Why I Don’t Have Heroes & How It Affects My Writing

Who is your hero?

I hate that question. I’ve always hated that question. Call it a knee-jerk reaction or a chronic inability to recognize that someone else might be better at something that I am, but in the end I have a really good reason for hating the question. And I’ve just lately figured out what that is.

People start asking you that when you’re really young, before we even have a real concept of what a hero is. In school people would give what I felt were slightly ridiculous answers like NASCAR drivers, athletes, pop stars, or whoever happened to be on the cover of People at the time.

Most of those heroes aren’t in the limelight anymore, having fallen out because of some dirty doings on the side or a nasty past slid under the rug, depraved relatives, bad dating choices, or drunk driving issues. And once those things are out there our heroes lose their luster, even if it has nothing to do with the quality that drew us to them in the first place.

The problem with labeling another person a hero is that it turns that person into a idealized version of whatever aspect of them you found attractive in the first place, a symbol for that quality. But the thing is, heroes are just regular human beings and like the rest of us they have some character traits that are less than awesome.

Yes, it’s a pretty jaded view of humanity, but in the end it’s realistic and helpful in my writing. My heroes and heroines are regular people that have good qualities and bad qualities. You’re never going to find a perfect person in my books, because perfect people don’t exist.

For fun, I want you to think about the people who were your heroes when you were younger, and if those people still exemplify the qualities that drew you to them in the first place.

Unless of course, you took the easy route in school and said that your hero was your mom.

Of course she was, she should be.

4 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Have Heroes & How It Affects My Writing

  1. I have always had the same reaction to that question! Ever since I was a kid, and for the same reasons you stated.

    While this outlook informs my writing, too, in that I strive to make characters realistic (ie. not perfect), I think there is also a flip side to how I bring the idea of a “hero” into my stories–it makes me want to write characters whom I, with all my reservations, could ungrudgingly admire, and who, for all their flaws, really could in some ways fill the inspirational (and not the idolatrous) role that the idea of a “hero” is intended for.

  2. I always took a 'higher' road and named astronauts as my heroes. Thankfully, they remain famous and exclusive to this day.

  3. Susan – yep. Real heroes are just regular people, and idealizing anyone is unfair on both ends — they will fail us at some point, and then we're disappointed in them for not being perfect, which is unattainable.

    Utsav – Dammit. You have an answer for everything.

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