How do you build a hero?

november-2013-smI’m at that place some of us have mentioned before: the end of the month. Other writers on the blog have addressed the topic of heroes from every direction imaginable. They have done so with imagination and humor and authenticity, reminding us that those are qualities we look for in heroes. I’ve loved all the other posts. But now, approaching the end of November, I’m kind of…well, staring out the window without a constructive thought in my head. Sound familiar to anyone?

Where do you find your heroes? Do you see a picture of Brad Pitt or Daniel Craig or Colin Firth and say, That’s it, there he is, or do you find pieces and parts in movies and magazines and TV commercials?

I am a pieces and parts person. When I first got interested in writing books, I was ten. My heroines all looked and acted like Trixie Belden, but my heroes had Tim Considine’s hair and Ricky Nelson’s eyes. They danced like Chubby Checker and nelsonsang like most any guy who ever walked across the sand in a beach movie. When they talked, they stared right into the heroine’s eyes like Michael Landon on Bonanza, and they kissed like…well, I really didn’t know—I’d never been kissed.

One of my favorites—even then I liked old movies—was Gordon MacRae, and my macraeheroes often ended up with open Irish faces. I’d imagine them singing “Oh, What A Beautiful Morning” at every whipstitch. I wrote and wept and wished I was Shirley Jones. (Except that she was David Cassidy’s stepmother and since we were about the same age and he was seriously cute, I couldn’t have felt motherly about him.)

But you know what happens. I grew up. I married my own hero and had a family and now we have seven grandkids and I don’t know where the time went, but I’m still creating heroes from pieces and parts.

If they’re veterans, they’re quiet ones like my husband, with scars inside and memories they don’t pull out very often. They play their guitars the way he does and look at the heroine the way he still—thank you, God—looks at me. They are tall like my oldest son and built like my youngest son and have my son-in-law’s laugh that will make you happy no matter how mad you want to be. They are irreverent and funny like my old boss and completely loyal like a couple of my brothers and my husband’s best friend. They speak with Sam Elliott’s voice and walk like the four Irishmen in my favorite commercial of all time Their hair and the color of their eyes are…well, whatever they end up being, because they never matter to me. I don’t mention them often—that way, the reader can make them look however they want them to. I want the hero, after all, to be theirs.

I spend an unconscionable amount of time on Facebook. Yesterday I clicked on a link jackmanto Hugh Jackman singing “Oh, What A Beautiful Morning” It was, oh, inspiring, to say the least. I do believe my next hero will have an Aussie accent. Hard to do if he’s born in Small Town, Mid-America, but there must be a way.

There you have, whether you wanted it or not, the recipe for Liz Flaherty heroes simply because her post was near the end of the month and she couldn’t think of anything else to write. Now tell us where you find the men you write but we all love.



How do you build a hero? — 15 Comments

  1. Bits and pieces – the perfect pieces along with the marred ones. I agree that the less specific description used the better. I want this guy/gal to look the way I want him/her to appear in my head. Others must agree or why is movie casting often criticized when a favorite book is made into a movie. Hegl as Stephanie Plum? Really?

  2. Great commercial. Hadn’t seen that, but these days I don’t watch live TV much, so I tend not to see the commercials unless someone posts them on FB or Twitter.
    I think posting at the end of the month gives us a good excuse to deviate from the topic, which is what I do tomorrow. 😉 But this is a lovely and thoughtful post. I’ll admit, I share your penchant for taking bits and pieces of friends, family and celebrities to create my characters, both the heroes and heroines.

  3. What a beautiful post! My heroes tend to burst into my consciousness all in one piece, sort of like a star going nova. They write their own plots and choose their own lines. But I love the idea of you putting parts of those you love into heroes your readers will love!

  4. I find my characters tell me what they look like, Liz. For instance, in my latest project, I had planned on the hero having short, dark hair with a touch of gray. What I didn’t know until I got into the story and got to know him is that he shaves his head. Maybe it’s weird, but it works for me. Have a great Thanksgiving!

  5. Love this post about constructing heroes from bits and pieces of people you know and those we adore from a distance. What a fun way to create that dreamy hero who feels real and complete.

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