In the movie Rebel Without a Cause, James Dean played the quintessential, disaffected, bad boy anti-hero. This worked for a lot of women, but it didn’t work for me. To me, a rebel without a cause seems small and sad. He’s angry, but without focus or a plan. Every hero needs a cause. He needs something beyond himself that he believes in strongly enough to fight for, whether it’s saving the galaxy, catching the bad guys, or protecting his family.
I understand scarred characters and heroes in need of redemption. But even though they may lick their wounds in private, they should strive to overcome them in order to carry on the fight—whatever it may be. In fiction, as in real life, I don’t have much patience with whiners. I’ve read romances with heroes so dark they bordered on psychopathic. That does not turn me on. I like heroes who are essentially positive. They may be wounded and discouraged, but they never give up. They have a cause.
The heroes in my books tend to be protectors, because that’s a trait I like in a man. Jared Tanner in Harvest of Dreams is a security agent for a stagecoach line – a classic Western lawman. Morgan Bingham in A Man Like That is just the opposite, but he’s still a protector. A former member of Quantrill’s Raiders, he’s an outlaw on the run, yet he’s still willing to sacrifice everything, including the life he wants with the heroine, to take care of his family. In Unwritten Rules, Carter Devlin is a retired CIA agent who will face any enemy when his mother and grandmother are threatened.
Protectors can be found on both sides of the law. They don’t have to follow external societal rules, but they must follow their own internal rules. Rogues and rebels make wonderful heroes, but like all heroes, they need a cause.
What’s your favorite type of hero?