Friday, March 13, 2009

What Makes a Hero a Hero?

Time for a trip down your hero memory lane. Remember your first heroes?

Here are some of mine....

First there was Jim. Jim Rockford.

And his prototype, Magnum.

I also loved the mysterious Remington Steele.

Today my heart belongs to...

Harry Dresden (Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files)

Dear Frankie's, Gerard Butler.

My hero is usually an underdog, and a reluctant hero. While he may have a layer of charm and machismo, he is still a down on his luck sort of guy.

What kind of hero do you write?

Types of heroes:

• classic hero
• reluctant heroes
• loner heroes
• anti-heroes
• tragic heroes
• bad boy heroes

Care to add any to the list?

Heroes have also been defined this way:

Alpha:The type A personality, stubborn, hard as ice, take charge, leader.
Suzanne Brockmann describes the Alpha Male well in this interview.

Beta: The nice guy, boy next door. He's a nerd on the outside, but he'll take off his Clark Kent glasses when he's against the wall.

Author, Alicia Rasley adds Delta and Theta:

The Delta - the dark and dangerous. His past is so dark, so damaging, and combines with such a darker temperament that he exiles himself from society and takes on loner/outlaw status. His issues have to do with the past and how to overcome it - guilt, shame, rage, isolation versus need for love.... Delta means change, and these heroes most of all must change to be able to give and accept love freely.

The Theta - the wounded. Theta means both death and art. These are the wounded creators, the ones too sensitive to put on the Delta's armor, and too passionate about life to kill themselves. Their very vulnerability to life's suffering makes them creative. They can be artists or writers or healers, but their way of dealing with pain is to create with it. The Theta's issues have to do often with the self-destructive nature of the artistic temperament-- substance abuse, loneliness, the need to stay open to life without dying of the pain of it.

And still another way to define your hero comes from author, Barbara Dawson Smith:

1. The Beast--the facade of a lion, heart of a pussycat.
2. The Bad Boy--the hero with the shady past.
3. The Knight in Shining Armor--the "untarnished and honorable hero"
4. The Prig-the hero who gets taken down a peg by the heroine
5. The Charmer-"the light hearted hero"

But what makes a hero a hero?
We write romance so we might like our hero to have
• The ability to charm old ladies
• Laughing eyes
• Great smile
• Nice back pockets

Any you'd care to add?

From Bookbug, Jayne Ann Krentz defines a hero:

The fundamental qualities of a true hero are the ancient, heroic qualities: honor, courage, determination. Nothing has changed since the dawn of storytelling. We still look for the same things today in a hero.

The qualities that define a hero can include:
  • Bravery
  • Determination
  • Loyalty
  • Courage
  • Dedication
  • Intrepidity
  • Valor
  • Selfless
  • Conviction
  • Focused
  • Gallantry
  • Perseverance
  • Fortitude
  • Sacrifice

No matter how you define your hero or whether he is Thomas Magnum or Luke Skywalker, Joseph Campbell laid out the path he must take in The Hero With a Thousand Faces, further clarified in Christopher Vogler's The Hero's Journey.

1.Ordinary World - The hero's normal world before the story begins

2.Call to Adventure - The hero is presented with a problem, challenge or adventure

3.Refusal of the Call - The hero refuses the challenge or journey, usually because he's scared

4. Meeting with the Mentor - The hero meets a mentor to gain advice or training for the adventure and to get them past their fear of the adventure.

5. Crossing the First Threshold - The hero crosses leaves the ordinary world and goes into the special world. He has committed to the adventure.

6. Tests, Allies, Enemies - The hero faces tests, meets allies, confronts enemies & learn the rules of the special world. He is training for the final test.

7. Approach - The hero has hit setbacks during tests & may need to try a new idea

8. Ordeal - The biggest life or death crisis. Facing his biggest fears.

9. Reward - The hero has survived death, overcomes his fear and now earns the reward.

10. The Road Back - The hero must return to the Ordinary World with increased urgency.

11. Resurrection Hero - The final test, the hero has to use everything he's learned

12. Return with Elixir - The hero returns from the journey with the “elixir”, and uses it to help everyone in the Ordinary

To sum it up, what makes a hero is his acceptance of the call to adventure and overcoming trials in a way that requires courage and sacrifice -- and in a way that benefits the humanity in some way.

Looking good in blue tights is a plus.


Jessica said...

Yummy! Heroes! This is better than any croissants... uh, ahem. I'll be back later to check out this "informative" post.

Tina M. Russo said...

And good morning to you too.

There are chocolate covered croissants by the way.

Notice how my font went wacko on that post? Why does that happen.

Good morning Jessica and all of Seekerville. Time to wake up!!! It's Friday and I am freeee....freeee...freee.

BTW Camy's Genesis post was postponed. Will get it to you soon.

Julie Lessman said...

Oh, Tina, my FAVORITE subject -- HEROES!! I totally agree with Jessica -- what a "yummy" subject to sink our teeth into first thing on a Friday morning (no Twilight hero pun intended)!!!

God help me, I LOVE bad-boy heroes!! Way back in my day, dated more than a few and even married one, who actually was good boy with a bad-boy past (my favorite kind of hero!!).

In fact, I am so jaded in this bad-boy hero desire, that I had a real problem with the hero in my third book, A Passion Denied, because he is this Billy Graham-type hero who loves God, but is so squeaky clean, even I wasn't drawn to him. So I did the next best thing ... made him a REAL bad boy in his past, which always simmers just beneath the surface of the good-boy image, which to me is even more smoldering and exciting!!

Oh, and I love your choices for TV/movie heroes, Tina -- Magnum is STILL at the top of my list, pretty darn close to Rhett Butler ... :)

Great post ... as ALWAYS!!


Tina M. Russo said...

Okay so Blogger even if I do not believe in Friday the 13th. I am late for work..arrgh. Chat at you guys later.

Ruth Logan Herne said...


Echoing Jess and Jules...

Better than croissants, with or without chocolate and I never diss chocolate.

What a yummy 'brunch' you've served up, girlfriend. I sent this instantly to the printer and to my files so that I can access it visually...

And even closer, visually...


And I love how these guys are sorted out by profiles, yet so many profiles do a little cross-over.

There's just one word for a post like this, and I'm echoing Jessica:


Um, Coffee?? Who needs coffee at a time like this?


Sandra Leesmith said...

Oh my goodness. I'm with Jessica, Julie and Ruth. What a way to start the day. Drooling no less. And my favorite topic as well.

Don't you know when I stare at attractive men, I just tell everyone its research. smile. Then I turn to my hubby and let him know he's so perfect I have to get other info. Can't have every hero I write be him. Although he's pretty great. Like Jule's dh, a great guy who was a bad boy. So good fodder for heroes. And I know because we just celebrated 42 years last week.

Thanks Tina for starting our weekend with such fun thoughts to contemplate.

Janet Dean said...

Ah, Tina, love those photos! Yummy indeed.

What kind of heroes do I write? Hmm. Good men with bad boy pasts who carry the burden of a secret. I love secrets! Lots of conflict in a secret. :-)

Thanks for the croissants!


Gina Welborn said...

Now what the odds of a post being on heroes, when I went to bed thinking about my newest one and got up thinkng about him too and spent the last hour and a half trying to figure out his deepest secret.

He didn't want to tell me.

He insisted he didn't have one.

What is it with men and not talking?

Oooh. Gotta go write something down. He won't like it.

Patty Wysong said...

I made CERTAIN to be here for the Genesis post...and just look at what I found! Yumm. Just might have to leave this page up today...hmmm, better not since I have a lot to do. LoL.

Great post, Tina! This boils heroes down in a real simple way for us. Thank you! The Delta heroes made me think of Elizabeth Lowell and Linda Howard. Wowzers but those ladies know what to do with Delta types!

Melanie Dickerson said...

MMMM! Tina!!!!!!!! This is so fun!

Well, I've had a tragic hero and a classic hero, and my present WIP's hero is the perfect Beta--kind of nerdish but fierce when the need arises.

For some reason I have never written a bad-boy hero. I'm not sure if I can! I married a bad-boy turned good, but I have a hard time imagining him as a bad boy, since that was before I came along.

Anyway, I hope my heroes are yummy. I think they are, but they're good. Really, really good.

It's a fantasy world I live in, okay?

Oh, and I totally agree with Magnum and Remington Steele. My favorites, too!

Cathy Shouse said...


I realize now I'm stuck on Harrison Ford for a hero. I loved him in Indiana Jones. Your guys are a bit too polished looking for me :)

He was also good in "Working Girl." Remember the scene where he changes his long-sleeved white shirt at the office?

My favorite bad boy is Brad Pitt in Thelma and Louise. Nothing he has done since could compare!


Tina M. Russo said...

OMG this is such a technical difficulties day in Seekerville. I hope you are enjoying the changing font!!

One thing I realized as I am messing with it...I am a perfectionist. All my hero's are basically seat of the pants kind of guys. They would never remember to take out the trash would they?

They would bring me roses and chocolate for no reason and forget my birthday.

So I guess that's why we do not marry our heros.

Tina M. Russo said...



Myra Johnson said...

Fun post, Tina! Loved the descriptions of all the varieties and will have to take a closer look to see where my heroes usually fit in.

And I thought you did the font thing on purpose, for eye-catching emphasis.

Erica Vetsch said...

I now have that song "I Need A Hero" looping in my head.

My favorite characteristic in a hero is that he WILL do the right thing, even if it costs him. He has to have a strong code of honor and belief in right and wrong.

Hmm...kinda like my own beloved hero-husband. :)

Tina M. Russo said...

Erica, you're married to Bruce Willis? Are there going to be anymore Die Hard movies?

Leigh said...

Hi, ladies! I read the post this morning but haven't had time to come back all day. Oh well. Nothing like having to come back and look at Magnum again, but a girl does what she must. And then to have comments about Harrison Ford, who is another of my favorites ... nice Friday, Tina!

The lists are great! I didn't know what to call him before, but my current hero is a definite Beta with a bit of Artist thrown in. He told me last week that he likes to paint - who knew? :-)

I'm going to the Blue Ridge Conference in May and there's supposed to be a workshop on 'Creating the Perfect Hero for Your Heroine.' I'm looking forward to that!

Erica Vetsch said...

Hmm...Bruce Willis...more like Paul Bunyan. :)

Jessica said...

I actually just read through the post and loved these descriptions. I'm with Julie and Melanie, married a bad boy turned good. Sometimes though, he's still kinda bad. LOL A real rulebreaker.
Anyways, I'm having the same problem as Julie with my wip, where the hero pastor is just too good for my liking. Sigh.
My first hero ever was a Delta. Can you tell I read a lot of Linda Howard? lOL Did you all know that she's taking a break from writing? I hope when she comes back she really brings a bang, something like Cry No More or All the Queen's (or Kings) Men. Loved those books.
My second hero is kind of a prig. Actually, his character is not too clear. Probably why that story got rejected. LOL My just finished manuscript the hero is a bad boy. Title: The Bad Boy's Redemption. LOL
I love hearing about all of your heroes too!

tina pinson said...

Reposting here . . . don't know for sure what I did to take the last one off...

I would have to say. I've written the Alpha/Knight in Shining male, the prig, the beast, the charmer.

My Alphas usually run pretty tender. They're adventurers. But they take care of matters and their woman as well.

And you know they have to have those eyes that see to your soul, those arms strong enough to carry and tender enough to hug, a smile that's part angel and devil, a wink, that's part come hither and oh baby, and hair that's just a tad unruly. And don't forget the talk or the way they can be playful too.

Me thinks that's why people love the Tom Selleck and Harrison Ford types.

Tina M. Russo said...

Well, we can tell you're a writer, Tina. Nicely put. Sigh worthy even.

"And you know they have to have those eyes that see to your soul, those arms strong enough to carry and tender enough to hug, a smile that's part angel and devil, a wink, that's part come hither and oh baby, and hair that's just a tad unruly. And don't forget the talk or the way they can be playful too."

Tina M. Russo said...

I didn't know that about Linda Howard. I love her suspense, but I reread Mr. Perfect about once a year. Sam Donovan is one of my all time favorites. He is like Magnum P.I and Gerard Butler rolled into one.

mareva said...

Guess we all like the slightly bad hero. Blue tights don't do it for me, but a nice tuxedo, now we're talking. How young Selleck, and the others looked. It's nice to remember them like that. Somehow the hero is better in our memories..Although Sean Connery could probably make a heart flutter...
warm hugs,


Ruth Logan Herne said...

I had to go back to the list now that the younguns are all picked up and see what I write...

Knights in Shining Armor, Alpha style... Cade and Conor

Charmer... Craig

A Bad Boy/Knight in Shining Armor Cross... Jake and Brant and Boog

The Prig... Mitch

The Beast... Marc

This is interesting because I haven't ever laid them all out to examine their qualities like this. I always lumped them under Alpha/beta with a mix of are-ya'-kiddin'-me sexy thrown in.


So this was a fun exercise to make sure I'm not writing the same goon in every book.

And if they weren't all young enough to be my sons (dagnabbit!), I'd be falling in love time and again. As it is, I set them up with gals that know their way around a man, if not a kitchen.



Jessica said...

Ahhh, Mr. Perfect. Now that was a book that made me blush. LOL Do you know the best thing? I totally did not see the villain being who it was. Very twisty. :-)
So, I didn't realize intrepidity was a word. Cool.

Ann said...

Oh ... Tom Selleck.

Sorry, what did you all say?

Melanie Dickerson said...

Tina, I had to print this off to take with me on my long spring break trip. I need inspiration for my next hero, since I'm almost finished with the rough draft of my WIP. I need to percolate those ideas! I already know who my heroine is and her background, I just need a hero. :-)

Tina M. Russo said...

You guys are a hoot. Who knew Tom was seeing you the same time he was seeing me, Ann?

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Take that back, Tina. Tom wouldn't do that.

But what was he doing with that young chick on Friends????


Silly man.

Harrison Ford? Yummy early. Later stuff... I think he let his politics and something else get in the way of being the Han Solo/Working Girl heartthrob we all know and love.

Gerard Butler?

Oh my.

So surpised that Derek Jeter wasn't on this list, but that's right, he doesn't have to ACT sexy...

Oh mylanta, he just exudes it.

Crawling back under a rock.


Tina M. Russo said...

Finally I beat Blogger. The post is in normal font. Woooohooo.

Thanks for hanging in there with me ladies.

Missy Tippens said...

Sorry I'm late to the hero party. :)

I seem to write more beta heroes. But I'm just now finishing up on one who used to be the bad boy charmer who's now a single dad so can't be quite so charming when he's got pressures to provide.

They're all fun and wonderful in their own way! (But I'm still not too sure about the blue tights.)

Missy :)

Cheryl Wyatt said...

Yes...looking good in blue tights is a plus. LOL!

Great post. LOLOL!

Highly entertaining.

Tina M. Russo said...

Thanks, Squirl.