Thursday, February 19, 2015

What Makes a Hero?

As a writer of romance, the ideal "hero" is something I deal with constantly. Brave, strong, good-looking, right? Not necessarily.

I first saw a reference to the following article in Everything I Know About Love I Learned From Romance Novels, by Sarah Wendell.

An article in the Boston Globe in October 2009 by oncologist Robin Schoenthaler stated "the ideal man … is the man who will hold your purse in the cancer clinic:”

Dr. Schoenthaler wrote:
I became acquainted with what I’ve come to call great ‘purse partners’ at a cancer clinic in Waltham. Every day these husbands drove their wives in for their radiation treatments, and every day these couples sat side by side in the waiting room, without much fuss and without much chitchat. Each wife, when her name was called, would stand, take a breath, and hand her purse over to her husband. Then she’d disappear into the recesses of the radiation room, leaving behind a stony-faced man holding what was typically a white vinyl pocketbook. On his lap.

The guy—usually retired from the trades, a grandfather a dozen times over, a Sox fan since date of conception—sat there silently with that purse. He didn’t read, he didn’t talk, he just sat there with the knowledge that twenty feet away technologists were preparing to program an unimaginably complicated X-ray machine and aim it at the mother of his kids. I’d walk by and catch him staring into space, holding hard onto the pocketbook, his big gnarled knuckles clamped around the clasp, and think, “What a prince.”
Who's your hero?

Terry Odell is the author of numerous romantic suspense novels, mystery novels, as well as contemporary romance short stories. Most of her books are available in both print and digital formats. She's the author of the Blackthorne, Inc. series, steamy romantic suspense novels featuring a team of covert ops specialists, the Pine Hills Police series, set in a small Oregon town, and the Mapleton Mystery series, featuring a reluctant police chief in a small Colorado town. To see all her books, visit her website. You can also find her at her blog, Terry's Place, as well as follow her on Twitter, or visit her Facebook page.

28 comments :

  1. That is the kind of man my husband is - and he is my hero.

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  2. Aww! This is so true! My husband became my hero during a difficult time in the delivery room, and he held my hand and whispered, 'you can do this, you're going to be a great mum.' I've never forgotten how he got me through, 30 years ago now. A real hero is the one who is there at moments of crisis and tells you you're great.

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    1. Exactly, Carrie. My husband was there for me during childbirth, too, and I tell people he's the one who did it.

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  3. A Sox fan? As far as I'm concerned, that eliminates this guy.

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    1. I almost edited that part out of the quote, knowing there would be some who took exception...but then, the doctor IS in Boston.

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    2. Hey, Christopher, you can't hold it against a Bostonian for being a Sox fan.

      Polly ~ a Bostonian and Sox fan.

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  4. The men who fight for this country and come home to face so many challenges. They're praised with lip service and little else.

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    1. Very true, Polly. And worse was the way the Vietnam vets were treated. No praise, only condemnation.

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  5. My hero was my surgeon, the man who cut off my breast and took my armpit apart, but before he did that he said, "If you're going to have breast cancer, this is the kind to have." Anyone who gives hope to the (temporarily) hopeless is a hero in my book.

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    1. Thanks for sharing, Linda. Yes, those who can lift us up are heroes.

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  6. I consider a hero to be the person, although he may be flawed, who rises to the occasion and does what needs to be done even if there is a personal cost. Different personality types are drawn to different things. They each have their own methods for navigating the world and personal currency. As an intuitive thinker, I am not drawn to the majority of "heroes" drawn by sensing feelers. Not everyone is into hearts and flowers. I do think an author/screenwriter should consider the subliminal messages they send when they draw their heroes and to avoid perpetuating pathologic/dysfunctional thinking. The romance novels I read in my youth were full of near rape and verbal and emotional abuse dressed up as foreplay before the characters fell magically in love and all was resolved. I hope awareness will bring change in our collective narratives. Stories have power.

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    1. Back when romance was in its infancy, the "near rape" was almost a requirement, or so I'm told. I never read romance then, so I'm not familiar with that phase of the genre. For the most part, current traditional romance publishers no longer condone that kind of sexual encounter.

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  7. Awww, that brought tears to my eyes!

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  8. For me to have any interest in romance novels and/or heroes, they need to be generously seasoned with reality in my world. "Near rape and verbal and emotional abuse" in my book (literally or figuratively) will never describe a hero. Excellent post, Terry.

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    1. I like to think the trend in romance is toward more realistic characters, both heroes and heroines. I know that's what I (try to) write.

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  9. Great post, Terry. Thanks for sharing the good doctor's words.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment, Ava. Glad you enjoyed the post.

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  10. Wow. I remember sitting in the hospital waiting room with my Dad after my mom had a heart attack. And he held her purse.

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  11. A real man. Thanks for sharing, Susan.

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  12. Loved the story about the men holding purses. To me a hero is one who stays the course no matter what. Too often when a relationship gets rocky one or both partners want to just end it and move on. Love is a decision we make every day to honor the vows we made to each other, whether through marriage or or a simple commitment to another person.

    Which doesn't mean that we should stay in an abusive relationship, but too many marriages end on problems that could be worked out if an effort was made. We live in a society with a "disposable" mentality and relationships suffer.

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    1. You're right, Maryann. People need to respect each other and honor commitments, but there's never an excuse for abuse.

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  13. Thank you for sharing that lovely article. My husband was there every morning when I woke up in hospital after my cancer operation and has been with me, holding my handbag, every checkup since mid 2013. I was lucky because I didn't need radium or chemo, but I know he would hold my handbag through that too.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your story, Diana. Yes, you have a hero for a husband.

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  14. Thanks for underscoring the point that the essence of heroism is doing something painfully hard out of love. Three cheers and a 21-gun salute to all of our heroes out there!

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    1. Debby, thanks for your comment. Yes, we tend to look at 'larger than life' when we think of heroes, but true heroes are all around us.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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