Monday, September 21, 2020

Who is the Hero of Your Story?

Who is the hero of your favorite story?

Gilbert Blythe from the Anne of Green Gables series? John McClain from Die Hard? Prince Philip from Sleeping Beauty?

*Just for this blog post, I’m only mentioning heroes, even though everything I will say pertains to heroines, too!

Here’s my definition of a hero:

A hero is someone who is willing to give up the most precious thing in his or her life for the good of someone else.

Let’s look at the heroic examples I listed above –

1. Gilbert Blythe: We all love Gilbert, don’t we? He’s the perfect match for Anne, even when they were youngsters in school. But what makes him a hero? When his father died and he was orphaned, Gilbert was willing to make the sacrifices he needed to in order to continue his schooling to become a doctor – to help others live rather than die the way his father had.

2. John McClain: What makes John McClain a hero is not his ability to walk across broken glass barefoot (I hate that scene!) but that he is willing to sacrifice his own safety (and potentially his life) to pursue the bad guy to the end for the sake of his wife and the other hostages in the Nakatomi Tower, and in the process restore his marriage.

3. Prince Philip from Sleeping Beauty (the Disney version): Okay, Philip has the advantage of living in a fairy tale and so he has no flaws. But he did risk life and limb to fight Evil (in the form of Maleficent, Disney's greatest villain) in order to save Aurora and restore the kingdom to life.

My favorite fictional story is The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien, and the hero is Samwise Gamgee.

I can hear you now: “Sam? I thought the hero was Aragorn, or Frodo!”

Nope. Sam. Bear with me while I make my case.

Sam is the character that the story revolves around. He’s an unwilling participant in the vast story-world of Middle-Earth that is in danger of being consumed by evil. Frodo, Aragorn, Gandalf, Elrond, and all the other characters have their parts to play, and all are heroic. All make sacrifices for the good of others. All are willing to give up what is most precious to them for the greater good.

But Sam – the gardener from the Shire – gives up the most precious things of all:

His home – leaving the Shire when he hadn’t traveled more than a dozen miles from his house in his lifetime.
His family – leaving his elderly father behind, as well as Rosie Cotton.
His goals – in the Shire he was a gardener and friend of Frodo. All he wanted was a home, children to raise, and a bit of garden to raise his vegetables. When he set off on the quest, he didn’t have any other goal than to help Frodo take the Ring as far as he needed to take it.

And when it came to the most daring sacrifice of all - - -

Sam was the only ring-bearer who gave up the ring without reservation.

Without Sam, Frodo wouldn’t have been able to finish the journey to Mount Doom.
Without Sam, Frodo wouldn’t have had the strength to walk to the precipice of the fire.
Without Sam, the quest would never have been accomplished.
Without Sam, the story would never have come to its necessary conclusion of restoration.
All would have been lost.

Samwise Gamgee is definitely my favorite hero in literature. I even named my border collie puppy after him, even though at eight months old, he's more of a Tigger than a Samwise!

We’ve discussed some fictional heroes, but are there any real-life heroes?
Of course. We see them every day.
I hope some of the people closest to you fit in that category - my favorite real-life hero has always been my dear husband.

And, of course, the epitome of the hero is our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the true example for all other heroes to follow. Think of his life and sacrifice for us!

How does this relate to our writing?

Every story has a hero. If you’re wondering who it is in your book, look for the pivotal character (in a romance, there is both a hero and a heroine.)

As you develop your hero character, identifying his flaws, his strengths, and his motivations, add one more thing: make him willing to sacrifice what is most precious to him for the good of others.

In the comments, tell us about your hero. What will he or she sacrifice for someone else?

One commenter will be in the drawing for a copy of my October 20 release, "Softly Blows the Bugle."

What is the book about?

When Elizabeth Kaufman received the news of her husband's death at the Battle of Vicksburg in 1863, she felt only relief. She determined that she would never be at the mercy of any man again, even if it meant she would never have a family of her own. Then Aaron Zook comes home with her brother when the war ends two years later.

Despite the severity of his injuries, Aaron resolves to move West and leave the pain of the past behind him. He never imagined that the Amish way of life his grandfather had rejected long ago would be so enticing. That, and a certain widow he can't get out of his mind.

Yet, even in a simple community, life has a way of getting complicated. Aaron soon finds that while he may have left the battlefield behind, there is another fight he must win--the one for the heart of the woman he loves.
Welcome back to the Amish community at Weaver's Creek, where the bonds of family and faith bind up the brokenhearted.
Available for pre-order! Links are on my website:


  1. Hi Jan:

    I think a hero on the battlefield, like any of the 300 Spartans, can be heroic and yet totally unfit to be a hero in a romance. A battlefield hero may be willing to die for his unit and country and still be a lousy husband, mean to little kids, stingy, and harmfully self-centered and otherwise lacking in good citizenship.

    To me a romance hero must be a standup guy, honorable, kind, caring, brave, forgiving, in other words, except for a flaw or two, should be a self-actualizing human being.

    I particularly like the heroes in "The Lawman's Second Chance", "The Price of Victory", and "A House Full of Hope". It is not so much that these men are willing to die for others but rather that they are willing to live for them and willing to live a lifetime rather than just a moment before death.

    But then I am being romantic in my assessment. :)


    1. Vince, thanks for mentioning my story's hero!

    2. Thanks for making that distinction, Vince!

      A battlefield hero is in a class all his own. I've never been in a life or death situation like that, but I've heard that in a battle, a soldier's unit is everything. His sacrifice of life and limb is focused on that unit and the job they need to do.

      A fictional hero can and should be different - the heroic qualities encompass the whole man, and we don't see him beyond the story. :-)

  2. Jan, this ties into what Debby was saying last week, how do you guys DO that?
    Sam was the hero of LOTR because he played a bad hand really, really well. Imagine what a husband he would be to Rosie, and a father to their children! He had a pure heart and he loved without reservation.
    I have a number of favorite heroes, can't think of a particular one off the top of my head, but it's early yet.
    Off to Bible study.
    May be back later.

    1. Kathy, I noticed the same theme as well. It's a great tie-in!

    2. How do we create those tie-ins? Serendipity. I wrote this blog post long before Debby posted hers - they just happened to go together!

      I love your description of Sam, "He had a pure heart and he loved without reservation." Perfect. And that's what makes him the hero of LOTR.

  3. The hero of my story is my husband right now, as he has sacrificed our time together to take my mom in and I’m now a full time caregiver. We can’t go anywhere together as I have no family close to help me. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Lucy, your husband sounds amazing. And you are, too! I pray that God gives you all you need to take care of your sweet mom.

    2. My husband is my hero, too. They sacrifice so much that we often never see! Praying for you during this season.

    3. God bless your hubby, Lucy. And God bless you! Your mom is blessed, for sure.

      BTW, did you see that you won a book? Send your address to Seekerville. Okay?

  4. Jan, my newest hero, due out next spring, is a convicted felon who went to jail for a crime he didn't commit to protect his sister... and now he hires former felons for his construction company, to give a hand up-- not a hand out.

    I love this facet of him, that sacrificial love, but I would have loved this guy even if he'd been guilty because the beauty of second chances is that they exist and that we should always appreciate that opportunity.

    And I can't wait to read this book!!!!

    1. Yes! Your hero could have spent the rest of his life hiding in a corner and licking his wounds, but he doesn't. He steps forward. Takes on the hard job. Redeems his life. I'm in love with him already!

    2. Nice, Ruthy! I know the book will touch readers everywhere! Can't wait till it releases.

    3. Ruthy, I LOVE stories about people who go to jail to protect someone else.

    4. Ruth: Does your spring book have a title yet? That is a theme I really enjoy. I also like it when the hero went to jail and was guilty. He has changed. The book, "Autumn Rain," has such a hero and it is my favorite Myra book.

      I think for really great heroes, for a man reading romances, are Maureen Child's Marines and Debby's CID men. These are 'real' men in the eyes of other men. But then I must admit that romance authors are very good at crafting heroes I like. I only have problems with heroes I would not want to be (and heroines I would not want to marry) :)

  5. Jan, what a great post! I think you're so right about Samwise. I was a little surprised by that at the end, but it resonated with me.

    Something great to think about with my characters!

    1. Thanks, Missy!

      I've been using Samwise as an example as I've been developing the hero of my next story (a cowboy preacher.) The one characteristic of Sam's that my hero needs to develop is his humility, and my heroine is just the person to knock him off his high horse!

  6. Wonderful post, Jan. It think part of the reason we're drawn to sacrificial heroes is because of Jesus. As you said, He paid the ultimate sacrifice. But it's that unselfish love that pulls us in. One of the first times I heard Liz Curtis Higgs speak she was sharing her testimony and talked about going to church with some "new Christians" just to get them off her back. After hearing the story of Jesus' sacrificial love, she looked at the wife and said something to the affect of, "If only there was a man willing to die for me." The woman looked at her and said, "Liz, a man did die for you." And so her journey began. A sacrificial hero is tough to beat.

    1. That story gives me happy chills! We never know when a comment (in person or in one of our books) will open the door of understanding to someone. What a privilege, blessing, and responsibility!

  7. Hi Jan,
    I also think that Sam is the true hero of Lord of the Rings, without him Frodo won't have been able to finish his mission.

    1. Can you imagine the story without him? In the beginning (especially in the movie version,) he seems like he was cast as the comic relief. But as the story moves forward, we see Samwise for the hero he is!

  8. Loved this blogpost, Jan. And we do seem to be in sync this month. :)

    Someone last week mentioned Francine Rivers' REDEEMING LOVE. The hero, Michael Hosea, is willing to sacrifice everything for Angel. She leaves him repeatedly, but he always searches for her, forgives her and never stops loving her.

    1. Yes, he is a true hero! Just like Hosea in the Bible. :-)

    2. Debby: if you like the hero in "Redeeming Love", I think you'd also like the hero in "The Atonement Child". I don't know how the hero could have shown more love for a heroine.

  9. I had a Border Collie/English Shepherd mix twenty years ago. Mandy was one of the best dogs we ever had except that she liked to circle cars that were moving! She thought cars were sheep, I guess.

    When I was in college a million years ago, we had to read the entire Tolkien trilogy in one week and write a paper on it. It was for senior seminar. I never wanted to hear about any hobbit again. But years later I saw the movie Lord of the Rings and liked it.

    Your book sounds wonderful!

    1. That reminds me of when I had to read Moby Dick over Thanksgiving weekend for a college course. How can a person read and understand works like that in such a short time? I never did like that professor, LOL!

      And Border Collies and cars - that herding instinct is so strong, isn't it? I've taught Sam to lie down and "wait" when a car goes by so that he doesn't try to run after it. But you should see him with our neighborhood deer! He's trained them to gather together when we walk by, just by fixing them with that Border Collie eye.

  10. When I think of heroes I automatically think of Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy of the infamous Pride and Prejudice story. He sacrificed his position, his reputation, his riches all in the name of love. Le sigh. Hahahahaha I love how his character is completely redeemed by the end of the novel. This story doesn't get old. :) Thanks for sharing Jan!

    1. Someday, I'm going to have to read Pride and Prejudice! It's one of those books I've never picked up, but I have a kindle copy. Another one to add to my Must Be Read list!

  11. Reading what you wrote about Samwise gave me chills, Jan. A very cool assessment.

    As for current hero of my soon to be released novel Her Secret Song is a gunman who is trying to change his life.

    Wax Mosby is living a life that leads to death. If he wants to stay alive he'd got to change.

    And with this knowledge that to live by his gun is to die by it ... eventually, he asks God to forgive him and vows to never kill again.

    At some point he is forced to kill or watch the woman his loves be killed so he fights.
    Afterward he is heartbroken. He's failed. He's broken his vow to God.

    And the heroine says, "That's what forgiveness is for. You failed. You need to start again right now, again with the vow. That's why Jesus died. So we don't have to die in our sins."

    Wax Mosby is a really good hero through out the book. Ursula is a recluse.
    The tag line I'm sort of using right now is: The woman afraid of everything falls in love with the scariest man alive.

    1. When I met Wax Mosby in Aiming for Love, I was hoping you'd develop his character through the series. I can't wait to read Her Secret Song!

      And I love that tag line. It's a keeper. :-)

    2. Mary - I LOVE Wax and Ursula's story!!!!
      (I was able to read and review through NetGalley). Wax is a wonderful hero

  12. Jan, I love thinking about some of my favorite heroes. I agree with you about Samwise Gamgee, and just last night at dinner, my family had a discussion of who was the hero in LOTR and Samwise came up often. I love beta heroes and love movies where the beta hero gets the girl (I'm thinking Jack in While You Were Sleeping and possibly even George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life as Harry might be considered more of an alpha hero because of his war service), and I love romance novels. Can I plug my latest hero? In my new book, the hero is hailed as "The Hero of Hollydale" but he doesn't want any credit. He was only doing his job. Sometimes I think humility and modesty go a long way. Thanks for the post.

    1. Oh, that's certainly true, Tanya. I think that a hero without humility isn't much of a hero!


If you have trouble leaving a comment, please "clear your internet cache" and try again. You can find this in your browser settings under "clear history."