As a lot of you know, earlier this week David Bowie passed away only a few days after he released Blackstar, his newest album. It’s a very sad day for music lovers everywhere, because even if you were never a fan of the eclectic musician, his music probably did inspire the artist that you do enjoy.
Other than giving a shout out to a great talent who has gone on to the next great adventure, I want to talk about his song Space Oddity.
A lot of us know it as, “Major Tom,” due to the constant conversation between ground control and the astronaut Major Tom in the song. When I heard of his passing, all I could think of was the line, “…Check ignition, and my God’s love be with you…” just before Major Tom blasts off in the rocket.
Now, for some reason I was always drawn to that song, something about the general melancholy and darkness surrounding it drew me in, as things of that type will do. As time went on and I started writing seriously, the song became an example of a common device in fiction.
The lonely hero.
Now don’t get me wrong, in books the hero usually has a pretty sweet deal. I mean sure, he ends up getting knocked around a lot, but inevitably he saves the day and more often than not gets the girl. Every man’s dream right?
But there’s one thing that always struck me about the hero in any type of story. The hero always has to take that one pivotal action alone. Whether it’s an action adventure/horror/sci-fi/romance story, it doesn’t matter.
There’s always that one moment where the hero looks around, and sees that his comrades can no longer really help him move toward his goal. And that’s one very lonely, and scary moment.
It’s as if the moment the hero takes off on his journey he’s Major Tom being blasted off into space and his companions (ground control) can only do so much for him.
There’s inevitably a moment where the hero has to “leave the capsule if you dare,” so to speak. And from there he/she is on their own.
Sometimes, the story ends up for the hero just like it does for Major Tom, stranded out in space, having gone so far on his journey that he can never make it back.
Other times, the story ends well for the hero, but in his quest to defeat the big baddy of the world, he ends up crossing a line that he can never jump back to the other side of, isolating him from his comrades.
Either way, the song is one giant metaphor for loneliness, and me being a writer, made me realize that this loneliness is always a component in being the person out front of everything.
Unrelated side note, but two good friends of mine once met The Doors. They worked security for a concert venue out here in Buffalo, and they got a chance to hang out with Bobby Krieger. It turns out that what Krieger likes to do is just chill out the day of a performance and go see cool local music shops.
They wander into a guitar shop whose name I can’t remember, Krieger picks up a guitar and starts playing. The guy working the register happened to be wearing a Doors t-shirt, goes up to Krieger and says something along the lines of,
“Man, you’re really good. Have you ever thought of starting a band?
The guy didn’t even recognize him! The guy had his face across his chest and he had no idea who he was!
Krieger just smiled and thanked the man, and exchanged pleasantries. Needless to say my friends bursts out laughing when the guy had walked away and Krieger said something along the lines of:
“I love it. Jim gets to be a superstar. I just get to play the guitar.”
That strange sense of anonymity allows Krieger to just be a musician. To just go through life doing what he loves. He can still go to the store and not be recognized and he can still have a normal life.
Could you imagine how lonely it must have been for Morrison the one that everyone would recognize at the drop of the hat?
Sorry for bringing other artists into a post dedicated to Bowie, but honestly, something tells that me that Bowie wouldn’t have minded.
Something tells me that Bowie would have been more concerned with getting a message across than with anything else.
So the moral of this post is that if you find yourself lacking in character development of any of your players, always remember:
How lonely could it be playing the role they do in the story?
And as for you Ziggy Stardust, Starman, or any of the other characters you created Mr. Bowie. “Check ignition and may gods love be with you,” my friend.
So what do you think? Agree? Disagree? Think I’m nuts? Whatever you do think please leave your thoughts in the comments below.
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