So, as usual, this blog entry is REALLY late. Apologies. This has been a rough few weeks for me. School has been “challenging” for me these past three weeks, I’ve been ill, and I’ve had zero motivation to write since turning in “Ship of Shadows,” over a month ago. What finally compelled me to write is the fact that I received a rewrite request for “Ship of Shadows” from the anthology where I sent it. The editor gave me a week (7 days!) to rewrite the story and send it back. Now, under normal circumstances, I would have gotten to work immediately and sent it back to her ASAP. I mean, a publication is a publication, right?
However, after reading through some of the comments, I realize that the editor wants me to change my main character from a “hero” into a “hooligan.” I’m NOT okay with that. In “Ship of Shadows,” I have my protagonist go back and save another character. The editor believes that is out of character for her as I’ve mentioned that the protagonist is an orphan and will do what it takes to survive. This puts me into a situation is which I have to turn my hero into an anti-hero who is only out for herself and cannot be counted on when the chips are down–EXACTLY the same as Vin Diesel’s character in PITCH BLACK, a movie that I categorically DESPISE for its treatment of the Heroism vs. Anti-Heroism.
WHY A HERO?
I’m (currently) a 6th Grade Language Arts Teacher. On my door is a sign that reads, “HELP OTHERS.” Of course, no one really follows that advice (although to be fair, sometimes I see those who get the mini-lesson help out others in the class who are struggling when I’m helping someone else) as these are sixth graders. They still believe that the world revolves around them and their needs are more important than everyone else’s in the entire world.
In the past two or three years, I’ve come to understand that my core values are (in the words of Captain America from MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS) “Old Fashioned.” In a time where BREAKING BAD, THE WALKING DEAD, and GAME OF THRONES are held up as the epitome of “good writing,” I can’t help but shake my head.
What would our world look like if we ALL were out for number one? Would strangers take the time to pull people out of burning cars and houses? Of course not. Would you take the time to call the police if you saw burglars in your neighbor’s house while they were away? Not my house, you’d say. What about calling 911 if you witnessed an accident with injuries and neither party was responsive enough to phone on their own? Not my problem.
So, then, whose problem is it?
WHY NOT A HOOLIGAN?
Being a hooligan (anti-hero) is SO COOL. You get to do what you want to, without anyone telling you it is wrong. You get to be Mr./Ms. Bad Person without consequences. You get to be “Number One” and no one can touch you, ever. And if someone complains, you’re bad enough to BEAT THEM DOWN so they can’t ever complain again. Right?
This is a fantasy that we have as kids, but it seems (to me) that more and more people are not growing out of this phase, but carry this type of attitude with them into adolescence and then into adulthood.
I see it both in the real world and in various mediums: various school fights being posted online (Facebook/YouTube), in video games (Grand Theft Auto series), TV (Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones), movies (Pitch Black, Looper, Jumper).
I’m constantly having to reread books in my collection because I can’t count how many times over the past couple of years that I’ve checked out a book from the library only to find that the main characters are jerks, or are detestable jerks, or are detestable jerks using the F-Bomb (even though it is a Fantasy story), or are detestable jerks using the F-Bomb who are mysogynists, or who are detestable jerks using the F-Bomb who are mysogynists who run around slitting throats because they aspire to be the next “Great Assassin” of whatever generic fantasy world the author has created. I don’t think I’ve managed to get past the first three chapters of any book I’ve read in the past two years unless the author was named Brandon Sanderson, Diane Duane, or Elizabeth Moon. All the other authors that I’ve tried in that time have had characters so UNLIKEABLE that I’ve abandoned them ASAP.
So, back to the topic at hand–what to do with “Ship of Shadows?” I’m going to implement many of the changes that the editor asked, but I will NOT have the main character kill the other character. When I send it to her, I will politely let her know my reasoning and politely inform her that it is okay to reject the story if it doesn’t meet her needs (which is what I expect to happen).
I will then take this as a learning experience and realize that I’m either writing 10 years TOO LATE or 10-15 years TOO EARLY and dial back my expectations for my writing career. I am not and will not be the “flavor of the month” or the “hot new writer,” because of my insistence on heroism and my disdain for hooliganism–at least, not until the pendulum swings AWAY from the anti-hero and BACK to the hero.