What Makes a Hero?
As a romance writer, having a hero is crucial to any story I create. I take time to sit down and go over the strengths and weaknesses I want for my hero (physical, psychological, emotional, etc.) so that the hero is as well-rounded as possible. All heroes have flaws, and it's how they overcome those flaws that helps to make the story compelling and keeps us wanting to read more. I do a lot of character building before I start writing so that I have a strong idea of where I want to begin, but, like all of us, things develop and change as I go along.
We all have different ideas of what makes a hero. For some of us, we instantly think about all the superheroes that have become so prevalent in movies, on television, and in books over the last twenty years. For others it may be people we see in the media - sports stars, celebrities, media icons, politicians, leaders of business and the like. There's nothing wrong with following these people and what they do, or looking up to their achievements in life as people you may want to emulate.
For me, however, I think it is easier and more important to find the heroes we see in our everyday lives. Being a hero doesn't have to mean saving people from a perilous situation like Spiderman or Superman or leading your team to victory like Tom Brady or LeBron James. I've found often that my heroes are people I know and how they go about their lives. It's often the little things that they do each day that help to make life better for someone that stands out. Like Maya Angelou says in the quote I have up on the site right now, someone who is looking to make the world around us a better place for all people is what makes a hero.
It doesn't have to be a grand, noticeable gesture either. The heroes I know or have known are people that don't do it for glory or notice. They do it because they know it was going to have an impact on someone else. I've tried to translate this into my fiction so that my main characters try to do the small things to help improve people's lives.
In my book Preacher, Cillian (the hero) does small things in life to help make things better for those around him. He often puts thoughts of himself aside so that he can help others without the expectation of getting anything from it. Of course, this can prove to be a weakness as well, but it is the way he approaches life that allows him to overcome the obstacles he faces so that he can reach the happiness he has been striving for.
I've known and know many people that I would consider heroes in my life. My father was a hero for doing all he could and had to do to help raise six of us, sacrificing along the way so that our family was safe, secure, strong, and happy. My brothers and sisters and I talk about him constantly and all he did for us.
Heroes don't have to be someone that is older than you either. I know a hero in my life who is younger and has overcome more than most people will in a lifetime. Eric Thomas faced a life-threatening illness the same time I was facing my own, but he was just five years old when he did it. Dealing with life and death and fighting through it to survive and thrive lets him serve as an inspiration to me. His sister Caitlin is the same way. She courageously was his bone marrow transplant match to help him without a second thought.
As I said, it's not just people who make big gestures that our heroes. Like many of us today, I've lost many loved ones over the last year or so. Recently I lost two people who I consider heroes. My friend Joe, who I had written about in a previous post, was a hero who wanted no recognition. He dealt with ihs own health issues while working hard to help others. He was deeply involved in local charities, manning warming stations during the cold months so that those who needed help had a safe place to go to sleep, stay warm, and have a hot meal. He readily gave of his time, money, and effort.
Andy Lyons, my wife's uncle, also recently passed away suddenly. Not only was he family, but he went beyond that for myself and others around him. He never saw me as someone who had just married his niece. He treated me life family and like a friend. Andy was one of those people who always looked at the bright side of life and encouraged you at every turn. I was lucky enough to get to spend time with him at family gatherings or trips to his home in Delaware, and there wasn't a person who cared more about others and had a deep love for his family and community. Andy and I took a road trip back in 2011, spending a week driving from Delaware to Florida in February to see Spring Training in person. It was something both of us always wanted to do, and it was just after I had dealt with my health issues and had more trouble getting around. We spent days together, switching off driving, staying in hotels, sharing meals, going to movies, going to ball games, and talking about anything and everything. It was one of the best and most important experiences of my life and it's one I'll never forget. I learned a lot from him in just that week about life, family, faith, love, friendship and more. He was always one of my biggest supporters, just like he was to everyone who he came into contact with. Like Maya Angelou professed, Andy tried and succeeded in making this place better for all.
You don't have to look far to find a hero. If you're like me, you probably have several around you already. Taking even small steps in your own life can help you to be a hero to someone else. That small gesture you provide or bit of advice you give can change a person's life in ways you never imagined. I hope you're lucky enough to have people like this in your life, and if you are, take a moment to thank that person for all they have given to you.
Thanks for being part part of this website and reading. I hope you're enjoying it as much as I am, and stay tuned for more about For What It's Worth, my holiday book coming out Friday, December 10th!