Tuesday, July 3, 2007

My first blog entry

Yup, it’s my very first. That’s ironic, too, because in addition to being an author, I’m also a web site designer/developer. I’ve set up plenty of blogs and done troubleshooting on many more. But I’ve never written a blog entry before myself.

I’ve spent the past few days trying to decide what I would write about. Tomorrow’s U.S. Independence Day holiday led me to consider an essay on my feelings about my country. But that risks getting too political. I'm not ready to go there.

Instead I decided to tackle a topic I’ve been thinking about for the last week or so. What makes a character in a book memorable?

I’m especially interested in memorable heroes. Literary fiction is full of them…Ishmael, Heathcliff, Cyrano, etc. But then part of the purpose of literary fiction is to illuminate character, so it’s hardly surprising.

What about heroes in the genres I read: fantasy, science fiction, mystery and romance? Certainly I've read some memorable ones. In fantasy, Aragorn, Frodo, Harry Dresden and Harry Potter come quickly to mind. Science fiction gives use Miles Vorkosigan and Paul Atreides. In mystery you have Philip Marlowe, Sam Spade, Hercule Poirot, Nero Wolfe and his sidekick, Archie Goodwin.

And in romance? I’ve tried to quickly think of memorable heroes from romance or romantic novels I’ve read in the last couple of years. I have to admit, first of all, that I don’t read a lot of romance novels, and the ones that I do tend to cross over into other genres. But I do pick up the occasional historical romance and I’ve recently been on a bit of a Lisa Kleypas glom, mostly because she writes some really wonderful heroes. My favorites so fare are Derek Craven and St. Vincent. Then there's Loretta Chase’s Mr. Impossible, Rupert Carsington. In futuristic romance, Linnea Sinclair has contributed two memorable heroes in Gabriel “Sully” Sullivan and Branden Kel Paten. And in the urban fantasy dept. Kelley Armstrong’s werewolf hero, Clayton Danvers, and all of J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood guys have stuck with me.

So… What do they all have in common? I’m still working on that.

One thing that strikes me is that they all have multiple layers and unexpected depths or sides to their personalities. None of them is a stock romantic hero. Craven is not an aristocrat and not even a gentleman in any sense of the word when we first meet him. St. Vincent is one in name only. Both have the seeds of heroism within them, though it’s not obvious right away. But they grow into it and the author convincingly shows them developing it.

None of the men I’ve listed above are heroes from the central casting hero mold as are too many of the characters I’ve read about. Sully and Kel Paten aren’t obviously heroes at the beginning of their books either. It’s even possible that they’re the villains, and it takes a while for the heroine and the reader to discover the worth of the men they are.

And then there’s Clay Danvers. It’s hard to even call him a hero, yet in some ways he fills the bill better than many others I’ve listed here. He’s movie-star handsome, brilliant, protective of his family and devoted to Elena. Of course, he’s also mean, ruthless and even vicious. Prince Charming? Not exactly.

Neither are J.R. Ward’s heroes, except maybe Rhage. Or he might be--if it weren’t for that little demon problem of his. Certainly Zsadist, Butch and Wrath wouldn’t qualify. Butch is an alcoholic, Wrath is blind and--at least initially—running away from his responsibilities, and Zsadist is…a mess.

It’s not just that these are wounded heroes, either. It’s not obvious at first glance that any of them really are heroes. What really grabs me, I think, is watching how the heroines discover the hero within the men that attract them, especially when it's not obvious it's even there. And how the men grow to become true heroes.

I’m nowhere near finished with this topic, but I’ve gone on long enough. So… if anyone’s out there and interested… Who are your most memorable heroes? Why?

5 comments:

J L said...

Two of my favorite male characters are Melrose Plant and Richard Jury from the Martha Grimes series of books. I particularly like Plant, who is a member of British aristocracy except he relinquished his title and thus is not "Lord Ardry" except when it's convenient.

They're interesting characters. In fact, I venture to say they're more interesting than their author is allowing them to be. I've stuck with them for more than twenty years now and I have come to enjoy them more than the stories they're embroiled in.

Jaynie R said...

Roarke.

Pretty much does it all for me lol. I love him and he's one of the reasons I'm addicted to Nora writing as JD Robb.

N.J.Walters said...

I tend to remember the anti-heroes, like the Black Dagger Brotherhood. They don't really want to be anyone's hero, yet the seeds are within them.

Christine Feehan's Carpathians are like that too, as well as Kenyon's Dark Hunters.

J.C. Wilder said...

If I had to pick a romance hero, it would have to be Wolf from Linda Howard's Mackenzie's Mountain.

I realize that now this novel seems very dated, but I still love this alpha male and his innate sense of honor - he's just YUMMY!

Kati said...

your sexy