Monday, August 15, 2011

Ashley, Oh Ashley

Who is your all-time favorite hero or heroine? This question is an absolute no-brainer for me. My most beloved heroine for all time is Scarlett O’Hara.

Scarlett has been my favorite female lead character since I was two years old. No joke. My mother likes to tell the story of how her best friend took me to a theater re-release of Gone With The Wind when I was two, expecting me to fall asleep by the second hour of the four-hour saga. Instead, I was riveted, watching in silent awe as the story unfolded. Silent except… the scene arrived where Rhett, in his drunken passion, picked up Scarlett – who was now his wife – and carried her up the sweeping stairway of their house. Apparently I, with my high-pitched, piercing voice, indignantly yelled, “Where’s dat man taking dat lady?!”

Posted with great respect to Warner Home Video.

I have been a Scarlett devotee ever since. I’m not sure what it says about me that my favorite heroine is stubborn, willful, prideful, somewhat lacking in empathy and egotistical. Also, while she is incredibly smart and a romantic at heart, she has dramatically poor instincts when it comes to men and love. Hmm… I must think on this more at a later date…

What I can tell you is what it says to me about literary heroes and heroines: flaws are an essential element to capture a reader’s interest and, ultimately, to win a reader’s support and loyalty for your hero or heroine. Think about it. Almost every hero or heroine – aside from those created for small children – has at least one major flaw to speak of. Even our superheroes have flaws and weaknesses, whether they are hindrances to their superpowers (Kryptonite) or personal sensitivities (love interests).

That being said, what lessons can our budding heroes and heroines learn from Miss O’Hara? Remember, I’m speaking directly to your characters now:

  1. Be who you are: silly or sharp, beautiful or beastly, proud or humble… embrace it and make your mark with it.
  2. Don’t overthink the mantel of “hero”: your reader should want you to win the day, not saint you (unless sainthood = winning… not the case for Charlie Sheen at least, though he’s no hero).
  3. It’s okay for your reader to be reluctant in their support of you. Sometimes that’s the fun of your character and your story.
  4. Show a little humanity. Even the most “evil” or alien or animal of heroes demonstrates a glimmer of something relatable now and again.

There are so many more lessons to learn, but for now, we’ll go with these. I’ll leave you with a list of some of my all-time favorite heroes and heroines from page and film… though none holds a candle to Scarlett.  (I know some/most of these don’t qualify as Romance, but the lesson remains the same.)

  • Elliot – E.T.
  • Jane – Jane Eyre
  • Ray Consella – Field of Dreams
  • Annie Consella (if you think she doesn’t qualify, I challenge you to watch the book-burning meeting scene again) – Field of Dreams
  • Aminata Diallo – Someone Knows My Name
  • Superman – Superman
  • Abilene – The Help
  • Coach Norman Dale – Hoosiers
  • Henry – The Time Traveler’s Wife
  • Elizabeth – Pride and Prejudice

So to ask once again… who is your favorite hero or heroine of all time?


Lizzie's Blog said...

Gone With the Wind. However, my absolute favorite is Elizabeth Bennet. She is judgmental, witty, slightly reserved yet vibrant, opinionated, but above all else I love that she is so ahead of her time. For a story written when it wasn't proper for a woman to be so outspoken about her opinions or so independent in her nature, Jane Austin created this character that didn't wilt over time. She remains every bit as relevant and forward thinking now as she was then.

Denise said...

I've read that when Jane Austen wrote Emma, her goal was to create a very flawed character. When she wrote Mansfield Park's Fannie Price, her goal was to create the perfect heroine. I love that Emma and I do not like that Fannie Price at all. So, this is my convoluted way of saying that I agree with you and I like my hero's flawed too.

Megan said...

Lizzie - So I see you like the heroines with opinions and without fear of expressing them! Hear hear!

Megan said...

Denise - That's very interesting about Emma and Fannie Price. I am very happy to know that bit of information; thank you for sharing it!

Lindy said...

I love your observations, Megan. Thank you for sharing. It felt like you were talking directly to me. Now, if I tell you my heroine well I will have no post for tomorrow, so I must say, "Good night." - Lindy

Pam Asberry said...

I love this post, Megan. You have given me a lot to think about! But, like Lindy, I must defer my answer until later in the week. Thank you for starting this conversation!

Tami Brothers said...

Okay. I'm not the biggest Scarlett fan... (please don't shoot me...). It's weird because I even have the collectible Scarlett Barbie doll set (all 5 in the wonderful dresses she wore and one of Rett). Not really sure why unless it has to do with my mother making me watch it over and over again one summer when that was all that played on the one channel we had. Or so it seemed to me when I was a little girl.

I'm going to say my favorite heroine of all time is for a book, Serena Sheridan in Tami Hoag's book, Lucky's Lady. I know this is contemporary but this is also the very first romance I read and the book that hooked me on the genre. I actually have three copies of the book now because I've lent it out so many times and then had to scramble to try to find another copy to reread.

For a movie, I'm going with Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz. I love her for her flaws and for the insight she finds at the end.

I'm sure I will totally think of someone else later on, but that's what I'm coming up with at the moment.

Great series, ladies!

Can't wait to read the others.


Megan said...

Lindy & Pam - Glad I'm getting to read your answers in your wonderful posts. I will go comment there now. :)

Megan said...

Tami - How dare you dislike Ms. O'Hara?? :) I kid. That's the great thing about literature (IMHO); that there is a hero or heroine who "speaks to" each of us. I'm not familiar with Serena Sheridan, so you've given me fodder for my night table reading, but I am a fan(atic) of Wizard of Oz. Dorothy's a great choice. (Oh, and by the by, my ex-husband's great grandmother was Glinda the Good Witch. No joke.)