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Monday, November 28, 2011

Holding Out For a Hero

What do you need in a hero?

He’s gotta be strong and he’s gotta be fast and he’s gotta be fresh from the fight

Wow. That is quite a list ya got there. Is there more?

He’s gotta be sure and it’s gotta be soon and he’s gotta be larger than life

Seriously. Where do you think you’re going to find this ‘hero’?

In every manuscript.

This week, our topic is the heroes in our lives, books, and imaginations. And let me be bold and say, you cannot write a novel without a hero. The Main Character must exhibit heroic qualities as well as human attributes to connect with your readers.

Who are your personal heroes? Mine are Lincoln and Moses. Fictional characters? Ripley in Alien, Frodo from Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, and Tavi in The Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher.

Why? What qualities make these people a hero? A hero doesn’t want to be one, resists the call so to speak. Fear and doubt in their abilities to overcome. ‘What if I fail? Why me?’ But inciting conflicts push the hero into a no-turning-back position. And they grit their teeth and persevere.

As a real life example, witness Abraham Lincoln’s growth. These are actual quotes.

Lincoln started with convictions.

As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master.

Stepping up is a different story. Lincoln hesitates. He doubts his ability to resolve the terrible problem.

I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery where it exists…I have no inclination to do so.

But he moves a little bit.

If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.

Lincoln fights his own demons. Strength and the will to follow the right path eat at his confidence. At the end, he believes assassination is a very real possibility. But despite his fears, he continues.

Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.

Can’t you just see his teeth clenched and a fierce gaze trained on anyone who stands against him?

Who are your heroes in life, screen, and tome?


Tuesday's post will cover heroic qualities and how to improve these attributes in your MC.

Homework is inevitable.

*Bonnie Tyler, Sony Music


Charity Bradford said...

Great post! Love that song and I want a hero like that in my life, I mean novel.

Who are my heros? Don't laugh, but I love Gilbert Blythe from the Anne of Green Gables series. He never gives up on what he wants. Stubbornness or patience, is there a difference?

As for the screen. Hm, if TV counts, Seely Booth from Bones. He fits the above song perfectly in my mind.

My real life hero is my "big little brother". He's a full time Air Force man and he always volunteers to work holidays so more of the married men can be with their families. It makes me cry every time.

Anonymous said...

Love your Lincoln posts. In real life, my father was a hero. He fought in WWII, raised a family of seven and sent us to college and was a good, honest man.
I also love Tavi and his uncle, Bernard.
John Marco's Lukien from The Devil's Armor and The Sword of Angels is a great, conflicted and flawed hero in fiction.

mshatch said...

Excellent post. Kvothe from A Wise Man's Fear comes to mind right off, and Aragorn, definitely a reluctant hero. Sookie Stackhouse is another one, and I'll round out my list with Michael Clayton cuz I do love George :)

Tara Tyler said...

great examples!
wish we had a lincoln around today! for the good of the union!

defcon said...

I guess I'll be bold, too, and say you can write a novel without a hero. Lolita certainly didn't have a hero, haha.

Really, it depends on the novel you're writing. Good vs. Evil? Yeah, there's going to be a hero. Character-driven? Possible, but not necessary.

Real life heroes? Hmm, probably my writing guru since he puts up with me.

Side-note: You don't have to have me up there twice for contributing comments. Just defcon will do.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Great post. I used to think heroes were just the super hot guys from romance novels. Now I know that's not true. You don't need to be all muscle (not to mention tall and dark) to be a hero.

Huntress said...

@ Defcon
I want a protag to cheer. My idea of that protag is Frodo, a hero. But my definition of ‘hero’ might be different from others.

The dark protagonist (such as Humbert from Lolita) must have sympathetic attributes for the reader to remain interested. Hope is a strong character trait. Perseverance, even toward a goal that doesn’t seem the normal definition and the possibility of growth in that protag keeps us reading.

Heroic? Not really, but it tantalizes. As we read, we hope the protag will change.

I haven’t read the book or seen the movie adaptations so I only have the handy dandy plot summary from Wikipedia. *G* But if you’ve read Lolita and know Humbert, does he have sympathetic qualities that make him interesting?

He might not be my idea of a hero but author Vladimir Nabokov must have written something that hooks the reader.

Be bold all you want! That’s what leads to great discussions.

defcon said...

Sorry for late reply.

Of course Humbert is sympathetic, we're reading the story from his POV, and who goes around bashing themselves? (unless you have incredibly low self-esteem) But he's not a character you'd want to cheer for since his goal is to sleep with a little girl. And no, there is no hope of him changing; it would be unrealistic since pedophiles are wired that way. However, he is interesting, and oddly, that's enough of a compelling motive to read on.

It's the same theory I have as to why people LOVE Hannibal (Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal) and Patrick Bateman (American Psycho), not because they're heroic or in anyway good, but because they're interesting. We want to study them, see what makes them tick, why they do what they do. It's a different sort of investment in the character, not one based on sympathy, but instead, based on our fascination with the unusual.

So in my mind, yes, you can write a novel without a hero. However, you'll have a hell of a time writing a novel without an interesting protagonist/antagonist (ideally, both should be interesting).

Anonymous said...

What a great blog!! Some of my favorite heroes are often reluctant as well, Aragorn, Frodo, and Samwise from Lord of the Rings, Sam and Dean Winchester from Supernatural, and Buffy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There are TONS more, but it's early in the morning and those are the first to come to mind.