“Your hero’s a jerk.” [Fearless]

A friend of mine asked to read my latest project, which happens to be Fearless. I don’t usually share my work with people I trust so early in the game, but I offered him the first two (draft) chapters, mostly just to shut him up.

It didn’t.

What I got back was an earful. He made some good points, but this had to be my favorite critique: The best friend is more likable than the hero. To quote: “Your hero’s a jerk.”

That one actually made me grin. Because yes, he is. But, that’s a big part of the story.

One of the things I love about my main characters is that they’re flawed. Some more than others, of course, but I try to help them all grow. That’s the beautiful thing about heroes and heroines. They’re like you and me (sometimes scarily so), but, over the course of the story, they push themselves to be better people. They don’t always get what they want, but they’re stronger men and women for the effort.

Which is why it’s so much fun to write them as jerks in the beginning:

Ross felt a grin creep to his face. Then he raised his free arm and called out, “Mornin’, Beth!”

Neville clicked his tongue, muttering, “Grow up.”

Ross ignored him, swinging his board up as he approached both fruit and filly. He bent his head, offering the Crispins’ youngest daughter a leering smile. “You look as scrumptious as those apples!” he told her.

Beth laughed and blushed bright red under her kerchief. “Thank you,” she said, her voice mostly squeal.

It took some effort for Ross to keep his smile in place; hopefully, that voice would one day mature as nicely as her tits had already done. Still, he wasn’t interested in her, just the apples, so he offered her a charming flare of his nostrils and asked, “Think you could let us have a taste?”

What do you like best about your main character(s)? Are they the ones who grow over the story, or do they spur the growth in others?

7 Comments

Filed under Excerpts, Process, WIP: Fearless

7 responses to ““Your hero’s a jerk.” [Fearless]

  1. Haha, this is a similar complaint I heard about my two protags (siblings) from a woman in my writer’s group. She hated that my female protag was weak, and that her brother was ‘a jerk’. Like you, my main thrust is to show these protags evolving through bad choices, weakness, etc to get them to a better place in life. So that at the end, they’re stronger and finally rid themselves of the problems that made them weak and unlikeable in the first place.

    These are known as ‘dark protagonists’ and not at all uncommon in literature. I agree with you. I think they are the more interesting kind of character to read and write about anyway–fun!

    As long as we show that there is hope for these dark protags, then I think we can make them as awful as we need to.

    • You’d mentioned your so-called “weak” female protagonist, Kate, but the brother sounds just as intriguing! I can’t wait ’til I can sift through their story from my bookshelf. :)

      I do enjoy writing bright protagonists (as opposed to such dark ones), but they need to fit the story being told. (I can’t imagine an Aragorn, as an example, not being the pillar of goodness he is, for the Lord of the Rings series.) The dark side definitely has its seductions, though: cynical heroes who manage to see the light, and frail heroines who find the strength within themselves to fight.

      Thanks for commenting, Kate. Here’s to the dark protagonists’ wicked, wicked ways! :D

  2. Flawed characters that are jerks are usually fun, and I’ve found that in a few of the adolescent literature I’ve had to read this part quarter, they don’t use the fun flawed characters much. They’re the more seriously flawed kind who don’t want to do anything to help themselves change, or just don’t want to change at all.

    As for my character’s flaws, I guess he lacks the ability to see his self worth. He’s not one of those unhappy types, just doesn’t feel that he’s worthy of some of the finer things in life, like finding love or something like that. I’m not sure if I explained that right, or if that’s really what I was going for.

    • I wonder if, in the stories you mention, those characters who don’t want to change are more affected by what’s happening to them externally, than being the masters of their own domain, as it were. Sometimes, I think characters need to be dragged kicking and screaming toward their own moment of truth. And, sometimes, the point of the story is to show how a person has to help himself, or all is lost.

      Just from what I’ve read in excerpts of your Nick (if that’s who you’re talking about, here), he doesn’t sound like a “dark protagonist” (see Kate’s note below), but perhaps more a reluctant hero? That’s certainly not a bad thing. Heroes can have different kinds of flaws; some of them serve their role better as a catalyst for change, than a participant in it.

      Thanks for commenting.

  3. Hey there! I nominated you for the Beautiful Blogger Award. You can see it here. http://4amwriter.com/2012/08/01/awards-in-rhyme/

    You don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to, but I wanted to show you how much I love your blog. :)

  4. Pingback: Strength in the “Fairer” Sex | Even More BonusParts!

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