Friday, January 25, 2008

The Hero's Journey

Back on Wednesday we had a lot of comments from some great writers and avid readers about what makes a hero.

You are very welcome to go read them, because they articulate better than I can sum up the gist of what makes a great hero (in our estimation).

Seb took notes.

Then he came into my office and stood there staring down at me after they were gone. The silence went on for ages. I figured it was up to him to break it.

Finally he said to me, "So . . ." thirty second pause at least " . . . you're saying you want me to change."

It wasn't a question. But he didn't look convinced, either. He was tapping the edge of his design sketch book against the palm of his hand. His jaw was tight.

"Well," I said slowly, trying not to be confrontational just yet, "I think you'll want to change by the end of the book."


He didn't mind being confrontational. I could see that.

"Because things aren't exactly the way you think they are."

"Says who?"

"Well, I do. And I have information you don't."

"And you're not going to tell me." That wasn't a question, either. He knows me pretty well.

"It wouldn't be fair if I did," I explained. "Having a hero is like having a teenager -- you can't tell them anything. They have to go through a learning process. Go on a journey if you will. Start out one place and end up somewhere else. And they have to figure things out for themselves."

"A teenager? You're saying I'm not grown up."

"I'm saying you're just a little bit blind to certain things. And, um, maybe a little opinionated."

"It's not an opinion when you're right."

"Which is why we need to get you through chapter one. So you won't be quite so cocksure of yourself."

A dark brow lifted. "Nothing wrong with self-confidence."

"Nothing at all," I agreed. "And it's because you have it in abundance that I know you'll weather this and come out the other side a better man."

He narrowed his gaze at me and gave me the cool appraisal that got him the nickname "Iceman."
"Nothing wrong with me the way I am."

"Indeed not," I said. "You're almost perfect."

"Almost?" Now he was offended.

"You only need the love of a good woman."

He crossed his arms over his chest. "Not going to happen."

I just smiled. "That's what you think."

"What are you up to?" He glowered at me.

I shrugged. "Show up for work tomorrow and find out."

More steely-eyed gaze. Just a hint of grinding teeth. A little stubborn edge to his jaw. "We' see," he said. Then he turned on his heel and walked out.

What do you guys think? Will he be back? Does Seb have it in him? (God, I hope so! I don't know what I'm going to write if he doesn't. But for heaven's sake, don't tell him that!)

If you're a writer, what about the guy you're writing about now? Does he ever make you wonder if he's got it in him? Is he so hard-edged you wonder if he'll find the gentleness he needs? Or is he so mellow you wonder if he'll even bother? Do you audition your heroes or do they just show up and take over?

And if you're a reader, who are some of your favorite heroes? In books? In plays? In films? In real life?

If you're into family history, what about all those dead ancestors? Any heroes among them? Favorite characters?

Hey, ideas are everywhere.

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Blogger Anna Campbell said...

Anne, I certainly think Seb has it in him. The stronger they fight, the harder they fall. And they're the really great stories, where the hero is resisting change all the way. And why not? Change is painful! And mysterious - you don't know what you'll come out with on the other side. So yeah, I bet you five bucks he'll be back.

I'm just getting to know my current hero - it's a nice stage, like a honeymoon ;-) My heroine is going to show him that he's a better man than he ever believed he was. Always like stories like that!

25 January, 2008  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

Hope you're right, Anna! And yes, I think Neely is going to bring out parts of Seb he never knew existed. And frankly, I suspect, didn't want to even contemplate. Too dangerous.

Enjoy your honeymoon! I know Seb pretty well. I just need to drag him kicking and screaming into the book!

26 January, 2008  
Blogger Anna Campbell said...

It's funny. I always think I know my characters before I start - after all, that is the start for me, these people who want me to tell their stories. But they always develop completely differently on the page. Weird, huh?

26 January, 2008  
Blogger Caren Crane said...

Oh, Anne, this is so funny! My husband seriously thinks of himself as "Iceman". It's too hilarious! I will admit, he was quite the reluctant hero (well, more reluctant about some hero duties than others). None of them think they need the love of a good woman. Ever. If they do, the heroine should run the other way!

I really prefer strong, alpha characters, but they do come with strong opinions and personalities (drat it all). My current WIP hero is quite used to doing things his own way and cannot see that his "help" is not helpful to the heroine. She wants to do things her own way! Hard to win with these two.

Never fear, they will get their happy ending. I'm sure Seb will show up and start behaving, as well. Those alphas come through in the end!

26 January, 2008  
Blogger Christine Wells said...

Anne, if it's too easy, then it wouldn't be worth writing a book about, would it?*g* Seb sounds ripe for a shake-up to me. Once you've put him through the wringer, I think he'll be ready for his HEA.

As for my characters, they just show up and while I am quite amazed and entranced by the way this happens, I still wish I had a leetle more control--it would be so handy for writing synopses and meeting deadlines, etc. My current hero tells me he doesn't need to change at all, and he's perfect on the surface, but he's not happy and he's not ready to be happy, either, so I have to find out why, and how I can lead him to the ending he deserves.

Maybe I had too many glasses of wine at dinner? Hope I'm making sense. It's Australia Day weekend here, so we've been celebrating with a barbecue and fun in the pool. Thanks for the discussion. It's been fun and enlightening. Best of luck with Seb!

26 January, 2008  
Blogger Anne Gracie said...

Put me in the camp of I audition and choose a hero-- and then some other guy shows up and claims the page.
And yes, it makes for frustration, but also interest. Christine, it would make the whole synopsis/ proposal process so much more strighforward if they didn't morph. But then maybe I wouldn't enjoy the process as much.

Seb wouldn't be as great a hero as he will be if he fell into line so easily, AnneMcA. That touch of wild means you've just got to wrangle him a bit more. ;)

26 January, 2008  
Blogger Margaret McDonagh said...

Anne, it sounds as if you have your hands full with Seb! But I'll look forward to him coming back at the end and seeing the change in him once he's adjusted and accepted Neely in his life - for the better.

Heroes most definitely move in and take over. Some are much more laid back than others, some are downright difficult. All are individual. And it depends much on who has the greater journey to make and/or issues to overcome - hero or heroine - as to which kind of hero comes forward in any particular story.

They all talk to me - some more vociferously and impatiently than others! I have several lined up waiting in the wings. And they are not happy to be waiting! A couple are getting quite mad about it.

Nathan, my current hero, was one such case. I started writing his story this time last year and was stopped when I was asked instead to write 3 stories for various exciting projects celebrating the centenary year. Now I'm back and Nathan is not at all pleased about the delay.

But he's not being uncooperative. Unlike Seb, Nathan WANTS his woman in his life. He had her there five years ago and lost her. Now he wants her back ... and she doesn't think she wants to be there.

Annie has managed to convince herself that their break-up was Nathan's fault. She's woven a false reality in her own head as the only way she has been able to handle the pain. She has a big journey to make to understand the past and her part in it before Nathan can reclaim her. At the moment she's not playing ball at all. Indeed, she's putting spanners in the works, digging a big hole for herself and making mistakes she's going to struggle to put right later.

Nathan won't like me saying this but he's not perfect. He made mistakes, too. But he has his work cut out for him to win his Annie back. I so want him to. He's had such a difficult life and Annie makes him whole. I really hope I can manage to bring these two together and achieve their happy ending.

If, that is, Luke, Rico, Gus, Riley, Thorn, Sinclair, Jake, Clay, Logan, et al will PLEASE stop nagging in my head. I'll get to them in good time!

Good luck with Seb. I hope he turns up to work as promised and keeps an open mind. Be good, Seb. It will be worth it in the end. All Anne's past heroes will tell you so!


26 January, 2008  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

Anna, yes, they do seem to change once you get to working with them, don't they? But I think that's like people we get to know. They have hidden depths that are not what we see when we first meet them. Going through a book together with a hero is definitely a 'getting to know you' process.

26 January, 2008  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

Caren, that's too funny that your husband is "the iceman" too! And a reluctant hero, to boot. But it sounds as if you have shaped him up nicely!

Having two strong characters makes for a good clash, I think. And it doesn't have to be all argument. There can be very strong subtle struggles going on, too. So many ways to go with it. Good luck on your current WIP.

26 January, 2008  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

Christine, I don't know how many glasses of win you had at dinner, but you are making perfect sense.

Love it when they 'just show up' but I also appreciate it when they're a bit forthcoming and I don't have to totally torture their secrets out of them. Good luck with your guy. It's these guys who think that everything is fine just as it is that need some shaking up. Go for it!

26 January, 2008  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

Anne G, I sooo appreciate the 'I audition them and then some other guy shows up' notion. Yes, who are these guys, anyway?

But you're right, it does make it interesting. I'm not sure I like it when they totally don't cooperate with the synopsis (been there, done that). But sometimes you just have to go with the flow, I guess. That's what I'm telling Seb anyway.

26 January, 2008  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

Glad Nathan is pursuing his heroine. I love 'pursuit' books. And you're soo right about it depending on who has the most changing to do. In my last book the heroine had to do the most changing. That's not usual for mine (I usually put the hero through the wringer, like Christine said). But not this time. Oh, he went through the wringer, too, but at least he knew what he wanted. It's a pursuit book, too.

And good heavens, it sounds as you have a very crowded waiting room of guys wanting you to tell their stories! That's cool. You'll be busy for years to come. And we readers will love 'em.

26 January, 2008  
Blogger jo robertson said...

Great post, Anne! I love how you do that gentle smartass thing.

Hmmmm, my heroes just take over my stories. I write pages and pages about them before I sit down at the 'puter to write the story. I think I'm going one direction, and damned if they don't take off on strange new journeys of their own. Good case in point is Ben Slater.

Now, Slater has his own story, the first book in my trilogy, and he shows up as a minor character (supposedly) in the second and third books. But he's so wise, calm, and sexy -- so overpowering -- that he pushes his way to the forefront. By contrast the other characters seem flat and shallow.

I have to watch that Slater. He's a tricky one.

BTW, love Sebastian's underplayed steeliness.

26 January, 2008  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

Hi Jo, gentle smartass, eh? Well, if you say so!

Ben Slater sounds like my kind of guy. Difficult to have those guys show up early in trilogies, though. Especially if they need to be the last book. It's okay if they show up and they've got a ways to go to become heroic (my Carter MacKenzie took 3 books to make it to hero status because all he did in the first book was make crap out of the hero -- his best friend -- and eat Twinkies and Cheetoes and drink beer. In the second he lost the girl. In the third he was ready for a girl of his own). But generally if they are like your Ben, you've really got to watch them. I'll be looking out for him. What's his title?

And Seb thanks you for thinking he's sufficiently steely -- in a low key way. He is low-key, but you don't want to cross him.

26 January, 2008  
Blogger Margaret McDonagh said...

Oh, Anne, you should see these guys! My heroes in waiting folder is SMOKING!!! I so wish I could write them all NOW! But somehow I have to try and shut off their voices - the ones who don't pop up as secondaries in other books - while I write the wip. Not easy with guys like these who want their stories told and their women sorted ... even the ones who don't yet know they want a woman, like Seb!!! I wonder if I can send them all off together on some kind of guys' adventure holiday so they can keep each other out of trouble!

As for Nathan, I really feel for him and so want his happy ending. He's lonely without Annie and has been so put-upon in his past. He needs her. But she's fighting. And doing silly things to avoid him at the moment.

Seb definitely doesn't sound like a man to cross - but I think he'll find he's met his match with you and Neely combining forces. Good luck bringing him into line.


26 January, 2008  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

Thanks, Mags. I think Seb and I are going to need all the help we can get. Neely seems to be up to the task -- I hope.

Good luck getting Nathan to his happy ending. I remember my own Nathan having the devil's own time convincing Carin she needed him after he'd left the first time 'for her own good.'

Heroes! Clueless! What are you going to do with them?

26 January, 2008  
Blogger lidia said...


As a reader, I have so many favorite heroes -- so in order to save some "space" I will limit myself to one historical hero and one of yours.

My all time favorite is Sebastian in "Lord of Scoundrels" by Loretta Chase. He definitely is a "historical alpha."

My favorite hero from your books is Alec from "Island Interlude." In some ways he isn't "as alpha" as others but there was just something about him. Maybe it is because he tried to do the honorable thing and it backfired on him. And then he had to figure out a way to make things right - it wasn't easy for him. Libby was great because she wasn't a pushover.

I can't wait to see how Seb develops. When will that books be published?

26 January, 2008  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

Lidia, I loved Loretta's Sebastian, too. He was a great very complex hero who certainly met his match.

Thanks for your kind words about Alec. Sometimes I think he gets lost in the shuffle around here. But I remember him well, and you're right -- he did do what he thought was the right thing -- and yes, it backfired. But you know, thinking about it, there is still no way he could have done anything else and been an honorable man.

I think that's where his main strength was -- he did the honorable thing even when it wasn't what he wanted to do. He did it because he believed down to the ground it was The Right Thing To Do. And he wouldn't have been Alec if he hadn't.

I would expect Seb will be out sometime in mid-2009. He's still a twinkle in my eye at the moment. And if he doesn't get his act together and start moving I'm going to stick him on the back burner and go on to someone else! Like Mags, I've got a roomful. They loiter about and look hopeful. If Seb doesn't cooperate, they'll turf him out and take numbers to see who I get to work with instead.

But since Seb has been chucked out once already, I expect he'll cooperate this time. Fingers crossed.

26 January, 2008  
Blogger Madeline said...

Hi Anne, Seb seems to be a Hero worth waiting for. Stubborn men usually fall the hardest.It just takes a good woman to bring them up to speed. I have confidence that Neely will bring Seb up to speed.

As a reader, I like heroes that give the heroine a bit of a challenge. I like it even more, when the heroine breaks down the heroes barriers, and wins their hearts in the end.

As a new writer, I'm having problems with my hero also. He is a bit of a smart mouth who thinks he is Gods gift to women. My heroine is giving him a run for his money but, I need to find some kind of balance before I can continue on with their story. I think I've deleted more pages than I care to admit to. Hang in there. Sebs story will be told and Neely is just the heroine to win his heart. Remember, every man has his soft spot. Neely just needs to find out what Sebs is.

Keeping my fingers crossed that Seb cooperates this time.

Hugs, Mads:)

26 January, 2008  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

Hi Mads,

Thanks for your kind words. Seb will be fine -- eventually. And he wasn't the one giving me problems last time. It was really a disagreement between him and my editor. New editor now, so maybe they'll get along. I hope so.

Good luck on your story, too. I always delete way more than I ever think I should -- but it's usually the right thing to do.


26 January, 2008  
Blogger jo robertson said...

LOL, Anne, Slater's the sheriff of fictional Bigler County in northern California.

But your Twinkies and Cheetoes fellow sounds like my kind of guy!

27 January, 2008  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

I'll look out for Ben, Jo. He sounds, um, intriguing. Also A Force To Be Reckoned With.

Carter was . . . interesting. Multi-dimensional, that's for sure. I liked him a lot. But when I first met him I thought, ye God, who is this guy? He grew on me!

27 January, 2008  

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