Sunday, July 02, 2006

What Makes A Hero?

Yes, I know. I need to blog about all the ramifications of gay sex and pigeon sex. And I will, I promise. I have some thoughts on all of it. (Okay, except the pigeon sex. But I'll come up with something.)

But there's something I need to discuss first. Look for the gay posts in a day or two (aside from the fact that I frankly can't bear to blog about the World Cup yet.)

The other day over on Smart Bitches, they were discussing smoking, and how in the 60s and 70s, virtually everyone in romances smoked-the heroes, definitely, the heroines often (but not heavily.) But how it's become so rare now for anyone in a romance to smoke, and how strange that is considering there is still a chunk of the adult population that does smoke.

I smoke. I drink. I love to write heroes who smoke and drink. None of them are heavy smokers--A)because writing someone who is smoking constantly can be a bit dull, and because when you have someone who doesn't smoke much suddenly smoke a lot it's a good way to indicate stress-more on that later, and B) I guess, because I'm not a very heavy smoker. My heroes also do not generally smoke indoors or around my heroines. I am ever mindful of the large population for who this is a turn-off, but the fact is, some of these guys smoke. Especially since they're paranormals. Why wouldn't a vampire smoke? It won't hurt him. Likewise my demon hero from my current WIP. Smoke is actually fairly healthy for demons in my world.

Anyway, this is all beside the point. Someone commented to the Smart Bitches post about how they could never stomach a smoking hero because smoking is socially irresponsible and therefore unheroic.

This absolutely stunned me, I have to admit.

With all due respect, what kinds of frigging milquetoasts are the heroes you like?

There's a reason Batman is more popular than Superman, hon, and it's because-and corect me if I'm wrong, but I'm not-"socially responsible" isn't sexy. Dark and dangerous is sexy.

Yes, it could be a fun challenge to write a hero who works at a charity center and is always nice and acts like a hero in every aspect of life while also being modest and self-affacing. There must be an audience for that sort of hero, too. It's just I'm not part of it.

I sat down and started thinking about my heroes. They're not the nicest men in the world. They're fairly prickly and--with one exception--they're dmaaged. I like writing about damaged people. I like writing about people who genuinely believe it's not possible for them to find love, not possible for someone to love them, and who fight it when it happens.

Funny thing is, The Black Dragon's hero, Gruffydd, is actually as heroic as they come. He is socially reponsible-to a point-so I guess he fits that definition. But he's also rude, standoffish, defensive, a little arrogant, sometimes downright mean, impatient, and overly suspicious. I adore him.

Cynwrig from Prince of Death is selfish, completely reckless, oversexed, and emotionally unavailable. Julian from Blood Will Tell is sarcastic and sometimes cruel, arrogant, snide, secretive, and egotistical. Now Nick from my WIP is secretive, rebellious, antisocial, oversexed, overconfident, and a criminal.

None of them are "socially responsible"-again with the slight exception of Gruffydd, but that's a little different. You'll understand when you read the book when it comes out (no date yet.) Certainly none of them are socially responsible to the point where they would not smoke because they consider it their social responsibility not to. All of them would laugh at you if you said something like that to them.

Writing a romance with Suoerman isn't interesting, not is reading one. Because Superman is so worthy of love. Superman is perfect-kind, loving, socially responsible (there it is again), handsome, respectful, etc. There's no challenge in a man like that being loved, and the book starts to feel like "which lucky girl is right for him?"

What makes a hero interesting are his flaws. What makes a romance interesting is the moment when a hero decides he needs to do some work to make himself good enough for the heroine. Not when they realize they're both so perfect they belong together.

Just my 2p.

Oh, this is long!


Bernita said...

Thank you.
I hate it when the social responsibility/politics meme du jour is inserted into books.
Cigarettes, condoms.

Elle said...

Piiiiigeoon seeeexxxx......piiiiigeooon seeeexxxxx!!!!

Oh yes, and I totally agree about dark and dangerous and socialy irresponsible being sexy. Why else would Lestat be my hero???

Anyway....I'm awaiting the pigeon sex post. :P

S. W. Vaughn said...

Yes, yes, and yes!! Perfection is SO utterly boring! And so is social responsibility (except for Gruffyd, whom I love already and have only read two scenes with him... when can I read the rest??).

People smoke, damn it. Lots of them. So what's wrong with smoking heros? Sheesh!

Anonymous said...

bernita will love this. Smoking immediately makes a hot woman an unhot woman for me. However, when it helps make the character, it o.k. i.e. Uma Thurman in Kill Bill. -JTC

A. M. said...

I don't dare googling pigeon-sex. WTH is it?

Re: smoking. I nearly dropped my coffin-nail when I read Alex Epstein's (over at his complications ensue blog) post about how writers need to be more responsible and should not create chars that smoke. Mine smoke. Not all, but the ones whose personalities it might fit.

Ditto on the smoking-when-under-stress, nervous, etc.

T.A.Chase said...

I'm coming in late on this one, but I have a secondary character in my book, No Going Home that smokes and it's because it fits his personality. He's a bull rider and a bit of a rebel.

I don't have a problem with writing characters who smoke or drink. Heck, it's real life.

Anonymous said...

Bull riders are among the most physically fit athletes on the planet. You may be hard-pressed to find one that smokes in real life. Now that makes your character a real rebel, chase. -JTC

December Quinn said...

Wow! I had assumed this post was dead and didn't even realize everyone chimed in later! Silly me!

Me, too, Bernita. Our real lives are so hampered by social approval/disapproval, and I'm tired of other people's politics and opinions (not all the time, of course, and not any of yours. Just in general.)

I'm about to google pigeon sex myself! AM, my good friend elle there dared me to blog about pigeon mating habits. I am now honor-bound.

I love smoking heroes, SW. I can't help it. It implies a sort of recklessness that I just think is sexy. Clean-cut guys just don't so it for me (odd, because my hubby is pretty clean-cut. And I do adore him.)

Oh, JTC. That's so disappointing. :-)

December Quinn said...

Hey there, TA! Congrats on the new Liquid Silver release!

Mmmm...a rebellious, smoking bull rider. Yum.