Today on the Mixed up Files of Middle Grade Authors I am delighted to share with you my love of invincible characters. When I was six or seven years old I remember I had devised an alter ego with the name Strong Wax. Strong Wax, as I recall, didn’t have a list of magical powers. No flying, no mind reading, no invisibility tricks. The one characteristic that he had was that he could hammer out several karate kicks in a quick succession. Strong Wax could take anything: A sword straight through the gullet, a death curse, a deadly crash, a plummet into a ravine. Strong Wax was INVINCIBLE! I was INVINCIBLE! And I liked books with daunting tasks and characters that would have to endure until the very end of their rope before rescue. In short, I liked characters who were equally invincible. However beyond that, the invincible characters that I liked the most were ones that I could relate to, and generally speaking, there were three different characteristics that made them relatable:
1) They were from a common upbringing. Like me, and many of us, they had a pretty ordinary life. Then the “gauntlet was cast!”
2) They always had a noble cause, something more important than bodily survival. As a child I had a keen desire for seeking truth, glory, honor, love. Sure, I was a bit of a romantic, a bit dramatic, but these big things were worth sticking your neck out for.
3) They were invincible without being superheroes. I love Superheroes, BUT, I also love the strength of will and the human spirit in ordinary people. No magic, no strings, just true grit. I believed we, normal everyday people, could do ANYTHING(And I still hang on to that today!).
One of my favorite fictional “invincibles”, who I find myself cheering for again and again, is from The Princess Bride. (Not specifically dubbed as a middle grade, though I have LOADS of 8-10 year olds devour it!) Now, you may think I am going to say Wesley, the simple farm boy, who basically dies and is brought back to life by a magic pill. Indeed, he definitely fits the rule of three above, but the character I love just a little bit more is the famed Inigo Montoya. Let’s take a closer look at how he fits the characteristics above.
1) First, Inigo is from a common upbringing. His father is a sword maker, a craftsman. Inigo grows up a peasant.
2) Second, there is a noble cause at hand. In The Princess Bride, there is a vivid scene of Inigo’s father being killed by the evil Count. The Count, after waiting quite some time for the sword that Inigo’s father is making for him, questions the swords worth and a dual ensues. Inigo must avenge his father. His noble cause is love and vanquishing of evil.
3) Third, Inigo is no superhero. He has no magic powers, just years of training and an iron will. During the finale, Inigo gets a dagger to his stomach and essentially has to hold his “innards” inside himself as he pursues the Count, rallying with, “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” It is barely believable but given the thoughts in his head, incremental pursuit and, of course, his exceptional training over the years, it stands its ground in plausibility.
What “invincible” do you find yourself cheering for time after time? Do they fit the rule of three?
Erin E. Moulton graduated with an MFA in Writing for Children from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is the author of Flutter: The Story of Four Sisters and One Incredible Journey, published yesterday, May 12th! (Be sure to drop by on May 19th to see an interview and possibly win a free copy of FLUTTER!) Erin is co-founder of the Kinship Writers Association and when she is not writing she works at Springboard After School with lots of silly kids and a bearded dragon named Puff. Erin lives in Southern New Hampshire with her husband and puppy where she writes, reads, drinks tea and dreams. You can visit her online at www.erinemoulton.com