Heroes are Hard

This picture was found here. I know that this comes from a comic, but I don't remember who the artist was.
This picture was found here. I know that this comes from a comic, but I don’t remember who the artist was.

Well, Selayna has exams this week, and so she’s taking a break from posting to focus on studying. However, she’s had a pretty good series going on how she writes and what she struggles with, and I wanted to add in my two cents. So, here is my confession: I really struggle to write heroes. I think anyone who reads my fiction can attest that I major in the darker side of fiction. The world of Avnul especially is not a happy place. It is a place where the strong prey on the weak, where ancient gods care little for their followers, and where good people die young more often than not. In Avnul heroes are lucky if they make it through a story alive and intact, and ‘winning’ generally means surviving to fight another day. I’m not going to go into the reasons for this, but I get dark fiction. If I do say so myself I can write some pretty great villains, and I’m pretty descent at writing anti-heroes and redeemed heroes. However, a hero that’s really just a genuinely good person… this is something I struggle with.

I think the only genuinely good hero I’ve written is Amet (from¬†The Rise of the Neshelim being published as a serial by Lantern Hollow Press). Amet is far from perfect, but he is honestly a good person who wants to do what is right. He’s courageous, kind, compassionate, and strong, and he struggles under the burden of leadership. However, much as I love Amet, and understand him, I haven’t been able to replicate the character without… you know, replicating the character. Every other genuine hero that I’ve tried to write either comes out as Amet, or as some wonky walking cliche with a sword.

Don’t get me wrong, I love writing villains, and writing dark fiction, and I really love writing redemption stories, but every now and then I’d like to throw a clear hero into the mix. I know that for a lot of people heroes are hard to write, and right now flawed heroes and anti-heroes are very in, but some of my favorite characters in fiction are true heroes. David Eddings’ Sparhawk, comics Superman and Captain America, and Frank Herbert’s Leto Atreides, among other are character’s that I look at and honestly admire. They are simply virtuous. They aren’t boring, aren’t cliched or hackneyed, and they certainly are perfect, but they are faced with hard choices, and every time they take the high road. They decide, over and over, to do the right thing, even when it hurts them, and even when it’s hard, and I love this about them. I’ve heard too many times that good guys are boring, and I disagree! Cliches are boring, hackneyed perfection is boring, heroes who never really struggle are boring, but good guys, true heroes are anything but boring. They are, however, hard to write and hard to come by, but a genuinely good hero inspires and motivates us to be better than we are, to choose the right thing, and to inspire other’s with our example as they have inspired us with theirs. I’d really like to be able to write this someday, and maybe someday I will be.

Anyway, who else struggles with heroes? Does anyone have an easy time writing them? Anyone have any suggestions?

Write What You… Part 3: Write What You Write

It's true, don't fight criticism - it's good for you.

So, we’ve talked about writing what you know (because, you know…you know it – ūüėČ I love bad puns), and writing what you are. The last step in finding your voice that I can help you with in making sure that what you write is yours. ¬†One of the worst pieces of criticism that I have ever received was contained in the phrase, ‘I don’t like it, it’s not the way I would write the story.’ This was a reply that I got on a story I wrote a few years ago and sent out to several friends. ¬†Don’t get me wrong, the story was not incredible, and will not see the light of publication without some significant revisions, so this is not me saying ‘my story was perfect, blah, blah, blah.’ However, you can only successfully write the way you write. ¬†It doesn’t matter how hard you try, you will never be able to write like anyone but you. ¬†You can grow your writing, expand the scope and breadth of the way you write, but what you write is still going to be written the way you write it. ¬†This really should be obvious, but for some reason most new authors (including myself) miss it – some for longer than others. ¬†The reviewer who gave me this criticism did not provide anything that could help me to improve the story or improve my writing. ¬†Instead the reviewer just said ‘you write the wrong way’ (for you editors and reviewers out there this is one of the worst things that you can say to an author. ¬†Be critical, but keep your criticism constructive. ¬†Remember that you’re job is to help the author make the story better.)

I use this example to say that the way you write is the way you write. ¬†If you have a dry, sardonic style then don’t try to write something that is all fluffy bunnies…you’ll fail. ¬†If you have a fluffy bunny style, then don’t try to write something that is dry and sardonic…again, you’ll fail. ¬†This is not to say that an author can only write one style – some authors can only write one style, some authors can write many styles – but that you shouldn’t let someone else tell you that the way you write is wrong. ¬†Authors have many different styles, and they all have readers that appreciate that style. ¬†J.R.R. Tolkien was very straightforward in his writing, Steven Erikson is much more verbose. ¬†Glen Cook’s writing is simple, gritty, and…I think chewy is a good word to describe it, but don’t ask me exactly what I mean by that because I’m not sure that I can explain. ¬†David Eddings, on the other hand, is much more complicated.

Hehehehe...your shoes are mine..hehehe.

There is no wrong style of writing (however you might need to develop more skill in the mechanics of your writing), you can be dry, wet, short, circular, verbose, gritty, happy, sarcastic, etc. ¬†The key is that it is yours. ¬†Remember that you can’t write like anyone else. ¬†For the longest time I wanted to be able to write like H.P. Lovecraft, or like Stephen King, or even like my friend Melissa (who writes for Lantern Hollow Press), because they are writers that I admire, and they can all do things with their writing that I can’t. However, I can’t write like them any more than they can write like me. ¬†Any one of them might be a better writer than I am, but none of them writes in a better style than I do. ¬†This is because style is not better or worse, just different.

Listen to your reviewers, your friends, and your editors. ¬†They can give you some great advice that will really improve your writing. ¬†Let them help you grow and develop the way you write, but don’t let them convince you that the way you write is bad. ¬†Don’t let them change the way you write. ¬†It’s a fine line, and sometimes it’s hard for people on both sides to tell the difference, but you need to figure out where this line is for you, and then you need to live on it. ¬†Take as much criticism as you can, it will make you better, but you have to know when to accept something, and when to shove it off to the side.