"Wherever men have lived there is a story to be told." Henry David Thoreau

Monday, May 13, 2013

Heroes and Anti-Heroes

One of the authors I grew up reading was Louis L’Amour. In his book, Sackett’s Land, he said, “A man needs heroes. He needs to believe in strength, nobility, and courage.” The heroes in L’Amour’s books all very much met this criteria. You could say that Louis’s heroes were the “white hat” guys, even (if they didn’t wear white hats). They didn’t have vices or demons or even insecurities and doubts. They walked a straight path and they always knew exactly where that path was going. The only time they got side-tracked was if they had to fight the bad guys or help out another good guy. Even the old westerns we used to see on TV in the 50s and 60s (okay, I’m giving away my age here), were all about the quintessential hero.

Then something happened. The anti-hero emerged. He was the hero who had goodness deep in his soul but he wasn’t perfect. He battled right and wrong and stepped over the line frequently because the line wasn’t always clear.  He had vices and demons, and he’d made his share of mistakes in his life. As a matter of fact, he was still making mistakes and trying to overcome those vices and demons. He didn’t wear a white hat. He probably didn’t even own one. He was the imperfect guy all of us imperfect people could relate to. He was the bad boy the ladies fell in love with because they thought they could reform him. Some didn’t even care if they accomplished that; they just wanted him because he stirred their blood in a way the “straight and narrow” guy couldn’t.

In today’s literature and films, the anti-hero is predominant. And not just westerns, of course. But, as westerns go, he has appeared in such western movies as Unforgiven and Lonesome Dove. The TV series Justified and Longmire have wonderful anti-heroes. I’ve found first-hand this to be true with my own books. The stories with the flawed heroes are the ones the readers have liked the most: Seth Sackett in Came A Stranger; Nathaniel Brannigan in Desire’s Treasure; Jim Rider in Mountain Ecstasy. Tyler Chanson in Tyler’s Woman; Keane Trevalyan in The Turquoise Sun; and Dev Summers in The Last Rodeo. They’re all men who have vices, demons, pasts that haunt them, or they have a little (or a lot) of that bad boy in their personality.

I’ll admit, I have an easier time making my men imperfect than I do my women, but it’s just as important for our women who have a few of their own inner struggles, dark pasts, secrets, and vices. Things they need to face or overcome in the course of our stories--or at least be dealing with successfully. So, make a conscious effort to bring imperfection into your characters. Anti-heroes and heroines are more fun to write about. And they are definitely what readers nowadays want in their characters.


Anonymous said...

Love this blog, Linda. Always had a soft spot for the Bad Boy. They are more fun to write about, dream about, etc. And I do love the Anti-heroes in your books.
Sue Anne

Anonymous said...

Another great blog, Linda. No wonder your books are so much fun to read! By-the-way, I love the new cover to Raveled Ends of Sky!


Oh, yes, I wanted to point out that, like me, you watched those old 50s and 60s TV shows when they played on cable.

Linda Sandifer said...

Thanks for your comments, Sherry and Sue Anne. Glad you like the new ebook cover. I hope to have it available by June.

Will Edwinson said...
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