Mentors of the Champions: Forgers of Heroes

Izumi Curtis from Fullmetal Alchemist

Izumi Curtis from Fullmetal Alchemist

I don’t know if I’ve ever written a post about mentors in the Legends of Windemere series.  I’ve talked about the mentor characters on their own and how they influence the heroes.  For example, Selenia Hamilton has been getting brought up a lot since the early days.  Makes sense since she was the first one to appear along with Kevin Masterson and Duggan Ironcaster.  Later would be Queen Tempest, Cyril, Willow, and a couple others.  Some keep appearing while others have only shown up once and have never been heard from again.  Also, only 4 of the 6 champions have mentors.  Dariana doesn’t have one and Sari has simply never talked about the clan members who she looked up to.  So, I can see how mentors fall by the wayside when I talk about the series.

The thing about the Windemere mentors is that most of them are still alive.  It’s always a big thing for the hero to see a mentor die and then learn to fight without them.  Hasn’t happened here except for that one time that I can’t reveal here.  I think a big reason for that is the mentors have typically stayed out of the real fights.  Obi-Wan Kenobi and Gandalf went on the adventure.  Those who taught Luke and Nyx stayed put after their teachings were done.  Some fights happened in their area, but that’s on home turf and that’s always an advantage.  These are seasoned veterans that would be a challenge away from their comfort zone, so they are even more dangerous when attacked at home.  They don’t show up a lot either, which keeps them safe.  The Baron has no reason to worry about the mentors since they’re content to stay out of the prophecy.

There is one question that comes up in my mind and from other people when they read even the first book.  Is it a good idea to avoid killing mentors and supporting characters?  I wouldn’t say I avoided it, but it never felt right.  The deaths would have come off as weak and almost pointless because of how limited the page time for these characters were.  I believe there really should be a reason for a character to die and that it should carry a weight.  Even if you do it within the course of one sentence while someone is talking, there should be more than shock value.  At least for me.  Not to mention, people seem to expect the teachers to get taken out.  It’s practically in the role description in some people’s minds.

As I start looking at the end of Legends of Windemere, I do begin to wonder if I was too soft.  Perhaps this is why I have such high body counts in Crossing Bedlam and Chasing Bedlam. Kind of like a compensation for myself since I don’t think the audiences are crossing over.  Anyway, I look over what I’ve done and the idea that I went too easy on the cast does come to mind.  I’ve always believed that the death of a character is the end of their story.  They can come back as a ghost or be resurrected, but that’s something that shouldn’t be used a lot.  Even then, they don’t really grow and change like the living.  I put this mentality toward the mentors as well, but then I’ve realized that these are typically characters that have reached the end of their evolution.  It’s really too late to second guess myself since everything in my series was happening for a reason.  A character lived because they had no reason to die.  Kind of mean to off them simply because their role is done and it could hurt a hero.

So, what do you think about mentors and the tradition of them dying?  Is the way it should usually go?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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23 Responses to Mentors of the Champions: Forgers of Heroes

  1. I don’t think there should be a rule. Every story is different and we manipulate the ingredients to make our story. You’re braver than me in one respect – involving a dog.

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  2. L. Marie says:

    Love this post about mentors. You brought up a point I never really thought about: mentors dying. I agree that this aspect does not have to be the norm. I’m not crazy about death as a trope, because, as you mentioned, some deaths would seem weak and meaningless. I’ll kill off a mentor if that mentor’s death is a natural consequence of war, but not for the sake of spurring the hero to action.

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    • It can work to spur a hero to action though. The problem is that it’s used so often that it becomes empty. Yes, it would make sense for the hero to be upset, but the reader feels like it’s been done before. Keep in mind that I write adventures and quests more than war. If you don’t have a war then you need something.

      One argument that I see pop up at times is that the mentor should just save the day. I guess this is the downside to keeping an experienced and powerful mentor around.

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      • L. Marie says:

        Perhaps that’s why they’re killed so often–that they could save the day, rather than the protagonist. But that’s what I love about the movie Megamind. I won’t spoil it for anyone reading this comment. But the movie provided a reason why the mentor did not save the day. I think the mentor needs to take a step back so that the main character can be the main actor.

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      • It would make sense for that to be the reason, but it’s usually to make the hero cry. It’s basically the loss of guidance and a parental figure. Don’t remember a mentor in Megamind. I think I know who you’re talking about though.

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  3. I like the idea of a mentor being around for continuous council. More or less adds some elements of continuity and allows for new plot points.. The death of a mentor only gives a moment of drama and sadness and then anything new has to be from a memory which aways seems contrived.

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  4. I agree that killing a character off for shock value is tacky. I’ve read too many books where the author just thought that someone needed to die in every chapter. Let there be a reason.
    That said, it seems like the most popular fantasy series have a lot of deaths in them.

    I noticed in one of the earlier comments you got to talking about red shirts in Star Trek. I recently read the reason behind them wearing red shirts, it seems they had ordered a lot of uniforms in red because it would show off well, but they turned out to be nearly impossible to clean because of the material they were made from, so they changed uniforms, but they had the red ones and didn’t want to waste them, by using them for members of the crew that were more likely to get killed of, it didn’t matter if they were ruined.

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    • Every chapter? That’s rather extreme. I get it with short story style like I do with Bedlam, but that’s a different beast. Death and violence is part of the equation. As you said, it seems fantasy goes that way a lot. I’ve noticed that many people think the genre needs to have a world that’s slightly barbaric and brutal. Monsters, warlords, assassins, and diseases around every corner. Fantasy is rarely in worlds that are as ‘safe’ as our own. Then again, maybe it’s just a modern trend. LOTR only had Boromir and Gollum die in terms of main characters.

      That’s an awesome fact. 😄

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      • Maybe it just seemed like every chapter, but it was a lot.
        I don’t know why everyone thinks fantasy worlds have to be so barbaric and deadly, I think you do a very good job for what I’ve read… I’m still running behind of catching up, too much to do and not enough time to read.
        I thought you’d enjoy that fact.
        Have a great weekend!

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      • I think it’s because they typically have medieval European settings. So the same level of tech and life expectancy is expected. Not to mention the idea that monsters are around makes people think every day is a battle. Like we have bears eating people every day. Always a head scratcher. Think a lot of people are behind in my series.

        Have a fun weekend too.

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  5. Killing a mentor seems to me like an easy way to say, “X person is bad. Look what he did. Now you must hate them,” without actually killing off anyone “important” to your story. Like you, I can see how that works in some cases but I wouldn’t want to use it in my stories (mostly because it’s overdone).

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    • Same thing goes for killing a spouse and parent. Revenge stories have been going this (and the kid) route for a very long time. Honestly, I’d still use it if it fits my story. Never been a fan of tossing something away simply because it’s been done before. If it’s what works best for the story then that’s what I have to do.

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