Friday, January 8, 2016

Why Ken is an Iconic Hero

When I write fiction, I prefer to write using an Iconic Hero as my protagonist. Since Robin Laws gave me the direction, here's a link to his 2012 blog post talking about it in the context of doing The New Hero. Here's the big deal, taken from that post:
What Makes a Hero Iconic

While a dramatic hero follows a character arc in which he is changed by his experience of the world (examples: Orpheus, King Lear, Ben Braddock), an iconic hero undertakes tasks (often serially) and changes the world, restoring order to it, by remaining true to his essential self.

Prevailing creative writing wisdom favors the changeable dramatic character over his serially unchanging iconic counterpart, but examples of the latter remain enduring tentpoles of popular culture. It’s the clear, simple, elemental iconic heroes who keep getting reinvented every generation. Each such classic character spoke to the era of its invention, while also evoking an eternal quality granting it a continuing resonance. We are going to create a new set of heroes who speak to the contemporary world while evoking the inescapable power of the iconic model.

An iconic hero re-imposes order on the world by reasserting his essential selfhood. The nature of his radical individuality can be summed up with a statement of his iconic ethos. It is the ethos that grants higher meaning to the hero’s actions, and a clue to his creator’s intentions. An iconic hero’s ethos motivates and empowers him.
For someone looking to get paid writing fiction, you're a god-damned fool if you dismiss the Iconic Hero as the focal point of an evergreen series. Conan of Cimmeria, Solomon Kane, James Bond, Indiana Jones- these are well-known Iconic Heroes that keep selling for their creators even long after those creators died. Ignore this at your peril.

So, of course when I hit upon The Burning of Hugo I went to my own Iconic Hero: Ken. Sure, he's different in that he's not the fearless slayer and consumer of the undead that he is after The Coming of the Azure Flames, but what defines him as an Iconic Hero--that ethos Laws talks about above--is present and fully-formed.

Ken kills monsters preying upon Mankind to purify a corrupt world.

Before the Cataclysm, those monsters are criminals--often those above the law, or exploiting social norms--that he has no qualms ensuring that they die. After the Cataclysm, those monsters are literal Things That Should Not Be, and he kills and consumes them to put them down for good. He's a Scourge, he knows it, he's good with it, and abides by the consequences of it. Those aware of him rightly fear him.

There's another element to having an Iconic Hero as your focal character. It allows you the option of using supporting characters for Dramatic Character Arcs, contrasting against your Iconic Hero to enhance the process. 2000 A.D. does this wonderfully with Judge Dredd, and has for many years now. That's a very worthy example to follow, adapt, and tweak to fit your needs and preferences in a way that is far superior to the outright fucktarded moves that D.C. and Marvel have done in the same time.

So, as I continue re-writing and revising The Burning of Hugo, know this: the Protagonist is Iconic. Everyone else is not. If you want to see Dramatic Character Arcs, look to the other Dramatis Personae in the piece; Ken being exactly who and what he is will only enhance their arcs.

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