In my last blog post I discussed the Christian’s reaction to the Boston terrorist bombings. Now I will ask you, my fellow writers and imaginators, what is your reaction? How will this incident, and others like it, affect your writing?
I’ll ask the question again when I’m done (the blog owner always gets to go first).
Though some may find it distasteful, the writer, even the fiction writer, is always on the lookout for new ideas, new twists, new…well, horrible incidents like this one. Let’s be honest, if it were not for the Great Depression, we would have no Grapes of Wrath. Steinbeck took current realities of his day and found an audience among those who were the victims of those realities. Was Steinbeck distasteful and profiting on the suffering of others?
Of course not. What he did was give a voice to those suffering the most and offer them an escape. He also pulled from among them a hero. Tom Joad became the Dark Knight of the tent cities, an avenger for the helpless victims of a clueless government and the ruthless men who took advantage of their desperation.
Readers Need a Hero
So how do we take our current events and turn them into our own Grapes of Wrath? We see it done already. The TV series 24 took post-9/11 America and gave it a hero who was a one-man armada against the terrorists bent on destroying our way of life. Of course there is no Jack Bauer in the real world, that’s why there was a necessity to create one. To a country fearful that their kid’s school busses could be blown up by a terrorist, just the concept of a Jack Bauer brought some sense of comfort.
People love heroes. And a hero that rescues people from the biggest fear of the day is a hero that the public craves. You are not capitalizing on a tragedy, my friends, you are giving the public what it wants. In fact, I’ll say the public needs your hero.
A Hero to One or Many
So what do we do with the example of Sandy Hill or Boston? Can you place your hero or heroine in the midst of our nation’s worst nightmare and save the day? Or maybe they can only save one person. Scope isn’t important. A romance novelist doesn’t have time for their character to save the country and fall in love within 300 pages. But her hero can deck a guy walking into a school with a gun, then set his chocolate hooded eyes on the hot new kindergarten teacher. A mystery writer can put his detective on a murder case that leads to the arrest of a man involved with a larger terrorist cell. He can turn over the real work to the FBI and continue to the Epilogue.
Yes, we write fiction so that our readers can have an escape from reality. But often the escape is to find a satisfying ending to events that rarely end well. You can pull a hero from their midst like a Tom Joad. Or you can introduce a super-hero like a Jack Bauer or…well, Superman.
Re-write the Ending
So here’s your homework: Give me a Boston hero that fits your genre. It’s the finish line of the Boston Marathon and your chance to re-write the ending. How would you write it?