November 03, 2020
Sunday Letter: Looking for Heroes
The week was a productive one for writing. I now understand how The Traveler stories will end, even though I still have a few touches left to make on the final installment.
As I closed out the story, I asked myself: How has the story changed since I started writing it?
In most ways, the series has turned out as expected. But as I read the drafts of the last two stories, I became concerned that different character might emerge, unexpectedly, as the hero.
Consider the Star Wars trilogy. Everyone thinks of Luke, Princess Leia, Hans Solo, and Chewbacca are the heroes. However, as the story wound towards the penultimate battle between good and evil, it’s the story’s villain—Darth Vader—who makes the sacrifice that saves the day.
Who is the real hero of that story?
I faced a similar dilemma as I wrote my final pages. From my earliest notes, I knew who I wanted to be the hero. But would that character be in the right place during the climatic scenes? And what would that character do to elevate themselves in the eyes of the reader?
Throughout writing The Traveler series, I’ve gone where the characters and their actions led me. Like any author, I favor certain characters. Often it’s the characters I associate with get more prominence in the story. It’s easier to write them.
This unconscious bias is part of who I am. And as a result, it’s part of what I write. I knew who I wanted to be the hero, but it wasn’t always how I wrote the story.
“Write what you know” is common advice I’ve heard from friends who write. I try to be mindful of this whenever I consider a new story. I’m also cautious with it.
The world has enough protagonists who look like me, talk like me, and have a similar background. As a writer, I want to challenge myself. Write about those who are unlike me. Use my writing to explore the world around me, and seek to experience it from different perspectives. Unconscious bias can be a roadblock for in this pursuit.
For the final installment, I want a satisfying conclusion to the story. The first two of the three as-yet-to-be-released stories have plenty of reveals, character development, and world building.
For the final story, I’ve set out to write an action movie. Fast paced, with small twists, and enough suspense to leave you hanging on each word.
I only hope the right hero emerges.
Writing has been cathartic. It’s given me an outlet to express my frustration and focus my concern about what happens around me.
Our bias is everywhere, and we can spot it if we’re honest with ourselves. On the eve of this tumultuous election, it’s too easy to label those who disagree with us as “others”.
My country, and the world at large, has become more polarized. It’s easy to blame a single person or even a group of people, but the real issue is within each of us. We all have the opportunity to be a positive, unifying force in our community and country.
We all have the opportunity to be heroes of this story—not just the two guys running for President.
Foremost, if you’re in the U.S. and haven’t already, I hope you vote. Then as you settle in this evening to watch the results, think about how you can be a unifier.