Monday, February 28, 2011

The Appeal of the Imperfect Hero

“I’m Batman.” A low gritty voice, hooded eyes, and a strong, sensual mouth--what’s not to love about a guy running around in a costume, saving the city?

I love superheroes. Yes, there’s something to be said about the everyday kind of heroes who really do change the world, but as a society, we revere the independent spirit, the one who chooses to set things right, the one who sacrifices for the greater good--in other words, the unrealistic ideal. But why? What is it about the hero that draws us in and makes us keep coming back for more?

Batman is a good character study for a couple different reasons. Along with Superman, Batman has been a comic book, television series, cartoon, and movie subject that many have followed through many changes. But what makes him a superhero? Unlike many other superheroes, he doesn’t have any actual super powers. Instead, he uses his considerable wealth to buy crime fighting gadgets of the dark and dangerous kind. And spends his free time, saving the criminal-magnet city of Gotham from its many threats. Unlimited money and time would seem to be an advantage for a superhero, but it certainly isn’t what appeals to audiences, in my opinion.

The truth is, even if he is a heroic figure, he is far from perfect. And in that is the true appeal. His need to protect the city and right the wrongs is selfishly motivated. His parents’ deaths and the rise in crime in Gotham prompted his initial desire to don the costume and make a difference. He wanted revenge. What kind of hero is motivated by revenge? But it is the imperfect hero that we truly love to love. Batman embodies the imperfect hero that we can’t help but watch and want a happily ever after for at least once.

I personally struggle with creating imperfect heroes, but I am working on this part of my characterization. I am drawing on movies, mentor books, television shows, news stories, and real life problems of the people around me (can you say “name change“) to make my heroes more appealing in their imperfections, so I have long conversations with my hero and his family and friends until they tell me exactly what it is that will make readers really want to know him and really want to root for him.  It is a work in progress, and I am constantly discovering new characteristics and tweaking my imperfect hero.

Now, look at the following portrayals of the caped crusader and comment on who you believe played him best:
 Adam West        

 Michael Keaton        

  Val Kilmer   

  George Clooney   

  Christian Bale   

No fair going for the shirtless guy just because (okay, it is Christian Bale) of the hotness factor.

Happy writing!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Some Like it Long

Get your minds out of the gutter ladies. I know what you're thinking, but I'm talking about our hero's hair. For years, long haired men (Fabio comes to mind) have graced the covers of romance novels. Although I've never been a fan of Fabio, I was a fan of long hair on my heroes. My first was Royce from the cover of Johanna Lindsey's, Hearts Aflame. Thus began my affair with red haired men.

Then Pierce Brosnan, and the very hot guy who sat across from me in band, stormed into my life and blew my obsession with red hair out the window. From that moment on it was men with jet black hair ruled my world and the pages of my stories. Although I still drool over the occasional red head I see on TV.

As I got older, dated men with both lengths, and read books with characters that had shorter hair, I came to realize it didn't matter whether my hero had long hair or short, there just needed to be enough for heroine to run her hands through or tug on in a moment of passion or if he was being cheeky.

Some men look good with long hair, some with short, and then there are the men who don't know the meaning of a bad hair day. These would look good bald or anyway you trimmed them up.

So tell me ladies, which do you prefer for the men in your life be they real or characters you read or write about?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Are Romances still Romances??

For years, literally, I have read romances, since I was around fifteen or so. The first book I picked up was Judith McNaught’s, Whitney My Love. That book was loaded with emotion. I keenly felt every fear that Whit had when she thought her first love, Paul, would not see her as a grown woman, one that he might love forever. I also felt the joy whenever Whit emerged in Paris society and took them by storm. Even the instant attraction and interest that Whit felt for Clayton sang through my veins just as Judith expressed it did for Whit. Every word of that book was poured over intricately, even now when I do a re-read I still take my time with it. But not for the love scenes, although I will admit they were nice and very well explained J, not even for the humor, I took my time because of the complex emotions that seemed to SING between Whit and Clayton. I can’t tell you how many times I have re-read that book for that reason alone, that unexplainable SOMETHING that happens between those two characters.

In the past five years or so I’ve noticed that some of the books labeled romances aren’t really romances at all, they are more like sexual manuals, books that show everyone just how many times two characters can do everything to each other in every position known to man. That particular SOMETHING is gone. Now, I will admit that I’m no PRUDE. I enjoy sensual, high intensity, and high tension romances. I also enjoy writing them, but that is a totally different thing than what I’m seeing. The books that I love to read, and write, are satisfying (hopefully) on an emotional level, one that also makes the reader foam at the mouth to see something of value between the H/H. I want those scenes that caused my heart to stop, or the ones that caused me to sigh with pleasure, or even the ones that caused my fingertips to tingle as I read.

Remembering the scenes between Clayton and Whit, there are quite a few memorable ones, but some of them that stand out as pure chemistry are, the chess game at his country estate whenever Whit thinks he is nothing but a country gentleman who finds her attractive, another is the scene at Whit’s father’s house when Clay teaches her how to cheat at cards. There is a sweetness, a vulnerability between these two characters that resonates to the reader, and at that moment we catch the ‘real’ quality of the story. And just in case you missed the EMOTIONAL quality that I told you about, the guilt that Clay felt when he hurt Whit, and the feelings that he speaks with in the wedding toast will be enough to remind you that this is truly a classic novel.

It isn’t the love scenes, it isn’t the secondary characters, neither is it the historical quality of the book…it’s the EMOTION of the story, the part that reaches out and grabs you, the part that makes you re-read a story that is almost over thirty years old! That is what I find intoxicating about WHITNEY MY LOVE.

Have any of you noticed this trend that I’m speaking of? Are you also missing the true quality of what is supposed to be a romance novel? What are some of your classic favorites?

Trish aka wackycajun

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

New Guys on the Block

America is experiencing a wonderful gift from Australia that just keeps giving. Actors (oh, ok, actresses, too, but let's not mention them here). It seems every time I find a new favorite, turns out he's from Australia.
There are: Alex O'Loughlin ("Hawaii Five-O"); Simon Baker ("The Mentalist") bottom right; Hugh Jackman, center bottom; Hugh Laurie (I though he was English!), Mel Gibson (former favorite ;-), Rufus Sewell ("Eleventh Hour" on TV and the handsome bad guy in "The Knight's Tale" which starred another Aussie, Heath Ledger); Russell Crowe, above right; and the "new guy" on American TV, Dustin Clare, ("Spartacus")-upper left. Paul Goddard is at right. I don't know what he plays in, but he's worth adding to the group.
And you all may know even more.

Now these guys are great looking, but some of them shine especially in costume (or lack thereof) drama.

No, Jake Gyllenhaal, left, isn't Australian, but he does a really good costume drama.
And Dustin Clare. Again. But then, all good things are worth repeating. :0
Do you have favorite costume drama heroes?