Welcome to the second post by Christoph Fischer from his archives. As we develop our heroes are we in danger of creating them all as perfect, strong and able to leap tall buildings?
Do characters all have to be super heroes, brave, unfallible and larger than life? Honouring realism and the right to be human by Christoph Fischer
A recent comment about one of my fictional characters brought up the following thoughts in me.
I know that bravery, attractive cheerleaders and bulging biceps alpha males are the stuff that great dreams and heroic tales are made of.
Of course it is inspiring to read about the people who are fearless and unbreakable.
Authors want to write role models and set good examples.
So characters can become brave, unfallible and larger than life, so that the readers find them likeable and make your book a bestseller.
What about the more normal humans? Those only partially heroic or good? The flawed, the ‘spinesless’ ‘weak’ or even the ‘cowards’ ? Should we write about them in anything but a derogative way? Who are they anyway? Surely not us?
Hand on heart: Who of us is sure they would hold up under torture? Who would be sure not to save their own skin if pushed against the wall and forced to make an unthinkable choice?
We’re creating false illusions about heroism and unrealistic expectations about people.
What about representation and realism?
Don’t get me wrong. I love the fearless hero, too, I admire his actions and wish I could be like him. But I’m probably not going to live up to his standards, however hard I would like to do so.
Sometimes, however, I’m tired of watching or reading about the big-chested models and biceps-bulging machos with their super-powers who never fail and who can make the reader feel small and inadequate for being a regular human.
Isn’t it the era of the geek and the anti-hero, a time where we come to realise that everyone has their place in our world – brave or weak, attractive or regular? That everyone is unique, with good and bad sides, individual strengths and doesn’t have to be perfect?
I’m writing a lot of WW2 fiction and I doubt that all the soldiers in that era were of the alpha-male type, as much of the fiction written about that time leads us to believe. In my novels I focus on characters who are not perfect, who are afraid, who act ‘human’ because I believe that is reality and that doesn’t need to be judged so harshly.
Only because a drag queen may cower in the corner when faced with brutal violence it doesn’t make her a lesser person. She has her place in society and might be the support that stops someone from committing suicide, the person nursing you to health, bailing you out or winning the Grammy or Eurovision Song Contest.
Now to the case of my character Ludwika: A woman who moves to Germany and leaves her child behind with her sister and mother – in exchange for the promise of safety for her family – is she out of her mind or the opposite? Ludwika is actually based on a real person and who are we to judge her decisions at the time? Doing the heroic or ‘done’ thing often doesn’t help anyone under Nazi rule; and not everyone is a warrior type with unbeatable strength.
I remember the key scene in “The Reader”. A woman has the choice to follow orders and keep a door locked, by doing so allowing multiple deaths to occur. But if she opens the door to free the captives, she will be killed herself by those who gave her the orders.
I’d like to think I’d have opened the door, but can I be sure? What would you have done?
If you read any of my novels, you’ll meet some bravery but no glorification and super humans. You’ll get real characters who may be good but not perfect. These are characters that I can relate to more than the hero stereotype. They won’t make you feel inadequate when reading about them but it doesn’t have to mean they are lesser human beings, less likeable or don’t have good sides to them. They all have a story to tell.
It is my believe that it is ok to be flawed and human and ok to write characters that way.
What do you think?
©Christoph Fischer 2016
Thanks to Christoph for that thought provoking post on our responsibility as writers to ensure we are not creating myths and legends instead of ordinary people who do extraordinary things.
About Christoph Fischer
Christoph Fischer was born in Germany, near the Austrian border, as the son of a Sudeten-German father and a Bavarian mother. Not a full local in the eyes and ears of his peers he developed an ambiguous sense of belonging and home in Bavaria. He moved to Hamburg in pursuit of his studies and to lead a life of literary indulgence. After a few years he moved on to the UK where he now lives in a small town in West Wales. He and his partner have three Labradoodles to complete their family.
Christoph worked for the British Film Institute, in Libraries, Museums and for an airline. ‘
The Luck of The Weissensteiners’ was published in November 2012; ‘Sebastian’ in May 2013 and ‘The Black Eagle Inn’ in October 2013 – which completes his ‘Three Nations Trilogy’. “Time to Let Go”, his first contemporary work was published in May 2014, and “Conditions”, another contemporary novel, in October 2014. The sequel “Conditioned” was published in October 2015. His medical thriller “The Healer” was released in January 2015 and his second thriller “The Gamblers” in June 2015. He published two more historical novels “In Search of a Revolution” in March 2015 and “Ludwika” in December 2015.
He has written several other novels which are in the later stages of editing and finalisation.
It’s World War II and Ludwika Gierz, a young Polish woman, is forced to leave her family and go to Nazi Germany to work for an SS officer. There, she must walk a tightrope, learning to live as a second-class citizen in a world where one wrong word could spell disaster and every day could be her last. Based on real events, this is a story of hope amid despair, of love amid loss . . . ultimately, it’s one woman’s story of survival.
“This is the best kind of fiction—it’s based on the real life. Ludwika’s story highlights the magnitude of human suffering caused by WWII, transcending multiple generations and many nations.
WWII left no one unscarred, and Ludwika’s life illustrates this tragic fact. But she also reminds us how bright the human spirit can shine when darkness falls in that unrelenting way it does during wartime.
This book was a rollercoaster ride of action and emotion, skilfully told by Mr. Fischer, who brought something fresh and new to a topic about which thousands of stories have already been told.”
One of the many excellent reviews for the book which is now in audible.
This is written in the third person and in some ways stands back a little from Ludwika’s life, but we still feel we know her well and the style suits the telling of a story based on real lives. The panorama of the Second World War is so huge we can never take in the whole story. Most of us look at those years from the viewpoint of our own country and our own parents and grandparents.
Here is a fascinating insight into the lives of ordinary people who did not have the benefit of hindsight or the overview of those in power. Ludwika makes her own decisions, but is also at the mercy of events. Along the way she meets people who are not stereotyped good or evil, often neither enemy nor friend. Sharing Ludwika’s war we also get glimpses of so many untold stories.
Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ludwika-Polish-Struggle-Survive-Germany-ebook/dp/B018UTHX7A
A selection of the books by Christoph Fischer.
Read all the reviews and buy the books: http://www.amazon.com/Christoph-Fischer/e/B00CLO9VMQ
and on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Christoph-Fischer/e/B00CLO9VMQ
Read more reviews and follow Christoph on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6590171.Christoph_Fischer
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