Should heroes be role-models?

What do you expect?

Some people expect a lot from fictional heroes.  Of course, some people expect a lot from their real-life heroes too. They are usually disappointed.  Real people, even the ones who are rightly admired, all have their faults.  I am often amazed when I hear of people being shocked to discover that Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Richard the Lionheart and even Mother Theresa had their unpleasant attributes.  They all made mistakes too.  Does any of that prevent us remembering them with admiration or affection? I say it does not.  It means they were real.  They remain heroes.

What of fictional heroes?

Some authors do create heroes who appear to be morally faultless.  They also create them with amazing abilities in almost every respect.  Strong, clever, athletic, tough, resilient, quickthinking and good at just about everything they are called upon to do.  I have noticed that TV and film adaptations are often to blame for ‘improving’ heroes.  James Bond seems more human in the books.  So does Richard Sharpe.

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What about the Bible?

Jesus is the ultimate role-model for Christians.  Apart from him, all the characters in the Bible are shown as people with shortcomings, in some cases serious ones.  Even the best of them.  We should read warnings in the stories as well as seeing things to copy.

What of my characters?

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I try to make all my characters as credible as possible, which means they are not perfect, but I hope you will find them likeable.  Apart from the villains.  But even they need to have some good qualities if they are to be realistic.  Besides, if the villain was all-bad, you would be able to tell right from the start.  Not much mystery or suspense there.

Billy and Bethan are hardly role-models.  Robbing coaches is not a thing I commend as a career.  They both fall short of the ideal when it comes to their sexual morality too.  I hope, however, that you will be able to identify with them, at least to some extent, and see the good in them, while hoping they will find a way out of the lifestyle they have fallen into.  Whether they do, you will have to read the book to see but some things will not be resolved until the sequel.  Real life is often like that.

Is there a rape scene in Highwaypersons?

Why ask?

I have been asked this question (whether in hope or anxiety I am not sure) because of the current controversy over a scene in Poldark.  Some call it a rape scene, whilst others argue that the woman’s apparent eventual consent negates that description.  You have to see the scene and make up your own mind.  Seeing the whole series, in which the mutual attraction between Ross and Elizabeth is a major theme, might put it in context and affect your opinion.  Or not.

What about Highwaypersons? 

Well, Billy and Helen have strong but often contradictory feelings for each other, often leading to verbal and physical confrontations.  It is, however, another of Helen’s admirers, with similar feelings to Billy’s but having less self-control, who really loses it.  How violent does it get?  Does it end in rape?  You must read the book to find out.  You must make your own mind up as to the rights and wrongs of the situation.

What about Thomas and Llewellyn?

One reader seemed to think there was something sexual going in the scenes where Bethan’s twelve-year-old son, Llewellyn, wrestles with the adult Thomas.  I had no intention to imply anything of the sort.  The man was merely teaching the boy to defend himself.  That they both enjoyed the lessons should not be taken to mean anything else. Thomas was a practicing heterosexual who made no secret of his attraction to Bethan and her cousin Megan, among other women.

Short Story.

I have written a short story, The Dinner Party, introducing Helen and her attitude to Billy, among other things.  It is available free if you ask either by e-mail to geoffrey@geoffreymonmouth.co.uk  or via the contact form on my website www.geoffreymonmouth.co.uk.  Please be warned: there is no violence in this short story.

 

Is there a market for books like Highwaypersons?

Some say there is a market for modern detective fiction – ‘whodunits’ – and a separate market for historical fiction.  The second category includes adventure stories – ‘swashbucklers’ – and romantic fiction.  Of course, many books combine the two.  Is that what people want?

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It has been said that ‘historical detective fiction’ is a thing of the past in more ways than one.  I disagree.  I have enjoyed whodunits set in various periods, beginning with the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and moving on to Agatha Christie, Ellis Peters, Peter Tremayne and Susannah Gregory, to name only the most obvious.  I know I am not alone.

Of course, crime has existed from the beginning of time.  Cain murdered his brother Abel.  And there have always been at least some people who have had a desire for truth and justice.  Call them detectives or not.  ‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet’.  There is therefore something to write about.

So if my books fall into the smaller category which overlaps detective fiction and historical adventure, I think I am in good company and have a good basis in historical fact.  Naturally, there will be some people who prefer either one type of book or the other and feel mine are neither.  I can see their point of view.  Happily, there are plenty of writers around to cater for their tastes.  I hope there are plenty of readers around who will enjoy my writing.

I can only wait and see.  Hopefully not too long!

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Why be interested in Bible Sunday? (Unless you are a Bible-basher).

Tomorrow, 23rd October is Bible Sunday.  All right, I know some churches have it on a different day.  The ones who like to be different.  Never mind.  Let us think about it now.

The Bible is important to lots of people for lots of reasons.

Obviously Christians.

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Also Jews and Moslems believe in certain parts of the Bible and those parts are very important to them

But what if you are not religious?

Are you interested in:

  • History
  • Law
  • Literature
  • Words

History?

  • Whether you believe all or some or none of it, the Bible is an important historical document.  Well, a collection of documents.
  • It is a source of information about a lot of the history of the Middle-East and surrounding areas.
  • It has also influenced, one way and another, a good deal of the history of Europe and other places.
  • Understanding it helps understanding some of the conflicts it inspired and some of the ways it influenced Society.

Law?

Britain and most of Europe, as well as other places, have drawn on the Bible in developing our laws.  It was better than starting with a blank sheet.

Words?

  • The Authorised Version, or the King James Bible, has been a major influence on the English language.
  • Elsewhere, the Latin and Greek versions influenced a lot of languages.
  • It contains some truly memorable stories that are part of our culture.  And a lot of other peoples’ too.

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So at least once a year it is worth thinking about it, perhaps even reading some of it.

I was impressed recently with The Bible For Dummies.  I got the mini version on Kindle.  It is amusing, erudite and readable. It does not try to impose any particular view on the reader.  I think it could be a good place to start.

Of course there are plenty of other books about the Bible if you do not like this one.

 

 

 

 

Heroines and Female Highwaypersons

Just as I am about to officially launch Highwaypersons, I have been reminded in a tweet that many writers, especially of historical fiction, make their heroines and other female characters little more than toys for the heroes.  I entirely agree and have no desire to write about women in that way. Most women I know have far more about them than those weedy heroines.  I expect that was true of real women down the ages, not only the exceptional ones who ‘made history’ like Boudicca and Elizabeth I.  History was and is made by millions of people of all classes, ages and genders.

See how many female highwaypersons there are in the book and see what you think of the other female characters.  I do not think you will find any are mere toys of the men.  Could the opposite be true?

Read Highwaypersons and find out. The launch is Monday 24th October, but the book is already available on Amazon, Createspace and Kindle if you do not want to wait.

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Riding around in Poldark country.

I have just got back after a week in Cornwall.  I was riding horses most of the time.  I still feel sore in several places but I was pleased to note that the aches and pains decreased towards the end of the week.  It was good to get back on a horse after a couple of years of being dismounted or whatever the word is, although I was annoyed with myself at times when I realised how out of practice I was at certain things.

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I have visited Cornwall before, but not for many years.  Happy memories came back.  I soon found myself at home there.  That was probably in part due to the many similarities between Cornwall and Wales, where I used to live.

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The placenames in Cornwall demonstrate an interesting mixture of English and Celtic origins, like the people.  I hope all of us Britons can celebrate our distinctiveness whilst valuing those things which unite us.

The countryside has its similarities.  Welsh people will be quick to point out that Cornwall does not have any mountains to compare with Snowdonia or the Brecon Beacons, but I found I was almost always going uphill or downhill on horse or foot or in the car and it all seemed pretty mountainous to me.

The rugged coastline and the lovely beaches reminded me of parts of Pembrokeshire.  Although you can get away from the sea in Wales, more easily than in Cornwall, most Welsh people choose to live near the coast.  In the area around Llandrindod Wells you find sheep outnumber people by a large factor.

Fishing, farming and nowadays tourism play a large part in the economic life of Cornwall as of Wales.

There were signs of mining almost everywhere I went.  I know these were nearly all tin or copper mines, whilst Wales is, or was, famous for coal.  In fact, there is a history of mining tin and copper in parts of Wales too, and where I now live, Warrington, I am again in the centre of former mining areas.  I have noticed that, mining creates a certain type of community as well as affecting the landscape, regardless of the particular substance being taken out of the ground.

In Highwaypersons, Book II, The King’s Justice, the main characters get involved in the iron ore business: an activity which predated coalmining in Wales by a long way.  I hope those of you who are more knowledgeable than I am regarding the technical aspects of that industry will forgive the mistakes you are likely to find and enjoy the yarn.  The story is not really about mining: it is about people.

It is a pity you cannot get a good cream tea in Wales!

Is there anything spooky in Highwaypersons? It’s that time of year!

Halloween is approaching.  Dark nights.  People often like to read something spooky at this time of year.  Magic, mystery and all that. Is that Highwaypersons?

No.

  • There is mystery of the whodunnit variety.
  • There is danger.
  • There is fear.  This includes fear of the gallows, of cold steel and of hot lead.  Fear of discovery.
  • There is evil in the form of injustice: all too human and earthly.

Is there anything supernatural?  Only God!  The highwaypersons  have to fight with their consciences as well as with more tangible opponents, as they question their justification for their actions and think of divine retribution.

Some people think the highwayman (as they suppose) has a magical gift for vanishing, but it is just speed, disguise and quick thinking.

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But if you are looking for a spiritual fright, you must look elsewhere.  I do not expect you will have to look far.

 

How do writers deal with sex?

If you were hoping for some intimate details of the sex-lives of various writers, prepare to be disappointed (or go to another website).  I am looking at how we write about sex.

The one thing most of us do not do is avoid it.  It is, after all, an important subject in real life.  It is to be found in the Bible, Shakespeare, Chaucer, and almost every writer from then on up to the Twentieth and Twenty First Centuries.

It is relevant in almost all genres.

  • In historical fiction. (Unhand that wench you swine!)
  • In spy thrillers. (How many Bond girls can you name?)
  • In horror stories. (A fate worse than death awaits the heroine.)
  • In comedy. (Ooh, fancy that!)
  • In crime fiction. (Sex can be a motive for a murder or a red herring.  It can be a distraction for the detective.)

There are various ways of treating it.  Various types of language for describing it.  No one is ideal.  All have their pros and cons.

  1. Some writers are earthy, crude even, using four-letter words and other coarse terms to describe parts of the body and their functions. This works for some, but can make the whole thing seem dirty.  It may seem to verge on pornography.
  2. Others use the correct scientific terms. This may confuse some readers.  It also can make it feel like reading a gynaecological textbook.
  3. Metaphors can be helpful. They can be poetical, humorous or both.  They can, however, make the author appear to be beating about the bush.  Mixed metaphors and inappropriate ones are especially dangerous when writing about sex.  Beware of unintended humour.
  4. Finally, there are writers who leave most of it up to the reader’s imagination.  Describe the man.  Describe the woman.  Describe the bed.  Let you guess what happened when the couple and the bed came together.

Me?  I have so far used a mixture of the last two approaches.  I do not promise to do the same every time. (I was talking about writing about it, but come to think of it…)