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What Makes a Hero? K S Ferguson Shares Her Thoughts ... #AmReading #AmWriting #Fantasy

Posted on Wednesday, October 1, 2014

What makes a hero? According to bestselling thriller author John Sanford, a hero has to be handsome (or beautiful if female), intelligent, and successful. Think about your favorite books. Does that description apply to the characters you liked most, the ones you were thinking about weeks, months, or even years after you put the book down?

Writers are warned to stay away from clich├ęs. If all main characters meet Sanford's description, won't they begin to seem like boring, cookie-cutter characters? How do writers address the diversity of problems characters encounter if the main characters are all alike?

River Madden, the main character in Touching Madness, has schizophrenia. Because of his homelessness, he's not under the care of a doctor or receiving medications that miraculously make him 'normal.' He's small, thin, and a dedicated pacifist. While he's able to keep himself fed by selling sketches on the street, he's not what society would consider a success story. He's the antithesis of what Sanford says readers require in their heroes.

But readers love River. He's frequently described as 'vulnerable.' His mental illness is not the whole of who he is. It's a complicating factor. He's able to cope with it because he has high intelligence and a self-deprecating sense of humor about the difficulties the schizophrenia causes.

If readers require handsome heroes and writers want to sell books, then shouldn't writers eliminate gay characters, minorities, the handicapped, the mentally ill from their lists of potential heroes? A literature professor once told me that it was the writer's job to hold the mirror up to society. Is a world peopled by nothing but handsome heroes an accurate reflection? What about you? Do you enjoy stories about characters who aren't beautiful people?

Touching Madness

Light bulbs talk to River Madden; God doesn't. When the homeless schizophrenic unintentionally fractures a dimensional barrier and accidentally steals a gym bag containing a million dollars, everyone from the multiverse police to the local crime boss—and an eight-foot tall demon—are after him. Can he dodge them long enough to correct his mistakes and prevent the destruction of three separate dimensions? If he succeeds, will the light bulbs stop singing off-key?

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Genre – Contemporary, Urban fantasy
Rating – R
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