Monday, August 15, 2011

A Hero In Your Own Life

I’ve been meaning to post about the themes I hoped to get across in the Shiver series. I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I thought about it the other day, in this spoilery chat about FOREVER, when I was asked some variation of what I hoped readers would take away from the trilogy. And yesterday, when I was reading about the London looting. And last night, I was doing an interview with an Australian newspaper in preparation for my tour there.

So here it is. What I want readers to take away from the Wolves of Mercy Falls: that you should be the hero of your own life. It’s a conscious choice, a way of looking at the world. I thought about this concept a lot when I was a teen, especially at the time mentioned in this blog post.

When I say “be the hero of your own life,” I suppose I really mean three things.

First, a certain self-awareness. To see whether you’re the hero of your own life demands that you step outside of your body and say, all right. This is how people see me. This is how I see me. This is the greater arc of my life and these are the demons I’ve struggled with and right there, those are my strengths and my weaknesses. This is the general shape of things, and here I am in the middle of it. From outside your own life, detached and objective, you have to decide: If they wrote a book of your life, made a movie of it, would you be a hero? Would you be a villain? Or, worst of all, would you be a side character?

Because the second thing about being a hero in your own life is that heroes act. They might begin their book reacting — actually, they often begin the books shy, afraid, damaged, or otherwise incapable of changing things for themselves or other people — but by the end of the book, they’ve learned how to be powerful in their own skin. How to be able to act to change their own circumstances. So many people wait for other people to change their world for them, and often, that change never happens. If you’re a hero, you must act. Side characters are often moved by events or by the actions of the hero or the villain, so the direction of their lives is dictated by other people. Heroes move their worlds for themselves.

Actually, so do villains. Which is why, to me, the last thing about being a hero is about principle and values. When you step outside your own body and look at yourself as the narrator of your own life, are you proud of what you see? Even if you’re the underdog, are you someone you like? A hero is someone who’s noble and honorable, even in the worst of circumstances. It’s someone who is heroic even when no one else is around to see them. It’s someone who does the right thing, even if the right thing is the laundry. It’s someone who tries hard and learns to be a strong, unique individual, either because of their past . . . or despite their past.

There are a lot of different sorts of bravery.

So that’s what I hope readers get out of the trilogy, watching four teens struggle, wander, and finally charge into their lives in FOREVER, finally powerful in their own bodies and in their own worlds. I reckon that’s a lot to ask of a single series and I’m not sure it will come across, but what can I say? Sometimes this particular hero is a little grandiose.
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