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Thread: Are all characters superhuman?

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  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW
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    May 2008
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    Are all characters superhuman?

    I think that everyone has been programmed to expect characters (in film) to be able to physically take far more punishment than a real human body would be able to take. I was watching a recent re-make of Conan the Barbarian movie and last night started thinking about how he could run, fight, slay 4 guys march home, all without breaking an egg in his mouth-- while I destroyed the cartilage in my knees after falling from one regular size stair step.

    In books we tend to create situations (usually in action movies) where most people would break bones or become so tired they would sleep all the next day. In an older book (Hudson's Green Mansions) the main character either sprains or breaks a leg in the jungle, and he does not go on like a modern-day hero, he actually found a safe place and lay there for about 6 weeks waiting for the bones to heal eating ants and lizards and drinking the water dripping off of the leaves. This really seems much more realistic (although it still has the veneer of magical realism) than some Ramboesque character moving forward with a splint made of two pieces of wood and some handkerchiefs, and then, ten minutes later is running and slaying as though he'd never hurt himself.

    I am wondering if there is a tendency to create human protagonists who seem to have "superhuman" traits? Are there writers who create characters who actually have "human" or even "near-human" physical responses to pain? Actually, a long time ago, I really liked the novel "Gorky Park" by Martin Cruz Smith. Renko, the main character, got stabbed in the stomach in the book, but in the movie, he was nicked by a knife in the hand-- this decision was probably because in the book, Renko's convalescence created a huge time gap in the story, and if his hand was just nicked, he wore a bandage for a while, and then it was forgotten a few scenes later.

    In some stories, injuries create a frame, like "The English Patient" (movie again) which is all told in flashback as a severely burned man tells a nurse of the situation that led up to him getting burned. About the only Movie (and possibly book) where I have read both-- I say possibly because I do not remember the book-- was "Cold Mountain" by Charles Frazier where a soldier, Inman, is wounded in a battle and while in the hospital decided to desert. The story basically follows the path of the Illiad or Oddesy, (blind man, sirens, etc). But to this post, he is wounded in the neck at the beginning, and he must deal with that neck wound throughout the entire story and in the end it kills him (so in a sense, he has death with him at all times).

    I think Inman was the most realistic of the wounded protagonists, but still, he did many things that a person with an unhealed bullet in the neck wound would not have been able to do.

    I have nearly died twice in my life. Once when I was 21, I had bad peritonitis caused by a leaking appendix. It had been leaking about a year. I was in the hospital for 10 days, and after an operation still had to recuperate for a month or so. When I got to the hospital, I was told that if I had not come in, at most I would have lived another 45 minutes.

    I think the thing is when you are on the verge of dying as I was, you have no energy-- so when I see someone get up after being shot in the side and then run around doing "hero things" I honestly do not believe it.

    Obviously characters in books are not real people. This is a good illustration of exactly how much they are not people. But on the one hand, I am concerned about how misleading this is. I get the sentiment "try, try, try-- no matter what obstacles" but I wonder if people get the idea they are substandard or lazy because their favorite movie character has these fictional abilities?

    Does anyone have thoughts on this? Have you had issues with plotting a character to keep on going when you know darned sure he or she would have been in bed recovering if it was a real person?

    And tell me about how some characters have all the luck, like the people in San Diego running from the dinosaur? They were under its feet and yet, it grabbed other people but it always seemed to be following them specifically.
    Last edited by Kalyke; 08-01-2020 at 05:46 PM.
    "The one duty we owe to history is to rewrite it." --Oscar Wilde

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