Hey, Visionaries! I'm excited about today's post! I checked my inbox the other day, and it had a newsletter (I seriously need to read those more often than I do) that contained the article I'm about to share with you.
The moment I finished reading this article on heroes, I knew it was something I needed to share with all of you! It is so thought-provoking, guys! So good! And Erin has such a good point!
So, settle in, buckle up, and proceed to read an article that will make you think about the heroes you read about and the heroes you write about.
These days, it feels like every time I go on Goodreads or browse through my local bookstore, I'm seeing more and more of the word dark. Of descriptors like chilling and haunted. Of stories that, basically, are out to broadcast exactly how hopeless humanity has become.
Good guys are too good to be true. Happy endings don't exist. Gritty realism is where it's at.
In my opinion, the quest for realism is quickly making us lose sight of something our world desperately needs: hope.
What have we done to the classic hero?
These days, protagonists who are broken beyond redemption seem to be all the rage. Their pasts haunt them; their present lives are a mess; their futures are bleak; and they get through each day by clinging to what little is left. I don't know about you, but that doesn't make me feel seen, or understood. If anything, it only manages to magnify my struggles.
But on the flip side, isn't the concept of a virtuous hero who's willing to risk it all for the greater good simply too fantastical? Are we, as authors, feeding our readers a delusion instead of teaching them to live in the real world?
If you ask me, the answer is a firm no—and here's why.
1. Heroes offer hope
We live in a broken world run by broken people. It's dark. It's terrifying. And with the rise of social media, it's impossible to avoid the reality of where our world is at—and not just on a global scale. Where I live, people have been brutally attacked and murdered in the streets; I've heard people screaming in my own neighborhood; my friends and I were too scared to even stop for ice cream on the way home because it would mean going downtown after dark.
The world is going darker with each passing day, and the more I think about it, the harder it is to hold on to a better outcome.
That's why we need stories that tell us otherwise. That prove that there are good things at work in this world, and that they're worth fighting for.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5
Plenty of people want to read something that will challenge the darkness inside of them, but if we only explore what's wrong with us and the world, we run the risk of staying in that place of fear and oppression. The value in examining our struggles only comes full circle when we realize that those struggles can be overcome. True heroes remind us that God has already overcome the world (John 16:33) and that in the end, the light wins. Just take the story of the greatest Hero in history for example: Jesus went to the cross and took our sins upon himself so that we didn't have to pay the price, and instead, we gained the chance to live in light of redemption.
No one ever said that heroism has to make sense—it doesn't, because it springs out of the kind of powerful, radical love that is willing to go into the darkest of places if it means bringing lost souls back home.
2. Heroes inspire a better you
People discount heroes because they aren't "realistic", but what you need to realize is that they aren't supposed to reflect the way things are; instead, they represent how things should be.
I like to say that truth is the backbone of any good story, and we can portray that through heroes. Heroes are an opportunity to reflect the Truth you are trying to convey in order to combat the Lie your characters believe.
For example: the Bible makes it pretty clear that we were created with a purpose. From Ephesians 2:10 to Psalm 139, there are countless verses illustrating that same truth—and yet so many people struggle to believe that they're here for a unique and important reason. And if you don't believe you have value, you're definitely not going to feel worth someone else's sacrifice.
So when someone chooses to value you over their own life? You're going to have to explore the possibility that maybe, just maybe, you should start living like you're worth dying for.
True heroism is about offering second chances. It's about someone laying their life down for a friend because they believe in that person's potential. If your character is on the receiving end of someone else's sacrifice, their gratitude will likely challenge them to take advantage of the second chance they've been given and live life to the full.
3. Heroes invoke a desire for change
When have you watched someone give their life for the greater good and not felt convicted to make the world a better place?
Heroes selflessly defend the people and beliefs that they value, and that kind of passion is catching. Just take a look at some of the most popular hero deaths from fiction: Aslan in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Boromir in The Fellowship of the Ring, Tony Stark in Avengers: Endgame, Jyn and Cassian and the crew in Rogue One...sacrifice has a powerful impact on the lives it touches. It inspires us to honor the person we lost by taking up their cause and seeing it through, too live bravely, and to make a difference.
Everybody has it in them to make an impact. Sometimes, all it takes is someone else's sacrifice to remind them that it's a leap of faith worth taking.
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16
So to summarize: heroes offer hope for better things, which then inspires a change of heart, and that new perspective will overflow into how we see and impact the world around us. It's up to you to decide for yourself, but personally, I believe that is what writing is all about!
Which side of the argument do you lean towards when it comes to the portrayal of heroes? Does it send an unrealistic message, or do you think it's something that can inspire real change?
I'd love to hear your thoughts!
About the Author:
Erin Bronn is a writer and homeschooler on the brink of graduation who loves nothing more than to bury her nose in a good book. When she's not reading or writing, you'll probably find her tackling her yearly bucket list, learning about something she finds weirdly fascinating, or otherwise scheming from her home on the shores of Vancouver Island! You can keep up with Erin via her newsletter, Under The Willow, or through Goodreads.