Heroic Power Fantasy

Yet another observation. Might be a short post, since I’m not really sure what I have to say about this other than to point out its existence and where I have found it.

Something I’ve seen a lot in fiction is the power fantasy. This tends to come about more in amateur writing, but it’s not consigned to that department. There are lots of types, as well. The most common is that of the writer indulging in his or her own escapism. For example, a resultant Mary Sue, either in character or setting.

This hardly needs any elaboration, but why not. Say that a young writer feels put-upon in her real life, and so creates a character who is a strong warrior who wins all the battles. This is a power fantasy of control. In another example, let’s say there’s a character who succeeds at every task, generally with skill and aplomb. This is a power fantasy of accomplishment. Both control and accomplishment are things that are commonly missing, or seen to be missing, from many a young person’s life.

Personally, I think this kind of parading psychology is distasteful. It’s like walking in on a stranger in the shower. But there is a power fantasy that I quite like, and actually find relaxing. The heroic power fantasy.

This is more situational, but it does call for a certain type of character. The two examples I can think of are from Jack Campbell’s Lost Fleet series, and Naomi Novik’s Temeraire. Both Geary and Laurence are military men who value the concept of honour and find themselves in many a situation that demands they do more than pay lip service to that concept. Although I’ll continue to consider them similar in my topic, I’ll speak about them individually from now on, because that’s simpler and does not imply a literal crossover.

One of these situations might be that he meets someone who passively contradicts or directly challenges what he knows to be right and just. Whether he is able to correct the very clear wrong (these men both have the advantage of being morally right in all difficult circumstances) or not, we see the moral victory of at least desiring to do right–and if right is not done, then it is inhibited by an external force, or another matter of honour.

This is a power fantasy of nobility. It’s not a bad thing, although when done poorly or with too heavy a hand, it could conceivably be preachy or just plain irritating. Done right, one is given to share the warm glow of the moral victory, and the joy when the situation is resolved satisfactorily.

Of course, if it’s not your thing, it will probably always come off as preachy. Sorry.

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