Sunday, February 11, 2007

Who are your heroes, and why?

This is not a meme (meme to rhyme with "theme"), at least, it did not start out as one, but I would be interested, Berrybird, Erin, Nicole, jo(e), Bearuh, and anyone else who’d like to join in, on what you think. Pam?

This is an exercise for writers, to give their protagonists heroic qualities, suggested by Donald Maas in his book, Writing the Breakout Novel. With some of the people I name below (like Robin Hood, George Washington) I give idealized versions of them, but it is that this idealized version that makes them heroic. Though a more fully-rounded and real person doing them would be even more heroic.

My heroes:

  • Jesus. I don’t consider myself “religious.” But I like who Jesus is and what he stands for: LOVE, forgiveness, understanding, morality, generosity, healing. Hey, he could even bring people back from the dead. I even like the saying, “What would Jesus do?” If I am in a difficult situation AND can remember to ask myself that question AND then have the strength of character to act on the answer, it’s very helpful, even though, like I said, I’m not religious.
  • Buddha. Compassion. Imperturbability (I’d be a lot better if I could be imperturbable!) Awareness. Being in the present moment. Love. Peace. Serenity.
  • Mother Teresa. WOW. Some people don’t like her. I could never be Mother Teresa, but I admire what she did.
  • Helen Keller. She overcame such odds.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt. Love the way he overcame such odds.
  • Erin Brockovich. Taking on Big Business to save people and the environment.
  • Pat L and J DeB. Teaching kids about the environment and writing.
  • Philip Pullman. For The Golden Compass etc, Anne McCaffrey for the Pern books, Barbara Kingsolver for Pigs in Heaven (etc) and High Tide in Tucson, Annie Dillard for A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and many many more authors for being important, for communicating and engaging.
  • Mozart. Incredible talent, beauty.
  • George Washington. “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Fighting for freedom.
  • Robin Hood. Stole from the rich to give to the poor.
  • Leonardo DaVinci. Intelligence, Creativity.
  • Sir Isaac Newton. Madame Curie.
  • Georgia O’Keefe. Picasso. Magritte.
  • K.T. Continuously trying to do the good and right thing.

  • Erin Gruell and the Freedom Writers. For sacrificing to make a difference in someone’s life.

What characteristics make a hero in my mind?

  • Tenacity, Courage, fighting for what’s right, love, forgiveness. Doing the right thing against impossible odds. Stick-to-it-iveness. Avoiding doing what’s wrong even when coerced. Intelligence, Creativity, skill. Helping People and animals, the environment. No using bad means to reach good ends. Reliability, honesty. Creation of beauty, communication.

What makes a person likable?

  • Amiability. Friendliness. Willingness to listen and to give. Sharing. Openness, honesty, trustworthiness. Inclusiveness. Acceptance. Acceptance of diversity, differences.

Can a person be a hero and not be likable?

  • Yes. An unlikable person could save your life. But a heroic hero would be both heroic and likable. (I MUCH prefer likable protagonists. I like them to be well-rounded and have faults, but be likable. I dislike unlikable protagonists!! [I also dislike unlikable people!]

Am I likable?

  • Not always, unfortunately.

Should I mention some anti heroes—maybe not because I might get hate mail.

  • George Bush for lying, for starting wars, for killing babies, women, children, innocent people. For stealing from the poor to give to the rich, attempting to destroy the environment (a real antihero!)

OK, now I am supposed to pick ONE heroic characteristic to give to my protagonist in the opening scene. Can I cheat by going back to look at the opening scene?

Here’s the current opening scene:


Sissy listened for voices. She stretched her neck and turned her ears in each direction, but all she heard were robins and red-wings calling, the hum of flies, and a chorus of green and bull frogs in the pond. A faint breeze in the trees. The regular pond sounds. No boys. She let her breath out slowly in relief. She was glad to be alone.


Can I cheat and add a new admired heroic quality to my list: independence and self-sufficiency? Because I surely admire those qualities and Sissy seems very independent, being alone at the pond and wanting to stay that way. She’s paying attention, she’s aware. Am I cheating to look for heroic qualities already present in what I wrote rather than trying to write some in? I think Sissy is already heroic, but I will look for ways to make her more so without compromising her. While doing this exercise, though, I decided that there is too much telling and not enough showing in the current first chapter, and that I probably need to rewrite it for that problem more than for a lack or heroism.

I think I have lots more “heroes,” but I am ready to move on. I may add more later.

So . . . who are your heroes, and why? What is it that you admire about them?


Nicole said...

For the most part my heroes are my heroes because they did things that weren't the social norm, but resulted in an outstanding moral and ethical decision. Otherwise, I have heroes who overcame adversity. Here's a few of my heroes:

Jesus: like you I am not a Christian,and don't believe in the whole savior tale, but I love what he did, his attitude, and his grace.

Buddha: similar to the Jesus deal, but in this case, I am Buddhist, I frequently ask myself, "What would Buddha do?"

Abraham Lincoln: He accomplished so much, despite and maybe because of his chronic depression. He didn't hide his illness, he faced it straight on and was always honest about it.

David Sedaris: I know, that's kind of a weird one, but he has turned his disasterous childhood into such humor. He never ceases to make me laugh.

I am sure that there are others, but I will have to think about it and get back to you.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

WOW! Thanks, Nicole! Oh, I agree with everything you say here! And I love David Sedaris, though his humor often makes me cry.

HUMOR is an important heroic quality, especially in the face of adversity!