Sunday, December 12, 2010

Help Me Hurt My Hero

I do not consider myself a contest junkie. I don't even consider myself on the contest circuit, but I entered a few this year and got some constructive and encouraging feedback even if the judges' missed my genius, and I didn't final. But my delusions of genius aside, one comment stuck with me. More than once, a judge commented that my hero didn't have enough clear motivation for his actions. He really wasn't tortured enough for his current behavior. Hmmm. Another judge suggested I think of a couple of my recent reads that featured a tortured hero and analyze how and when the author revealed the character's motivation. Where to begin? Many of my favorite reads feature angsty heroes. One of my all time faves, Wuthering Heights, comes to mind first. Poor, poor Heathcliff was as tortured as they come, and when I first read it years ago, I remember feeling his pain so deeply and reacting with intensely strong emotion (I cried). And although I've never seen this version of the movie, I can imagine it was well cast. Ralph Fiennes plays a great, tortured hero.

But more recently, I have gotten into Kresley Cole's Immortal After Dark series. She does a great job of creating a tortured Alpha male. I could list many from this series alone. One of my favorites is Bowen MacRieve from Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night. Ms. Cole creates major angst for Bowen, a werewolf who believes he unintentionally caused the death of his one true mate, and just when he has the opportunity to go back and undo it, he encounters an irresistable witch who impossibly evokes his mating instinct, causing intense guilt. I don't want to spoil it for any who haven't read it, but let's just say, I fell in love with Bowen and wanted to be the one to ease his torment.

To me Hugh Jackman makes the perfect Bowen MacRieve.

Of course, T. V. shows and movies are loaded with tortured heroes. Take your pick:

So, what do these gorgeous (ahem), I mean, troubled men have that we find irresistible? Is it the fact that they are in so much pain that draws us? Maybe we have what it takes to fix them? Maybe we'd just like to try? It's possible, but I think it's their resiliency that attracts us as well. They are modern-day warriors. They take a lickin' and keep on tickin'. These men are worthy of the strong heroine, and they can work through anything that comes their way without caving under the pressure.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have a hero who hasn't hurt enough. *sound of knuckles cracking* Let the torture begin.

How about you? Which tortured heroes have stuck with you long after you closed the book?
Happy writing!


  1. Ah Sherry,

    You have hit the nail squarely on the head for me. First off, you listed the IAD series by Kresley, and THEN you listed BOWEN...Hmm...I got pretty emotional reading about BOWEN, especially when he realized how he had left his mate in that cave without any powers to protect her...

    I think that my favorite tortured heroes are as follows...


    I could keep going but...we don't have enough room to list them all. I'm sure you would have the same problem. :)

    I hope you are able to come up with more torture for your hero and if you are in any need of help to see if your torture rings true...let me know. I would be happy to read about his problems, sorrows and sexy as heck attitude (which I'm sure he has!!) if you need me to do so!


  2. Sherry, excellent post! Some of my favorites include:

    Acheron - Sherrilyn Kenyon
    John Matthew, Tohrment, and Zsadist - JR Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood Series

    Those are just a few of them.

    As a woman, I think there's a tendency for wanting to nurture and soothe the raging beast and wounds of a tortured soul, especially of a man. I think it's part of our DNA to take care of his emotional well being even when he tries to push the woman away. A man's mentality of 'Me man, You woman' can be nerve wracking for the female, but it also can be quite erotic and reassuring to us. After all, we do love the alpha male and the idea of him wanting to take care of the lady. He doesn't want to appear weak in front of the woman, especially his woman.

    Sherry, as a writer, I sometimes struggle with torturing my own heroes as well. I have to tell myself it's ok to hurt them. I think of them as my children and seeing them in pain is difficult at times; yet, I know it's for the best. And as you can probably tell, I do most definitely love reading about a tortured soul. It's something I have to continually work on.

    Hang in there, Sherry, and I'm here for you anytime ya need me too. It's great that we can all support each other.


    JD :)

  3. Christina Dodd's advice is to torture your hero early and often! I agree, Sherry - I like a tortured man who is man enough to own up to his problems and do something about it. I've read some of Kresley Cole's books and she's amazing at creating that tortured hero, and the women strong enough to put up with them.

    I worked with an editor two years ago, and that was one thing she kept stressing to me is character motivation!! If your man/woman is going to do something the reader should know why or that his actions should fit his thoughts and words. I hold that advice dear and strive to do that in my own writing, which is why when I critique it's what I look for above all else. (Much to the dismay of my partners probably LOL)

    Great post, and keep on writing! If you ever need a partner, I'll get in line after Trish! :)

  4. Wow...ladies, we all have such amazingly strong veiw points on this. And I find it awesome that we can all combine what we think and know and go from there.

    Sherry, I hope you are able to hurt your hero the way he needs to be hurt.

    JD, Thanks for reminding me about JR Ward's tortured men, for some reason I always forget about them! Don't know how that's possible.

    Kellie, Thank you for critiquing the way you do, otherwise we would never know the mistakes we are making, and yes, at first I will admit that it was daunting to see all of those comments, but it was all for the good of the story. :)


  5. Trish - you're making me sound like a horrible CP!! LOL

  6. Kellie, you're great at critiquing! I believe I told you once that you should be doing it professionally you're so good.

    Sherry, Zsadist from the Black Dagger Brotherhood. He is the ULTIMATE tortured hero for me. His struggle with memories of the past and complete distrust of women made him cold and hard, but totally intriguing to me. I looked for any mention of his character, I longed for any trace of dialogue from him. I just knew his story would speak to me the most. And it did.

    Great post, Sherry!

  7. PROTAGONIST-He who suffers the most.

    The second nicest guy I ever dated, Chris Woolford, once told me as we were making out on his frat house couch, "I think I'm falling in love with you."
    I finished kissing him and said, "I think we should see other people."
    We broke up two days later.

    Rumor has it, we always hurt the ones we love. If you love your boys, Sherry, you'll pummel them. Make them vulnerable, then drive the knife in deeper. Don't worry. They'll forgive you the moment you give them a good woman to pull the knife out. They'll thank you, even. Because if they hadn't suffered, then they'd be stuck in the usual male alexithymic nightmare, unable to convey anything more than a general fondness for fresh pizza and beer. You've given them depth, texture... and a pleasantly raging alcohol addiction.

    It's all good. Best of luck, and thanks for the post!!! You're awesome!


    P.S. I love Cassandra Clare's Jace Wayland from "The Mortal Instruments" series. Tortured, brutal, and brilliantly sarcastic.

  8. Thanks, ladies for all the support. I can't wait to start my 'research' with some of your suggested titles.

    Happy Holidays!

  9. Ironic that you mention Christina Dodd, Kellie. A couple of my favorite heroes are hers--From Once a Knight and Castles in the Air. For a seriously troubled/difficult to redeem hero, I loved the one in Shadowheart by Laura Kinsale.These are all old books--even my copies are faded and dog-eared. Good luck w/ your research, my friend.