neighbor. These people have all earned the title of “hero” in a specific setting, but they’re not flawless, and I don’t think that to qualify as a hero, perfection is necessary.
Heroes are important. We need people to admire, people who inspire us to do our best, to go beyond what we think is possible. We need to see examples of the best that the human race can do, because we so often see the worst (and our modern media tends to enjoy serving up heaping helpings of negativity). And as we give our real-life heroes their due, we also need to keep the adult perspective that reminds us not to expect any human being to be heroic in every aspect of life. Expect the imperfection, and give real life people the space to be flawed. That’s not jaded perspective, it’s a mature one that goes beyond child-like faith to admire the admirable and have compassion on the imperfect.
That’s why I enjoy writing adventures where it’s still possible to tell the good guys from the bad guys. None of my characters is perfect, and some of them have done things to survive that will haunt them all the days of their lives. They’re flawed human beings, people who have survived the fire and have the scars to prove it, and they make mistakes. Sometimes, they do things that aren’t admirable—or even legal—because it’s the best choice among bad alternatives. And while they may have the talents or abilities that make them a hero in one setting, they may not seem very heroic to their friends, lovers, neighbors or families. In other words, they’re the good guys, but they’re not perfect. And that’s ok.
I write about heroes because we need heroes. We need to be reminded what humans can be like at their very best. We have the evening news to show us what we are like at our worst. We need opportunities to cheer for the winning team, because in real life, sometimes clear wins are few and far between. And we need good guys to nudge us toward the everyday heroics that are within our reach, whether it’s showing kindness to someone who needs a hand or helping a child or telling the truth. The real truth is that we are all capable of far more greatness than we give ourselves credit for. Heroes encourage us to live up to that potential.
So I’ll go on writing about good guys and heroes, no matter what the cynics say. I hope you’ll join me.
Grab an excerpt from Ice Forged here: http://www.4shared.com/office/cmGO132M/Ice_Forged_Excerpt_4.html
Ice Forged won’t be in stores until January 8, but you can preorder here: http://www.amazon.com/Ice-Forged-Ascendant-Kingdoms-Saga/dp/0316093580/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1350949442&sr=8-1&keywords=ice+forged