Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Reinventing the Hero

So many posts circulating on Facebook perpetuate stereotypes about men and women. They get a lot of likes and shares. They are funny on the surface and touch on shared experiences. But not every guy is into beer and cars and not every woman wants flowers and chocolates.

Eliminating gender assumptions allows for a more interesting spectrum of characters to work with and can help send healthier messages.

Traits such as introversion versus extraversion, sensing, feeling,thinking, and judging exist on a spectrum and transcend gender definitions. They are further shaped by our childhood wounds, nurturing (or lack of), and etched by society.

There is a movement to change the messages we send girls about how they should manifest in the world, but the messages are still tainted by gender stereotypes.

An equal amount of focus should be on the messages we send to boys about their presence in the world, without perpetuating unhealthy gender stereotypes.

What a man wants and needs is different for each individual. If you want to win a person's heart, you must first learn their currency.

So often, through fiction, men are told a hero must be a wealthy, kick-ass but sensitive alpha male.

They have to plan perfect dates and shell out serious dough to impress their dates.

They must be able to mutter sweet nothings and pithy phrases while using impeccable fighting skills and super intellect to save the day. 

Being sensitive is often looked upon as being weak, intelligent as being nerdy, kindness as being a sucker. However men with ordinary skills who move through life with kindness, consideration, honor, and steadfastness make the best life partners, parents, and citizens.

Some men need to have their reality validated. They come home with their stories and they need someone to act as their witness. Some men like to "talk."

Some men like loving words and small tokens to remind them they are cared for. The same things make other men very uncomfortable.

Some men need a generous amount of physical touch. Others may not enjoy non-sexual snuggling.

Some men want to be appreciated for all they do to take care of their family. Going to work every day and providing financially are their version of hearts and flowers. They need their effort to be recognized. Some resent being the sole breadwinner.

In addition to rehabilitating the needy, desperate heroine of the past, it is time to reconsider what constitutes the hero.

If you are interested in learning more about improving messages to young men (and women):

Check out The Good Man Project, which is dedicated to international discourse about what it means to be a "good man" in the 21st century.

I am a huge fan of Tom Selleck's steadfast character on the television show Blue Bloods. The actor is co-founder of Character Counts.org, which is dedicated to working with schools to instill good character and ethics.

For more information on building characters through personality types and nature/nurture, pick up a copy of Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict and SBB: Build a Cast Workbook.

Continue reading about heroes and romance with the following posts:

Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit DianaHurwitz.com for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


  1. And some men need to nap. Good thoughts, Diana.

  2. This is a really interesting post, Diana. Stereotypes do, indeed, hurt. None of us are cut from the same mold; even identical twins have distinctly different personalities and needs. I am a fervent supporter of carefully crafted character creation and regularly work with writers to make sure their characters are realistic and unique, as well as true to themselves. As for Tom Selleck, he has always been a favorite. I, too, especially like his character on Blue Bloods.

    1. Madam Secretary is another show with good role modeling. I'm not saying every show made has to model exemplary behavior, but it helps to have a few guideposts.


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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