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:~: Thursday, February 15, 2007 :~:

Heroism

I watched LOST last night, which started me thinking about heroism.

In literature, when we talk about our main characters, hero/heroine are used almost exclusively in connection to our two protagonists. Of course, in romantic fiction we want our main characters to be heroic. We want them to be bigger than life, someone the reader will respect and admire. Personally, I want this heroic behavior in my hero, but not necessarily in my heroine. The female leads in my books tend to be much more down to earth, much less heroic. (until push comes to shove and its do or die)

My heroes, on the other hand, my heroes are. . .well. . .heroic. They put their lives on the line every day. They wouldn't hesitate to step between danger and an innocent, their entire life is based on protecting others.

They are true blue in every way that counts--except, possibly emotionally. Emotionally they are not always willing to put themselves on the line. I think this is one of the things that intrigues me so much about certain story lines--the ones that deal with the heroic hero--the hero who is willing to die to protect and serve. Who puts his life on the line every day, but is terrified of opening himself up emotionally and giving someone else power over his life and happiness. There is such an interesting dichotomy to these story lines-- how a person can be truly heroic in one set of circumstances, yet an honest-to-God coward in others.

Last night on LOST, they explored what it means to be a hero in every sense of the word. The storyline involved a man named Desmond. Last season Desmond sacrifice himself to save the world. He literally gave up his own life, in the hopes that everyone else would continue living. He did this knowingly and without hesitation. Truly heroic behavior.

Only he didn't die. Instead, he was thrown back in time. Back to a time in his life when he made a horrible mistake, when he turned away from the woman he loved (and who loved him) because he didn't think he was good enough for her. Only now he gets a second chance. Now he can stay with her, ask her to marry him, live the life he always regretted turning down. Or can he? Because as the show progresses, it becomes clear that if he doesn't make the same choices, the same mistakes-- if he doesn't follow the same path he did before--then he won't end up where he needs to be, and he won't save the world. If he stays with her, which clearly he wants to do--then he is sentencing her to death, along with the rest of the world.

In the end, he turns away from her, he follows the path he'd followed the first time around, knowing without a doubt that it leads to heartbreak and regret. And that, to me, was even more heroic than his earlier bout of heroism when he sacrificed his life so others would live. Which was an eye opener for me. Because apparently I view the emotional/mental act of heroism as being more heroic or powerful than the physical act of heroism.

What about the rest of you? Are you more impressed by physical or mental courage?

Of course, this being LOST-- they had to turn this episode around on its ear. But I'm going to ignore what happened in the last ten minutes or so, since it doesn't fit with my analysis of the storyline, or this blog for that matter. (grin)

9Comments:

Blogger Edie said...

Theresa, I'm impressed by both, but more by mental courage. By people who come up from the worst upbrinings and make their lives successful, emotionally as well as financially. That impresses me. A friend whose husband had diabetes and son had autism who kept her sense of humor. That impresses me. My own mother who was widowed with 5 young children and raised us herself. That impresses me. And so much more.

12:46 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

I've never watched Lost. Sounds like an interesting storyline though.

It's funny you said you want your heroes to be heroic and your heroines can be less-so. I'm the opposite. I love a rogue hero, one who doesn't really care about anyone but himself. I love watching him change over the course of a book. Of course, that means most of my heroines are way more heroic at the beginning of a book. But then, I don't write about cops (usually), so that could be the difference. ;)

To answer your question, I'm with Edie. I'm more impressed by mental courage, but both have to factor into a book somewhere. One without the other is unheroic in my opinion.

2:38 PM  
Blogger Joan Swan said...

Um, wow, T, you've really got my brain twisting.

I've never pulled the two levels of heroism apart, never saw enough difference to pull them apart.

I don't have any answers because I'm still getting my mind around the concept -- a deep and meaningful one.

Thanks for widening my viewfinders!

6:58 PM  
Blogger Theresa said...

Edie,

I'm realizing that mental courage is much harder than physical courage. I've never really thought about this before, even though its a premise that's quite often explored in romance.

The more I think about it though, the more I'm realizing that exploring the two types of courage has been an unconsious choice I've made in my last two books. This is something I've been exploring, I just didn't realize it.

9:26 PM  
Blogger Theresa said...

Eli,

I like Rogue heroes too. I think you can still have a hero who is physically courageous-- and still have him selfish and uncaring of anyone besides himself. (it is tough to make them likeable to the reader, though--grin)

In fact, in the next book I have planned, the hero is as courageous as can be when it comes to physical danger. Emotional intimacy though? Caring about other people--no way in hell.

He's a selfish, uncaring bastard. At least in the start of the book.

9:31 PM  
Blogger Theresa said...

Eli, I meant to add.

When it comes to characterization, and building depth and GMC, LOST is one of the best shows I've ever seen for that. Their characterization is incredible.

The storylines can drive you batty, (they never explain anything completely, just keep piling questions on top of questions)but writers should watch just for the way they layer their characterization.

9:33 PM  
Blogger Theresa said...

Joan,

I never really thought about it until last night. But this whole episode was about courage and cowardice. And how sometimes the two can almost be intertwined. The episode provided a light bulb moment for me-- and I realized that this is something I've been exploring in my books without really realizing it.

Yet it makes a fabulous concept and would really add to the depth and demension of the character is I layered it through more seriously.

9:36 PM  
Blogger Elisa said...

Great blog, Theresa. I've never really thought about different types of courage, either. I will now, though.

12:32 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Theresa, my heroines are usually more emotionally courageous and the heroes more physically courageous at the start of the book, but in my WIP, I purposely made my heroine think of herself as an emotional coward, and the hero think of himself as a phyical coward, in both cases because of something that happened to them (well, you know the story, LOL). And then they end up doing enormously courageous things, both emotionally and physically, at the end of the book, because of their love for each other. I love exploring heroism in my books, the 'facing your darkest fear and overcoming it' thing.

6:05 AM  

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