Heroes are some of the most complicated characters, in real life and in fiction. As a writer, you try to emulate the best qualities in your hero: humility, bravery, honor and compassion. When you look through history, there are many great examples for a writer to emulate in their characters. Sometimes, though, you find it in the everyday people you know.
In the Forever Avalon series, I patterned my main protagonist, Lord Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh of Avalon, after a number of people I’ve known or read about. I wanted to share my muses with you to demonstrate how intricate one character could be.
First and foremost, he was a Sailor in the U.S. Navy, a Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate working on the flight deck of a nuclear aircraft carrier. Now, I’m a retired Navy Chief, but I never worked on the flight deck on a daily basis. One of the most fearless men I ever saw was Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Gerald Farrier. On July 29, 1967, aboard the USS Forrestal (CV-59) off the coast of Vietnam, a Zuni rocket misfired, causing an explosion of jet fuel and munitions on the flight deck. Chief Farrier, ignoring his own safety, grabbed a PKP bottle (fire extinguisher for fuel fires) and charged toward the burning aircraft in the hopes of saving the pilots trapped in their burning aircraft. He continued to fight the fire until one of the bombs under the aircraft wing exploded, killing him and other members of the flight deck firefighting team. That was courage above and beyond the call of duty.
The only other time I witnessed something like that was as a young Sailor aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 74). We were on deployment when a fire broke out on one of the ship’s sponsons, spreading up to the flight deck and into the ship through the ventilation system. My leading chief, at that time, was Chief Gregg Snaza. He was in charge of the repair locker I was assigned too. Once the fire broke out, the ship was called to General Quarters. For four hours, we fought the fire. I watched as Chief Snaza, without regard to his own safety, donned an OBA (Oxygen Breathing Apparatus) and went in to relieve one of the team leaders in charge of the firefighters. I still remember watching him volunteer and don that OBA. It’s that bravery that sticks with you and finds its way into your characters.
Another trait of the Gil-Gamesh is the heart of a warrior: Fierce in battle, courage under fire, and a heart of gold. For these traits, I have dozens of examples to use for inspiration from John Wayne to Audie Murphy, Amelia Earhardt, and Michael Murphy. The best example, though, is my father, Master Sergeant William Piggott, U.S. Marine Corps. My Dad served for 22 years, did two tours in Vietnam. He’s a quiet man, not much of a talker, but whenever I needed him, he was there. His quiet compassion and understanding is an example I try to set with my own children. He is my hero, and I don’t tell him that often enough.
Heroes are not perfect, but they’re really the embodiment of the many men and women who inspire us on the big screen and in real life. Translating those traits into the heroes of your own stories is not that difficult, as long as the inspiration for those characters resonate with your audience.
Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverse. The Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.