I guess this series could also be called Why My Books Will Never Be Literarily Fashionable. Of course, I look at literary fashion in much the same way I look at fashion in general—just because some famous designer said it’s good doesn’t mean it really is. If people were perfectly honest with themselves they’d admit that those $10,000 shoes Pierre François le Frenchdêsigneur made are actually hideous to behold.
So here goes! It ought to be fun—for me, at least. Maybe not so much for you…
Part 1: The Reluctant Hero.
You know the guy. He’s the good guy, the one upon whom the fate of the world rests—but he doesn’t want it. In fact, he hates the idea so much he spends most of his time trying to run away from it.
I can’t stand that guy.
Now, this can actually be okay, to a certain extent. Very rarely will you find a hero who willingly jumps in with both feet, no reservations. In my own books I have heroes who aren’t too keen on being heroes. Vaelon Sahani, for instance, would rather have led a peaceful and non-heroic life. But here’s the thing—like it or not, he accepted his role, and he didn’t have to be beaten into submission beforehand.
The hero I’m talking about is the one who has to be coerced into doing everything. The one who spends almost the entire story fighting his destiny tooth and nail. The one who nearly brings everything to total ruin before he finally wakes up and smells the truth.
Yes, a little dragging of the feet on occasion is okay, but there comes a point where I want to grab the idiot by the shoulders and scream, “Oh, come on, quit whining and get with the program!”
I really don’t understand what literary types find so fascinating about the whole reluctance thing. It’s often taken so far that ‘reluctant’ isn’t even the right word anymore—it’s more like ‘neurotic’ or ‘in abject denial.’ I’m not a fan, I’m really not.
That is not to say I don’t like any books that use this type of character. Terry Brooks, for example, has a real habit of using this kind of hero, but despite that the Shannara books are some of my favorites. I still want to strangle some of his characters on occasion, though.
As a result of this pet peeve of mine, I don’t employ obsessive-reluctant characters much. Yes, they sometimes resist their duty, they probably will never enjoy being the hero, but most of the time they’ll get the idea fairly early on and do what they know they should whether they want to or not.