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Author Topic: Make A Pulp Hero  (Read 559 times)

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Offline legomaestro

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Make A Pulp Hero
« on: September 07, 2016, 01:53:31 PM »
Make a Pulp Hero

Pulp fiction was a sort of renaissance of reading culture that came up around 1896 to the 1950s. Mass produced literature for the enjoyment of avid readers, with legends like The Shadow, Doc Savage and so on.
If there is something that has interested me about Pulp Fiction (not the movie! Although that’s amazing too) is how timeless the characters are. From Buck Rogers to Fu Manchu to Conan The Barbarian, you've caught a glimpse of these people in one way or the other, whether you’ve actually read them or not. You’ll be sure to come across them in some adaptation in some form or the other, and yet their beginnings are humble, or indeed impossible to place sometimes.

Comic books, particularly American ones,  have carried this tradition as well in a way, fostering a love for characters over years.  Though it’s a frustrating aspect to me sometimes, the same heroes and characters are put into different situations over time. Some are hits, some are misses, but over time the heroes grow in  the audiences’ minds as a popular icon.

If a hero falls out of favour or even has a horrible adaptation, there is time to win back the audience with a good spin on the character, or a great new plot.

As a writer, I can imagine nothing more exciting than having so many second chances, and having your heroes or villains grow so large that they end up belonging to the readers more than you alone.  Though not technically pulp, George Lucas made something so great that his audience actively criticizes him on changes he tries to make later down the line. As crazy as that would normally sound, other people understand his creations more than he does himself. Han shot first!

Take a look at Doctor Who.  He’s a television character and isn’t in pulp literature. But he fits the roll of a ‘pulp hero’. The doctor of 2016 is very different from the Doctor of 1963 – for both canonical and temporal reasons. There is no doubt that there are episodes people hate of Doctor Who. There’s bound to be adaptations out of Television that other fans swear by.

Now take a look at anime hero characters. I can only mention a personal favourite pulp hero-esque character - Vampire Hunter D.  Through the 22 volumes that I’ve read I still haven’t grown tired about how epic a character he is, and how fun it is to find him in different situations despite the same ground characteristics. That he’s inspired by old school horror movies is a plus in on itself. And the amount of adaptations that happen for it speak for themselves.



This may go against the whole Franchising syndrome thing I wrote about (Don’t go out aiming for several volumes at the start)  but my point is that rather than thinking of a story with a closed narrative, make a character you can play with in a sandbox. That is, make a pulp hero.

They can be a simple mash of stereotypes if you like. Whatever is your fancy. As much as I bleed just by admitting it it’s what makes Kirito so popular to people – He’s a Gary Stu with countless adventures that just interests people despite the recycled plot line. How many times does a guy get stuck in a life and death scenario in an MMORPG?

(Please don’t make a Kirito) But yes, make your pulp hero with some interesting template, but nothing more or you’ll risk closing their narrative.

This hero (or villain if you want!) will be your own titular character with whom you can explore all sorts of themes and situations. They can be a super powered hero fighting crime or a great detective solving little things, or even a poor normal Joe who is always thrown into crazy situations. The secret is that they are timeless and limitless in the amount of adventures and situations they can be thrown into.



You want to explore some complicated theme involving justice in a world with no law? Sure, that fits into a superhero story quite well. You want to share your love for great food? Have your detective investigate a crime that takes place in a high class restaurant.  It doesn’t matter what template character you have! They can fit in any situation that you think up just for fun.

How about a day when you’re feeling out of inspiration and are bored to death? Have your titular character deal with exactly this, whether in a comedic manner, a short paragraph or a short story. Sherlock Holmes moaning about just this made for some great character development, and I have yet to see any adaptation fail to dramatize that scene.

When you have your ‘Doctor’ - Your pulp hero who’s aim is to express ideas and explore a genre rather than to go from point A to point B in a closed narrative, you open yourself to  countless possibilities. And more importantly, you foster a habit of writing that some writers really need.

We all have that grand project we want to write that ends at B. But why not have a hero under your belt that grows as you do, and be able to look back and see that you have a living character that readers get acquainted with over time?

There are writers’ who are content with that one work, and that is fine. And closed narratives in my opinion do pack a stronger punch, because sometimes it gets ridiculous when a character does not develop over time, so there are shortfalls to this.

But in terms of the sheer experience you can gain, and the confidence you can build up when you work on your hero over time, then I’d definitely recommend having one made for yourself.



my two dimes

Offline ThatGuy80

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Re: Make A Pulp Hero
« Reply #1 on: October 26, 2016, 02:54:31 PM »
That's good advice. I love pulp fiction and have spent a lot of time reading magazines like Amazing Science Fiction, Astounding, Analog, etc... I like the sandbox analogy, because I always felt that those writers, who wrote series, or sequels to their short stories, never really intended to. I like that idea, of having fun with your characters and seeing what becomes of it. It doesn't always work, but it's a lot of fun.  ;D

Offline legomaestro

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Re: Make A Pulp Hero
« Reply #2 on: October 27, 2016, 06:23:36 PM »
Cheers ThatGuy. You managed to get your hands on those magazines? I'm still looking for old copies of those. Never heard of Analog.

Yeah they were actually writing for the sake of money per character. It's a really cheap and heartless way to write, but it builds up some really important muscles for storycrafting later down the line. I wish I could've gotten into a bit of that world some time.

Offline ThatGuy80

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Re: Make A Pulp Hero
« Reply #3 on: October 28, 2016, 02:38:42 PM »
Thanks.  ;D Yeah, I found some at a used bookstore. They were from the seventies and eighties though. You can find them occasionally at used bookstores, but there are a lot of them on ebay. Analog was Astounding. John W. Campbell changed the name several years after he became editor.

I know what you mean, but some amazing stories came out of that style. Like Kuttner's Gallagher Galloway stories. You can still get into that world though. It's not the same as it was in the forties, but many of those science fiction and fantasy magazines are still going and taking submissions. Although, some of them only accept submissions at certain times. If you'd like, I can send you a message with some links to the submission pages for those magazines later.

Offline legomaestro

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Re: Make A Pulp Hero
« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2016, 08:48:34 AM »
Please do. I really hope to start my own projects like that some time. I wish I already had, in fact.

Offline ThatGuy80

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Re: Make A Pulp Hero
« Reply #5 on: November 03, 2016, 12:45:57 PM »
Okay, no problem. It's never too late to do it.  ;D

Offline Coryn

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Re: Make A Pulp Hero
« Reply #6 on: November 03, 2016, 11:10:19 PM »
There's a bookstore in KC that has a whole rack of pulp novels in plastic sleeves. Real cheap too, only a couple bucks. I need to really look through them sometime.

I agree with the idea though. Coryn Sken is very much a pulp hero in some regards. A middle ground of a hero that can be applied to multiple plots without having to bend the universe to make it happen. Pulp heroes are like the Swiss army knives of the literature world. A one size fits all, fixes all tool.

Will review stories upon request. My latest arc: http://goo.gl/KYgsfF

Offline ThatGuy80

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Re: Make A Pulp Hero
« Reply #7 on: November 03, 2016, 11:31:46 PM »
Haha, I like the analogy of Swiss Army heroes.  ;D There's a lot of them that are like that too. If you're interested Coryn, there's a site where you can read a lot of the old pulp fiction magazines for free. I can send you the link.