I may write this in installments throughout the day, 'cause I'm imitating a slug this morning. Keep me away from salt and beer, please.
You can't hang out for years with fiction writers without certain topics coming up over and over: what's a "story," what's a hero, and what makes a character likable? These are big topics, debatable topics, topics that are metaphors for Real Life, so maybe we should take them one at a time.
Let's talk about heroes. What is one?
In my opinion, simply being on the scene of a terrible event does not make a person a hero. If I'm in a building when it catches fire and I make my way safely outside, that may make me smart, or simply capable of following directions, but it does not automatically make me a hero. Even being brave during that event doesn't do it. I could be terrified of fire and have to force myself through it, but that still doesn't make me heroic. People can be brave without being heroes. For me, heroism must have an element in it of conscious self-sacrifice. The person has got to make a choice--maybe in a split second, but a choice nonetheless-between her own life and somebody else's, and choose to help that person at the risk of hurting herself. In that fire, I've got to have a moment when I see that I'm five feet from the door and if I run for it, I'm probably going to live, but there's somebody behind me with a broken ankle and she can't make it on her own, but if I go back for her, I may die, too. If I choose to go back for her, I'm a hero, by my own definition, whether either of us lives or dies.
I think I'll stop here for now and go water the flowers. It's going to be very hot out there. If I don't go out, I'll stay cool, but the flowers may die. If I do go out, the flowers will live, but I may die of heat stroke. I'm such a hero. :)
Do you have different ideas about who is a hero? Have you ever had a moment when you had to make a choice between your own safety and somebody else's? Have you ever seen a hero in action?
UPDATE: I told you, my brain is operating in fits and spurts today. Watch out, here comes a spurt. Or possibly a fit?
Maybe I need to ask first, even before I ask about heroes. . .what is courage? I have a friend who is absolutely emphatic in her opinion that you don't have to be afraid in order to be brave. She thinks some acts are inherently brave. Going into a burning building to save somebody, for instance. I disagree. I think there has to be fear before there can be bravery.
Can a person who does something dangerous, but who isn't afraid at the time, be said to be brave?
UPDATE 2: Wanna see something startling? Go here! (Scroll up to the YouTube video.) BE SURE TO LISTEN TO THE SOUND ALL THE WAY THROUGH, EVEN THOUGH IT'S ANNOYING AT FIRST.
UPDATE 3: I love the tv series "Heroes."