(Guest post by William Heinzen)
Friendships play an interesting role in fantasy literature, and especially in epic fantasies, which feature large casts of characters. My novel, Warrior of Light, focuses on a young man named Tim Matthias who aids a group of refugees in their struggle against the evil sorcerer Zadinn Kanas. Tim is a figure of prophecy known as the Warrior of Light, destined to face Zadinn in an apocalyptic final battle. Tim’s quest is a true hero’s journey, beginning with him living in the relative peace of the South. Events outside his control, however, soon propel him into Zadinn’s domain within the war-stricken North. Along the way, Tim must come to terms with his own powers, facing a set of increasingly dangerous threats before ultimately facing Zadinn himself.
Many classic fantasy novels, from The Lord of the Rings to The Wheel of Time, contain variants of Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey. Writers frequently use this framework because, as fellow blogger Nicholas Ploucha succinctly wrote, “it works”. However, as I was writing Warrior, I asked myself how I could include a fresh perspective on the hero’s journey. As I studied Campbell’s diagram, I noticed only minimal references to the hero’s companions. Oh, they’re in there – the archetypes in the journey include the hero’s “allies” – but such mentions are brief and easily overlooked.
I reasoned, however, that no victory happens in a vacuum. It’s all well and good to have a central character upon which the fate of the world rests, but what about the people around the character? In short, what about the hero’s friends? Every hero needs an everyman—the character the audience can relate to, the one without the power/mystique/destiny, the person who is simply trying to get by in life but nonetheless finds themselves caught in events much bigger than them.
And so I came up with the character of Boblin Kule, who is just as important to Warrior of Light as Tim himself. Unlike Tim, Boblin lives in the North. He has no magical powers, there are no prophecies about him, and if he had his way, he’d be sitting at home reading a good book. But he doesn’t have a choice—Zadinn has wiped out every last dwelling in the North, and so Boblin is on the run with a group of refugees, doing what he needs to do to survive.
Boblin’s friendship with Tim serves several purposes. He introduces Tim to the history of the North, and in doing so provides the same information to the reader. He keeps the action grounded—while Tim is using the Lifesource to burn his enemies to ashes, Boblin is fighting with sword, dagger, and fist (whatever gets the job done). He acts as a moral compass when Tim begins to question his role in the refugees’ quest, stepping in and reminding Tim of what they are fighting. Tim exists in the story to provide an enormous, heroic force capable of rising up and defeating the all-encompassing evil that is Zadinn Kanas—but Boblin exists so the reader has someone to relate to. After all, where would the great heroes would be without their friends? Sherlock without Watson? The Doctor without his companion? Frodo without Sam?
In each of the preceding examples, notice how the value the hero’s friend provides value to the reader/viewer. Ultimately, the friend provides a way to better understand the complexities of the hero at the heart of the story. The friend is a surrogate for the audience themselves, and it’s the same with Tim and Boblin. One has the Lifesource, the other has his sword, but both are an essential part of the Warrior’s epic journey.
When writing your own fiction, then, consider the ways in which the companions around the central character can enrich the story. In many ways, they may be the opposite of the hero, providing necessary balance and contrast to the tale, and providing a way for the readers to better relate to and understand the world within. When these friendships are crafted properly, however, I think we’ll find our stories are better for it.
William has been telling stories ever since elementary school, when he discovered the only thing better than reading about sorcerers was writing about them. He holds a degree in English with a concentration in creative writing from the University of Jamestown in Jamestown, North Dakota.
William lives in Bismarck, North Dakota, where he enjoys hunting, fishing, being outdoors, and, of course, reading and writing. Warrior of Light is his first novel. Find him at www.WilliamHeinzen.com or www.Facebook.com/WilliamHeinzenAuthor.