a way from heart to heart · round robin · the silk romance

Why we love a tortured hero(ine)

helena fairfax, why we love a tortured hero

August is drawing to a close and I can hardly believe summer is almost over already. Another month means another Round Robin, and  another topic to challenge us :) This month our topic comes from author Victoria Chatham.

round robin, helena fairfax

Our characters often have some kind of psychological, spiritual or physical wounds. The process of healing forms the character’s arc. What mental, physical or spiritual wounds or scars have you used in your stories?

I do love a tortured hero. Whether it’s the beast from Beauty and the Beast, or heroes such as Mr Rochester and Heathcliffe, Daniel Craig as James Bond, Russell Crowe in Gladiator, Harry Potter, or – my favourite tortured hero – 386265Athos in The Three Musketeers – they all have an immense appeal. With a tortured hero, the reader is dying to find out how / if the character will be “redeemed”, and often the tortured hero finds redemption through a woman. The rakes in Regency novels – such as the Duke of Avon in Georgette Heyer’s These Old Shades – or vampires such as Edward Cullen in Twilight, are classic tortured heroes. They may not be totally “redeemed” at the end of their stories, but their lives are completely changed by their love for a woman.

This is another thought-provoking Round Robin topic and – again – it has made me analyse my own stories in a way I hadn’t before. I’ve realised that most of my stories don’t have a tortured hero – they have a tortured heroine, instead, who is redeemed by the hero’s love. In my first novel, The Silk Romance, for example, the heroine, Sophie, is deeply affected by the death of her mother. Sophie has made her mother a promise – one that was made out of love – but as the story progresses Sophie’s promise, along with her grief, become more and more of a burden, and she’s unable to let go, even when she knows her actions are making others unhappy. It is the hero who releases her. The hero in The Silk Romance has his own arc to follow, of course, but the heroine’s troubles are the ones that dominate the story.

helena fairfax, the silk romanceOne of the best pieces of advice I had as a writer was to make my characters suffer. The more troubles you can heap on your characters’ heads, the more the reader will keep turning the pages, wondering how they can possible escape them. I made Kate Hemingway – the heroine of my novel A Way from Heart to Heart – suffer right from the very first page, when she receives some news that devastates her and would break many people. I made Kate a tough heroine. I piled on the troubles and she bore them with courage, but sometimes in life you find people who seem outwardly tough even while inside they are broken. It took the hero of the novel to recognise Kate’s emptiness and to have the patience and perseverance to help her to heal.

I have a novel I’ve just finished writing. As I said above, this topic has really made me think, and I’ve now realised that this latest novel is a change from the stories I’ve written up to now because it features a tortured hero this time, and not a tortured heroine. In this latest novel it’s the heroine who changes the hero – and many of the characters around her – by the force of her personality. She is much like one of my favourite heroines, Anne Gilbert in Anne of Green Gables.

Thanks to Victoria for another great topic, and to author Robin Courtright for organising the Round Robin. If you’d like to read what the other authors have to say about their own tortured characters, please click on the links below!

Do you have a favourite tortured hero or heroine in books or films? If you’re a writer, do you make your own characters suffer, and if so, how?

If you have any comments at all, I’d love to hear from you!

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.blogspot.ca
Bob Rich https://bobrich18.wordpress.com/2016/08/27/the-wounded-healer
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Anne Stenhouse  http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Rhobin Courtright
http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

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20 thoughts on “Why we love a tortured hero(ine)

  1. Morning Helena, the sun is shining this morning and I’m shortly off to the Edinburgh Book Festival which, being partly outdoors, is much more fun in the sun than in the rain! This is a thought provoking subject, but curiously, my post also features Beauty and the Beast. Looking forward to your new one, Anne Stenhouse

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    1. Morning, Anne. I do envy you going to the Edinburgh Book Festival! I can’t make it this year but when I have been in previous years, I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed it and learned so much. Edinburgh in the sun is beautiful! I hope you enjoy the weekend. Just popping over to your blog. Thanks for dropping in!

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  2. I love reading and writing about tortured heroes. Most of mine are in some form or another. My only problem with reading tortured heroines is that some authors end up making them weak. But if done well, I enjoy them.

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    1. Hi Jennifer, that’s an interesting point about the characters sometimes appearing weak. It’s a fine line between a tortured character and a needy character. The wounded hero can sometimes appear self-pitying, too, if the writer isn’t careful. Thanks for your thoughtful comment!

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  3. Isn’t it interesting to analyze your own stories? Just as you discovered that one book didn’t follow your usual pattern of having the heroine be the one suffering, I discovered that I’ve made many of my characters the “walking wounded,” who have great problems to overcome before they get their HEA. What fun!

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    1. Hi Bob, thanks for dropping in, and for your kind words. If you do try one of my novels, A Way from Heart to Heart isn’t a “pure” romance, and the emphasis isn’t solely on the relationship between hero and heroine. Perhaps that would be the one to start with! I enjoyed this month’s topic. I look forward to reading your post!

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  4. I tried leaving two messages yesterday, but had some problems; a tortured blogger! Anyway enjoyed your post and I think heroines can be just as tortured as heroes. Enjoyed your post.

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  5. I have two tortured heroines in my next book, both because of their respective upbringing – one in poverty, the other in luxury. Everyone’s posts and comments have really helped me this month.

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    1. Oh, yes, that’s another tortured hero, James. I’m looking forward to the next series. I’ve never read any of the books and I’m interested to know how they compare. There are lots of “galloping horse on the skyline” shots in the TV series. Always makes me laugh! :)

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    1. Yes, make her suffer :) I just watched the latest episode of Poldark and I thought it was really well done. There was so much trouble heaped on Poldark’s head I was gripped, wondering how it was all going to be resolved. Good luck with giving your heroine a hard time :) Thanks for dropping in!

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