by Autumn Birt
What do you do with an non-traditional hero?
I don’t mean a villain who progresses to become a hero, or even the ‘good guy’ who has lapses of less than stellar character. No, I mean someone who really tries to be good but is sometimes so annoying you want to punch him. Or tell him to get a grip. Maybe just shake him until he fits into the mold he is destined for…if he’d just act rationally.
When I wrote Born of Water, Ty came to me with a strong personality. He was angry. He over reacted. He was, well, difficult.
I’m not sure I would have ventured into writing the first novel I would release with such a problematic character – if I’d thought it out. But I didn’t think about things like a reader’s ability to relate to a character or even publishing for that matter. Ty was simply part of the story line that developed and I never thought about changing him. I wanted to at times. But like a real life friend, I accepted him as he came, flaws and all. Terrible, annoying flaws…
There has been a slow upsurge of books with non-traditional heroes. In the group here at the Guild of Dreams, I can point to Scott Bury and his novel the Bones of the Earth. The main character, Javor, has been described as autistic. And it doesn’t take much of a Google search to find other indie books along the same lines.
I never thought of Ty as a character with issues beyond naivete (or maybe needing anger management lessons) until a reader pointed out he acted a little bi-polar. Yeah, he does. There are times Ty acts in ways the average, explainable, person would not.
I would describe him as ultra-sensitive. The daily annoyances that most of us absorb and ignore until they pop alive at 2 am for us to wrestle with in private, hit him with immediate force. Every incident rises to significance. If suppressed, problems rise like vengeful demons leaving black moods in their wake.
Ty is a little unexplainable. Which might not be an issue with an actual friend. I’ve known a few such men in my life (I think it is because I am such a strong woman that the, ahem, weaker sex gravitate to me like a lighthouse in a storm. Um…it sounds good anyway). After all, how much do any of us really know the deepest thoughts, dreams, and history of the person sitting next to us? Or our parents? Or lover? Life and people don’t make sense. But fiction is supposed to. Things happen for a reason, motives are constructed. Ty is a problem.
I’m not sure how to warn a reader that Ty is not going to react in the average way. He isn’t average. To make life (and reviews!) easier, I wouldn’t write him as he is in the novel. But there is no changing him now. Maybe in ten years, I’ll have an epiphany of how to write such a problematic character and how to clue in readers (or I’ll be wise enough not to go that direction in the first place!). For now, I’m just thinking of sending Ty for some counseling to get him through book 3!
How have you handled characters that refuse to behave? What books have you read with non-traditional heroes? Did you like them?
– Autumn is the author of the epic fantasy novel Born of Water, its Novel Companion, and, most recently, Rule of Fire, book 2 in her series of elemental magic. All are available at Amazon, Smashwords, and other retailers of e-novels. Her next novel, Spirit of Life – book 3 in the series, will be available late 2013. You can also find her goofing off online on Twitter at @weifarer or on her Facebook page and on Goodreads.