Somewhere in the cusp between several writing projects, the evening news, and every day life, I’ve been pondering heroes.
In part, I’m trying not to repeat myself. Maybe it’s just that I like a challenge, or perhaps that I’m easily bored, but I want each hero to be a unique individual, with his own personality, his own traumas and motivations, his own unique way of responding to his heroine and to the world.
Some writers, I know, produce a series of heroes who change in mannerisms and appearance, but not in their essence. A well-written series is no less enjoyable for every hero being an alpha male: strong, confident, protective, even domineering; but putty in the hands of the woman who is their match.
The scarred hero is a common archetype with some writers: the wounded body reflecting deeper wounds in heart and soul that he will only address when the love of the heroine gives him a motive to heal.
Others love to write about the bad boy, constantly taking risks and pushing boundaries, until someone comes along who matters more to him than his desire to thumb his nose at society.
I wrote a blog post recently about hero archetypes, and the challenge each type faces in winning their heroine. King, ladies man, bad boy, swashbuckler, best friend, protector, recluse, professor — they can all be fun to write and fun to read.
But a person is more than their archetype. As my heroes and heroines reveal themselves, I’m asking what makes them happy? What do they laugh at? What hurts them or reminds them of past pain? What arouses their anger or their joy?
My own personal romantic hero and I had a conversation about fundamental masculine and feminine traits, in response to an article we read about a man who felt that when his beloved asked to share the driving on a long trip, she was really saying she did not believe he could protect her.
Modern psychology tells us that men and women are more alike than they are different, and that all personality traits are on a continuum. On the other hand, I’ve raised both boys and girls, and they’ve been different from the cradle. On the other other hand, I’ve no idea how much the difference has been subtly imposed by our culture. I’m now up to three hands, so had better stop.
The scientific truth is useful for building my heroes. I can give them a variety of traits that are a little out of the norms for the culture they live in, and let them be ashamed or defiant or amused; secretive or flamboyant; accepting or tortured. I can then let them spark off a heroine who complements or challenges them.
Each couple will be different. Each story will be different.
Just for fun, here are the heroes I’m currently living with.
Jules Redepenning is a bad boy, but also a protector. His book, Unkept Promises, is about to go to the proofreader. In it, the wife he hasn’t seen in seven years comes to meet him in Cape Town.
Dear Heavens. The man was gorgeous. Even grumpy; even with most of his attention on another woman, even with all that she’d heard about him to his discredit, she wanted him.
James Winderfield in To Wed a Proper Lady is quite a different fellow. His strongest archetype is king. In his book, almost finished (four scenes to go), he must marry a proper English lady for the sake of his family’s reputation. And then he falls in love.
He was drowning in a pair brown-gray eyes, like a pond in the deep shelter of a nurturing forest. Did she feel it too? The Greeks said that true lovers had one soul, split at birth and placed in two bodies. He had thought it a nice conceit, until now.
I’m a little over 10% of the way through the first draft of To Mend the Broken Hearted. Valentine Monforte is a recluse, nursing his wounded heart and mind in a remote country manor. Until a woman doctor battling a typhus epidemic takes over a wing of his house and refuses to be kept out. In the first scene, he steers his plough around the nest of a lapwing.
One more evidence of his madness, the tenants thought, and in his worst moments he thought they were right, when thunder set him shaking or nightmares woke him screaming defiance or approaching anywhere close to that cursed tower froze him in his tracks.
And I’m at the early stages of meeting three more heroes whose stories will find their way to paper before the end of the year:
The Earl of Hamner is a rules-bound gentleman. His archetype is best friend, but he’ll need to loosen up a bit.I have just the heroine for him.
Max, a former special forces assassin and most recently a gun for hire, is asked to investigate some disappearances in a cult. Serenity, his heroine, will touch a heart he thought long since calcified. He’s a swashbuckler.
And last, but not least, still unnamed and only just coming together, is my hero for this year’s Authors of Main Street anthology, which takes us back to Valentine Bay. He’s the professor type, this lad. He’ll find my lady baker worth studying.