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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Holding out for a Hero

"I need a hero
I'm holding out for a hero 'til the end of the night
He's gotta be strong
And he's gotta be fast
And he's gotta be fresh from the fight."

Back in 1984 singer Bonnie Tyler sang a song that women everywhere could relate to - we wanted a man who could fight the rising odds and win. A man with a core of honor and and a sense of chivalry that would impress us. One who could impress us with his sensitivity yet protect us from evil. Yup, those are the heroes I like and the kind I try to write.

It was super helpful to me to discover Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes and Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes by by Caro Lafever, Sue Viders, Tami D. Cowden. This book describes character archetypes because I realized that my favorite hero type was the warrior. Oh my heroes might have a hint of the chief, bad boy, best friend, or lost soul to him. But ultimately...at his core...he was a warrior.

I'm a sucker for the guy who'd die for a cause or for a loved one. The man who would tear up over an injured horse then turn around and kill the scumbag who had wounded the animal. The warrior is the protector. The stand-up guy with honor but he's also lethal in a fight and lethal is relative.

A warrior doesn't necessarily take out his sword and kill the bad guy - unless he's a medieval hero. If he's a modern hero, he's the one who will plan the financial demise of a bad guy if it's against the law to kill him. Or he's the cop who will hunt down the criminal and put him in jail while following the letter of the law because the law is his code of honor. He'll also put himself between the heroine and danger, whether she wants him to or not.

The fun thing is that the very things that make him an outstanding hero also make the heroine want to kick him in the butt. He may lie to protect her, which she'll resent. The hero may try to wrap the heroine up in cotton wool so that she's never hurt, when what she really wants is to stand at his side as his equal to help him fight the bad guys. His sense of honor can be a straight jacket - creating a rigidity that only the heroine can help him break down. His willingness to jump into the fray to defend others can become reckless abandon that has the heroine terrified he's going to get himself killed so it's up to the heroine to straighten him out. Isn't it nice how all of his good traits have a flip side which enhances the story conflict. I love it when a plan comes together.


Paty Jager said...

Fun post, Francesca!

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Great post. Very interesting how the things that make him a warrior also cause the conflict with the heroine.

Thanks for the tip on the book. I'll have to check it out.

Kathryn Albright said...

Enjoyed your post, Francesca. Also really liked the pictures :-) Aragorn's heroic arc, from reluctant participant to out and out hero was superb. I also thought Sam (in The Lord of the Rings) was a hero. And Frodo. And Farimir. All quite different types, different journeys, but heroes none-the-less. And they all needed to work together to defeat the Dark Lord even though each of them had a dark moment where they thought all was lost. (Can you tell I love this story?)
Bonnie Tyler's song still surfaces in my thoughts rather frequently. Just love it--and her gravelly voice.

Francesca Hawley said...

Thanks for commenting everyone. I really enjoy writing warrior heroes. There's just something about those kinds of guys that appeal to me.