Saturday, December 16, 2006

Once Upon a Hero

Holy Hysteria, Batman!

Been reading through Miss Snark's Happy Hooker Crapometer.
While I generally agree with the ones she doesn't like, will have to re-read the ones she does to wiggle out what sets them apart and above the others.

Since Miss Snark does not represent romance, SF or fantasy, and warned the Snarklings they submit such at their own risk, we're fishing in restricted waters here.

Nevertheless, there is a decided absence of heroes - which, I've come to understand, is a very different thing from protagonist - and an astounding plethora of psychologically impaired Main Characters.
Helpless, reactive, weak, victimized, desperate central figures.
The sort of dreary types I'd cross the street to avoid.
Bunch of wimps.
Getting really tired of them.
Tired of reading like a social worker.
My sympathy quotient has hit overload.
Will XXX find the inner strength to overcome his/her personal demons? - finds me rooting for the demons. When events spin out of control, I want to accelerate the cyclotron. When their world falls apart, I have the urge to kick the pieces under the couch.

Me wants a few heroes.
Think that's why I like Lee Child's novels. Jack Reacher is a hero.
Be nice to see some characters who's strengths propel the plot rather than their weaknesses dictating the action.


Anonymous said...

I just finished reading DeMille's Wild Fire. John Corey is my type of hero. He's a down to earth retired NYPD detective, who follows his hunches.

Bernita said...

Sounds like one I could enjoy, Steve.

Erik Ivan James said...


spyscribbler said...

I've only read the Persuader. (Ohmigosh, loved it. It's in first person POV, but I think he only uses the word "I" two or three times in the first chapter. At least, that's what it felt like!)

Hmmm ... you're right. You're right. Even the Hero's Journey method of plotting requires a hero. Where did all the heroes go? And how do you know a hero right off the bat, so that he/she looks like a hero, even in the blurb?

(The Jack Reacher novels certainly do it on the back, but who else?)

MissWrite said...

rooting for the demons, accelerate the cyclotron, kick the pieces under the couch. I'm laughing so hard here.

December Quinn said...

Will XXX find the inner strength to overcome his/her personal demons? - finds me rooting for the demons.

Hey now...

Bernita said...

Thought you might agree, Erik!

Think the heroes have been lost in a morass of angst and a misuse of the meaning of conflict, Spy.

Happy Saturday, Tami!

Tired of characters who are "sow's ears," December.
Now, your "Black Dragon" has a real hero.

Rick said...

Go Demons Go!

The Crapometer, as always, is the sigh-of-relief counterpoint to Agent Kristin's dreadful statistics.

Bernita said...

At least as far as query letters go, Rick.

Ric said...

We like quiet heroes, those whose strength of character, values deeply rooted, step forward into the fray and succeed.

I think much of the current crop is a result of society. Individuals are no longer required to take responsibility for themselves. They can blame their parents, other people, companies, whatever. "I'm a selfish introvert because my mother didn't hug me enough."
"I'm fat because McDonalds serves fattening food."

Since a majority of people believe this claptrap, it's only reasonable to find it in their writings.

Gabriele C. said...

Tired of reading like a social worker.

I'm so with you, and that's why I bought some good ol' Sword and Sorcery books for Christmas. Where the men are men. :)

Daddy said...

Based on Steve's recommendation, I'm going to read Wild Fire. My favorite hero is Mitch Rapp, the big stud in Vince Flynn's thrillers. Vince writes soap-operas on steroids for guys.

anna said...

laughing with Miss Write!
never read a Lee Child. Must put them on my Must Read list. Yep way too many wimpy non hero types around

Bernita said...

Well said, Ric.
Though I don't care if the hero is quiet or loud as long as he/she has principles and guts.

Find myself seeking out or re-reading the same, Gabriele!

Bernita said...

Never read those, Daddy.
I'll look for them.

Jack Reacher is a Walkin'Dude, Anna, the eternal stranger.

raine said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I may be wrong, but I think a lot of this is due to the fact that authors believe this is what publishers are LOOKING for. And in many cases they are. I spent months and months subbing to a publisher who kept asking me for 'more internal conflict, more about his childhood, this character needs a chink more or two...'
Yes, I want them to be interesting and multi-dimensional, but must they all be head cases?

And I'd be interested in knowing the difference between a 'hero' and 'protagonist'?

bunnygirl said...

I think much of the current crop is a result of society. Individuals are no longer required to take responsibility for themselves.

I think you may be on to something, Ric!

Of course all good three-dimensional characters have some kind of inner demons. But there seems to be a whiny, self-absorbed, self-pitying element to all these modern Judes and Hamlets. It's irritating, and it's one of the reasons I rarely read recent fiction.

I don't mind a hero who has moments of self-doubt, frustration or even despair. Achilles could sulk like nobody's business. But when navel-gazing is the primary character trait, I'm gone. Give me Candide or Jean Valjean any day. Give me Odysseus.

Rick said...

As far as queries go, yes, but that seems to be a very big filter - Agent Kristin only requested 54 fulls, and bought 7 of them. (She doesn't say how many partials she requested.)

On the hero deficit, perhaps people are writing what they think they "should" be writing - the sort of books that get touted in the media as Serious Lit, meaning pretty much the sort that Oprah used to pimp for. Rarely a fun book in that bunch!

Bernita said...

Strictly speaking, Raine, there isn't a difference between the terms, they are considered synonyms.
I've played with semantics to support my point.

Well said, Bunnygirl.
The negatives seem to have taken over, almost if there's a societal self-disgust.

raine said...

...I've played with semantics to support my point.

Good point.

raine said...

...I've played with semantics to support my point.

Good point.
Good point.

kmfrontain said...

Isn't it odd. The head cases used to be the villain: people who react to their traumatic past and make miserable those in the present with them. The villian was often a person who just couldn't see reason because of his mental flaws, his mind too stuck in past woes. And here we have them becoming heroes, or anti-heroes, or whiner heroes. Tight third person POV will do that to a hero. Personally, I think there are times to step back and be a bit more distant about a character. Sometimes we shouldn't get into their head. Sometimes we only need a little mention that the hero suffered a tragic early beginning. We need to see it from a distance.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Raine.

So true, Karen.
Am sick of the motif that past suffering twists or hampers everybody.
It can also make them stronger.

cyn said...

i'm writing about a heroine! yay! =D love the post as always, bernita.

writtenwyrdd said...

Bernita, the type of characters you are disliking are the sort of ones you often find in Literature (captal intended). We genre nuts are the ones who don't mind the hero silliness.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Cyn.

Written...which is why I avoid it. But am finding it way too often in genre as well.

Zany Mom said...

Maybe it's because some of the true hulking heroes have become cliche, and readers are looking for the reluctant hero? The one who doesn't know he's a hero until life's rug is pulled out from under him?

I personally enjoy stories where people pull themselves up by their bootstraps to deal with the crap life dishes out, as long as they're not wallowing in self-pity, or whiny, etc.

Which is why I'm teary eyed at the trailer for the Pursuit of Happyness...Okay, I'm a sap.

Bernita said...

Nothing wrong with a reluctant hero, Zany Mom, many of the "hulking heroes" are of that sort.

writtenwyrdd said...

the reluctant heros are the sane ones, lol!

I agree with kmfrontain about the villians of yesterday becoming the heros of today. Superhero as rock of sanity (Batman, superman) versus Villian as crazed loon (Joker, King Tut, or even the nemesis in The Incredibles)