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Fictional Heroes

Why why why why why why why why why why so many heroes in horror fiction a member of some military branch, ex-military, “special ops,” “black ops,” cops or some other member of society that has special insight into the world at large?!

I was perusing one of my local big box bookstore recently to see what they had on the shelves. I had written over 2k during the course of  the day, so I thought a hot chocolate and a stroll through the stacks would be a good treat. I slipped into my favorite niche (horror) and started snagging titles that looked good. (That is a bias that could use later discussion, but not now.) I picked up six or seven books to read the blurb and four in a row started with an introduction of the character that went something like this…

Goodlookin Hunkoman, recently discharged from his  ultra-super-top-secret special ops team, returns to his sleepy little hometown in search of peace and healing after his ugly divorce. When the phone rings in the middle of the night, the scream on the other end sounds so familiar, he find himself drawn to his ex-wife’s home. The home they shared for the blissful early years of their marriage looks the same as it ever did….except for the blood on the front steps, the broken hinges of the front door and her bloody shoe on the front walkway. Goodlookin realizes the stories the yokels tell must be true and he sets off into the night with nothing but his good looks, a sociopathic ex-colleague, big guns and C-4 he obtained through his connections to track down The Beast Haunting These Hills.

I don’t claim to know it all nor do I always have the best taste, however, I can speak competently about fiction and most days, I can even write it competently. I understand the paradigm of the hero. I studied Campbell and have read myths from cultures all over the world. Though it may be somewhat conceited, I’ll even venture to say I’m well read. Maybe I’m even a bit of a book snob, but regardless of my literary pedigree, I cringed every time the (obvious) hero of the book was some flesh-born Adonis ready to tackle even the most imposing beast with relative ease and emerge sweaty, shirtless, unmarred and dripping with swooning women. Not only did I cringe, I usually stopped reading the blurb and put the book back on the shelf.

I don’t seem to be the only one frustrated or dismayed by this trend. Most of my friends have at least a little geek in them, and many of them read as voraciously (or more voraciously) than I do. We chat about books both casually and, especially when we disagree, seriously.  The super-human hero is a cop out for a lazy writer.

There. I said it.

Don’t misunderstand me…occasionally stories about the military or ex-mil are enthralling. I’ve been suckered into more than one, but only when well written and not so bogged down in jargon I need to read it with either my computer or smartphone at hand. I’m not a military fanatic, but I don’t object to stories where that’s a major component of the story. I object to so many writers using it as a crutch to explain why Goodlookin Hunkoman is so successful at beating the Big Bad instead of creating an innovative, engaging character with intelligence and resourcefulness that doesn’t depend on his security clearance.

I don’t need a super-human for my hero.

I don’t WANT a super-human for my hero.

I want someone REAL to be my hero.

Show me some chick like myself, or someone I can recognize and let me discover their flaws. Give me an underdog and let their humanity endear them to me. Show me how they overcome insurmountable obstacles, even if they stumble and fall on their face as they work through the mess. Let their will, their determination, and their creativity make them superhuman. Let their adventures change them for both the positive and the negative. Show me how they grow, and let me see them earn the scars they’ll bear for the rest of their lives. That’s what I want. Give me someone real, not Condensed Canned SuperHuman; I won’t believe them anyway.

Just sayin’….

…and until someone listens, I’m digging through what’s out there, looking for an anti-hero or at least a reluctant one.


  1. October 26, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    OMG! It’s the premise of my next parody book staring me right in the face! 😀

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