The Problem With Heroes

Okay, I’m doing something different on the blog today. Usually I try to share my thoughts or pass on some karate knowledge or writing tips. But I’m stumped and I need YOU to share your thoughts, knowledge and tips with me.

The problem is my hero.

I LOVE my warrior hero, Max, from CAPTIVE (book one in the Survival Race Series). He’s an alpha male. Strong, capable and fierce. He is a tortured loner…until the heroine comes along, of course. 😉

So now that I’ve been writing book two, I created a different alpha hero. He’s still a warrior, strong, and capable, but not so fierce. He’s a leader of his people, not a loner.

I think I’ve written my heroes differently enough from each other as to avoid them being cookie cutter.

The problem is…

I don’t feel that my Book Two Hero (B2H) is as strong of a hero as Max.

Also, I fear Max overshadows him in the few scenes they share in book two. Max’s reactions are immediate, physical, and fierce. B2H is a leader; his reactions can’t be physical every time. For some reason, this is making him appear weaker to me.

How do I show B2H’s strength/power without making him physically stronger or have physical reactions to situations? I want to avoid cookie cutter heroes.

I tried Googling, “How not to make your heroes all sound alike” but came up with nothing, which means I’m probably not on the right track. Can you help? Whether you’re a writer or not doesn’t matter to me, any thoughts are welcome in the comments section. I’d love to hear any advice, tips, or links you’d care to share. If you are a published author, how did you make your alpha heroes different? Especially alpha heroes in the same series. Thanks!

~K.M. Fawcett

20 responses to “The Problem With Heroes

  1. Interesting problem, Kathy. Is there a way you can show B2H struggling with his desire to take action, but that he has to take the higher road because he’s a leader? Or a situation you can put him and Max in where by choosing to stay calm, he actually saves the day in that moment? I guess I mean to show that his strength is in controlling his impulses, and that makes him reliable and makes his people respect him even more.

    Maybe even how his ability to work in a team/lead a team makes a positive difference in the outcome of a situation. He needs to be what the conflict calls for in this book. So not to detract from Max, but maybe his style doesn’t work for this fight, and that serves as a foil to B2H to make him shine.

    I’ll be curious to see how others approach this, and how you finally end up handling it. Good luck!

    • All good thoughts, Gwen! I like the struggling to take action, but taking the higher road. Maybe he needs to prevent Max from taking action too. Of course, this hero is a warlord and is training an army (would that be considered the higher road to him?). So he will be taking action, only it will be calculated and strategic. Hmm.. I’ve got to think some more…

  2. Your B2H can be a stronger hero by making different choices than Max does. Maybe B2H is more patient, maybe he risks his life for others without pomp and circumstance. Think of a fire fighter. They risk their lives and don’t expect any fan fare. Maybe he shows his strength by not getting into a fight, by walking away. Just some thoughts.

  3. Building an army means that he has other things to consider. He may be more emotionally mature than your other hero. He may even be somewhat closed off from his feelings, not as in touch with them as Max. He may believe his weapon is in his brain. And he assuredly does not feel the lesser when they interact. Make that show through the point of view, how he sees Max as hot-headed and inclined to get others hurt with his rashness. It takes icy discipline to do what he’s doing. He is the stronger man. Put things through his filter, his way of looking at the world and the reader will believe him.

    • Yes! B2H wouldn’t think himself as a weaker man. So when he asks Max to train his army (because Max is an alpha gladiator warrior), perhaps I need to make it clear that B2H is capable of training his army, but can’t because he has to lead his people, deal with a heroine trying to stop him from raising an army, and stop a power-hungry villain trying to take over the throne. Icy discipline, indeed!

  4. You said he’s a leader — there’s where your answer lies. He’s got people with problems, lives, and rights that he must take into account before he takes action. Give him a Solomon-like issue to tackle – something with two (or more) compelling sides that show the complexity of his responsibilities and the astounding strength of his will and patience.

    You could even show his frustration in a hugely physical way like chopping through a chord of wood (or whatever) because he wants to act and wants to fix what’s wrong NOW, but knows he must wait until all the facts are in hand. Maybe he knows a friend is hiding some aspect of the truth and without it, he MUST punish his friend but despises himself for doing so. Conflict, conflict, conflict ! You’ve got the bones for some compelling reading here.

  5. Hi Kathy,
    When a reader is questioning motivation in one of my characters, the simple way out is to have someone in the scene comment, question, or think about the same thing. For instance, your heroine can admire your hero for taking the high road and building his army, being strategic. She can fall in love or trust him just a bit more when he plans to save lives. Perhaps she can overhear an argument between your heroes and admire him because he argues that a plan isn’t good enough and he’s not willing to sacrifice that many people. Work it into the story through your heroine’s eyes and the reader will admire him too. The stronger he gets with her, the stronger he’ll be to the reader.


  6. Ooh, Angi, Perhaps you hit on one of the problems in the story. My heroine is a spiritual healer and is there to stop the him from creating this army. Could it be that the hero looks weaker to me because the heroine opposes his goals? (And as the author I know she’s right.) Hmm…
    Thanks for making me think. This might be a tricky one.

  7. Glad to help. FYI: I read every post by you guys, even if I don’t always leave comments.

  8. Hi. I’m just making a guess, but I see this a lot, so even if it doesn’t apply to you and your characters, it might help someone else. So here goes.

    I suspect you are JUDGING your character. Maybe you’re uncertain of him or he doesn’t quite meet your ideal or for whatever reason. I also suspect you are judging him too harshly (writers tend to do that). In any case, I imagine that throughout your story wherever he’s done something YOU are not certain about, you’ve popped into the story and either apologized for him or explained his actions.


    “Barney the Barbarian lopped off the villain’s head. Normally he wouldn’t have resorted to such harsh tactics, but the villain deserved it.”

    That “normally” is an apology and an explanation. While your impulse comes from a good place, the result is to further weaken the character.

    Try this, (if this is, indeed, what are you doing) go through the story and find any place where where the character has taken an action and you’ve gone in behind him to explain or apologize for what he’s done. Take those instances out and see if you don’t feel differently about him.

  9. I wonder if you are having problems because you are trying to create a hero that doesn’t appeal to you, just because you don’t want them to all appear alike? In other words, if brooding, alpha, tough warrior heroes are what you love to write, and you are trying to write a character who doesn’t fit that mold, then that might be why you are struggling so much. If the loner brooding type is what you like, you can still use that for every hero and make them different, by changing other things about them – speech patterns, importance of family to them, issues they feel passionately about, the WAY they fight, things like that. I would imagine your heroes will seem very different, even if they are basically the same, just by virtue of being in a different setting with a different conflict and different heroine. For example, if you whittle Linda Howard’s heroes down to their basic elements, they are all pretty much the same – tough, take-charge, alpha males. But they all feel different because the stories are different. They sure don’t feel cookie cutter to me, but I can’t think of any major differences between any of her heroes (and I’ve read ALL of her books). It all still works beautifully, and she’s not exactly having a tough time selling books! 🙂

  10. I’d bring the conflict with your heroes right out into the open and have them argue about a situation where Max wants to take action, but Bh2 wants to PLAN a response. Leaders can’t afford to react without careful consideration of the consequences of their actions.

    And if you give the guy a good strong name instead of referring to him as Bh2, you might feel a better connection with him. Just sayin.

    • LOL, Melinda! He has a name. A good strong name. I just didn’t throw it out there to avoid any spoilers. Not that anyone would remember it by the time they read CAPTIVE. That is, if anyone even reads it… *crosses fingers*

  11. Patricia Dougherty

    Hi Kathy. I really admire your ambition! You may have already thought of this as a solution to your hero dilemma, but I was thinking maybe you can write about how he feels and thinks about the world around him. Show more of an intellectual view of strength rather than a physical one. (?)

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