This is something different. I’m not going to write about anyone specific. I thought about doing it with Ista from Paladin of Souls. I started to write that. Then, I had to stop. Because though I really liked that book, it didn’t resonate with me too much. It was good. Just good.
Rather, I’d like to talk about characters and life in general.
Something is going on in SFF and it’s not as if no one has caught on. We all realize it, but we let ourselves be okay with it. We let ourselves be okay with the individual shining stars and shrug our shoulders at the rest of space.
There’s too many soldiers. There’s too many mercenaries and badasses and rags to riches boys. There’s too many princes and noblemen and beautiful assassins.
And I’m kind of getting sick of it.
I’ve read a lot of really good books over the years. A lot. But I’ve also read a lot of books I’ve been less than impressed with. One random, recent example is “Dying is My Business.” There’s a guy in there named Trent. He can’t die. He’s a badass. He’s also incredibly shallow. Oh sure, he has the whole “I have amnesia – I need to know who I am” thing going on. I suppose you can feel some empathy there. But, I don’t know, it just feels so by the damn numbers.
Yes, the book is exciting. Yes, it features some good writing. But is it possible to really buy into a character that is larger than life anymore? We’ve had our myths and our heroes. Our Thors and Frodos.
Where’re the regular folk? Where are the people who work two jobs to support their deadbeat family? Where are the alcoholic fathers and the mothers who run away? Where are the kids who are great friends but terrible at school?
Where’s the man who wanted to become an astronaut or a fireman, and now works at the bank?
I know they are out there. But why aren’t there more of them? Is it because this kind of fiction sells? Is it because people want to escape from reality so they invest in people that couldn’t really exist?
What about you? What’s your story? What have you ever done? Translate that into fiction.
We’re all interesting, when you stop and look. We all have our own story. So why is it that they’re not told? Aren’t these stories more interesting when they have real, relatable people in them? I think so.
There’s nothing wrong with empathetic heroes. We’ll read your story about a prince or a war hero. But they are more than just those things. They are the product of all their thoughts up to that point. They are human beings filled with doubt and loneliness and temptation and absolute, nailbiting confusion. They’ll change their minds, be wrong, be really wrong, screw up, fall in love, fall out of love, crash and burn, and succeed beyond their wildest dreams.
They are human. They are real. So treat them as such.
We need more real people in our fiction.