My company is headed South, and I have a few minutes before paying the bills and working up critiques. I've been doing a bit of daydreaming about my next big project. This project has a mentor character, but he is more spiritual than heroic. I don't know if that will sell or not.
Mentor characters have been around forever, and make some of the more memorable characters in our stories. People remember Merlin, Obi Wan, and Mr. Miyagi.
Real life provides a basis for these characters. There have been some people who survived incredible events who have been called upon to share that knowledge with a new generation. Winfield Scott was called back into service as an old man to lead the Union Army in the American Civil War. It was a short lived term, but ultimately his overall plan is how the war played out.
When The Spanish American War broke out, the USA asked for the help of a former enemy. Confederate General Joe Hooker was given a field command, because he had experience that nobody else could claim.
At the outset of World War One, Americans had little experience moving and supplying large groups of men. These things had been done in the past, but the days of Joe Hooker were over. The US turned to one William F. Cody. His Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show moved and supplied hundreds of people, including livestock, for many years. This included most of the known world, including the European theatre of operations.
Many of the silent movie actors sought out Wyatt Earp to get a feel for the era and men they portrayed. Earp didn't just stop living after the OK Corral.
It's great when an old hero can share wisdom with the new hero. My issue is going to be having the mentor provide non heroic guidance. I still think I can pull it off, but it's going to be a challenge. It also doesn't help me find a genre to fit this project.
The mentor needs to step into the background at some point. The new hero has to face his destiny, and worst fears, alone. The standard these days seems to be killing the mentor off. It also adds urgency and grief to the mix. Reference Sean Connery in The Untouchables, or Obi Wan in Star Wars.
This doesn't have to be the case. Mr. Miyagi fared well, but Daniel had to face the villain alone. I'll make sure this happens in my next book, but I won't kill my mentor off. He will just guide less and less as my main character matures. I want this story to be more about wisdom and maturity than strength and combat.
Merlin wasn't about combat, and Miyagi was anti combat. This tells me I can succeed here. It's up to me to pull it all together.
Mentors can be helpful with bits of backstory too. Writers should avoid info dumps, but a snippet of a story from someone who lived through it can help. Mentors can establish how a farm boy becomes a top swordsman without dedicating ten chapters to training.
Writing this out helps me think it through. Sharing it might get you thinking too. Do you include mentors in your stories? Do you know of any outstanding female mentors? It occurs to me the female mentor has been left out. Have you, or would you ever write a mentor into one of your stories?