A Hero To Die For

**Just a note before your regularly scheduled post. WordPress has offered the opportunity for bloggers to protest SOPA/PIPA, either by going dark today, or displaying the “Stop Censorship” Ribbon until the Jan 24th  Senate vote on SOPA/PIPA, or both. I decided to go with the ribbon, for various reasons.

As a writer, I am 100% against online piracy and theft of Intellectual Property. If I choose to give my work away, I will do so, but I don’t want anyone stealing it from me. But I do NOT believe this legislation is the way to go about protecting against those crimes. I urge EVERYONE in the US to contact their US Senators and tell them point-blank, “Do NOT support SOPA/PIPA if you want to SERVE another term!” Remind them they serve at the pleasure of the people, to represent the people.

If they do not accurately represent you, WORK against them in their next re-election bid. Don’t bitch about the poor job they do if you sit home on election day and justify your lack of fulfilling your civic responsibility by whining that the rich dude or the corporate dude or the insert-your-own-adjective dude will win no matter what. He absolutely WILL if you, and everyone else, continue to sit on your ass and do nothing about it. If you do the work, and he wins anyway, then at least you have the right to bitch. And next time, work harder!

OK. ‘Nuff said. Let’s get on with it.

A Hero To Die For

This piece originally appeared on GraveTells.com, Nov. 4, 2011. I wrote it as part of “The Hero Chronicles Discussions Series”. I’ve decided to run it again here, as part of my ongoing “Nailing Down the Essentials” Writer Wednesday series. It’s the second (here’s the first) post in a series on character development that I’ve been thinking about for a while. You can expect further entries on other types of characters, like heroines, villains, sidekicks, secondaries, and throw-aways/red-shirts.

So, here we go. (Oh, and despite serious temptation, I left out the NSFW pics that really wanted to be included. *sigh* The sacrifices I make for you.)

A Hero To Die For

You know him – the one that makes your heart pound at the thought of being near him, and not just because he’s so beautiful. Being the woman that wins his heart would satisfy you in a way nothing else could. He’s the Hero.

Impressive Cardboard?

Romance novel heroes tend to get a bad rap in the rest of the literary world. What’s that? …Oh, right. The rest of the world, literary or not. Many people believe heroes are just gorgeous faces with chiseled jaws, ripped bods with washboard abs. And don’t forget the “impressive manhood”.

Paranormal Romance heroes have an even worse rep. They’re supposed to be all-the-above, plus they’re either emo vampires, or savage werewolves, bad angels, or redeemable demons. Sci-Fi Romance has its misunderstood aliens. Historical Romance has the rakehell noblemen. Non-Romance readers probably associate all the subgenres with some stereotypical Hero or other.

The few who are so one-dimensional are the ones to get noticed, and perpetuate the misconceptions. No wonder non-Romance readers don’t want to get to know them. I wouldn’t either, if that were truly all they were. Fortunately, there’s sooo much more to a good Hero.

The Perfect Hero

But what makes a really good Hero? What makes him who he is? Can he be imperfect? Damaged? Not physically beautiful? That’s what we’re here to figure out.

A person’s appearance is often our first impression. Our, and the Heroine’s, first impression of the Hero is no different. What is it about him that catches her, and our, attention? I’ve read Heroes with phenomenal good looks, and just average appearances, and a few who were horribly scarred. But there’s something more, some indefinable quality, about all of them. Whatever it is, that quality makes them utterly beautiful to their Heroine.

A man’s actions can tell us a lot about him. There are good boys and bad boys, both in novels and in real life. The bad ones seem to be favored right now, just begging to put the past behind them and start all over with the right woman (though we all know that in real life, bad boys usually stay bad). But just because he’s bad, doesn’t mean he can’t have a good side. And even the good boys will do bad things if they have to, and since life is messy, they often do. Then we have Alphas, who take charge naturally, and Betas, who step up when it matters, and both can be sexy as hell.

But appearance and personality are just parts of the person, like so many pieces of the puzzle. What really brings a Hero to life is change. If he’s the same man at the end of the book as he was at the beginning, he’s just window dressing – a hot body to fill in certain empty spaces in the book. Not a real person.

At a bare minimum, he has to have a conflict, and work to resolve it. Ideally, he’ll be conflicted in several areas of his life, both internally and externally. Real people can fight the bad guys, and work on overcoming a phobia stemming from a childhood trauma, while seeing that their elderly mom has what she needs, and making bullies leave the neighbor’s kid alone, all while they’re coming to terms with the monster that lives in their heart, and so can a Hero. While he’s dealing with whatever trouble the author throws at him, he can also handle issues from a bad childhood, along with a jealous ex. Our Hero might not settle all his conflicts, but he will grow as a person because of them.

Romances from a couple of decades ago were full of Heroes who swooped in on their white horses and rescued the Heroine, whether she wanted to be saved or not. Today’s ideal Hero (with an action based plot) fights at his Heroine’s side to save both their asses, and is just as likely to need rescuing as she is. If there’s no bad guy, he’ll still fight, in whatever way necessary, to win his Heroine’s heart. He might start out being an arrogant a$$hat, but he’ll learn to respect his Heroine’s opinion and abilities, and to rely on her.

But what really tops it all off, turns a hot, exciting man into the perfect Hero? Love. Whether he’s a good boy, or bad, alpha, or beta, his love for his Heroine makes him perfect. The kind of love that makes him willing to give up his own life, or the very essence of who he is, for her. He will go through hell and back, and we hope for an ending that allows him to survive, win the heroine’s love, and spend the rest of his life loving her.

One of my favorites is JR Ward’s Vishous. What I like about him is that he comes with baggage of several varieties. He’s also not just a muscle bound warrior – he’s fearsomely intelligent and tech savvy. Definitely not a good boy, he’s a stone cold killer when necessary, and into some pretty hardcore BDSM, but he’ll do anything for the people he cares about. While he’s gorgeous, he’s not the traditional so-handsome-it-hurts-to-look-at-him beautiful. Doc Jane, his Heroine, is his reason for living. He might be a character in a novel, but he’s real.

Who Are Your Favorites?

Who are your favorites? Why? Do you prefer bad boys, or good boys? Alphas or Betas? Movie-star-handsome, or not? Describe your perfect Hero – not just how he looks, but those aspects of him that make him who he is.

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11 responses to “A Hero To Die For

  1. Agreed on the SOPA/PIPA issue, and I went (mostly) quiet today for that reason myself.

    I like the quiet, unobtrusive, stays in the shadows kind of hero. The intelligent guy you wouldn’t notice until you realize he’s saving your life, or better…that he already has dozens of times without you knowing it.

  2. Hi Joshua. Let’s hope our lawmakers get the hint. Seems like knocking them over the head with it is the only way they’ll pay attention.

    I like that sort of hero, the Beta, myself. He’s willing and able to get the job done, but prefers to stay out of the spotlight. However, I also like the Alpha in some situations.

    Overall, I just don’t really care which type a hero is, as long as he has a reasonable arc of development, and fits his plot. An author who writes only one type of hero, regardless of the needs of her plot, does her story a great disservice.

  3. Yes! Kenra, this is a great post and I hope there are a lot of new writers that read this and understand that our heroes cannot be one-dimmensional.

    One of my favorite heroes is Vishous, too! Squee! I also love him for all of the reasons you listed as well as his complicated and beautiful relationship with his best friend. Ward did an amazing job portraying V’s strength and all-around bad-assery while being conflicted with the (for the purpose of not giving any spoilers we’ll go with…) special feelings he has for Butch. Love, love, love V!

    Some of my other favorite heroes are Gena Showalter’s Maddox (The Darkest Night) & Gideon (The Darkest Lie) from her LotU series and Grayson James (Jewel of Atlantis) from her Atlantis series. Also Wraith (Passion Unleashed) from Larissa Ione’s Demonica series. And don’t even get me started on Kresley Cole’s heroes! LOL

    • Thanks, Gina! You’re right – one-dimensional characters is one of the most common criticisms I see with newer writers’ work. Bringing the characters to life is one of the harder parts of good writing.

      Seeing what’s new with V and Butch is a big part of the excitement of a new BDB release! Each book tightens the bonds between them. Most of the Brothers are special, (Wrath is my least favorite, for some reason) but V and Butch are off the charts.

      Showalters LotU heroes set the bar awfully high for other authors too. I haven’t read Cole or Ione – they’re sitting in my TBR pile right now – too many good books, too little time, LOL. Some of Christine Feehan’s heroes kick ass, too, though I prefer her Ghost Walker series to the Carpathians, and her Jaguar series shows promise, too. Then there’s… Sorry, carried away, LOL.

      • Wrath is my least fave too! Oh, wait, I take that back. I can’t stand Phury. I wanted to put him out of his ever-lovin’ misery in his book and call it a day. It’s so crazy that even our favorite authors usually all have one book where we go, “Uhhhhh…WTF happened here? This is shite!” LOL

        I haven’t read Feehan yet. But Ione is really good and Lara Adrian is another one of my favorites. I dig her Breed heroes.

        But whatever you do, read. Kresley. Cole. ASAP. Start at the beginning (the 1st one is actually in an anthology called Playing Easy to Get) and don’t stop till you get to her last one (released a couple weeks ago).

        Cole is the most amazing world-builder I’ve ever read, and she pulls something off with her series that I would think is impossible, yet she does it flawlessly: all of her books are happening at the same time. For example, Book #1 happens within a 3-mo time period and then when you read Book #2, the secondary characters from #1 are now the MCs and some of what they go through will be what happened in #1 only now you see those events from their POV instead of from the MCs of Book #1….

        Ok, I’m not explaining that very well. You’ll see what I mean when you read them. It’s totally unreal. I can’t imagine how she keeps all of her details and timelines organized. She has to be crazy OCD. But she’s a genius. Oh, and some of her IAD characters cross over into Gena’s LotU series and vice versa, cause their besties in real life and are obsessed with each others’ series.

        Sorry! I’m done taking up space on your site. I have a problem with digressing. *sheepish grin*

        • Ha! I’d forgotten Phury! Took me forever to read his story, LOL. And if it hadn’t been for the other characters, I probably wouldn’t have finished it. I liked him a little better after reading Zsadist’s story, but not much. And the whole Primale thing? He’s soooo not! LOL.

          I can’t wait to start reading Cole now. I’ve never seen anyone who could pull off each book of a series happening simultaneously. HAVE to check it out!

          LOL, and digress all you want!

  4. Oh, so glad you wrote that. LOL I just explain the metaphysical moment .(Thank you, Josephy Campbell!) *wink* But your version is so much more colorful. *clears throat* I do NOT recommend anyone reading THE HERO WITH A 1000 FACES. Can we say boring? I found myself with my cheek smashed against the table and drool running out of my mouth trying to get through chapter one. (Okay, maybe I exaggerated just a smidge. But I’m Texan and we tell tall tales. Shoot me!)

    • Thanks, Skhye! I’m glad I didn’t bother with THE HERO WITH A 1000 FACES, then! Or maybe it was THE HERO’S JOURNEY? Anyway, an acquaintance tried to talk me into buying one or the other.

      I’ve read some really good articles on character development, but oddly enough, haven’t read any books on the subject. I’ll have to remedy that soon.

      Tall tales? You? No way! LOL

      When my daughter was little, she had a hard time understanding why it was ok for Mommy to make things up, but not her, LOL. She finally caught on, courtesy her dad, that if you tell everyone up front you’re making it up, it’s ok. For the longest time, she’d say things like “I’m making this up. I didn’t leave the toys out, Jessica did.” LMAO.

  5. I was in protest mode yesterday. SOPA/PIPA has gotten me extremely upset!

    As far a great hero is concerned, I like a hero that’s NOT perfect. I want them to be complex.

    Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë, is a classic example. This story was written over 150 yrs ago, and yet I think it’s still a great example for modern times. Jane is a hero. She does what she thinks is right. She’s not waiting for a “prince” to rescue her. She works hard. She lives a difficult life. By the same token, I think her Mr. Rochester also has some heroic qualities to him, but in the end, Jane is the one who rescues him, and not the other way around. Neither character is considered beautiful. Their actions are what define them.

    • Hi Juli. I’ve been pretty upset about SOPA/PIPA, too. Definite action needs to be taken against piracy, but this isn’t it.

      To me, a “perfect” hero is too one-dimensional, so I agree with you – IMperfect is perfect.

  6. Pingback: Who IS This? Making Minor Characters Useful | Kenra Daniels

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