Friday, March 13, 2009

I Need a Hero...

On the heels of Anita’s post, I find myself writing about men. It ties in with what she talked about and I hope compliments the ideas and suggestions she shared with us. If you haven’t read her post, scroll down, it’s an interesting and enlightening read.

This past couple of weeks I’ve been busy creating a new blog for the SRW. This is a private blog so that we can post snippets of our work. Or work on writing exercises to improve our craft. It has been a busy, but wonderful two weeks.

The first set of exercises posted was a character interview. Suse has spoken about this activity in the comment section of her blog post “In the Corner”. An interview will help you discover who your characters are and perhaps dig a little deeper than just a surface sketch. So the assignment was to choose a character from a WIP and then answer the questions in that person’s point of view. Naturally, with a group of diverse and wonderful writers that make up the SRW, everyone came at this in a different way.

I chose the hero from a current WIP that has been plaguing me for far too long. My heroine, Gillian, is a fully developed, well-rounded individual, and does exactly what she’s supposed to do in her own klutzy, artistic way. My hero, Mac! Well, let’s just say he’s not cooperating. Hasn’t from the first time he introduced himself with Gillian! I’ve written him as a cop, as a drug enforcement agent, as a FBI agent, as a land developer. Every incarnation has ended in me staring at the blinking cursor, Gillian waiting for him to do something, and him crossing his arms over his chest and refusing to continue. Not my idea of a hero!

Even in the middle of this interview he surprised me. Karen (fellow Chick) asked an amazing question. “If you could pick one superpower, what would it be?” And Mac blurted out “Invisible.” Just like that. I sat there, fingers poised on the keyboard and stared at the screen. Now, what was I supposed to do with that? Is that hero material? How do you move forward when your hero declares he wants to be invisible?

All of this has got me thinking about what makes a hero. I could use the hero sandwich to discuss my idea of a hero, but when I thought about the meat and condiments, well, let’s just say my mind went in a very different direction. Then I thought about Bonnie Tyler’s song “Holding Out For a Hero”. I ended up with 80’s flashbacks – big hair and that awful dancing I used to do where my shoulders went one way and my arms went the other and my head bobbed side to side. Don’t look now, I’m actually doing it in order to explain it.

That leaves me with nothing. I needed help, so I turned to the web and I found this amazing article by Tami Cowden. She talks about the eight hero archetypes and provides examples from the movies so you really get a picture to go with the definition. And if you go here you’ll also be able to read what those archetypes would do if they were trapped in a basement with an unconscious heroine and a ticking bomb.

This looks to be an amazing resource and one I’m going to bookmark so that maybe I can figure Mac out. I’m also going to spend some time this weekend doing some free writing and see where Mac takes me. I’m curious about his need to be invisible and already my mind is envisioning how that will play out against Gillian’s need to be a people-pleaser. Perhaps this glimpse into his psyche will give me both his inner and outer conflict and strengthen the conflict between he and Gillian.

So, People of Blogland, what do you think makes a great hero? Who are some of your favorite heroes, either in books or in the movies? And because I’m still humming Born in the USA, what’s your favorite 80’s song?



Tara Maya said...

Thanks for the ideas, that's great. :)

Captain Hook said...

I bookmarked the site too. Thanks for that.

I and my stories tend to favor the Bad Boy hero with the Best Friend coming in a close second.

(To keep with your "flashback to the 80's theme -) One of my all time favorite heroes was Booker from 21 Jump Street, Judd Nelson's character from Breakfast Club (ok, done with the 80's), Jack Sparrow from Pirates, Reid and Pogue from The Covenant and Draco from HP.

This preference comes through in my writing too. Tom from Cassandra's Secrets is a petty theif with many interesting talents. Joel Bradshaw from Absolutely Livid is a laidback, best friend type.

Great post! Really got me thinking about my heroes.

Karen said...

You get some moves, Janet!

I, too, am enjoying the writing exercises. It's given me an exciting avenue to explore with Chase I hadn't considered.

I hopped over to the site you mentioned, great information. My hero picks are Officer Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves) Speed, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) The Bourne Identity, to name a couple. And my all time favorite book heros are Cam, Ethan, Phillip and Seth Quinn from Nora Roberts' Cheaspeake Bay series, followed by the Steele Street boys (Tara Janzen), and the Suzanne Brockmann's navy seals and Troubleshooters.

Okay, I'll stop now.

Janet C. said...

Morning, Tara - glad to see you here. So is your 'Dark Man' in your Dangerous Laisons with human sacrifice Cinderella story a "Bad Boy" archetype?

BTW - I love that idea. And great blog post over there on Tara Maya's Tales.


Janet C. said...

Nice to see you, Cap't. Question for you - do you think that the 'Bad Boy' would be considered alpha male and the 'Best Friend' is more beta? I'm doing some reading on the two types found in romance novels and wonder if more readers are drawn to the alpha or 'Bad Boy' rather than the beta.

I'm going to date myself, but my favorite 80's hero was Jack T. Colton from Romancing the Stone. And how's this for a tagline "She's a girl from the big city. He's a reckless soldier of fortune. For a fabulous treasure, they share an adventure no one could imagine... or survive."


Janet C. said...

Hey, Karen. Nice visual for a Friday morning, eh?

I have to agree with your choice of heroes in Suzanne Brockmann's series. *Sigh* Another wonderful hero is Sam Donavon in Linda Howard's Mr. Perfect. If you haven't read this, I highly recommend it (the scene of Sam standing at the fridge in the middle of the night as Jaine, the heroine, stares at him from her kitchen window is priceless).

Looking forward to reading more about Chase this weekend. I'll post the next batch of questions later today.


Janet said...


Jana Richards said...

Hey Janet,
First of all, thanks for the great picture! Made my morning.

I'm at work so I'll have to check out the site you suggested later at home. Sounds like a real winner.

I tend to write heroes with beta characteristics but I do love to read about an alpha hero who has a soft side, especially where the heroine is concerned. Very sexy. My hero list is pretty much identical to Karen's. I love Suzanne Brockman's Navy Seals. One of my favorite is John Nilson in "The Defiant Hero". The story is one of my favorites. A close second is Frisco in "Frisco's Kid". It is a beautiful, emotional story.

Interesting that your Mac wants to be invisible. I'd love to see what you do with his backstory.

And as far as 80s songs go, the only thing I was listening to those days was the Cabbage Patch dolls record that somebody gave my daughter and the theme from Sesame Street. Sigh. It was a lost decade for me as far as music goes.


Hayley E. Lavik said...

So Janet, I was going to reply to you with a vague and rambling attempt to recall a book 'somewhere' called 'something' that had to do with heroes and heroines and such... but then I went to the website you linked and saw that they mention the book right there. Heroes and Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes.

There were other books that came up on said wherever-blog as well, on the heroine's journey as opposed to the archetypal hero's journey, which also illustrate some very interesting contrasts between the way men and women approach and handle things, etc.

Regardless, one of the things I remember from one of those books (probably the 16 types, although they were under different titles.. Greek deities) was an emphasis on a sort of good/bad dichotomy. For example, the "Ares" type for men was both protector and aggressor, so potentially positive and negative traits in the same build.

Anyway, my point to all that is... I think there's a good and bad side to everything. Mac's invisibility, for example. I think Alkaia might give the same answer, she'd want to just slip right out of sight when the moment comes... but then invisibility also means walking into people's homes and taking their stuff, which I could see a more outgoing character doing for laughs. Every trait brings out two sides, like the problem and the solution. I'm sure you'll have a lot of fun exploring Mac's new revelation and seeing where it takes you.

I enjoyed browsing the list of hero types. Gotta say I'm partial to charmers and warriors, but I love the lost soul too. Or maybe I just love Heathcliff.. although I would hardly call him vulnerable.

As for the 80s, I gotta say my favourite 80s tunes are Bonnie Tyler's. I heard Total Eclipse of the Heart when I was little and happened to be reading a truly moving section of that epic animal story I've mentioned here before, and the two just fused together. And I LOVE Holding Out For A Hero. It's a damn good song to dance to, sums up my favourite type of heroes (no surprises DaHannen fits it well), and I love the way Tyler just belts it out like her voice is going to break. Also, it made for a funky final battle sequence in Shrek 2 :)

Janet C. said...

Hey, Jana!

I have to thank Patti Fischer ( for the picture. She has a stable of men she hand picks for show and tell over on the RWA Online group (another great reason to sign up for membership). Did he remind you of Riley, Jana? I know I thought of your hero when I decided on that picture (him and Lu's fireman, Darren - if Lu is lurking).

John Nilson is the topic of my newsletter article (favorite author) in SRW's Bridges to Romance coming out soon. He was close to perfect, wasn't he?

Lucky you for missing the 80's - although I still love the music, I'm really glad we got away from the big hair and big shoulder pads. *shudder*

Talk to you soon.


ban said...

alright - here goes 'wild boys' by duran duran. love the song so much i put them into my story. yep my hero's a wild boy. does that answer your other question too ? i prefer the strong, silent, difficult type. that's right ... i like my guys DIFFICULT ! in college my pledge name was (don't laugh) belle because i used to walk around campus reading books, dreaming of adventure and i had a soft spot for 'the beast'. guess it's all about being the one to tame them that gets me ... gonna go read the archetype pst now. thanks so much for this post ... and the side of beefcake :P

Karen said...

LOL Jana, that's how I feel about the last half of the '90s.

Captain Hook said...


I know for mine, the Best Friend appears very laid back and beta at the beginning. He's not though. That's just the outside. Inside is a core of steel that only comes out in certain situations. Then he's pure alpha.

Tom (my Bad Boy) thinks he's alpha, wants to be alpha, but just isn't. He's spent his whole life afraid and being told what to do and having to lie to everyone about what's happening in his life. That's what happens when your mom is a career criminal.

Suzanne Brockmann is a fave of mine too! Love both SEAL series.

Janet C. said...

Interesting comments, Hayley. I'm going to go and check out more on the sixteen archetypes (I love anything relating to Greek mythology). And I'll also ponder the good/bad dichotomy - I love your line "brings out the problem and the solution". I think I need to focus on that with Mac, for his need to be invisible could eventually 'save the day' when I tie up my major plot line. Hmmm - it's so good to have friends who are smart.

I so see Alkaia as someone who would wish for invisiblity superpower. And every time you mention DaHannen I become more and more curious. Perhaps you'll give us a peek at him this weekend with the new round of questions over on the other blog?

Ha - totally forgot about the end of Shrek 2. Love that movie :) Bonnie Tyler would make a wonderful playlist for writing romance, no?


Janet C. said...

Ban - I love Duran Duran. Hungry Like the Wolf is now playing happily in my head. And who doesn't love a wild boy or 'the beast'? I think you touched on something there - do we read romance or books that have a romance element to satisfy that need to have a woman tame a man? Because there's nothing that makes me a happy reader like a heroine who can make a grown man putty in her hands (while still maintaining his masculinity). Lady Bells does that with Hugh.

As for the side of beefcake - you're welcome (we all need a little nourishment on a Friday :)


Janet C. said...

WB, Cap't - I think I would love your hero in Absolutely Livid. I remember reading the info you posted over on your Countdown to Publication Blog (March 5th) and now that you've given me a further glimpse into his psyche, I'm even more curious. Now, Tom, I'm not so sure about. In the end, does he stand up for who he is/what he believes in? Does he come through for his heroine?

Thanks for sharing more about your heroes here - and I enjoyed reading about your outlining strategies - I may have to look at incorporating some of them in my writing as pantsing doesn't always work out :)


Suse said...

Yum! I'm surprised SIAST didn't block that picture from showing on my screen.

I was on a lunch break but I need to get back to work, so just a short post.

I think I'm like Jana and missed most of the 80s. I'm more a 70s gal (ROCK & ROLL!). However, I do enjoy "You Give Love a Bad Name" by Bon Jovi. Actually, I just enjoy Jon Bon Jovi - loved his character on Ali McBeal.

My heroes are usually the boy next door kind.

It will be interesting to hear what you discover about Mac as you explore his character more. It might be that he's the reticent kind because of his past. Or maybe, and hopefully not, you'll discover he's not the right hero for Gillian. Does he have a brother or a best friend?

Captain Hook said...

Now, Tom, I'm not so sure about. In the end, does he stand up for who he is/what he believes in? Does he come through for his heroine?

Yes and no. He "betrays" his mom by helping Cassie escape, but it's all orchestrated by her. She takes most of the risk too.

Same with when the boss behind the kidnapping gets his hands on her. Tom is in on the rescue, plays a significant part, but his dad is the main force behind it.

And that's his fatal flaw - he's so confused within himself that he needs someone to direct him in order to really be effective.

Hayley E. Lavik said...

Janet, I'm looking forward to the next round of character questions. Depending who they suit best, I may give DaHannen a whirl. Or would it be imposing on the blog to get a second character going? I may just save him for Eventide.

Also eavesdropping on your other replies, I could go on for ages about the whole notion of women wanting to 'tame' men, and loving bad characters (again, Heathcliff) who are clearly bad for them. My husband and I actually talk about it a lot, as he finds it really odd when women swoon over bad (and sometimes not very attractive) male characters.

I wonder if it's so much taming, as wanting to step outside your norms and be separate together. The thrill of being the one woman the bad boy treats right, which sometimes leads female audiences to ignore how obviously awful these bad boys are (I'm thinking Marlon Brando in Street Car). I think the domesticated, house-trained bad boy loses his appeal (for me at least), and it's more the potential of transcending my norms into something risky that becomes appealing. Again with Wuthering Heights, everyone wants to be Catherine, and have Heathcliff reverence them. No one wants to be Isabella, which is the reality of Heathcliff being with anyone other than the one woman he actually loves.

And I don't even know if that's relevant to your topic... I just saw the conversation and got carried away. I'll go back to making lunch now :)

Anita Mae Draper said...

You got a hot topic today, Janet, and that photo... yowza!

Thanks for the link to the 8 archetypes. I actually read this in a book I borrowed from the SRW library but well, I had to give it back. :( So having it online is a fantastic resource.

A great hero is someone who does what needs to be done despite his personal biases.

My fav 80's songs:
- anything from the movie Pretty in Pink
- Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse of the Heart
- anything from Cyndi Lauper

Actually, it was my fav musical decade after the 50s and 60s.

Janet C. said...

And isn't it interesting, Suse, that Bon Jovi has weathered the test of time. I love his new country image (and the duet he did with Sugarland - awesome). Unfortunately, I'm still humming Hungry Like the Wolf (thanks so much for that, Ban :)

I know you've talked before about changing your heroes - or heroes that don't match with the story, perhaps needing a story of their own. I'm in the camp of believers that once my hero gets my attention, then he's here to to stay. He belongs with Gillian. Now, he might change in his job description or motives, but he's Gillian's partner come hell or highwater. That may mean, though, that they are retired until I can figure out the perfect story for them.

All things to think about this weekend - thanks for the thought provoke, Suse :)


Janet C. said...

So, Cap't, how does he find himself in the end? I don't want you to give away the ending, but his character arc must show growth and an understanding of self, right? Please ignore me if my questions are unfounded. I just want to know that he ends up being someone the reader loves because he succeeds in his quest (internal conflict understood and resolved).

Loving this discussion :)


Captain Hook said...

I wouldn't really say he finds himself. First off, he's not the one the story is about. Second, he just learns to accept who he is. That his cautious, somewhat submissive nature isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Janet C. said...

Hayley - when I get around to posting the next writing exercise/character questions on the other blog, I'm going to give that option. You may choose another character from the same WIP or a different one - or stick with the same one you've already used. Whomever you chose to answer the questions, I know I'm going to enjoy the writing :)

You've touched on some great conversation starters. The bad boy being a risk to the woman - stepping outside what is expected of her, what society sees as right. The thrill of being with someone who is bigger and bolder than you could ever be. (Loved Street Car Named Desire). The excitement of something different, something forbidden.

I'm going to reference a major YA book here (and you have to guess what it is, because I'm not naming it) and the lure of good girl with bad boy. I've had many heated discussions about the premise of the book - the obvious control issues that are implied - the message being sent to young women. Is that different than an alpha bad boy being tamed by a heroine? I would like to think that the heroes I love are those that will remain strong in the face of danger, but display their softer side when in the company of the woman they love. Perhaps referencing back to the dichotomy you spoke of earlier (the ying and yang :)

I think I'm rambling now - so I'll go. Love this exchange.


Janet C. said...

Thanks, Anita - I've now managed to get Hungry Like the Wolf out of my mind - replaced with Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. Love Cyndi Lauper :)

It's proving to be an interesting commentary, is it not. I love your definition of hero - going to copy/paste that over to my quote word document (with reference to you, of course).

Glad you enjoyed the visual :)


Janet C. said...

Blogger ate my post :(

I understand now, Cap't, after jumping over to your blogpost. I love how you know Tom so well - that's where I think I'm lacking with Mac. I don't know him enough to understand how he will influence the story. Hopefully with some soul searching this weekend I'll discover more about him.

Thanks for sharing Tom with us :)


ban said...

Straddle the line, in discord and rhyme
Im on the hunt Im after you
Mouth is alive with juices like wine
And Im hungry like the wolf ! ! !

so jealous - gotta find a group that wants to discuss stuff like character interviews and such - guess i'll just have to wait 'till hayley posts hers on her site :)

Silver James said...

Great topic and links, Janet! Eighties songs...hrm... Father Figure by George Michael. I have a partially finished MS inspired by that song - romantic horror with a fallen angel (Nephilim) and an immortal paladin. It's so dark I can only work on it in bits and spurts (since

Eighties That was a long time ago. Crockett and Tubbs and the LT (especially the LT) from Miami Vice.

All time hero? That's even tougher. There's so many. Alejandro Murrieta / Zorro (as played by Antonio Banderas) (well, Zorro, period. Always loved the character - and the horse! lol). Duncan McLeod. (There can be only one!) Wait! OMG! Daniel Day-Lewis's Nathaniel from Last of the Mohicans. Oh, yeah. Him!

I'm not greedy. LOL

Hayley E. Lavik said...

Janet, I'm pretty sure I know precisely the book you're referring to. I actually once saw an excellent summary of that whole bad-boy appeal thing by a critic/fan of the book. How the characters develop in a good girl/bad boy relationship (and its variants) is critical to the message it sends across. In the case of this book, I'm not so sure I'm fond of the message, but I can understand the appeal for readers.

The main character acts as proxy for the reader, so a relationship with the exciting outsider means the reader gets to be dangerous for a moment too, with no repercussions. The thrill of it is acceptable because it's fictional (of course), but also because the whole premise internalizes society's norms. Reader can swoon at being seduced by the bad guy, but the female's role is still that of 'tamer', an essentially domestic and nurturing position. I would hazard that the control issues raised in your example aren't too different, in that they impose a certain standard on the female reader.

That sort of convention doesn't leave a lot of wiggle room for a pro-active heroine, and I suspect that's why you have issues with it? The bad boy you describe, who opens up and shares with that one special someone, sounds more like the type who gives and bends, accommodates. An equal relationship, rather than putting all the compromising onto the woman, to fill in the spaces around an unchanging man.

Janet C. said...

Oh, drats, Hungry like the Wolf back again. Those are some good lyrics :)

I must admit, Ban, I love our little group of writers known as the SRW. No writing groups near you? How about online writing groups? Of course, you're always welcome here, on The Prairies. We do have some discussions, don't we?


Janet C. said...

Silver - nice to see you here (yeah, I know I suggested you come over - but glad you commented while visiting :)

Ha - Wham, wake me up before you go, go! George Michael, sigh (you know, before he got all weird). Take that, Hungry Wolf.

Loved Miami Vice. Loved Zorro (and Antonio), Duncan McLeod - the Highlander, right? Can't go with you on the Daniel Day Lewis trip, though (sorry). You can have him.

Your partially finished MS sounds great - do you have a title for it? Are you planning on finishing it? I know how busy you are with Faerie Fate coming out this year - the others in the series later on. I'll plug your website and blog here, Silver

Thanks again for visiting!


Janet C. said...

Well said, Hayley. I'm all about a little risk and some bad boy fun - but my heroines need to be strong, stand alone women who are not afraid of their individuality. They have healthy self-esteem and no matter how much the bad boy pushes, they know when excitement becomes intimidation and would never accept that in a reationship.

Which makes me think of the difference between alpha females and a strong, but less kick-a$$ heroine. Perhaps a blogpost?


Silver James said...

Thanks for the plug, Janet! I've got you guys on my RSS feed now so I won't be a stranger.

Day-Lewis is an acquired taste. I don't like him in anything BUT Mohicans. LOL.

The MS is called Uninvited. I will finish it but my villain is so dark that I want to scrub off with bleach after I've been in his head. Aidan, my hero, is awesome, though. There are all sorts of mystical overtones, going back to Charlemagne's Paladins and a mysterious box that might or might not contain the Grail. What's really sad is that I'm within a few chapters of actually having the first draft done. I have no clue what to do with it after. It is sort of a romance, in that the little girl who is the target of the Nephilim grows up to fall in love with the Paladin who's guarded her her whole life. We'll see. I work on it when inspiration hits.

Right now, I've got to get Faerie Fate revised and back to my editor so I can get a release date! The second book is submitted and the third book in the trilogy is still "fermenting" in the ol' brain pan.

Can you tell I'm really working hard? NOT!

ban said...

In touch with the ground
Im on the hunt Im after you
Scent and a sound, Im lost and Im found
And Im hungry like the wolf

take that wham !

oh, strong heroine, sense of individuality, able to stand alone ... a MUST ! my difficult hero wouldn't waste his breath on a wishy washy waif ! he needs someone to stand up to him - without being a b!+@# of course.
and yes you have some wonderful discussions, so glad i found you chicks !

owwwww !

Janet C. said...

Uninvited sounds fabulous, Silver - and from everything I've read and researched, write a damn good book and they will publish it :) I've read your writing (both purple and not ;) and you'll find a home for it I'm sure. I, for one, love a dark, deeply disturbed villian - but perhaps because I have a nefarious imagination, just ask my co-workers about my plan to...well, never mind that.

Good luck with the trilogy - I'm looking forward to the release of the first book.


Janet C. said...

Stalked in the forest, too close to hide
Ill be upon you by the moonlight side
High blood drumming ony our skin its so tight
You feel my heart, Im just a moment behind

OK, I'm back on Hungry Like the Wolf. Wham doesn't stand a chance against Duran Duran :)