So, You're Not A Hero...
Rob Engleman. At the beginning of The Voyage of the Entdecker, he is an awkward seventeen-year old farm boy, wishing to be somewhere - anywhere - other than Engle Isle. Throughout his many journeys and adventures he's grown to become a scholar, a merchant, a warrior, a diplomat, an explorer, and a leader. He is the main character of the Archipelago Series... but he is not a hero.
We often equate protagonists with heroes, even with our modern-day storytelling penchant for flawed characters as heroes. We understand that people who overcome obstacles, fight off monsters/bad guys, protect innocence and otherwise engage in righteous actions are to be considered heroes of a sort.
The news media is rife with villains. The horrible actions of mass murderers, corrupt politicians and celebrities fallen from grace are most of what we see/hear/read in the headlines. Occasionally, and too often as a tribute after they've passed, we get to see something good. Heroic actions from the few who have managed to maintain some amount of purity of character despite all the wrong that exists in the world.
The best part about these good people is that if called a hero, they deny it. The decorated military veteran who dedicates the honors placed upon him/her to fallen comrades. The police officer who refuses to take credit for the small acts of kindness that engender community trust. The teacher who despite working long hours, enduring resentment from students and parents (and sometimes colleagues) and stressing about providing for his/her family, still gives heart and soul to the job. (Not a reference to myself, but many of my colleagues)
These folks do not call themselves heroes.
Neither does Rob. Rob is a white, heterosexual male. He is of average physical build and has a sharp mind. No real handicaps. According to many critics of YA literature, he is not even supposed to be the protagonist.
Yet, he represents something beyond tradition, beyond stereotypes and outside the realm of racial profiling. He is the average. The one picked out of many, not because he's special but because he's NOT!
There is nothing about Rob that makes him amazing. He fails as often as he succeeds, he has no magic or supernatural abilities, he's not the best at anything. This is why I chose him as my protagonist for this series.
The idea I want my readers to understand, is that you don't have to be special. You don't have to be the hero. You don't always have to save the day, take on the world and win. Sometimes you're going to be defeated, beaten (maybe literally) and sometimes you lose your friends, family and loved-ones.
The idea is that Rob represents us all, not because of his skin color, his sexual orientation or his abilities. He is us, because he's not a hero.