Tuesday, October 27, 2009

LOOKING FOR A HERO

I watched a movie the other day with some of my peeps. No, this is not a movie review, but this particular movie got me thinking about writing. What a surprise, right? The movie was a romantic comedy remake of Dickens’ "A Christmas Carol." It was cute, but unremarkable. Now I am usually pretty easily amused, but this movie left me feeling dissatisfied and grumpy. Why? I wondered. And then it hit me, and this is where the writing part comes in. I realized I did not like the ‘hero,’ not at the beginning of the movie or at the end. The guy was attractive, but a real jerk, a play-yah hound dog male hoor. He started out that way and, to my way of thinking, he stayed that way. Oh, sure, the screenwriter tried to redeem him in the last five minutes of the movie. But, it was too little too late, and so the love story did not work for me.

Now, I know what you’re saying. But, Scrooge doesn’t repent until the end of the story, so what’s the diff? I will tell you. The difference is "A Christmas Carol" is not a romance. For a romance to work, you have to believe in the love story, and at the end of this movie I remained unconvinced. Bottom line, the hero was not sufficiently redeemed and/or redeemed too late to invest me in the love story. He was a jerk at the beginning of the movie, and he was still pretty much a jerk at the end of the movie, in my humble opinion.

In Mary Balogh’s historical romance "At Last Comes Love," you are led to believe that Duncan, the hero, is a libertine and a scoundrel of the worst order. Now, having read all of Ms. Balogh’s delightful books, I was introduced to Margaret, the heroine, in two previous romances. Having faith in one of my favorite writers, I knew all could not be as it seemed. I kept moving forward, even though Duncan lacked much to be desired as a hero. Sure enough, midway through the book, the reader learns not only is Duncan not the scoundrel he has been painted, he is a noble, self-sacrificing knight in shining armor, a hero of heroes and an-all-round-swell guy. He is totally redeemed, the love story makes you sigh with envy, both as a woman married to a mere mortal and as a writer, and you completely, absolutely and without a doubt believe in the love story.

So, do our heroes and heroines have to be Pollyanna perfect? Of course not, that would be boring. I love flawed characters. They are interesting. But, at the end of the day, I believe they have to be lovable in order for the reader to become invested in the romance, to believe in their happily-ever-after.

14 comments:

Cari Hislop said...

What makes a person lovable? I think the list of attributes tends to be highly individual. One of my "heroes" was my very first vilain. I tried to kill him but he kept walking into other stories. As I got to know him I started to see he had hidden layers of vulnerability. Yes, he was a self centered, narcissisistic bastard with a chip on his shoulder and a heart as black as his eyes, but I came to realise the reason he was so vile was because he'd never felt loved and he hated himself. Narcissists are absorbed in themselves, but their great secret is that they hate themselves so they put on a mask and act a part pretending to be whatever they wish they were.

In the end he demanded I tell his story. It took me a while to figure out who would fall in love with him and why, but once she stepped onto the page it made complete sense. The man does over time fall in love, though it takes nearly losing her to realise that its love not lust because his senses and emotions are so intertwined. The reason they fall in love isn't because they're both good looking and they lust after each other (though they are/do) it's because they fill each other's deepest emotional needs and desires though it takes him a while to realise it. I don't think heroes have to be lovable to the reader, but the heroine had better have a realistic reason for loving him or it's just a waste of time!

Tammy Lynn said...

Jean - I've been trying to figure out what it was that I didn't like about that movie and you totally nailed it. Yeah, he was really pretty to look at....but that just wasn't enough. Thanks, my peep, for clearing that one up for me!!

Christine said...

Excellent post. We all struggle to impart the depth to our characters that makes their journeys believable. That's why it is super frustrating to see screenwriters and some authors get paid without doing the real, hard work.

Jeanie said...

Cari, your guy sounds fascinating. I can see why he bugged you until his story was told. But I'll bet you told him in such a way that the reader comes to love him and understand what drives him, not just the heroine! Not so with the guy in this movie. He was just a peckerhead.

Jeanie said...

Tammy, thanks for the movie night! Without you, I wouldn't have this blog!

Jeanie said...

Amen, Christine. Hard work and dedication will pay off, never fear!

Callie James said...

You have such a good point here. I don't mind when the hero (or heroine) STARTS as a jerk, but the writer has to show me his change through slow progression. I definitely don't believe the profound concept of love can be a light bulb moment (especially for a butthead) in a story's last five minutes. So ... jerk, jerk, jerk, and BLAM! Now I'm supposed to believe he's a redeemable character? Not.

Jerry McGuire is a good example of this. He didn't get the concept of love until the very end. And it wasn't enough for me. I wasn't convinced (although ultimately I liked the movie, just not the romance aspect of it).

It's almost as though the writer is trying to make the black moment "black" by convincing us this guy can't change. Saying he did at the end isn't going to work.

My two cents.

Jeanie said...

Part of the fun for me is seeing the changes a hero or heroine goes through to reach that oh-so-satisfying happy ending. I love books where the heroine rocks the hero's world. But, I've got to believe in the love story. This movie did not do it for me!

Cari Hislop said...

To Jeanie:
I may be the only person who loves John Smirke (I love all my brain children) but he certainly thinks he's fascinating. Whether he is or not is another story! ;)

As for the movie that must not be named, when I saw the preview I made a mental note not to see it. There's something about the main actor's face that revolts me.
I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't have to do too much acting if you know what I mean!

I think its really hard to make a good romantic film. There's rarely time to develope the relationship and they almost always come off lacking something. My exceptions would be Two Weeks Notice with Sandra Bullock and 13 going on 30 with Jennifer Garner and Romancing the Stone. I don't know how many times I've seen them and they always make me laugh and go ahhh at the end.

Jeanie said...

I love Sweet Home Alabama. "I was trying to make something of myself," to which she replies, "You 'bout done?"

And I love Pride and Prejudice. The one with Collin Firth is great, but I particularly love the newer version. "I love. . . I love . . . I love you, and wish never to be parted from you again." Sigh. I call it Living in Darcyville. I have to get my fix every now and then.

And Sense and Sensibility, and Lady Hawk and . . .

Oh, well, you get the picture.

astral said...

Well said Jean - I remember in the WAY distant past reading some Harlequins as a teen when the male actually crossed the line and SLAPPED the heroine. Even way back then, that was a turn off and a line you don't cross over. Lately I've felt that way about some of Karen Hawkins characters - that she paints them too black for me.

LOL about all of us being

Jeanie said...

Astral, I can go farther back than that.

I remember reading Georgette Heyer in the seventh grade and falling in love with two of her 'difficult' heroes, Justin from "These Old Shades," and Dominic from "The Devil's Cub." Justin was especially dark and forbidding, someone you did NOT want to mess with, ruthless, calculating and as cold as an ant's butt on an icicle. But, Leonie, the heroine teaches him the meaning of love.

"Devil's Cub" is the sequel about Justin's rakish son, Dominic. Spoiled and selfish, he meets Mary, the quiet sister of the blonde bimbo he has set his sights upon, and romance ensues. Neither man is perfect, but you love them both.

As for turn-offs, for me it's anything that smacks of rape. Eww. No way.

M.V.Freeman said...

I have a confession--I don't watch many romantic movies. I do have a few favorites, but I get very frustrated with them at times. I know, I know...I am such a dork.

As for a jerk of a hero---well...I like them very, very bad. But you are right, they have to have SOME redeeming value...now what could that be....

;-)

Excellent, thought provoking post Jeanie!

Jeanie said...

Bad boys are great. In fact, I would venture to say that a majority of heroes in romance have some bad boy tendencies. You know, rakes in Regency and guardian Special Forces types in contemporary. I like bad boys, too. Nothing more romantic than a hard-as-nails macho guy who falls for the one girl who can turn him into marshmallow fluff. But, I have to believe in the love stuff, and there's a difference in a bad boy and a plain old jerk. Bad is good, but A-hole is not, in my opinion. The guy in the movie falls into the latter category.