The Redemption of the Irredeemeable
I am sure I’m not the only one who gets a nice little tingle when the hero does something heroic, even if he or she shrugs it off as ‘just doing their job’. It’s expected, and part of the winning formula for many books. Where would Lord of the Rings be without Gandalf squaring up to the Balrog?
Although it’s expected, a skilled writer will make the scene more than just a good combination of words, but will drag us inside the story and we’ll feel each blow landed on our hero, cheer each counter as they fight back against improbable odds. Yes, we’ll all applaud the wordsmith who leaves us sobbing when the hero saves the day with his or her dying breath.
But what about the antagonist? How would the reader feel if the evil priestess sacrificed her soul in the name of love? How would they feel if the homicidal maniac pushed the child out of the bus’s path and died as a result? Would the unexpected act, when done believably, have more impact than the hero ‘just doing their job’?
That’s the beauty of creating a novel. The rules are there, but breaking them can have far more impact than trudging through using the same old formula. As a writer, I’ve a long way to go, but it’s something I both like reading about, and I try to include in my own prose. Ambiguity is a great tool in a writer’s arsenal, as long as it doesn’t spread confusion. The redemption of an antihero can be far, far more compelling than the hero saving the world as they bled their last.
I mean, who didn’t have a little sob when Spike sacrificed his life for Buffy?