Are Christian Crime Fiction Heroes Too Wimpy?
Are we creating a bunch of Dudley Do-Rights? Are these guys so good they’re boring? Are they too saccharine? I’ve read Amazon reviews and heard a few whispers about here and there complaining the hero is so perfect, he’s one dimensional. It’s a Christian novel, so there can be angels in it, but the angel should not be the hero.
They say nice guys finish last, and I think that’s true in crime fiction. The hero has to be as much fun or more fun to watch in action than the villain or antagonist. The hero has to have a backbone. When the hero is set upon by the villain, it can’t be that he overcomes the obstacles and wins the day as a clueless wonder who accidently stumbles through. He’s got to have the fortitude and skills to overcome the villain, or he’s not very compelling.
If the hero is a Christian character, the author has some limits in that the reader will expect the hero to live by certain principles. Of course, that is as it should be. No quarrel there. Yet in life, we know real Christians have faults, some of them major. We know real statistics show a little over fifty percent of all Christian marriages end in divorce, a good number of them due to infidelity. In real life, we know most of those couples do not reconcile. Although it’s changing, we still don’t see too many divorced heroes in Christian fiction. We do have tons of nearly perfect widowers.
One flawed hero in Christian crime fiction who sent the needle on my read-o-meter off the scale is J. Mark Bertrand’s homicide detective Roland March. What a nearly over-the-hill grumble crunch, as he trudges through the case trying not to ogle his new, young, female partner. I wanted to pinch his cheeks and squeeze. Loved him. Of course this hero’s not a believer so Bertrand did have some leeway. Another fascinating Christian hero is Ellen C. Maze’s Michael Stone, (the series straddles horror and crime fiction categories). I mean this guy drinks blood through most of the first novel, until there is redemption. How can you beat that for interesting?
The only way it works in crime fiction if the author creates a wimpy hero is when the plotline shows him morphing into a forceful protagonist who can meet and defeat the villain. In this way, all of his goody-two-shoes traits can grow into some type of competent strategy to stop the evil deeds of his enemy. This is the type of storyline I can sink my teeth into.
There should be some fireworks. This is especially true if the story is a romantic suspense. If there isn’t any chemistry between the hero and heroine, it leaves me flat. Those romantic fireworks don’t have to be physical. There can be an intense lingering gaze…even a hostile one, or witty repartee. Although physical magnetism on some level is a plus as far as I’m concerned. Christians do have bodies and those bodies do respond when there’s attraction. There might be some type of mystery to the guy. The hero has something lurking in his past, which functions as the catalyst for his actions in the story.
For me, it’s a given the hero has to have passion. He has to be driven by something, could go nearly over the top about it. My hero, Detective Ian Daltry, in my soon to be released novel GOODBYE NOEL cares about justice for the murder victim. He feels the murdered nearly cry out to him from their graves to avenge them. In COMES A HORSEMAN, Robert Liparulo’s hero FBI agent Brady Moore is passionate about saving his son from the clutches of evil forces he can’t quite comprehend until nearly the end of the novel. His passion is his human relationships, depicted in a riveting way as he pits himself against a near army of evil doers in an attempt to rescue his female partner.
A hero doesn’t have to be good as much as he has to be operational. By that I mean capable of carrying out the hero role in the story to it’s logical conclusion when he defeats the villain. To do that he’s got to have some smarts. Readers today have no tolerance for a dumb hero. In addition, a great hero isn’t predictable. Yes, he’s true to his core values, but the author is able to reach within him and pull some response out that creates unexpected plot twists.
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