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Sunday, 5 August 2012

The Unheroic Hero

I find it difficult to be nasty.  I hope my friends and family would agree that I’m not particularly good at it.

So, what has that got to do with writing?

Well, a lot of my novels are set in Britain’s Celtic past; a time when heroes were heroic; a time when charismatic leaders won the day through brute force.

That’s not me.  I’ve tried very hard to be an arrogant bully, but I hope I’ve failed dismally.  That’s why I find it very difficult to write in the Celtic hero’s viewpoint.  Cuchulain, Boudicca, Arthur and the like were doubtless great leaders, but to be successful they must surely have had many of the characteristics I find it so hard to give my characters.

So, how can I write heroic fiction when I struggle to make my characters heroic?

I’ve got around it by concentrating on the more ‘human’ and likeable aspects of personality.  I don’t particularly enjoy writing battle scenes, so I try to keep this ‘off stage’ anyway.  That lets me explore the side of my characters that I want to concentrate on.


For example, Prince Einion in ‘The Doe and the Dragon’ was a warrior prince, but I was able to concentrate on his struggle to overcome his shyness of beautiful women. 

I made Einion’s father, Cunedda, a once-excellent warrior who has mellowed in his old age and is now more interested in politics and seeing his sons inherit, than in wielding a blade.

I found this approach to characterisation much more satisfying than simply portraying Celtic warrior heroes as violent thugs.

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