I was going to post a lightweight piece to my blog today but it doesn’t feel right one week on from the horrific attacks in Paris. The media is rightly awash with commentary and I’m not going to add my opinion despite an abiding interest (due to the fact that I once wrote spy fiction) in security issues. I leave that to greater minds than mine. But what has resonated strongly with me in recent days is the stories of those who died, who they were, what they did and who loved them. So many different walks of life, different nationalities and occupations, old and young like. One Frenchman said this week that, if you want to stop the dreamers you kill the young. He might have added that by killing the young you also crush the hopes of the old. The pain of the many parents who lost sons and daughters last Friday is beyond comprehension.
But within hours of those grim events, shining lights of courage emerged: men throwing themselves in front of girlfriends and wives and women they didn’t know, a mother protecting her small son by covering his body with hers, a young woman hanging from a first floor window to protect the unborn child she carried. There are probably many more about which we will never know.
When writers think about main protagonists for their stories, they often craft those same selfless and heroic attributes into their characters. They know that they must have someone to challenge the antagonist however twisted and perverse the ‘baddie’ is. It’s not just a neat device to create pitch perfect pace, ramp up tension and provide readers with a core character with whom they can identify, care about and follow for hundreds of pages. It’s because this is how we would like to see ourselves, as selfless, loving, protective and respectful of others. So much easier to replicate in the pages of a novel. Much harder to achieve in real life.