Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Recipe for a Hero

Measure twice, shoot everyone.

Most humans are fragile creatures at the best of time. Any deviation from the norm, and our body goes into shock to try to compensate, rendering us almost completely non-functional. In college, while riding my bike, a truck cut me off and I slapped into hood.  I don’t really recall landing, but I must have at some point as I’m currently Earth-bound.  What I do remember is shaking pretty violently.  If anything else had happened, I would have been incredibly slow to react.

This isn’t the case for story heroes. This is part of the reason we read books or watch movies and television shows. For the normal person, sure—getting shot anywhere, or having a bone broken, or heck even being punched a few times, and we're down for the count. There are, though, rarer individuals, who have suffered, or who can suffer, pain and discomfort on higher levels.

Michonne doesn't have time for broken bones!
Add training and experience to the mix, throw in some motivating factors—maybe kidnap a child or murder a dog—flavor with a catch phrase and some custom weaponry, bake until ready, and suddenly you’ve got a character who can bear up under more incredible rigors.

Writers take that individual—or a group of such—raise them up one more level and make them a hero. Classic Greek and Roman characters often carried some divine blood to help them along. These days we’ve removed much of that in favor of the Everyman/Everywoman who can give as good, and better, than take. While a bullet in the arm (just a flesh wound) or a dislocated shoulder is bad, it doesn't knock them out of action completely. This isn’t without precedent. Peruse the US Congressional Medal of Honor rolls to see how far some people can go simply on adrenaline and sense of duty.

The trick is to set the world up so that your readers know WHY this individual can shrug off a stab to the thigh because, she "doesn't have time to bleed." Richard Morgan does a very nice job of this in "Altered Carbon"—which the series writers did even better. Takeshi Kovacs starts out a reasonably normal person, but with conditioning, training, and experience, he becomes incredibly tough and motivated, even through all kinds of injuries.  Thrown into a situation where mere mortals would be quickly and efficiently chewed up and spat out, Kovacs instead bleeds a little, grunts a lot, takes a lot of punishment, but generally triumphs.

Who is your favorite hero who can take a lot of damage? Tell me in the comments below!

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