Epic adventures like those I write deal with world-changing events in big settings. Heroes must deal with gritty villains, warring kingdoms, terrible secrets, treachery, kidnapping, slavery, imprisonment, general angst, feelings of inadequacy, and always, always bad guys in hot pursuit. They are required to share their bodies with other souls, sleep on the ground, give up their fundamental beliefs, and spend a great deal of time between rocks and hard places. I’ve had nightmares imagining what would happen if my own heroes unionized and came up with a list accusing me of excessive cruelty. It might look something like this.
A kind author would never
1. Keep a hero too busy to have any fun
Being a fantasy hero is a tough business (see above). You would think that at least a fellow would get a chance to meet someone nice and have a decent meal. Maybe get a night’s unbroken sleep without being drugged, slammed on the head, or enchanted into a stupor. Valen, hero of Flesh and Spirit, isn’t picky. He’s happy to get in a drink and a dance at a the local sop-house or a meal of stewed parsnips and pepper without being yammered at by the people who either want to take him
back to a life he ran away from or figure out a way to keep the world from slipping into an everlasting winter. Is that too much to ask?
2. Make him shy or socially awkward
OK, you throw a guy into prison (or enslave him!) while he’s still building his career, get him out only after many cruel and terrible years, scarcely give him time to get his feet on the ground, and then you
(A) throw him into a cabin in the wilderness with a ferocious woman who detests him. And yes, she’s passionate and loyal to her friends and moves in a way that makes a guy think about all the things he’s missed…and then you make him too shy to know what to do about it.
(B) Or you have the wife he has longed for through his exile decide he needs to be dead. It’s very hard to start over again, because you’ve embroiled him in yet another dreadful situation and he’s done some awful things (for very good reasons) that make it really difficult for the person he now cares for to warm up to him. Awkward.
3. Make him younger than the age of consent
This is a particularly terrible fate. As it is you leave the guys no time for rest and relaxation (see #1), but when he’s just a kid having to grow up a the desert fortress of the really awful bad guys, where the only things to learn are terrible and cruel… That’s just terrible and cruel. Well, OK, you give him two more books after that and let him grow to manhood. You even give him a love interest, and then she turns out to be– This is mean, author, just mean.
4. Make him an addict
A fellow has a tough family situation, a bad attitude, and a disease that comes on him every birthday that just about drives him wild. And then you let him run away and find a commonly available seed that, with a little bit of blood and enchantment, turns all that pain into pleasure. Yes, he has to keep using it every few weeks. But then you get him involved in an adventure where he has no access to the stuff – and make him realize that there are other things going on in the world that he needs to take care of. Rock. Hard place. How cruel is that?
5. Give him a destiny that includes being dead
You want a guy to give up a nice comfortable job to save someone else’s life, but you don’t tell him that there is someone out there just waiting for a good, self-sacrificing fellow like him to be used in a big power game – that gets him dead. And sometimes dying once isn’t even enough! Your hero suffers for you, travels through brutal winters or into other worlds, fights wars when he doesn’t want to, and this is how you pay him back?
Sigh. Yeah. Guilty.
The Daily trivia question for Thursday towards the grand prize of over $200.00 in gift certificates and goodies being given away on Friday is:
What was Carol’s profession before she became a full time writer?
EMAIL ALL of your answers at one time on FRIDAY to: email@example.com with the subject line TRIVIA Answers in the subject line to be entered
CONTEST INFO: Open to readers WORLDWIDE
Prize: Four autographed books – one copy each of Flesh and Spirit, Song of the Beast, Son of Avonar, and The Spirit Lens. 4 winners!
The Contest Entry rules have changed so read them carefully
The CONTEST portion of the event runs TWO DAYS until 11:59 pm Central on 1/13/11. Open to readers in the US unless otherwise noted.
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