(Or the Rise of the Mary-Sue, neglected saviour of all things who has only superficial flaws which we'll ignore after a few chapters)
I'm not coming out right here as a kind of elitist, trope-crushing and critical fellow at this precise moment in time. Later maybe.
The 'Perfect' Hero.
Who doesn't want some sort of societal propaganda which we are good citizens should aspire to and be much more widely accepted than we are, right? Especially if we are part of that demographic that is considered 'undesirable' or less desirable perhaps. You know, the nerdy, arty club all have some degree of membership to, at least what many call 'experimental membership' for - ahahaha - "research purposes", right? Deep down we want to be the hero of the screen and page who is;
2) Exceptionally gifted
3) Has a great body
4) Is gifted with fine good looks
5) Is lauded and popular
6) Gets the girl/boy/being of their choice in the end
Who doesn't want that, deep down I mean? So, we watch or read about such unattainable characters as a form of escape, living our dreams by proxy because we know, even deeper down, that we can never even get close to that hero type. Why?
Because it does not exist!!
More of an aside that a firm and definite section, this one but bear with me.
What about the Mum or Dad who works four jobs to feed their kids? The man or woman who does incredible acts of charity in complete anonymity? They wear no fancy suit or enjoy any fanfares, theme tunes or the like. We have soldiers who leave their families to fight for what they believe in only to come home wounded and damaged only to be forgotten. We have some in Public Service or Religious Life who perform miracles. We have doctors and nurses so silently do what is right for its own sake.
Nobody remembers them....
Look, I mention this because I am one of those Facebook softies who loves those motivational videos you see circulating. You know the type; little girl donates her food to a homeless man she saw asking for food on the street outside. A schoolgirl who gets a job and decides to buy stuff for her needy classmates. I also see the comments people make; hidden among the praise and smiles.
"Why did they record it, it's setup!"
"This is all made up for clicks"
"Real charity is done invisibly, what a fake little girl to pretend..."
You seen them, as have I clearly. My point is this; we will pay money to see the latest batch of heroes do hero things on the screen or on the page. We applaud their upright amazingness and talk endlessly about their exploits. Then when we see everyday people doing it, we criticise or downplay it yet the concept and reason behind the acts is the same;
We want to be just like the hero and emulate their behaviour. To be better than we currently are!
So, we know our superheroes are made up and not real right, right? Ok, OK, some people don't as we see displayed by their fanatical ire at movies not doing a good job portraying them. So maybe not all people, some of us know it's all fake right?
Good. Yet still we seek to emulate them. So, even if these social media videos are faked, can we not seek to emulate them too? Would the world not be a better place if we not only thought about those less fortunate than us but actually did something about it?
There's your issue; people know they're just paying lip-service to the issues and feel bad when they see what they should be doing but can't bring or motivate themselves to. Me? I see those videos and I want to be a better person, just like that little girl.
Some people don't like the mirror being held up, though, they dislike the flaws they see.
But, Alan! The cries rise up high. We thought you were talking writing to us! Well to me, good writing is the mirror. We hold it up to the people and hope they take it in and see the light, as it were.
Rant over but those who know me know I love my social commentary rants. Rant over, though, thank you for listening.
Types of Heroes.
There are types actually, as you may well know. Here I give you the Fisher System of Heroicity (patent pending, trademark, me for the rest of time etc.). Here it is;
Mr. Propaganda: This is one of those genres a rather popular and complexly interconnected series of movies recently subverted rather subtly and artfully. This hero represents some ideal image or agenda of the society in which he lives. Is it any mistake the almost all those heroes from that series we were talking about dress in the red, white and blue?
Miss (Mizz) Equality: She can not only do what her male counterparts can do but she can do it better and with way more élan and poise than they do. She is also somewhat asexual in order to avoid being termed as a love interest. I call this the "Janeway Syndrome". Instead of being as good as her colleagues in her own way, Ms. Equality has to be better in every single way but also be heart-stopping gorgeous and make it all look effortless. However, anyone who has to gall to mention how great that suit looks on her...well.... Note; the author does not condone gender harassment or misconduct, but compliments are compliments and assholes are assholes.
Please note that there exist non-gender central versions of Ms. Equality. These guys can be country, religion or racially focussed "must be better" guys. They're still two-dimensional stereotypes that do their cause more harm than good, in my opinion.
Mary-Sue Wilting-Flower: No this is not a stereotypical First Nations person; we'll save the stereotypical ethnic sidekick or comedic relief for another day. This is sort the juvenile version of Ms. Equality. This is the "ugly and unattractive" (until she takes her glasses off, tries out makeup or changes her clothing or hairstyle), unpopular, nerdy, geeky outcast who, it turns out, is the last of their kind or part of some hidden society they had forgotten about and been hidden away from until she is needed to save the world/galaxy/town/species/whatever from the Great Threat. Also, it turns out, only she can destroy them because she has the power of twenty Greek Gods in her now slender and desirable frame. Turns out all that wilting flower stuff was just memory loss or something.
The Chosen One: Essentially the male version or gender non-specific version of the above. You know I have no idea what male name would apply so I'll go with this one. Now this is old as time and writing, this fella right here. Ancient Greeks loved it, so did Shakespeare. Hide the hero away in some anonymous location or job, don't let him know who he is until the right (or wrong) moment comes along. of course, dramatic imperative usually settles for the wrong moment. Chosen One must flee in terror, only to end up meeting Soon-To-Die-In-Meaningful-Way Mentor and is told who he/she/it is. They then have around twenty minutes or thirty pages to destroy Big Evil Person and save the world. Or they do something importantly meaningful and heroic but save the actually killing bit for the sequels.
Mr./Ms/Mrs. Perfect Fantasy: Chiseled and muscular physique, perfect behind, impractically large breasts. Armour which is about as useful as a paper bag. Muscles so big that the hero needs to spend at least 18 hours of each day at the gym and the rest divided eating egg-white omlettes and boiled chicken breasts, applying body bronzer and admiring themselves in the mirror. They're usually more two dimensional than your shadow and as charming as a brick but they look great and speak in all the cliches which do the right things....They'll go from possibly useless to unstoppable warrior/whatever in thirty seconds flat and proceed to expertly please the love interest/reader proxy.
Note: These days this fella is so wealthy that he causes economies to collapse just by passing by. He is usually about as talkative as a piece of wood and also has many dead-tree comparisons made about him too.
The Middle Finger to Authority: The anti-hero; the show the grown-ups how they are wrong. The 'look my way actually does work despite your hating' types. The 'I behave exactly like all the other heroes, but I do it with attitude and humour. They will usually have a shady past which shows not at all in their current behaviour. The one readers can identify with and try to be as smart-mouthed as. The subject of many memes and t-shirts.Not necessarily a bad classification, as we will see later, but only if it's done right. The problem is it so often isn't. Often you only get an angry ball of attitude, bad jokes and more attitude.
Now, of course there are other tropes, ideals and over the top types but I'll leave it there for now. We're here for literature, right? We'll stick to literature types. Fair?
So, Alan, we are assuming you have vitriolic hatred and judgmental words for us today? They cry in their massed clamour.
Yes, my endless legions of fans, indeed I do! I have my ineffable and deep wisdom to share! I have much sarcasm also. I think you can probably guess which is going to be my favourite type done right, can't you?
An Irreverent Truth
I am all about breaking tropes, challenging perceptions and, if you are reading this, then so do you, I assume.
In The Chronicles of Enoch, I have;
A muscle-bound idiot with hidden artistic talents,
An ancient King who enjoys being a sniper,
A supposed Hero who is actually a bit of a coward,
A sullen killer who gets close to no-one,
A Self-Serving Manipulator who helps Push the Others Along
Let's talk about them.
Cu'Na'Aen: Known as Conan to those who don't speak his language which, these days, is practically everyone. He told his life story to an aspiring fantasy author in Texas then proceeded to cameo in the movies later based on the same's highly popular novels.
"Howard did all kinds of crap to what I told him." Conan said later. "Made me ugly and disreputable! Then he let this big Austrian Bloke play me and I - I the actual star mind you! - got to be Guard #4 Inside Helmet..." At this point he would pace and wave his finger, struggling to keep himself calm. "And do not - DO NOT! - get me started on Lovecraft!!"
These days he, rather amusingly, goes by the name of Howie Blackridge III and is quite a popular actor for background and cameo roles. Usually those where we don't see his face or appearance really doesn't matter. Casual cigarette smoker and tennis aficionado. Close personal friend of Antoine 'Ice-Bear' McCullough and Gold Member at his Bear Bodies gym outside of Atlanta.
Gilgamesh: Once the King and saviour of Uruk, near modern day Iraq. His people survived The Flood because of him and stayed safe from the later depredations from neighbouring nations such as Moab and Gamorrah. He later left Uruk to his sons once it was clear that time was no longer paying attention to him. For a while his status as a Half-God explained it all away but he grew anxious and, taking little more than his mace and armour, left the city forever. In modern times, he works for the Georgia State Police Special Operations SWAT Command as a Sniper Specialist. Oddly, office Kamesh Gil has an odd shooter's, he will shoot to disable so wound but never kill. he had killed one person in his ten years as a sniper, non-permanently wounded more than one hundred.
Officer Gil repairs and even builds weapons for hobbyists as well as himself. He also invented so called "God-Killer Rounds" a very special .385 bullet designed specifically to kill Fallen and Nephilim, permanently. It is rumoured that Gilgamesh does not have the same reservations about killing Nephilim or Fallen 'vehicles' (technically just regular human beings with questionable morals). It is said he takes great pleasure from ending those lives and uses just one single shot to NOT wound. he has recently started working at Bear Bodies as a Kendo instructor and regularly spars with a new student who is incredible to behold.
Enoch: The grandfather of Noah. The Father of Methuselah. Author of the famous Book Of. He travelled the heavens, walked with the Creator, was virtuous and wise and, right before he was destined to die, taken up into Heaven while he still lived and installed as the Creator's own scribe. That was His excuse, at least, the angels might have a lot of feathers to hand, but their handwriting was awful and their prose as still as a worm in the Siberian permafrost.
Enoch was sent back in 1348 AD, to find out what the Fallen were up to and, ideally, stop them. The first task he was well suited for but the second? Sable will often joke that Enoch only survives most of the battles he is involved in because the enemy think his passed-out form is a corpse and leave it alone. He's missed more fights than most heroes have been involved in. Enoch is very self-effacing and actually has quite the wicked sense of humour if you take the time to listen to him.
Sable: Nephilim. Son of Abaddon if you believe the official version. Son of Lucifer if you listen to the rumours. The truth is that things were so 'free and easy' around Atlantis back in the day that no-one is truly sure whose children are whose anyway. Imagine one of those crazy hippy communes in the 60's and 70's or one of those cult places where everyone didn't commit suicide. Sable has ideas but he tends not to talk about those.
He led the escape from Atlantis when Michael came to punish the Fallen and drown the continent; he heard everything and saw all from the deck of his ship. He remembers all, how Nephilim were names unclean abomination by the Creator's decree and marked for death eternal. There would be no Heaven for them.
Now, Sable would have been perfectly justified in following the dissolute and wicked path of his kin. He was automatically damned eternally so what did he have to lose? He could do wrong and it would not matter, would it? "It would matter to me," he told Gilgamesh one night over much too much beer. "I would know." So, Sable has wondered the world for the past seven thousand years or so, never settling long and always moving on before his refusal to age was noticed, righting wrongs and fixing that which needs to be fixed. He has killed more nephilim and later half-bloods than he can count. he has assassinated Fallen vehicles and people who have fallen under their influence. Even in more modern times, Sable will use a knife or sword but never a gun, he despises them as the inelegant weapons of a coward. Then again with those slim swords, he is unstoppable, and no-one can stand against him. "Force of nature?" Gilgamesh has been heard to say. "That and more! Try standing in the path of a tornado and tsunami in with a piddly little sword and shield and see how long you last. Against Sable, you have even less of a chance."
Asmodeus: Asmodeus, Asmodeus, Asmodeus, just what is it you do and more importantly, what that you are you man? To call Asmodeus an enigma is like calling a hurricane 'a bit of weather'. Complex beyond the skill of anyone we know to understand he is nominally Lucifer's Master of Intelligence. He runs several internet 'campaigns' as he calls them; pornography, fake religion, conspiracy, UFO's, nephilim 'information' sites.... the list is long and extensive; so large that Lucifer does not actually know everything Asmodeus does. This, Asmodeus would tell you if you gained his trust, is the point.
The little imp, as he is popularly called (he is 5'3", more compact than little, he insists), is up to more than Lucifer knows. What he is up to has caused him to have run-ins with Gilgamesh and Lilith. He has earned the hatred of Abaddon and something resembling respect from Azazel. He is deeply dangerous. It has been whispered by those close to Sable that he is playing the double game, but no-one believes it completely. The dissolute little pervert doesn't have the get-go and intelligence to plan something that complex, does he?
I mean; who would go as far as to make themselves appear less than they actually are and then create complex and intertangled webs of plot, conspiracy and disinformation in order to both reinforce that opinion of others and hide what you're really up to? Who would go to that much effort and why? Maybe right needs a bit of help that cannot be traced?
See, it goes a little like this; you can have your stereotypical hero and his band of merry cardboard cut-outs or you can create a band of misfits people may well believe in and actually identify with. As you can see here; each of these 'heroes' has their own motivations, agenda and viewpoint. They might not match well mentally, in temperament or ideals but they do have one thing in common; our survival.
You see it's so complicated that it's simple. Why? Why do they want to oppose the Bad Dude? Why even risk their lives? Who? Who matters to them and what will they do in order to help and protect them? What? Is their One Unbreakable Rule? What is their Core Ideal and can it be subverted and by what?
Once you have these central points; which we will revisit in another post, by the way, as this one is already rather long, you have the skeleton and possibly muscle structure of your hero which you can start adding flesh to. We will discuss this process in more detail later on, though.
So; make your heroes simple in that they are, deep down, people just like us. Keep them relatable, but keep them one step above regular folks in some way, separate yet part of, if that makes sense?
Most importantly, keep them inside the Five-Step 'Process of Evolution';
We will come back to that process later on too, for now just keep it in mind and think about how you would interpret it.