Worldbuilding: Runaway

Amusing note: Apparently I’m not easy to get clear fingerprints from. (Commentary from one observer, “You’re a blank!”)

Which, when you write, suggests all sorts of possible career changes if push came to shove… ahem. *Whistles innocently* Too many mysteries on my shelves, yes….

But let’s consider a fugitive character. Because generally speaking, we like to read and write about heroic characters. The people who face the dragons. So… what is a heroic character running from?

After all, if a person is defined by what they’re willing to stare down eye-to-monstrous eye, they’re just as defined by what battles they don’t think are worth fighting. Whether that’s the scary but safely fenced dog who always barks, the waitress’ customer who tries to cop a feel, or the hard hand of local city ordinances; some things may not be worth the time and effort to smack, especially if the Fate of the World has all your brainpower and adrenaline tied up already.

But that’s avoiding a confrontation while going about day-to-day life. (Or night-to-night, for those of the sanguine persuasion.) Going on the run is another order of magnitude entirely. A fugitive character, if they’re really a hero, has probably decided not that some battles are not worth fighting, but that one particular battle might not be survivable.

Which is an interesting way to up the tension from the very start of your story. Your character is on the run… and if they’re really heroic, and running from real Evil….

Well. Odds are, it’s going to find them.

And then what?

Personally, I’d like to see more stories where the main character keeps pulling out trick after evasive trick, at least until they can try to arrange a situation where they might survive a confrontation. After all, if your character ran, they’re probably more Wily Rabbit than Powerful Bear. And when it comes to rabbits… I remember Watership Down well.

“All the world will be your enemy, Prince of a Thousand Enemies. And when they catch you, they will kill you.

“…But first they must catch you….”



24 thoughts on “Worldbuilding: Runaway

  1. I absolutely LOVE how El-hrarar (is that how it’s spelled?) Has become the go-to god for rabbit shaped characters across fandoms. I have found the Prince with a Thousand enemies invoked in Final Fantasy and Rise of the Guardians, and many others.

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  2. There is a sad lack of Guile Heroes, especially Combat Pragmatist who know that the difference between long odds and suicide, as well as the advantages of YOU picking the battleground instead of your enemy . . .

    Maybe we just don’t seem many of those because we tend to associate being sneaky, clever, and pragmatic with the villains. It seems that to be a hero, you have to be stupidly straightforward. And have no concept of tactics. Usually. sometimes the author does allow the hero to use their brain a little for a little bit but for the most, the solution is always thump it harder. Or train until you can thump it harder.

    Why are the villains the only ones allowed to plan and use their brains?

    (Assuming that the villains are actually using their brains and data they could reasonably obtain, with accompanying reasonable amount of mistakes, errors in judgement, etc)

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    1. I think it’s less villain and more low class. Guile is what you use when you’re weaker, in most European stories. There’s not really the acceptance there for clever (look at stuff like clever Jack versus Breyer rabbit or Coyote. )when you move beyond peasant tales to mythology. More when I can get to my books.

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      1. So, my brain has been running on with this, but just another thought is you could likely lay a lot of these at the feet of the Roman(and later Christian) habit of putting foreign gods to be identified as one of their own that you should worship instead, then we get the blended view that’s passed down(most noticeable with the Norse Gods, but it happened lots), the lack of any real trickster figure as such in the compiled bible(I’ve read some of the Apocrypha, those can be…different.) means that a lot of them get identified with the Devil.

        But as you get further modern English stories, you get one side with courtly romance, Arthurian, and stories about rightful authority(which, amusingly, includes Robin Hood eventually, as he’s made into Maid Marian’s man and fighting for the rightful king), which what cleverness there is mainly relies on deceiving evil for a bit, but you give power back to the heavily armed men in authority. Or folklore, which has a lot more clever based heroes, mainly pictured against the fae as stand-ins for authority or powers in their own right, which got passed down as peasant stories even if they were written down. Then as you get into American, the same pattern continues for different reasons, and it’s hard to break out of a pattern you never even know is there, because it’s like water.

        Then again, there’s probably a couple of master thesis out there about the trickster as Devil versus Trickster as Hero.

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    2. Shiroe of Log Horizon starts out as a Guile Hero in anime season 1. Unfortunately that does not seem to be the way the story is trending in season 2. Maybe Urahara in Bleach? The only other examples I could think of are much older (Zorro the Fox, the Scarlet Pimpernel, Stalky from Kipling’s Stalky and Co.).

      I’d think a Guile hero would be one of the trickiest heroes to get right. It’s *hard* to make a character seem sly and brilliant without dumbing down the opposition too much (which just infuriates me).

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  3. Or they could just be getting everyone else out of range. What struck me in Rogue One was that the main characters were _allowed_ to die. They didn’t get rescued at the last minute (though I really like that too!). It takes a certain kind of bravery to know, “I’m not getting out of this alive, but if I run far and fast, if I’m a good enough distraction, the rest of the party can live.”

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  4. Watership Down remains my most reread book, ever. If I were one for direct quotes, very many I could attribute to Adams. (The majority of the others would be varying sources, of which your works would feature greatly. ) I’ve given it years of rest, because every time I’ve picked it up I need only skim and refresh when I’d rather truly read and rediscover… The point I recall most frequently is that people wish to feel safe/unaffected by weather, they don’t actually enjoy winter etc. I never understood people liking winter, so this resonated. One cloud feels lonely. And who does not love the rabbit tales? I strongly considered Hazel as a name for my daughter, but that didn’t become her name. I rejoice to see you quote this.
    Reading, alas, has not yet provided me the creativity and skill (and most importantly, researched knowledge I’d need for x ) to write something worth the reading. A guile hero to aspire to, though… A prompt my late night brain has seized which will never see the light of day. XD

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      1. I know what you mean. I actually found you through “A Net of Dawn and Bones” just because I was sooo fed up with stupid urban fantasies and sexy vampires. I saw Foxfier’s book recommendation over at According to Hoyt and jumped on it.

        Although if the really really stupid urban fantasies prompted you to write “A Net of Dawn and Bones” then here’s to unexpected (but good) consequences!

        I’ve drifted away, mostly in disgust. About the only author I still read in urban fantasies is Ilona Andrews.

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      2. *Wry G* Dracula got me into reading about “what was real vampire folklore”, and finally the contrast between that and the Hollywood-style near-invulnerables on the shelves got to be too much.

        First draft of “Seeds of Blood” is written, and I’ve started on edits! As in yes, there’s plenty of cleanup left in the wake of burning Steven’s house down, and Intrepid’s still in big trouble….

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  5. Your description of the Big Bad chasing the hero got me thinking . . . that’s not the only reason the Hero might run. Sometimes the danger to bystanders is such that the Hero decides, “I cannot stay here. The people I love are in too much danger if I do, so I will run, and I will not stop until it is safe. And if I never make it back, then so be it.” Whether the danger is from an enemy who does not care about collateral damage, or thinks taking hostages is a viable strategy, . . . Or if the danger comes from within, from an unmastered ability (Ao no Exorcist touches on this) or an inner persona which can possess your body at will. The recent chapters of D. Gray-Man do an excellent job of this. The most valuable skill Cross ever taught Allen was how to move in secret when everyone wants to find you.

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