Give Me A Messy Hero by Deb Danielle

I agree with much of what’s been said this week about heroes. In fact, I was afraid I’d have nothing further to say. But fortunately the talk of what constitutes a real-life hero led me to thinking about fictional/literary heroes and heroines and I do have some thoughts about that.

In fiction, the hero is defined in broader terms than in life—if you’re the main character in a book (and you’re not an anti-hero or the official villain) then you get to be the hero or heroine. And in fiction one encounters many kinds of heroes—the big, dramatic, lifesaving kind and those for whom just making it through another day is an act of heroism.

Personally, I like to read about the everyday hero/heroines and I like them complicated, messy and never too nice. (“Nice” irritates me in fiction, as does “cute” and I’ll find myself rolling my eyes and/or wanting to throttle or slap characters who have too much of either quality. *) I have a high tolerance for gray area in a character and find myself bored with those who don’t have any. I’ll take that further and say I have a deep mistrust for those who see things as only black or white, and not just in fiction—they lack empathy and their world-view is often shaped by fear and anger. It’s not that you can’t create a hero who begins with a narrow mind-set—it’s actually a great internal obstacle—I just have a hard time liking that kind of character. Personally I love a good dose of self-doubt, angst, delusion, addictions, guilt and a certain level of self-awareness (despite the delusions) in my literary heroes. I like paradox. I love seeing a character with divided loyalties, internal wars, someone who makes decisions that surprise everyone, including themselves. Above all, I love a character with demons.

fallingunder-1.jpgWhen I was working on Falling Under I set my heroine up with tons of angst and emotional baggage, made her as complicated as I could and then threw a bunch of external obstacles at her too. (Poor girl, I really hammered her!) And then I sat back and watched with a mix of awe and horror as she did the wrong things for the wrong reasons, the wrong things for the right reasons, the right things for the wrong reasons and so on. Eventually, in spite of it all, she started to do the right things for the right reasons and even then, it didn’t always make things work out. She kept trying though, and to me, that’s what made her a hero.

Now it’s your turn: how do you like your fictional heroes?

* I’m not a violent person, I promise, just easily irritated when reading.

12 thoughts on “Give Me A Messy Hero by Deb Danielle

  1. I like my heroes with flaws. I want to be able to identify with them and know that I’m not the only person who does stupid things for stupid reasons. If they can get knocked down and then get up, dust him/herself off and keep going (often again and again), they’re okay in my book.

    I dislike heroes who get it right the first time, because often life is not like that (nor am I).

    Great post, Danielle – I think you got it just about perfect with Falling Under.

  2. Thanks Joanne! Yep, perfection is kind of frightening, isn’t it?!

    Kim–lol. If she could only have both Ranger AND Morelli. (We’re talking Janet Evanovich/Stephanie Plum, for those of you who may be confused.) Very sexy guys and great characters.

  3. I like a hero that is like a good friend, full of surprises. I don’t want to know what they are going to do at every turn. I want a surprise so that I turn the page to find out “why would they do that?”

  4. Oh please, “nice” and/or “cute” characters are the ULTIMATE bore. Readers need “real” protagonists to root for and villains to dislike. Besides, heroes can be fictional and that includes my all-time favorite — THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD!

    Thank you, Danielle, for a novel perspective.

  5. To me it depends on the book. I am all over the map with this. I guess I just have to see how it is. But no one is flawless so it’s not realistic to have a hero who is perfect. In your compelling novel, D, you did a fabulous job of hitting the nail on the head…

  6. Eileen, I totally agree.

    And I love THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD, Larramie! Thanks for the reminder of that one.

    Jenny, you’re right that it depends on the book and the writing–some authors can sell any character and I admire them for it!

  7. Ya, I agree with everything, but want to point out that when talking about heroes, we can’t forget the spy. Yep, give me a spy, good or bad, to make the plot zing and I’m a happy man. Right Danielle? Spies. Gotta love’em, love to hate’em (depending if they are the hero or not). Spies. SPIES!!!

  8. How did I miss this?? I love what you said here. Give me a messy, flawed hero/heroine any day and FALLING UNDER is filled with just the kind of angst that makes me love a book…

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