How would your hero react to a catastrophic event?

I’ve been away for a few weeks and out of contact with the ‘rest of the world’.  Coming home I found myself glued to the telly as I watched the floods unfold in Queensland and now in my home state of Victoria.  I marvel at the force of Nature — and how deluded we humans are when we think we can control it.

At the same time, I marvel at how resilient humans are — a line from a song comes to mind: “I get knocked down, but I get up again. You’re never going to keep me down…” (Tubthumping by Chumbawamba)

My heart goes out to all who have been affected.

As I heard someone say while she was standing in the ruins of her sodden, mud filled house:  “At least I’m alive and all my family is safe…”  (Naturally, she was in tears.)

And I guess in the scheme of things that’s the most we mortal human beings can ask for — to live through the event.  Our lives are precious, much more so than our possessions.  Although that doesn’t diminish the loss of everything you own in life.

Cockatoo Township -- photo from http://www.cockatootownship.com.au/

In fact, I remember when family friends lobbed onto our doorstep on Ash Wednesday (South Australian and Victorian bushfires that occurred on 16th February 1983 and which resulted in the loss of 75 lives and nearly 4000 properties).  It was about 4 am and they had to flee the fire as it roared up over the hill and into their township, Cockatoo.  They thought they could fight it but the severity of the ‘firestorm’ was such that they had to leave with only seconds to spare.  They evacuated with little possessions — actually, it was a basket of dirty washing — and without knowing what had happened to their beloved pets or their home.  When they finally got the okay to return it was to a pile of ash.  Miraculously, their pets were all waiting on the doorstep — the only sign of what they had been through was one cat had a scorched tail.  Who knows how those dogs and cats survived but they did!  Cockatoo was decimated with only a few houses left.  Six people died because they couldn’t get out in time.

So needless to say, our friends, although absolutely devastated by the loss of all their possessions — apart from the dirty washing, that is — picked themselves up, rebuilt and got on with their lives.  I am sure that it affected them but they become survivors and not victims.

How would a disaster affect your hero?

Of course, being a writer means that I think about how a catastrophic event like this would affect someone.  I guess it would occur in stages — the lead up to the event, the event itself, the aftermath and then life beyond.  The question, as a writer, I ask of any character that goes through this is whether they are a ‘victim’ or a ‘survivor’.

  • Victims tap into the pain and tend to remain stuck in the moment.
  • Survivors feel the pain and understand that life goes on – it may take a while but they eventually move on.

When you create a character it is vitally important to think about this — because whichever way your character tends toward — victim or survivor — will dictate exactly how they react when a momentous event like a flood occurs in their life.  Will they rise above it?  (No pun intended!)  Will they let it dominate their life?

So what is your hero?  A victim or a survivor?  And do you think it matters?

As a foot note – I keep reading some quite hilarious stories about some of the things people are doing at the moment.  The latest is the blow up doll incident…

Just another reminder of why there are the Darwin Awards…

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About mamiller

author of young adult science fiction/fantasy
This entry was posted in A writer's journey, Story telling and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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