as a writer I tend to read quite a lot. I read for research so that I know my market and am aware of what other writers are doing in the same or similar genres and I read for pleasure. I’ve noticed though that most writers tend to make their hero a flawed character and I’m not sure that I’m totally in favour of this concept.
If it’s done well it can add flavour and depth to the character, of that there is no doubt but, and I can’t stress this enough, in my opinion sometimes it can be overdone.
I recently read a book where the character was so flawed, had so many issues going on in his life that it was a wonder he could dress himself in the morning let alone solve the complex case he was working on and catch the bad guy at the end. For me this kind of writing detracts from the total enjoyment of the story. You begin to lose credibility in the protagonists ability to fulfil his or her goals and, again, in my opinion, this is a waste of the reader’s time.
I’m not saying that the hero of a story should be some kind of Superman with no flaws or character defects or weaknesses because that would just make them bland and wooden. I have no qualms about making the protagonist a superman or superwoman either as long as they are real people. Instead what I am saying is that I prefer my hero’s to be dependable, someone who can be relied upon to get the job done. I like to put my character’s through as much hell as possible, put them in as much danger as I can, make them worry about those around them even if they are not worried about their own survival but always have them come out the other end in one piece. I like my hero to be a solid rock that you can rely upon, that you know when he or she are around that things will work out fine. That may be an old-fashioned ideal but for me it works. Things tend to work in cycles, they are in fashion, go out of fashion and pretty soon are back in again. I think it’s time for that kind of hero to re-emerge once more.
One of my favourite authors, David Gemmell was once asked about the hero’s in his novels, why they were like they were, large, strong men who could be depended upon to which he replied with a story from his childhood. He told the interviewer that as a child he suffered from horrific nightmares, monsters chasing him or something like that and his step father, I think his name was Bill, asked him about them. The young Gemmell reluctantly told him expecting ridicule. Bill simply listened and said nothing. Later that night when he awoke from being chased by some monster he found his step father sitting at the foot of his bed. Young David asked if he saw it and was told that he had indeed seen the monster but he had broken its neck and it would never bother him again. Now I’m not sure how much truth there is in that but I do know that he was brought up by his step father, Bill Woodford who got him into boxing to defend himself against bullies who picked on him. Later when asked to describe him Gemmell said that men like him were safe harbours of childhood, they are the watch-hounds who keep the wolves at bay. He based many of his hero’s on Bill and later after Bill’s death he reworked one of his books to give the Bill character centre stage.
Those are the kind of hero’s I want in my books, they are the kind of hero’s we all need in our lives and I think it’s time we brought them back.
See you all soon,