Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Every Rebel Needs a Cause by Alison Henderson

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?



Liz Flaherty said...

My favorite is almost always the guy next door who mows the neighbor's yard because the neighbor has a cast on his leg--and never says a word.

I'm like you, though. I want the rebel to have a cause. If he doesn't, he's just another curmudgeon, regardless of his age.

Jannine Gallant said...

My heroes tend to be challenge seeking fun lovers (hmmm--I married a guy like that). BUT, they always step up to the plate in the end. Nice perspective, Alison. Super dark heroes don't do it for me, either.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Now that I think about it, my heroes are the take care of the heroine and the world kind of guys. Funny, my husband mows the neighbor's lawn 'cause he can. Dark and brooding guys are pretty off putting . Thanks for making us think! :-)

Alison Henderson said...

Interesting how many of us write heroes who resemble our husbands. Hmm, I wonder why. I think my heroes more resemble a fantasy version of OG.

Alicia Dean said...

I actually like dark, brooding heroes. I don't have a husband, but my heroes are not like my ex husband. :) He's a nice enough guy, but not a take charge, protective kind of guy. I think I am drawn to reluctant heroes, guys who have a particular goal, but veer off course in order to protect someone, even though they might not think it's wise. Does that make sense? I also love anti-heroes. But then, I'm a little twisted. :) Enjoyed the post!

Alison Henderson said...

Alicia, I know LOTS of readers like dark, brooding heroes and always have. Just look at the enduring appeal of the Bronte sisters! I like reluctant heroes, too, but I have to feel the reluctance is on the surface. Deep down, he's got to be strong, brave, selfless - all those good things.

Barbara Edwards said...

I like the dark hero with a problem he thinks is too dire to solve.
That's what I like to read and try to write