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:
- Be who you are: silly or sharp, beautiful or beastly, proud or humble… embrace it and make your mark with it.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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?