Tuesday, March 24, 2009
I've been thinking a lot lately about how close the extraordinary truly is to the mundane. What does it take to make a normal happenstance evolve into something amazing? What sort of chrysalis does the everyday world take shelter in so that it can emerge into a new universe and take flight?
Some might say it's God. I refuse to discuss religion in this blog, unless it's one I made up or one that died out thousands of years ago, so I'll leave that distinction up to you.
Others might think that extraordinary circumstances create extraordinary people--that when destiny demands it, there are some few incredible mortals who can rise above themselves and transcend into something more, something we can only hope to achieve or dream to attain. Still others, when thrust into the same circumstances, are unable to do the same. Why is that? How is it that some succumb meekly to their perceived fate while others fight against it in search of something greater?
If you can answer this question, you have discovered the secret to what makes up a hero.
Heroes are on my mind a lot lately. They are hard to find in our everyday world, especially one that seems to be collapsing around us even as I type this. And yet, you can still find a man willing to land an airplane full of people on the Hudson River or a young man or woman willing to volunteer to serve their country in a time of war. On the other hand, you can also find people who are willing to bankrupt the retired and use taxpayers' money to take expensive retreats.
It truly takes all kinds, doesn't it?
A speculative fiction writer, such as myself, is always searching for that miracle of personality that makes a hero--or an anti-hero, or even the villain. Although my worlds are peopled with hundreds of named characters and thousands more the reader never meets, there's a very tiny subset of individuals that have that glitter of persona that lifts them above their peers and makes them into the implements that drive a story. That glitter can be almost indiscernible until a moment of decision pushes that character in one direction or the other--to heroism or villainy--and sometimes only a few keystrokes makes that determination for me.
It's an amazing thing, searching for miracles among the mundane. It is, I think, ultimately what every writer does when developing a character. And in the real world, it's character--the trait--that defines a person with what we, as writers, try to create.
So ask yourself: do you believe in miracles?