It’s been a difficult year. We lost so many loved ones. We endured a bitter, divisive election. As a nation we face uncertainty about where to go from here, and how to heal.
Now, more than ever, we need heroes.
I’ve been amazed by those who have become more involved politically, or who have made donations to worthy charities. The people I see around me are striving to live good lives, to make a difference in the world, to be the light we so desperately need. I’m especially impressed with those who are doing it not for recognition or pats on the back but in secret, quietly serving others and working for change.
I am desperate for fictional characters who reflect that same goodness.
I’ve had it with anti-heroes. I don’t want to watch or read about any more drug dealers with a heart of gold, or action heroes who may save the world but are constantly and often deliberately hurting the people they love the most. The other day I got so angry with a TV character who cheated on his wife that I seethed about it for days afterward. Yes, we’re all human. We all make mistakes. But sometimes I want to see a character who is strong enough to overcome that weakness, to withstand temptation, to make the unpopular choice and show us that maybe we can do the same.
I keep thinking the tortured anti-hero trope will play itself out, that we’ll eventually tire of it and demand something different. But it seems that our appetite for dark characters will never be sated.
Not everyone will agree with me here, and that’s okay. We all seek something deeply personal from the stories we consume. But I am bone weary of moral ambiguity. How can we ever strive as humans to become more than we are when we continue to lower the bar on what we’ll tolerate as acceptable behavior? When the impact bleeds over into real life—when it extends all the way to our presidential candidates—maybe it’s time to do a little soul searching.
Of course a protagonist should never be a cliché. Well-written characters are multi-layered. They screw up. They have strengths and weaknesses and passions and dreams and disappointments. That’s why we want to root for them. But for the love of Pete, give me more characters who are inherently good. Who make moral choices. Tough choices.
They don’t have to be self-righteous.
They don’t have to be predictable.
And they don’t have to be boring. Aragorn isn’t boring. Hermione Granger isn’t boring. Atticus Finch isn’t boring. (Once again, your miles may vary!)
I would love to see more stories that explore goodness in ways we haven’t seen before. What motivations and goals come into play? What moral codes are adhered to? How can universal themes of hope and sacrifice and love carry over into the real world?
The stories we create reflect who we are. They mark our place in history.
What legacy will we leave for future generations? What qualities will define us (or condemn us)?
Words have power. Characters can change hearts and minds, though not always for the better. It all hinges on which direction we choose to point our moral compass.
Growing up, Christine Hayes loved reading stories about creatures that curl your toes and legends that send a shiver down your spine. Now she loves writing about them, too. Her debut novel, MOTHMAN’S CURSE, was released in June 2015 through Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. Christine seeks inspiration by haunting flea markets and estate sales, searching for cool vintage finds with a story to tell. While earning her degree in music she visited Asia for the first time, and later moved there with her family for several years. She has been addicted to travel ever since. Christine and her clan now live in northern Utah. Find her online at