AS the world’s top athletes clash in London for sporting glory we watch to see who will triumph or lose.
It’s a drama paralleled in life but more subtly. All too often heroes can turn out as villains and we feel let down. Or those we admire have feet of clay and disappoint. They are revealed to be only human after all.
Similarly, gold medal winners may be losers in personal relationships or lack qualities many consider more important than athletic prowess, like honesty or humility.
Journalists soon learn the famous are fallible, while also witnessing “ordinary” people coping valiantly with extraordinary events.
This is reflected in fiction which, as crime writer P D James remarked, reveals the human heart.
“All the world’s a stage,” wrote the Bard, our master of tragedy, comedy and romance. Shakespeare knew heroes in shining armour were only two-dimensional and required depth to impress and inspire. They needed weaknesses to overcome and failures to learn from. Thus, hero Henry the Fifth had wayward younger years alongside wine-swilling, old rogue Falstaff.
In fiction, villains can be more memorable than clean-cut heroes but readers most like characters with frailties and personal doubts but good intentions.
My first novel (unpublished of 30-odd years ago) had a hero who, I realised towards the end, wasn’t worthy of the girl he loved and won – so I altered the outcome.
A novelist can feel Godlike but soon your characters start fighting back. They wouldn’t act like that, you realise. The plot has to be changed accordingly, with fresh situations for them to deal with.
A later second novel, The Last Ghosts, was not about spirits but old expatriates in Hong Kong. At first it began with a young hero but soon I realised the middle-aged, overweight policeman alongside him was more interesting – so he got star billing.
He was based loosely on a real character from a bar called the Old China Hand in seedy Wanchai. This lone inspector drank morosely and waddled round in wide, white shorts making him look from behind like a hippo – with comical, staccato bursts of flatulence.
Not your typical stuff for fictional heroes! But, eventually, I saw this man change. He shed weight, regained his looks and became sociable again. He had overcome a great, personal low.
Such human dramas stir us, as they mirror our own dilemmas and show, in their way, we can all be heroes.
Hopefully, just as the 2012 Olympic Spirit declares, we can all make it – if we try!
* Roy’s novels and humorous memoirs are available through bookstores or online, with signed and personalised copies for local readers. Visit royedmonds-blackpool.com for details.