For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work before purchasing it on the Kindle store; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.
Icons: Every writer desires to try to create a character as iconic as Sherlock Holmes or Fu Manchu or even Paddington Bear. They are characters who have entered the public consciousness. You will find very few people who have not heard of Sherlock Holmes, even if they have not read any of the novels. He is the most filmed fictional character. Only Jesus has been portrayed in more films than Sherlock Holmes.
You do not set out to create an icon. I think that if you do it is highly likely that you will be doomed to fail. I don’t think that Conan Doyle intended that the consulting detective of 221B Baker Street become the single character for whom he was best known. In fact Conan Doyle came to feel that Holmes was a millstone around his neck, to such an extent that he killed him off in the short story The Final Problem. Conan Doyle wanted to be known for his historical fiction, rather than the great detective; he would have preferred readers to have the same desire to read books such as The White Company and the like.
That was not to be, though. Despite having killed off Sherlock Holmes, Conan Doyle was forced to bring him back, after a huge outcry at the time. Conan Doyle even had death threats – that was how strongly some of the members of the public felt. Sherlock Holmes returned in the short story The Empty House, where the great detective caught the last of Moriarty’s henchmen, Colonel Sebastian Moran.
Fu Manchu now has something of a bad press, perhaps understandably, as the character plays on twentieth century fears of China and the ‘so-called’ Yellow Peril. The character does look like a stereotype, now. But, once upon a time, the novels were very popular, to such an extent that movies were made featuring Fu Manchu.
I have written two Fu Manchu novels, although I don’t know when or if they will see the light of day, as the character is still under copyright. In the novels I try to update fu Manchu for the modern day, moving away from the racist representations. Fu Manchu is a great arch-villain, and it would be a shame if he faded from the public consciousness.
Other characters who I consider to be iconic characters, even if they did not necessarily originate in the most well-written works, include Tarzan, Doc Savage, Dracula, the Frankenstein Monster, Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, and perhaps even Thomas Covenant. You are free to disagree with the above list; and I am sure that there are many more characters who could be added, if you so chose.
What makes a character iconic? Ah, that is not an easy question to answer. They have to have that almost unquantifiable something about them. Sherlock Holmes, for example, was not the first literary detective; ones like Edgar Allen Poe’s Auguste Dupin, of The Purloined Letter and other stories, came before Holmes. But Sherlock Holmes captured the public imagination in a way that Auguste Dupin never did.
Perhaps it was because Holmes was almost a superman, with his incredible deducting mind, his skill at boxing and martial arts, and his excellent aim with a pistol. Or perhaps it was because this ‘superhero’ still had his flaws, with his reliance on a seven percent solution to alleviate the ennui which he felt between cases.
Such characters need to be distinctive. They have to stand out from the rest. The list I gave includes some very unusual characters. There had not really been a character like Tarzan before. Frankenstein’s monster was something new and terrible. Miss Marple was, I think, the original little old lady detective, with a mind as keen as any razor.
These characters are above us common folk. Nobody can argue that Doc Savage represents the Everyman. He is, in effect, one of the first superheroes to come along. Many superheroes are iconic, but not all icons are superheroes of course. For every Batman there is a Manbat.
In the above list I have mentioned iconic characters of works featuring a lot of action, because those are the sort of novels which I enjoy reading. But there are iconic characters to be found in the works of Charles Dickens, Mervyn Peake, and more authors than I could possibly list. Literary characters don’t have to be able to change into a wolf, or be a white gold wielder, to be larger than life. All they have to be is well-written, distinctive, and to be able to live on when their creator has sadly passed away. Literary icons can be immortal, their lives continuing with each turn of the page.
Do I have any iconic characters in my work? Probably not, to tell the truth. None of them have yet permeated the public consciousness as yet. I am hoping that my change in the future, as more people become familiar with my work.
The characters which I would most like to have iconic status would be Briggs and Prenderghast, probably because I have spent more time writing about those two creations than anything else. I have certainly written more than half a million words about them.
Actually, checking on my computer I find that it’s closer to one and a half million than half a million, of my mathematics is correct. I didn’t realise that I had written so much just on those two characters.
They are the characters who I would most like to be remembered for, anyway. Over their adventures they have grown to be more than just some stereotypes. And, in the absence of iconic status, I guess that is all that I can ask for.
In other news, I am still putting more of the chronicles of the hapless wizard Edwyn Le Fay on the site. The stories should be read in this order:
The Dark House
The House On The Cliff
Mr Naith and Mr Naith
Searching For Gideon De Ville
The Evil Plans of Gideon De Ville
Edwyn Le Fay At The Trismegistus Club
An Enforced Vacation
Edwyn Le Fay In Oxford
Back To London
The House Of Edward Lang
There will be more stories – or chapters – to follow. What I had originally intended to be a series of connected short stories have transmogrified into chapters of a short novella, one which I am still working on, but which I hope will reach a conclusion shortly. I will post the later chapters as I finish them.