Friday, November 17, 2006

Return of the Hero

I moved onto the second draft of Chapter Eight this week. I haven't quite finished polishing Chapter Seven, but it's almost done and I wanted to write some action.

I really like this chapter. I think the main reason for that is it introduces one of my favourite characters - the stoic Pylos. He's really the novel's hero. I have literally fashioned him in the likeness of a Greek hero. Helyas is quite obviously a tribute to the heroes of Greek literature (or in my case Ray Harryhausen films). Although Pylos is your quintessential brave warrior, I think I've avoided stereotypes by adding a few character flaws that become more evident as the book goes on. In terms of Greek literature, he isn't as arrogant as Achilles, and whilst he is perceptive and a good reader of people and situations, he isn't as shrewd as Odysseus or Jason. Nor is a classically handsome youth, the sort the gods would fall in love with. He is neither tall nor beautiful.

The chapter opens with Pylos, the General of Helyas' armies standing before a Senate asking for more money - I haven't yet worked out a currency on Terra - to fund the military's expenses. I go to great pains to highlight the decadence of this particular Senate. Here I fuse the Roman with the Greek and as i wrote images of Caligula and Nero came to mind.

I think I got this bit right. Rather than spend half the chapter extolling Pylos' virtues, I thought I'd put him in a situation where he faced of against cretinous, petty bureaucrats and this would help the reader to grow fond of the hero. I thought it would be interesting to place the hero in a context that was totally incongrous with his strengths and the halls of politics seemed a good choice. Without giving too much away, the Senate refuse to grant Pylos his request and tell him instead that they intend to mothball the military (yes, traces of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country). The rest of the chapter is devoted to the Ghul attack upon Sulis which is deliberately juxtaposed with the Senate scene to highlight the poor decision the senators were prepared to make. In this day and age, the chapter could be read as a pro-military piece, but it certainly isn't written as one. If anything, the chapter is anti-authority and by the end of it, the reader should feel nothing but contempt for the rulers of Sulis. But the focus of the chapter is the individual, and it is more important to me that the reader identifies with Pylos than any secondary socio-political aspects that help drive the narrative forward.

I found this a very easy chapter to write. In a few places I have allowed my dry sense of humour to creep in, evident in numerous secondary and tertiary characters, my favourite being the nervous Captain of the Guard, Quintinius. The structure is clean and I think it concludes well with a number of elements introduced early in the chapter having a significant role in the end. I can see this habit of reintroducing elements in the narrative as being a stylistic bent of mine. It's not surprising - it's a cinematic trait and I love my movies.

Perhaps the biggest influences upon this chapter is an old Avengers comic I read when I was a kid. I don't know what issue it was (no doubt I will be told one days and much kudos to the one who tells me) but the story was basically this: the US Congress (I think it was them) tries to register America's superheroes and limit the number of heroes on the Avengers roster. The outspoken Peter Gyrich, a suit with a lot of attitude (much like Senator Leippa in my tale) almost gets his way to restrict the superheroes' freedom to act, but when the courthouse is attacked, he has to admit that America needs its superheroes. The Beast (of X-Men fame) hands a humbled Gyrich a piece of would so he can fight off "the big bad monster" (I think this quote is correct - I last read the comic over twenty-five years ago) before the heroes step in to win the fight. It's a lovely piece of writing and I can still see John Byrne's superlative art in my mind's eye. For some reason, this issue resonated with me, so its seems the perfect influence to introduce the novel's most heroic character.

It's 10:10 on a Friday night. My family are all asleep. I think I'll get a coffee and write some more of the novel now.

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