When I got up this morning I knew exactly what I was going to write for this blog post. And then I mentioned it to my daughter, who said, "Didn't you already write a blog post like that?"
It's very possible. After all, this is a subject--my heroes and their many flaws-- that I've thought about quite a bit over the past few years. Plus, said heroes are holding up far better than my memory is these days, but that could be its own (albeit horribly uninteresting) blog post.
"Yes, yes," I told her. "Very probably, but this one will be different."
"Different how?" she wanted to know.
"Well," I replied. "I'm pretty sure Meg just recently wrote a blog post about her heroes, who, as it happens, are really nice guys. And while I like her heroes immensely, I also like mine who aren't so nice. So, I thought it would be very timely post, plus I could link to her post, which would make it even more interesting." Especially, I thought, for readers like my daughter who obviously have already heard all they cared to about my heroes and their flaws.
My daughter sighed. It was a very pained sigh. "I think you did that with the last one too," she eventually replied.
Now, I'm not altogether certain she's right about that. And, to further complicate matters, I can't find Meg's blog post that I'm sure I read recently either. But I still like the topic. Sooo, as I said at the top of the page, stop me if you've heard this one before...
It's recently been brought to my attention, by a reader (who was not complaining about this fact, btw. I think it's important to mention that!) that my heroes aren't always very nice, that sometimes they can even be (and I'm quoting here, so I hope she doesn't mind) cruel and devious and self-centered.
Why, yes. Yes, they can.
As I mentioned above, I think about this a lot. My heroes frequently lie. They bend the rules. They make mistakes. They lose their tempers. Sometimes they act on impulse, without thinking things through. Frequently they say things--apparently without thinking at all! Occasionally (by which I mean only once or twice...or okay, maybe three or four times, now that I think about it) they even kill someone or beat-to-within-an-inch-of-their-life someone, or attack someone with a dog or maybe even a couple of dogs.
Really, who's counting?
But you know what? I'm okay with all of that. Because, while we don't all get to act like that in real life (and it's a very good thing we don't!) I think we can all relate to the urge to do so; even a pacifist like myself--someone who's never thrown so much as a single punch in her life and who cries when she has to kill a mouse. Just ask my daughter, if you don't believe me. She'll vouch for the mouse thing.
The point is, my heroes--all my characters, really--tend to be larger than life. I like that. Their actions are adequately motivated (I hope) which is very important to me, if only because it makes the suspension of disbelief all the easier to achieve. Overall, they also tend to be very tormented, emotionally scarred and wounded individuals. And, yeah, in case you haven't been paying attention, I really like that!
I like it not out of an excess of sadism (well, not just for that, anyway...um, I don't think) but because I believe it adds poignancy to their struggles to achieve normalcy, to find the happiness or peace or lasting love, or whatever it is they're searching for, or to simply just keep getting up every morning.
I like it because it means I get to play around with the concept of "man against himself" as well as "man against man" and occasionally "man against nature" as well.
And I also like it because it makes their actions, even the not-so-pretty ones, heroic--in the most classic sense of the word.
Now, don't get me wrong. As a reader, I love reading about nice characters; the kinds of characters you wish you knew in real life, the kinds of characters you'd actually want to hang around with. I like watching their stories unfold, rooting for them, cheering them on. I like knowing that, even though there are tears and heartbreak and the inevitable dark moment, things will all turn out well for them and, in the end, they'll be so very happy for the rest of their lives. As a writer, however...I just don't think my mind works that way. At least not all the time.
And I don't even know why that is. In real life, I'm not a big fan of bad boys. I'm pretty clear on the fact that happy is good. That well adjusted, basically decent people who have their shit together (if you'll pardon the expression) are the bomb. That if you want drama, you should get yourself a teenager...or marry an actor, I guess. But, if you want contentment and a love that actually might stand a chance of lasting a lifetime--by which I do not mean a love that's so turbulent and angst-ridden that you die young from the sheer exhaustion of having to deal with it all the time--give me a nice guy every time.