I'm posting this a little early to make sure it gets up for Thursday. As I said in my intro, I'll be doing two posts a week, but would be happy to have some discussions, so if there's something you want to see, let me know.
First, a little more about heroes.
If you Google around, you can find dozens—maybe hundreds—of "classifications" of heroes. Again, here I'm kind of reluctant to pigeonhole a character. I'm afraid I'd second guess myself on whether or not that behavior is "appropriate" for his classification. I was at a workshop recently, where the topic was romantic heroes. Bottom line: there are as many opinions as there are writers.
I was at a workshop recently, given by author Jaxine Daniels. After going through different interpretations of different types of heroes, including the all-too-prevalent alpha male, and quoting a good number of authors, all of whom had their own categories and definitions, the takeaway gem of the workshop was that there is no need to sweat whether your hero is Alpha, Beta, or Theta. Or a Thinker, Ruler, Warrior, or Sorcerer. Or a Chief, Bad Boy, Best Friend or Charmer. The term "alpha male" originated in the animal kingdom, and is more suited to wolves than humans, I think. Humans are far more complex, and most people will fall into more than one category, depending on the situation.
Write the character you love. Let others worry about where to pigeonhole him. I would say that the speaker's description of the Warrior Poet seems to be closest to the heroes I write and love to read about. They're strong when they need to be, but aren't afraid to show their sensitive, loving side. They have the courage to walk away from an unnecessary fight.
And with the "backing" of Nora Roberts, who says she never crafts her characters using a template, because she thinks it's limiting, I'll continue to write the guys I love.
But, a book won't work too well if the only 2 characters on the page are hero and heroine. What other kinds of characters are there?
You have secondary characters. These play the supporting roles, and are often more fun than the protagonists, because you can let them behave in ways your hero and heroine can't. They're there to act as sounding boards for your protagonists, and their interactions can serve to reveal things about your character that might not surface if you left them alone. Best friends, nosy neighbors, pesky relatives. Sometimes, they're also POV characters. In romance, they're likely to show up as the hero or heroine of another book.
If you think of a play or movie, you've got your stars (hero/heroine) and your supporting (secondary) characters. Then there are extras, walk-ons, and spear carriers. Some are there simply to fill up the space on the stage, standing in the background, carrying their spears, real or otherwise. If you're writing a scene in a crowd, you'll probably give a very casual mention to the overall impressions your POV characters have. Are they in an airport? A ball park? A crowded restaurant? You're certainly not going to describe each one.
Walk-ons: Let's say your character is walking down the hallway of an office building. You've decided you need a little more "color" to the scene, so you show a janitor mopping the floor. Your protagonist might have an internal thought as he walks by … the halls were empty with the exception of the janitor mopping the floor. You've brought the janitor to the attention of the reader, but just barely.
Extras: Maybe you take the time for the protagonist to notice that the janitor is bald, and that he's wearing blue coveralls, and they're damp around the ankles. He's starting to become more of a person now. And maybe he nods or grunts as the protagonist walks by.
Now, if you want to elevate him even higher, maybe the protagonist stops and says, "Hello, Mr. Jones. How's your grandson doing?"
As soon as you give a character some dialogue, and a name, you've moved him even higher up the ladder in your cast. And, my caveat here is to be careful how deeply you delve into these sorts of encounters.
The above encounter might be there simply to show that your character's familiar with the building and its staff. That he's a caring, compassionate protagonist. By "humanizing" the janitor, especially by giving him a name, readers will expect that he's worth taking note of. They might be trying to remember his name. If you want a tightly woven story, then this encounter needs to have impact somewhere else in the story.
Any other kinds of characters you can think of? Any examples? Questions?
I'll be back next week. And I'll be happy to add more posts if there are topics you want to see discussed.