Alice, Wendy, Peter, Dorothy, the Pevensie's, the Baudelaire children, Lyra, Harry, Ron and Hermione; which hero did you connect with?
As critical as good villains are, a hero we can get behind and believe in may be even more so. I believe in some ways a hero is much more difficult to write. Particularly as an adult writing a juvenile or child hero.
I am currently reading The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. In Lyra, I think he has created a brilliant adolescent protagonist She has all the amazing qualities which set her apart from the rest of the characters. She has skills, abilities and the history to make her a perfect heroine but she also has all the flaws of a child. In one moment she can be doing something amazing and in the next she is completely childish.
As a writer, it is so easy to forget to let our children heroes also be children.
Harry Potter is, of course, probably the most beloved child hero ever created and rightly so. I believe he strikes all the required qualities of a child protagonist almost without fail. For every incredible act of courage Harry does, he behaves childishly on many more occasions. He evolves to be mature beyond his years as the war he is in comes to an end but he should. Just as our 17 year old grandfathers and great grandfathers did when they went to war. I have seen photo's of my grandfather before he went to war at seventeen, eyes full of childish wonder and I have seen the photo's of when he came back. That naive young man was gone and could never come back.
When Harry Potter ended I think many readers wept not for the things he had done or the sacrifices which were made but because we felt as if we were losing a family member. What would we do now? Harry had gone like a child leaving home for college. What could possibly fill that void?
That is the goal. That is what a writer is tasked with when creating the hero. Make the reader amazed by their actions, abilities and the events the hero find themselves in but more importantly make us forget they are fictional characters. Remove them from the collection of words on the page which bring them to life and place them in our hearts and imaginations.
The best middle grade fiction does this. It reminds us of how we felt as a child. Our fears, hopes and confusion at the world around us. Then it takes us and throws us into fantastic, sometimes terrible situations and lets the child in us face fears and challenges which only inhabited our dreams when we were young.
I look forward to every moment I have left to spend with Lyra and I hope that I find she is always with me as Harry, Ron and Hermione have stayed with me. As Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, whom I did meet when I was a child, have always stayed with me.
Perhaps, in some way, these fictional children have helped me keep at bay the fears I had as a child. The fears I have mastered as an adult but which never truly left me.
Harry Potter image found on Piccsy
Lyra image by Tallychyck