Friday, April 30, 2010

NICE GUYS FINISH LAST?

My hero may have a problem.

The male protagonist in the book I’ve written is not a warrior or a starship captain or a half-cyborg assassin or a werewolf or any of a dozen other alpha male stereotypes. He’s a . . . um . . . psychiatrist. Granted, Ethan Roberts is a tortured psychiatrist with a shattered past who incidentally looks like Viggo Mortensen, but he’s a doctor nonetheless. He works in an office healing “crazy” people, not in the underworld killing crazy people. His primary characteristic is compassion. Courage is not far behind. But a “bad boy” he is not.

Can Ethan Roberts find love in today’s romance world? A world of shape-shifting animals and barely restrained demons, ancient monsters and time-traveling Celtic warriors, black ops agents and space pirates and cyborgs? Can a guy on a human scale compete, given only his heart, his brain, his limited ability to throw a punch?

SFR flag bearer Linnea Sinclair must have asked herself the same question when she wrote her latest novel, REBELS AND LOVERS. The hero in this fifth book of the Dock Five series is the youngest Guthrie brother, Devin, financial officer of the Guthrie business empire. That’s right, an accountant. He even wears glasses, though in the future he could easily arrange to do without them. But computer skills are not the only ones Devin possesses, and circumstances force him to bring all of his other talents into play to save his nephew and the woman he loves when his ordered life turns upside down.

Even an ordinary man can become a hero when the circumstances are right. A strait-laced financial officer or a psychiatrist with a past can find an inner strength to match any howling wolf when his family, or his woman, is threatened. That’s a message often lost in a formula that demands “strong woman tames savage beast”.

A college student recently interviewed me for a personal profile as a class assignment. She asked me to name my single favorite fictional hero. Now, that was a tough job, as you can guess. Jim Kirk, the perennial favorite? Robin Hood (no one forgets their first)? Finally I chose Aragorn from Tolkien’s LORD OF THE RINGS. Why? Because he's a quiet, introspective sort of hero, full of self-doubt. Others would follow him through the gates of Mordor, but he has to be convinced to take on the leadership role. Yet when Boromir or Theoden challenge him for the alpha position, his own qualities shine through. There's no need for growling or snapping, the other dogs just recognize. Ask the Dog Whisperer what that’s all about.

Aragorn takes up his sword and the leadership of the Fellowship because Arwen believes in him. He takes up his destiny because her life is in the balance. And becomes a hero.

Maybe that’s the point here. In traditional literature we expect the characters to take a journey, to undergo a change. The change happens not just between the hero and the heroine, who meet and fall in love and fight and reconcile and grow together, but also within the two people themselves. Each of them must overcome their own fears and doubts and anger and reluctance on a journey to becoming more complete human beings, more genuine heroes of their own personal stories.

Sometimes it’s refreshing to give the guy something other than anger or lack of emotion to overcome. “Alpha” males can be fascinating characters, but perhaps we’ve stereotyped them to the point of meaninglessness. Heroes come in many shapes, sizes, colors, personality types, moods and, yes, professions. Men, after all, are people, too, even when they are busy saving their women.

Meanwhile, I think Ethan has a fair chance of making it. He gets to let out his anger a few times in the book. He even gets to throw a few well-timed punches. He burns up a lot of energy in bed, as every good romantic hero should. In the end, he protects his woman. And she loves him. Man, does she love him.

Maybe not such a problem after all.

Cheers, Donna

Ethan's story, UNCHAINED MEMORY, is currently seeking representation. Read the excerpt at SFR Previews.

7 comments:

  1. Donna, such a fine post. I love that your hero is not the typical alpha male. If you ask me who my favorite fictional hero is, that would be Daniel Jackson from SG1 hands down. Intelligent, glasses, sexy. Oh yes. I would be his heroine any day!

    Your book and your hero sound wonderful. Good luck on your search.

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  2. Great post, Donna. Your hero sounds perfect to me. I like alpha heroes well enough, but my favorites have always been the smart, strong, quiet types. I think that might be why I've always been drawn to Sci-fi romance--more room for many different types of heroes.

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  3. Superb post, Donna. One of my favorite SFR heroes is Sgt. Terry Myell in THE OUTBACK STARS. Also not an admiral, captain, commander, Navy seal, pirate or super-being, just a guy trying to do his job--and what an incredible job he does as the hero, much like your Ethan.

    I love a reluctant hero. Wish their were more of them.

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  4. You've made Ethan sound fascinating Donna and the fact that I have a story with a guy of the same name helps!! Mine is an FBI agent though.
    I don't like heroes to be too alpha and aggressive or at a least not if they are matched with weak females. Always an interesting balance to strike.
    Very interesting post!

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  5. Great post. I think your hero has a chance. I like heroes like that too.

    My favorite hero is still Han Solo. Next is the Doctor in Doctor Who, then Captain Jack Harkness. None of them are traditional Alpha Heroes.

    In novels my favorite will always be Paul Atreides from Dune. He was a hero for his mind, vision, and charisma.

    I've always loved the reluctant heroes. The smart, quiet ones that don't look like Fabio.

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  6. Aaaaaah, yes! Muad'Dib! What a great iconic reluctant hero he is.

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  7. Thanks, everybody! Ethan is feeling much better!

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