She leaned her chin on her elbow and watched through the window. Being asked to be the heroine of a novel was quite an honor, but she found herself quite ordinary. Her wardrobe was made of second-hand dresses she had repaired. Both her parents were alive and well. There was no dashing hero on a white horse, but there was the nice fellow down the street with a bicycle.
She tried to do nice things for others, helping the widow down the street buy groceries on market day, tutoring her sister in mathematics, and watching her friend’s dog now and then. But these were things anyone would do for anyone else.
Turning to the desk before her, she pressed her fountain pen to the paper and began to decline the author’s offer. Her pen scratched across the paper as the window beside her crashed in and a dragon shoved its head into the sitting room.
Moving her mother’s prized vase out of the dragon’s path, she said, “Oh dear.”
Writing and storytelling is a great power.
The stories we read and watch influence us. They tells us about ourselves as a society. They provide role models for us to think about, to look up to when we face our own challenges. They allow us to be part of lives we wouldn’t experience otherwise.
In the modern era, many stories feature ambiguous heroes and heroines who walk dark paths and have questionable motives. Our protagonists are often flawed to the point that they become the villain, blurring the line between good and evil. Several recent superhero blockbusters – Batman V. Superman and Captain America: Civil War – are about titans of heroism and goodness battling each other because what is right is often unclear.
This ambiguity can be good storytelling. Also, the dark corners of society need to be explored and revealed.
But, along with the dark, we need the light. We need everyday heroes and heroines we can look up to, who we can see out better selves in, who can strengthen us as they face challenges.
There are many great stories with these types of characters, who face the ambiguity of right and wrong, but decide there is a line between the two.
As I began planning my series The Pippington Tales four years ago, I contemplated the characters I wanted to write about and the stories I wanted to tell. How could I use my talent as a storyteller to build positiveness and hope?
Part of this is by writing stories multiple generations can enjoy together.
The other part is to write about good people in tough situations.
Most of my heroes and heroines are everyday people, people who feel like they could be your neighbor. They have bills to pay, family to consider, and work to get done. They are trying their best to be good people, even when the magic of fairy tales upends their lives and leads them to unexpected adventures.
In The True Bride and the Shoemaker, Peter Talbot is just a shoemaker who’s business is failing and is trying to do right by his workers and neighbors. He is a softspoken man who will give everything he has to help others.
In The Lady and the Frog, Henry Kingston is an auditor focused on the truth and doing what is right, even when focusing on what he sees is the truth blinds him to magic. Evelyn Havish is trying to help her family while trying to save Henry, the man she loves, from his blindness to magic.
The upcoming third book, The Matchgirl and the Magician, is about Adeline Winkleston, a young woman trying to navigate the tricky paths of becoming an adult, including romance, education, and learning to be true to herself. (If you have read the first two books, you might be familiar with how murky that journey becomes.
My hope is these characters will serve as good, uplifting friends who can help us strive to do and become better, much like many characters have done for me.
Jean Valjean of Les Miserables starts from nothing and loses everything multiple times, but, with a bit of kindness from a Bishop, he becomes a man who sacrifices much to build a better life for others (this is a major simplification of a 1,000+ page novel).
The scene in Wonder Woman where she crosses No Man’s Land is so powerful because of Diana’s integrity of character as she’s told, “We can’t save everyone.” While we’re not demigods who can stop bullets with our armbands, we walk with her as she marches forward with a purity of intent.
Harry Potter became such an icon of our society so quickly because he, his friends, and his mentors are striving to do what is right against impossible odds. He is the classic hero who begins as an orphan. He makes mistakes along the way, but, in the end, he learns from the Weasley’s, from Hermione, from his professors, and especially from Snape’s sacrifice, what it means to stand for what is right and fight to the end.
Samwise Gamgee begins his journey as a gardner, but it is his loyalty as he carries Frodo through Mordor and up Mount Doom that saves all of Middle Earth.
We need characters from all walks of life, with all variety of super powers or lack of super powers, who, at their core, are good people.
We need characters we can look up to. Characters we can point out to others as a great example of integrity, kindness, strength, and so on.
We need characters who aren’t perfect people, but are doing the best they can to stand up for what is right and help lift up others.
These are the characters we can turn to in the times of darkness in our own lives, to remind ourselves of what is good about each other, and what good we can do.
I am currently a beginning author with a small group of fans (and thanks for being fans and friends). I am just a small part of a lot of people seeking to do good in the world. As each of us seeks to do good and become better, a lot of great things can happen.
- What characters do you look up to? (This post currently lacks Star Wars references, so please help correct that).
- If you are a writer, what type of characters do you prefer to have as protagonists?
- What are your favorite types of characters to go on a journey with?
There’s only a few days left of September. Thank you to everyone who has participated in the #UpliftingAuthors challenge so far and check out this post if you’d like to get involved in supporting organizations helping those impacted by the natural disasters that have hit so many over the past month.
Here’s a sample of what the department I work for has been doing to help those in Houston hit by Hurricane Harvey:
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