The Write Word with Wareeze—Flawed Heroes
Hello writers and readers. Thanks for sharing some of your precious time with me. Once again, we are in pursuit of writing excellence. Oh, if only we could reach that lofty goal. Reading about writing is often tedious. I hope you will find this SMP blog interesting and informative.
Today, I want to question the flawed hero. My first published work Conduct Unbecoming of a Gentleman has just such a hero—much hated as referenced by several of the reviewer’s disparaging comments. From the start, I understood a hero should exhibit flaws, but he must grow and change by the end of the book. He must come to understand he is wrong and pursue the means to improve and win the day.
Perhaps the era had something to do with my character failing to gain sympathy with the reader. True, Lord Adron is a jerk most of the time, but, however mistaken his view, he fights for what he thinks is the correct thing to do to protect his ward. Depicting the era where men rule and women must fight in subtle ways to win had many readers objecting. He can’t grow from a jerk to a hero, however hard he tries.
I’ve come to understand, a hero must be a hero from the first moment he appears on the page. He can be mistaken, only slightly, and wrong-headed, but not flawed.
Example: My first hero had the best of intentions—the sorry jerk.
James Adron Gladrey, Earl of Kendlewood rode off at a furious pace, the young boy in his arms. He cursed himself anew and gritted his teeth. The driver said the wheel hit a deep washout and started to tip but if he hadn’t chased the coach, perhaps the horses wouldn’t have bolted when the vehicle began to sway. Adron would never have forgiven himself if either his ward or the widow had been killed or crippled, but thankfully both mother and child were fine. Relaxing for the first time that day, he took a deep breath. The incident had ended well, better than he’d expected when his cousin, Rhonda, alerted him to the widow’s intention to flee with his ward.
The child’s sobs pulled his attention away from his thoughts. He wrapped the boy more securely in his cloak to protect him from the elements and attempted to sooth his frantic cries.
“Hush now. You’re safe with me,” he said in a steady tone.
Jamie calmed to a whimper. Adron’s stomach churned and he glanced over his shoulder. Torn between his actions and concern for the widow, he gritted his teeth and rode forward. He wouldn’t fail Robert again—not as he had in battle. Jamie was his to protect now and he would do so in spite of his sympathy for the heartless widow. If she followed her son, he’d reconsider his opinion, but he judged that to be highly unlikely.
He urged his horse to a faster clip and his mount stepped out slinging mud from his hooves. For his ward’s sake, Adron wanted to be out of the weather as soon as possible. The hazardous condition of the road and the constant need to deal with a frightened child tightened his nerves. Adron had never been more relieved to enter the warmth of his house, bringing the smell of the rain-soaked earth with him. Occasionally, the boy still whimpered and snubbed against his shoulder. Adron pulled his cloak away from his ward and rubbed his back. “We’re home now.”
This was a drastic action, however well-meaning. He grew. He saw the error of his ways, fell in love with the widowed mother, and freed her to follow her heart, or so he thought.
Adron tried for a reasonable tone but he couldn’t keep the hard edge out of his voice. “He threatened to kill her if she didn’t hand over the jewel. She didn’t even know the pendant existed until then and thankfully, Horace interrupted before the rogue did too much damage. Oather escaped out the window and down the side of the house before Horace could catch him.”
“But he’s been apprehended once. A reasonable man would make good on his escape with the stolen treasure he has, not try to gain more.”
“Your point is well taken but who’s to say he’s reasonable. Laurel considers him insane.”
George shrugged. “There’s no saying. By the way, why did you send Laurel to Landings in the first place?”
Adron hesitated. He hated to inform George of his good fortune but he’d allowed Laurel her freedom for this very reason. The least he could do was to follow through. “I restored her to her rightful position. She’s free to marry you now.”
“Free to marry me. Are you mad? I offered but she turned me down.”
Adron swallowed heavily. “That was before I allowed her to take Jamie when she marries. I decided to step out of her way. Offer again and she won’t turn you down.”
George threw up his hands in complete frustration. “Nonsense. It’s you she loves. If she couldn’t marry you, she preferred to remain a widow.”
Adron rolled his eyes. He tried to do the right thing and of all people, George kept standing in his way. He’d never thought of George as dull-witted before but his conclusions were preposterous.
“You’re saying she loves me?” Adron questioned and laughed in disbelief. “You have windmills in your head, my friend. She couldn’t possibly love me after the way I’ve treated her.”
“She admitted such when I offered for her.”
“She ran a rig on you, George but I’m not such a slow-top.” He spring into action. “That aside, I must go after her. I only hope I’m not too late.”
“I’ll ride along. You might need my help.”
I admit Lord Adron was very flawed. Family and duty meant everything to him. He changed, but I can see how he would have been much improved without so many flaws and harsh actions. You live and learn. From here forward, my heroes will exhibit heroic traits from the first page—I hope.
Below is an excerpt from my work in progress. I hope I’ve reached my goal with this hero.
The locomotive puffed into the station at Bittersweep, Texas belching ash from the smokestack. Elizabeth Campbell, her neck and shoulder muscles bunched with tension, folded the newspaper dated August 10, 1897 and positioned it under her arm. Curling her fingers around the handle of her carpetbag, she stepped out of the passenger car onto the wooden platform and drew a deep breath. The warm mid-day sun of late summer washed the scene in heat and vivid light, but did nothing to lessen the dark apprehension or the pain in her heart. Perhaps, I’ve made the biggest mistake of my life. I didn’t want to return, but I’m back. I need this teaching position desperately.
She followed her shadow into the shade afforded by the overhang of the roof to the train station’s ticket office. At least I may have a chance to discover what really happened fifteen years ago. Will my mother’s box still be there?
Allowing her gaze to survey the little settlement nestled deep in the piney woods of East Texas, she found much had changed. The sleepy community had grown into a small township. The once familiar dry dust kicked up by horses’ hooves, the creak of saddle leather, the rumble of wagon wheels rolling past, and boots tramping along the boardwalk remained relatively the same, only more so—more of everything—noise, people, and shops. Faint odors of roasting meat floated out from the inn dining room across the street and pummeled her with memories. Memories she couldn’t shake. Memories were one of the reasons she’d been afraid to return to Bittersweep. Still, now that she’d returned, she must find answers.
Tormenting glimpses from fifteen years ago flashed inside her head. The sounds of crackling, consuming fire, the acrid smell of smoke rising above the trees from where her home once stood, and the rattle of wheels beneath the wagon carrying her away from Bittersweep rose up to drag her back into the past. Her stomach knotted and she fought down the need to heave up the few bites of apple she’d eaten on the train. She swallowed forcing herself to relax.
She stepped off the platform and stared at the distant trees. For a brief moment, the noise faded, smells ceased to exist for her, and even the heat failed to penetrate. Tremors of pounding hooves vibrated through her feet coming closer and harder until the rattling of wagon wheels jerked her out of her reverie with a start, but in that confused instant she couldn’t move. The hammering of her heart obliterated all sounds again and the air swished from her lungs when she saw the out-of-control team bearing down on her. She tried to move out-of-the-way, but she remained paralyzed with fright.
Gloved hands grasped her shoulders jerking her back against a hard, lean body as the crazed horses stampeded past. Weak with relief and trembling from head to toe, she gradually gained control enough to realize she rested against a muscled male chest. The pounding of his heart echoed in her ears and against her back matching the rapid beat of her own. She glanced over her shoulder and looked up—way up into his hazel eyes, grim, hard and sparking with cold anger.
His gaze seemed to see everything, delving into her darkest secrets. Hostile, even repelled by the thread of tension he’d created, she still couldn’t break free. Her skin prickled with irritation and awareness where his fingers gripped her shoulders. She flinched, wanting to brush his touch away, to move out of his embrace, but she couldn’t break the contact, couldn’t find her voice, or prevent the heat of annoyance from covering her face.
“Lady, are you aiming to die?” he thundered. “You came mighty close to it.” He twisted her around to face him, his hands gripping her upper arms.
His sharp words brought her out of the trance. She blinked up at him, silent, stunned with reaction to her close call. When she failed to answer, the pressure of his hands on her shoulders increased, and she winced. “You’re hurting me.”
He dropped his hands, dipped his head with a little shake and exhaled heavily before gazing directly into her eyes again. “I don’t know how this came about—me apologizing to you. But I do beg pardon for the rough handling.”
Until next time, keep well, live long, and prosper.
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