Monday, 11 July 2011
A Hero By Any Other Name
We imagine a hero to show great courage or ability, to have performed heroic acts, to be admired for his qualities and regarded as an ideal. Not forgetting of course that he must be devilishly good-looking to boot!
Can you imagine just how boring the books we read and write would be, if our pages were filled with white-toothed, grinning, muscular, handsome men? The phrase ‘nice but dim’ springs to mind, along with images of asexual cartoon characters.
As writers, our choice of hero is a very personal thing and speaks volumes about ourselves. We reveal our individual values and preferences. We comment on those we perceive to be lacking or deficient in some way. For me, a hero has to have flaws. The truth is that bad things happen to good people. The best heroes in my mind are male protagonists who have a failing, an imperfection or a weak spot.
Achilles was a handsome Greek hero of the Trojan War. He was the central character and the greatest warrior in Homer’s Illiad, but had one weakness – his heel, an injury to which ultimately led to his death. Although this mythological story refers to a physical vulnerability, we can use this weakness metaphorically in our writing. It will make our hero seem more three dimensional and ‘human,’ as opposed to robotic and boring. Having said that, I believe a handsome or rugged face and an attractive body are important for a fictional hero. We want the reader to ‘fall in love’ with the male protagonist in order to keep reading! After all, if sexual attraction was solely based on inner goodness alone, we’d all fancy the Pope instead of Johnny Depp!
I thought I’d share with you my own personal top five heroes! I’m not going to list the likes of Tarzan, Atticus Finch, Romeo, Batman, Hamlet or Mr Spock – all heroes in their own right, but I’m talking jaw-dropping sexy heroes below. (Although I do have a bit of a thing for Mr Spock’s brooding sexy demeanour. He needs a lady to melt away his….anyway, I digress!)
5th place goes to Mr D’Arcy
Sorry. I know. I can hear some of you groaning, but let me explain. It’s not just the wet clothes clinging like they’ve been vacuum packed on to his taught stomach and thighs. It’s not the droplets of water decorating his face like tribal markings, waiting to be kissed away. It’s not the facts that his damp lips are parted as he catches his breath from swimming. *pauses whilst I catch my breath* It’s that personal preference thing again. I like my heroes to have a brooding, deep, sexy, almost distant character. It’s so much better if the heroine has to win her way into his heart and bed, rather than him turning up, winking at her whilst he flashes his perfect Simon Cowell teeth before beckoning her into the back of his car/carriage/horse. (No, scrap the horse – that doesn’t work!) I prefer the softly, softly catchee monkey approach!
4th place goes to Angel Clare
Thomas Hardy’s hero in Tess of the D’Urbevilles scored a high mark from me. He was good-natured, strong, handsome, jovial character who possessed a sense of humour. He was musical, and I’m a sucker for anyone creative! I also have a penchant for my heroes having long dark shoulder-length hair. Angel also knew what he wanted from life and set out determinedly to get it. I like a man who knows his own mind.
But Hardy was a realistic writer and Angel needed a flaw. Hardy didn’t give him a huge imperfection to overcome, but gave him the poor ability to make the right choices. He fell in love with Tess and married her. When she told him she’d been raped before the marriage, he fled to work abroad without consummating the marriage or even spending the night in the same house as Tess. That callous act eventually led to Tess’ tragic downfall. There was no happy ending for Tess.
3rd place goes to Rupert Campbell-Black
Rupert Edward Algernon Campbell-Black is a rich, famous, Olympic medal-winning show jumper. He’s incredibly handsome, fit and charming. Whereas Angel Clare’s only flaw was that he made a wrong decision (albeit a humongous one), Jilly Cooper doled out a few more imperfections on Rupert! He was a brutish womanizer and an adulterous arrogant cad. The thing about fictional heroes, is that you can have a crush on them safely, secure in the knowledge that you don’t really have a husband/lover who is really that much of a b*stard.
2nd place goes to Edward Rochester
Charlotte Bronte’s Mr Rochester makes a wonderful hero for me. Craggy-faced, abrupt, stern (not to mention he keeps his wife locked up in the attic) you’d be forgiven for thinking he wasn’t your archetypical hero. But he is to my personal ideals for a male protagonist. He’s real – okay, he’s not real, but you know what I mean. He’s doesn’t have perfect handsome features who says all the right things. He has long hair (did I mention I like long hair?) and he’s a little bit dangerous and brooding –not to be mistaken with sulking! He’s intellectual and has an air of mystery. He’s not bad by nature, just finds himself in a bad situation. He needs time, affection and taming. I’m willing to over-look his more glaring flaws in order to indulge the passion he and Jane Eyre share. He’s locked himself away inside Thornfield Hall, and someone needs to slowly and gently unlock his demons…and his heart.
1st place goes to Daniel Cavanagh
“Who?” I hear you say.
I’d like to introduce you to my very own hero. Daniel is the love interest in my first novel, Lies and Linguine. He’s handsome, tall, artistic, sexy, and has a body which makes women silently mouth the word, ‘Wow!’ Okay, so far, not so real – except, he has a flaw which brings him to life.
Daniel is a troubled artist. He inherited Larkston Hall following the death of his parents in a motorway accident. He also blames himself for an accident involving his best friend Sean. His guilt over his absence at the time of his parents’ death and his wrong choice which led to Sean’s accident, have left Daniel with a mild obsessive compulsive disorder. He feels that if he focuses on the number three, a third traumatic incident will be prevented. As well as emotional scars, Daniel has a physical scar on his left temple, received in the same accident in which Sean was injured. My heroine Tess, must slowly, gently and thoughtfully win Daniel’s trust, in order to help him start the slow process of recovering. This, of course, whilst she’s trying to get to grips with her own dramas.
I’ve listed Daniel Cavanagh as my number one hero because I invented him. I have a personal attachment to him and literally know what he’s thinking. I’ve embodied all my most personal physical preferences of a man into Daniel’s appearance and given him the personality of all the character traits of my ideal man. Kind and humorous being high on the agenda.
I have to admit, I missed him terribly when I finished my novel and had edited for the final time. I think I’m a little bit in love….
I'd love to know who your favourite hero/heroes are.