What makes a superhero super?

July 19, 2007 at 2:07 pm | Posted in character, hero, Meg, storytelling, writing | Leave a comment

The other day, I had three bonafide superheroes battling bad guys in my backyard. Now, before you think I’m nuts, I should admit something. I’m a mom.So as a mom, I tend to multi-task and as I supervised the activity to ward off any major injuries, I thought about the heroes topic and took advantage of the situation. I interviewed the costumed boys and asked the question: What makes a superhero great?

Spiderman 2 said: super powers
Spiderman 3 answered: he fights the bad guys
Teen Titans’ Robin shared: his weapons

I thought about this and wondered how it relates to creating a heroic character in romance novels. And decided these kids could teach a workshop on character development.

Every hero should have super powers. These are different from his weapons, which I’ll explain next. Super powers are the positive innate qualities bestowed upon him by his creator that make him larger than life. They can be a sense of humor, kindness, joie de vive, sensitivity, intelligence, etc. These super powers attract the reader and tug at the heart.

The weapons of a literary hero can be viewed in two ways. First, there are the weapons he uses to woo- money, dimples, his cute dog that chases down the veterinarian heroine. Then there are the ones that cause the ‘boy loses girl’ conflict. These include his sarcastic wit, misconstrued flirtatious behavior, prior relationships and baggage, etc. The hero uses his weapons to save or destroy depending upon the stage in the story.

There is a reason for these super powers and weapons. They empower and aid the romantic hero in battling whatever stands in the way of the heroine’s happiness. Or at least he helps (my feminist influence tends to have the hero as more of a sidekick). His role is to use his powers and weapons for good, to battle whatever evil keeps him and the heroine from happiness.

So the next time you are stuck as you try to create a male character women would fall in love with, think of these three aspects of the superhero: his positive qualities, potential destructive flaws and essential role in the heroine’s life. Rent the latest superhero movie and dissect these aspects. And if you’re still stuck, don a superhero costume and battle some bad guys in your backyard. The giggling factor alone is worth it.

-Meg

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