The good news is I’ve written about 12 K on the final installment of the Sixth Sense series, Deal with the Devil. Not as far along as I’d hoped to be at this time. I’m still struggling to get back into the writing groove, as well as relearn my characters all over again.
One of the more interesting–and challenging–things I’ve run into during this process is a redefinition of who my heroes are.
When I began writing this series back in 2010 (that long ago? Yikes!), I made my protagonists FBI agents. Why? Because I like mysteries and suspense, and so it only made sense to center a series around characters in law enforcement. After all, that’s where the action is, right? Think of all the lovely storytelling you can create around such protagonists. They’re on the side of law and order, they have dangerous and challenging jobs, and as a writer, this is perfect for placing them in jeopardy and watching the adventure unfold.
But events of the past few years have me questioning the degree to which we venerate cops, agents, firefighters, military servicemen and the like. No, I’m not saying that all such personnel are bad any more than I’m saying all such personnel are good, but it does strike me that as far as our entertainment goes, if it’s not a superhero or doctor, then our protagonists are usually some members of the above group.
To a certain degree, we’ve been programed to believe these people are automatically heroes.
After the events of BLM, someone challenged me to stop watching any television program that featured a connection with law enforcement in some way, and I’m telling you, virtually every program I enjoy or have enjoyed in the past has some connection with the law. Lucifer? Check. Castle. Numb3rs. Psych. Women’s Murder Club. My Life is Murder, The Miss Fisher Mysteries, heck, even the original MacGyver was a secret agent. The challenge became trying to find something I watch that didn’t have a law enforcement connection.
Now, undoubtedly, the biggest reason for this is my love of mysteries combined with the great potential for storytelling with this kind of protagonist. But even old standbys such as Star Trek, Stargate, and Star Wars have military (albeit fictional) backgrounds.
Recent events have made me take a harder look at this wholesale veneration of law enforcement personnel as heroes–an extension of the Westerns in which the Sheriff was the town hero.
I have to say, it’s made me think twice about blithely putting out yet another story where the FBI agents are the good guys. Without questioning the organization as a whole.
Someone pointed out in the comments below that I’m not being very clear here: I’m not saying we should reject law enforcement characters as protagonists wholesale. I’m saying, however, that we’ve given them a free pass so to speak in the hero department. That maybe we should think about that when we tell our stories.
The easy answer is to say this is just fictional, and not worry if it is also problematic in the face of the events that took place at Capitol Hill this past week. To not look too closely at our billionaire playboy/cop/firefighter/cowboy/Navy Seal/Special Agent heroes because it’s just a romance trope, right?
The truth is, I’m going to continue reading, writing, and watching programs about such characters because I like the kinds of stories that go with them. I’m not a big fan of sit-coms. I avoid medical dramas whenever possible. I like mysteries, sci-fi, and paranormal backdrops to my romances. I like stories where the good guys win. I need stories where the good guys win.
I’m just not convinced I really know who the good guys are anymore. And it’s something I’m going to think about as I move forward as a storyteller.