Week two of the brand new blog and I’ve managed to keep up my writing pace. I’m twenty-seven per cent of the way through my sequel, based on word count over draft target word count, and I’ve got my first review on Amazon – thankfully a positive one. I’m only just starting chapter four and most of what I’ve done thus far is addressing the emotional state of my POV character and one of the other main characters, then introducing a new character who is also a main character but has the disadvantage of the others by virtue of not appearing in the first book except for a small part in the epilogue.
However, I’ve got to the stage now where I’m happy with her character development, history and potential suggested growth paths (for a draft) that I can stop focusing on it so much. Other things have happened, but having to spend words on this has given this book a slow start. The prologue is hopefully as gripping as the last one, as I’ve also just rounded that off this morning, although topping my last one for shock factor is difficult in today’s world. This is mostly due to the devaluing of murder that happens in Western media and fiction, so that’s less of a powerful option than what I did in the first book.
I warn you now; this is not my normal light-hearted, semi-satirical blog fare.
Most of our heroes are, at best, accurately described as sociopathic, well meaning serial killers. Yes, the villains are usually worse and also trying to kill the heroes, and often there’s the fate of the world hanging in the balance, but there is no doubt that there is a glamour attached to killing. Dare I say this is most strongly influenced by American media? Hollywood certainly presents us with the idea that heroes kill human beings, and this is fine. It is also not psychologically scarring, and anyone who suffers emotional backlash after killing someone is weak, and not really hero material unless they nut up and repress all those justifiably painful, confused and sometimes crippling feelings one could realistically have about killing another human being.
Which is obviously healthy and certainly won’t turn them into serial killing sociopa – oh, wait, sorry. This is how heroes are born, right? Through a system of externally enforced denial and repression of an internal emotional struggles, and the excuse that killing humans is fine if you can find a way to excuse it as necessary.
But that’s not always the case! What a phrase! I’m glad we’re pardoning this practice based on a small number of exceptions. I’ve recently seen Hacksaw Ridge, which was a great film that descended into just being good for the periods we watch Andrew Garfield running back and forth dragging wounded soldiers about. This is only because the rest of the film – his struggle to get where he got, to be able to fight for his country without a gun, and the grim horror of the battles themselves was so good. Seeing a man drag wounded people about repeatedly paled in comparison.
Let’s be clear: What the man Garfield is portraying did in real life is amazing. Miraculous. Actually heroic. Desmond Doss is as good an example of an literal, real life, hero as you can get – based on the film’s portrayal and the small amount of research I’ve done. And the thing that, for some reason, astounded people was that he did it without carrying a gun.
Surgeons don’t carry guns. Fire-fighters don’t. Life guards, life boat crews don’t bring a fire-arm to work, excluding signal flares if you want to be pedantic. Doctors do not bring guns into their offices and surgeries. These people save lives, and in their industries this happens on a daily basis. Entirely unarmed. Who would have thought it?
Let’s look at occupations that do carry guns. Armed police officers? Let’s extend that to armed law enforcement of all types. Yup, occasionally save lives, also occasionally take them. Soldiers? That’s their job, and it’s an unfortunately necessary one due to our general inability as a species to not resort to violence. But they kill people. Anyone else who needs to take a gun to work? Lawyers? Garbage men? Accountants? Those in the service industry? No; the list of people who should be taking a gun to work, or require one for their work, is very low.
And coincidentally, because humans are fallible, non-divine or telepathic beings, mistakes are made even by these paid professionals. Yes, some of them are driven to these mistakes by antiquated, unintelligent and unprofessional views and opinions, but I won’t go into that here. It’s a subject made delicate by it’s continued relevance to modern society and would require more consideration to fairly represent than the two paragraphs I originally wrote could provide. Hell, than this blog provides. Today, I’m talking about why glamorising killing – AKA murder – is wrong, wicked and evil.
The important point here is that the good men and women who are trained to use fire arms in the service of their country and its people can make mistakes. I don’t want to talk about how or why, or whether their are any good police officers in the world, because that’s an hate-inciting debate. If there weren’t, the world as we know it would be a considerably worse place. But even a morally upright and well trained person can make errors. And when people with guns make errors, people can die.
Die. End. Terminate. They’re gone, no matter who they were or what they did, wanted or worked towards. No second chance, no reason or appeal. Dead.
But it’s okay for our fictional heroes to kill people, because if our heroes are killing them then they must be the bad guys. They must have deserved it, it was their choices that put them their. They shouldn’t have signed up in a different military, they should have requested not to have the somewhat coveted and honoured position of guarding their general, king, national armoury or whatever they were doing. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time. In short, it is not a fault of the hero that caused their death, but the fault of the murder victims.
Oh, so our heroes shouldn’t kill people? Sit them down for a nice cup of tea to talk out their differences? Or, you know, not immediately resort to violence and/or murder. There’s nothing special about killing people, or shooting them – generally, and historically proven through several bits of evidence, a child with a gun is roughly as efficient at killing people as an adult. Killing someone with a gun is not an impressive feat of manliness or heroism. Guns are designed for that singular purpose, and part of that design is to compensate for the failings and inabilities of the user. They’d be a pretty shitty weapon if they were designed so it was difficult to kill people with them. Which makes doing so even less heroic, or generally commendable.
So we accept that our heroes kill people, and because they aren’t allowed to show remorse, guilt or any other kind of flim-flam emotional ‘weakness’ we accept that it is okay. We’re fed this stodgy, poorly made lie and are told it’s good, so we enjoy it. To a certain extent it let’s us explore our violent and aggressive tendencies without enacted them, and for most people I sincerely hope this kind of fictional, fantasy is enough – and they realise that it’s only acceptable in fiction. Sadly, people don’t. Because when we’re fed things by external media sources, we’re often told not to think about them too much.
This makes having a hero with an actual, realistic and balanced conscience difficult, because a lot of readers might dismiss him or her as ‘weak’, or more colloquially as ‘a pussy’. Realistically, the idea of a hero is subjective and a matter of perspective – or indeed, the idea of a villain. Read I am Legend for a better demonstrated example. Basically, if a Russian man or woman took out the head of the CIA, along with a lot of the field and desk agents, they’d be a terrible person, a murder, and likely labelled a terrorist. What if an America man or woman was depicted doing the same in the FSB (the Russian equivalent to the CIA) headquarters?
How is this all relevant to my writing? Well, my hero has a conscience. That – and it’s exploration, the effect it has on him after some of the things he does – is a big part of the plot, his character development and how he interacts with the other main characters. Sure, there’s action too, but for more details just read my book. But I feel a twinge of jealousy when I hear about my peers’ characters doing ‘classically’ heroic and impressive things which include killing, because my character isn’t doing them. And then I feel guilty because I feel that jealousy. We shouldn’t want our heroes to kill people, and because we’re taught to it lessens the impact of witnessing murder, or seeing our idols do it. As a viewer I’m part of the problem; I enjoy watching that sort of thing, I’m impressed by it despite my feelings on the matter. So as an author I want to be different, and hopefully be part of the solution.
Will this hold true for everything I write? No. I will have heroes who kill as well as save. But Hopefully I will never be lumped in with other writers who, while not necessarily less talented or skilled, generally accept that violence is something to be glorified. I’m also not saying my POV character is more heroic, is better than, other main characters/protagonists/heroes because of this. All I’m asking is that when someone breaks into a room and mows down five soldiers is that we take a second to question the heroism of the action. Not the necessity, although that could be done to. Just whether it was actually a heroic action.
I acknowledge that the entirety of the above could be called hypocritical coming from someone who plays wargames and violent computer games – and will no doubt write violent heroes/main characters in the future. I assure you, however, that context is important here and there are big differences between playing games and glorifying murder. I’m not saying I am perfect by any means. What I am saying is to call this post hypocritical on the above stated basis shows a misunderstanding of the word ‘hypocritical’.
Sorry to everyone looking for a gaming or diet blog. Soon. I promise. There’s a gym opening up across the road from me so if that’s cheap, I’m in, and I have a long await Drop Fleet Commander game on Wednesday which I’ll probably get over excited about and write up a post for.