The Antihero

The Characters of Steel Fear, Part 1

By John David Mann

SOFREP readers are thinkers, so we thought you’d enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at how the sausage gets made. This seven-part series takes apart the characters of the military thriller Steel Fear and shows you some of the thought processes involved in conceiving them and bringing them to life on the page.

“Everyone,” the writer John Barth pointed out, “is necessarily the hero of his own story.” You are the hero of yours. I’m the hero of mine. We all are, each of us, the central heroes of the stories we’re telling with our lives.

Here’s the thing about you and me: we are imperfect. Flawed. In fact—let’s be honest here—flawed in lots of ways, some of which we see clearly and some we probably don’t.

I think that’s why we like our heroes to be less than perfect. Complicated. The more flawed the better. Because when you read a good story, you want it to resonate. You want to identify with the hero, so you can “put on” the story as you read it, like a well-fitted suit of clothes. And you can’t do that if the hero is too squeaky clean and well-adjusted.

Enter the antihero.

Finding Finn

By now you probably know where the story of Steel Fear came from. In the years before he was a SEAL, my Navy SEAL buddy Brandon served on an aircraft carrier; this was in the mid-nineties when women had just been integrated onboard, and there was a serial molester on the ship during his deployment. The perpetrator’s identity was never discovered, and at the time Brandon wondered, what if those were murders?