by Susan Dennard
Heroes. Real, genuine heroes — the people who live and breathe like the rest of us, but somehow stand apart. Stand taller. Earn our admiration and respect.
In Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, Donald Maass starts off by asking you to list your heroes. Why are they are your heroes? What about them is heroic — what qualities do they possess?
Then he goes on to tell you to try to infuse your story’s main characters with these qualities.
Can you do it? Can you name your heroes?
These are mine:
- Isaac Asimov
- He devoted his life whole-heartedly to the things he loved: writing and science. He wrote over 400 books, was a professor of biochemistry at Boston University, and paved the way for sci-fi writers of today.
- Gichin Funakoshi
- He was the father of modern karate. He devoted his life to “being a better human being”, to raising his family, and to developing Karate-do. (His autobiography is AMAZING, by the way.)
- My parents
- They’re generous, warm, and believe 100% in following your dreams. Mom & Dad are both devoted to doing the right thing and living their lives with happiness and love. (I know you’re groaning that I’ve listed my parents. But for realz, they’re cool people.)
Notice that all of my heroes have one thing in common: DEVOTION. Their lives revolved around what they believed in. They were productive and never gave up.
When I set out to write my own heroes (usually of the “heroine” persuasion), they always possess that one quality. No matter what, my protagonists will not give up. They are devoted to their goals, and they will keep trying, keep acting, keep working despite the obstacles before them.
In The Spirit-Hunters, my main character, Eleanor, is in waaaaay over her head. She’s a sheltered, high-society girl who’s spent most of her life chaperoned. Now her brother has been kidnapped by a necromancer, walking dead are lurking in Philadelphia, and she has no idea what to do to make this all okay again. But, she’s devoted to her brother; she’s devoted to rescuing him; and she’s devoted to doing whatever needs to be done. And because of that one quality, she’s a hero.
Who are your favorite heroes in novels?
You can look to your favorite story characters for inspiration too. You can no doubt guess that my favorite heroes/heroines are the ones that are devoted to TAKING ACTION! While I enjoyed Twilight, Bella Swan’s passiveness was not my style… All the same, the girl was 100% devoted to Edward! Now Katniss from The Hunger Games — that’s my kinda hero! Devoted to her family and to protecting the weak.
Of course, the protagonist needn’t be a tough-tamale like Katniss to appeal to me. One of my favorite heroines of all time is Anne Elliot from Jane Austin’s Persuasion. Anne is a soft-spoken sweetie, but she’s devoted to doing what’s right and being true to herself.
What about you?
Tell me your heroes — both real life and fiction. What qualities make them heroes? Do your own protagonists have these qualities?