Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.
–Charles Dickens, David Copperfield
Think like a man of action. Act like a man of thought.
–Henry Louis Bergson
I used to write fiction–science fiction and otherwise–quite a bit. A couple of things curbed my appetite for the activity. First, I got a day job writing, which ate up a lot of literary bandwidth. The same synapses crunch out prose for the space business, and they get quite tired.
Here’s the other thing, though: much fiction writing is autobiographical in some fashion or another: all of the action, all of the character actions and thoughts spring from the mind of the author. What often spurs me to write fiction is something that angers or upsets me. So what I’d do is start writing a story about a Bartish character in a similar social/mental/ethical dilemma, then sort out the problem that way.
Along the way I realized that life might just be easier if I solved the problems myself, in the real world, as quickly as possible. Rather than develop any sort of problem-solving hero on paper, it would be better to just internalize the sort of character I’d like to read and be that sort of person in my daily life. So what sort of character did I want to read about? Someone intelligent, decisive, clever, insightful, curious, well-spoken, reasonably well behaved. I even manage it on occasion.
But the most important thing I want my character(s)–or myself–to do when problems arise is take action to solve them. Something, anything. Just do something constructive rather than wait for the inevitable to strike.
I’m not always successful in my efforts, but in my professional career, I have made it my mission to identify goals and go after them, identify problems and fix them. That is the function of a hero, yes?
But no, I still don’t wear a cape.