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.
Graphics Courtesy of Photobucket.
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About NikeChillemi

Nike Chillemi has been called a crime fictionista due to her passion for crime fiction. She writes literature that reads like pulp fiction. She likes her bad guys really bad, and her good guys smarter and better. She is the founder and chair of the Grace Awards, a member of ACFW. She has judged numerous literary awards including the Grace Awards, Carol Awards, Inspy Awards, and the Eric Hoffer Awards. View all posts by NikeChillemi

15 responses to “Are Christian Crime Fiction Heroes Too Wimpy?

  • Elaine Marie Cooper

    Love it! And so true. The cartoon is perfect: I can hear his quivering voice yelling (softly), "Nell! Nell!" 😉

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  • Alex Adena

    Spot on, Nike. I don't think characters in Christian fiction need to be loathesome, but they need to be flawed. All of us are, to some degree, flawed — we're human beings. How can we expect readers to relate to our characters if they don't seem like real people?

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  • Dana Pratola

    I couldn't agree more. Part of what makes a hero appealing to me is a certain degree of unpredictability, an edge where sometimes his passion will override his better judgement. Not pushing the Christian line too far back, mind you, but far enough to recognize the hero as a real person.

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  • Pola Muzyka

    Good question. LOL No idea here.

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  • Nike Chillemi

    Elaine, Alex, Dana, and Pola, thanks for your comments. As a child (and way before I was saved) I thought of Gentle Jesus going to the cross, a victim. And of course on one level He is. As a mature woman who got saved, I found out Jesus was a terribly strong man, in His human personhood, not to mention the part of Him that is divine. I began to see the 12 apostles as men with lots of testosterone, whereas in my early years I had a very incorrect picture of them in my mind.That's the model I try to use when I write my heroes, whether my hero is saved or not. My hero is always the good guy. I make my bad guys really bad, but as my tag line goes, I want my good guys smarter and better. I want them morally, ethically, psychologically, intellectually stronger, and in most cases physically more capable.

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  • Michelle Sutton

    Great thoughts. I have seen a reviewer rail all over an author because a hero had thoughts regarding his physical attraction to the heroine. She said he was a Christian man so he shouldn't be thinking that way. Huh? That's why so many men (Christian and otherwise) have issues with porn, etc. They never think sexual thoughts (I am being sarcastic now…sorry!) Anyway, I like to have my heroes mess up and I think in most of my books they do at least once or twice. I don't like perfect heroes so I don't write them that way. No wimps for me. I like guys who struggle because to me they are more realistic when they trip and fall.

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  • Tracy Krauss

    I agree with everything you said. Weak christian heroes is one reason I have not been a fan of most Christian romance. I think crime fiction – even Christian crime fiction – has the added bonus of tension through the danger etc., but unfortunately, many heroes/heroines are so GOOD it's sickening. One of the reasons this is so unbelievable is that in most fiction we get inside the head of at least one person. Christian's may be able to act Christ-like for the rest of the world to see, but I know for a fact that what is going on inside their heads might be different. (And probably is.) This is where there is a reality breakdown, I think. Even Paul talked about warring with his flesh. It's one thing for characters to appear pure etc. to others in the way they act and react, but when I'm in their head, please don't insult me by making them only think pure thoughts, too!

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  • Nike Chillemi

    Michelle, Actually you've hit the nail on the head, squarely. That IS exactly the reason so many Christian men have serious issues with porn. They don't want to have sinful thoughts about a Christian girl they like. There is now pervasive thnking at most Christian colleges that watching pornography as a way to deal with those feelings isn't sex…not real sex. What happens is pornography is addicting. Soon it's not enough to look, it goes up the ladder from there. When a man is totally addicted to porn, he then finds he's not able to function sexually with his wife once he marries the gal he was attracted to. He either seeks to bring her into his world of porn, or he has a secret sexual world his wife knows nothing about. She knows their marriage bed is lacking, but doesn't know why.It would be so much better to admit to the sexual feelings and for young people to allow themselves to feel what they feel. The issue is what their actions will be, not what sensual or sexual feeling they have. As I once heard a Christian African American woman say, "Not every erection if an emergency." Not every sexual feeling has to be acted upon.We don't want to be guided by the world in matters of sex. Maybe we should not be guided by the world in matters of marriage. Young people in the secular world are getting married later and later in life. Is this appropriate for Christians? Perhaps not.Should Christian young people be waiting to get married until they have their masters degrees or are firmly established in their careers as their secualr counterparts are? Maybe not.

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  • Nike Chillemi

    Tracy,I couldn't agree more. What is going on insidet he heads of many Christians isn't what they're acting out. Hey, that's all right. The thought isn't necessarily sinful…although some thoughts may be is embellished and acted out in the mind in living color.What makes us successful Christians is taking the thoughts captive. The Bible doesn't say we're not to have the thoughts. No, the Lord created us. He knows we're going to have the thoughts. We're to be Christ centered and take them captive.

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  • Elaine Marie Cooper

    Ladies, you are so correct here, on so many arguments. Christians not having "thoughts?" So unreal as to be laughable. It's what we do with those thoughts and feelings that differentiates us from non-Christians. Not that Christians do not sometimes fall. And interesting thoughts on delayed marriage: I gotta say, I agree with your ideas, Nike. Delayed marriage and we expect holiness…right…So I happen to have dealt with these issues in "The Promise of Deer Run." Timely discussion.

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  • Nike Chillemi

    Elaine, You know how Christians flip through the Christian TV channels. Well I heard this guy preaching along about how young people should fully mature and wait until they'd graduated from grad school or had made something of themselves in their career to marry. So they'd have STUFF for their families. This is what the world is preaching now. This preacher was right about the necessity to provide for ones family, but it was more than provision, it was STUFF. Then he went into how the church was going to have to help these career minded single young people with chastity. I almost plotzed.Right now young people in the church aren't doing so great with chastity. And we want them to be chaste longer??? I think we have to really look at what's Biblical as far as marriage is concerned. I'm not saying that Christians should be getting married at 14 for young ladies. However, there's nothing in the Bible that suggests couples wait until they've risen on the career ladder.Perhaps we have to go back to the extended family. So many young people move back in after college anyway. In Biblical times young couples lived very close to parents. Heck, this was so in America up until the late 1960s, early 1970s. And things worked better then.

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  • B. J. Robinson

    Gail Gaymer Martin's WRITING THE CHRISTIAN ROMANCE explains the differences. It says it's okay to be attracted, but there are steps the hero goes through, etc. Also, a character may not be a Christian in the beginning and may be by the end of the novel. You'd have to read her book to see the differences. There are a group of Christian readers who say if they wanted sex, they'd go to secular fiction for it vs another group who reads edgier books. Depends on your audience, your opinion, and your taste. BJ Robinson

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  • B. J. Robinson

    A Christian romance has more to do with the inner attributes than the physical and beauty fades. It's okay for them to be attracted, but there must be something much deeper than mere physcial attraction and outside attributes. I wish I had read her book sooner. I am doing most of it, but I did learn some new facts from it. Women readers love my hero Matt in Last Resort and one told me only last week that she thinks she fell in love with him herself. BJ Robinson

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  • Gina Welborn

    The issue I had with the book Michelle mentioned ISN'T that he had the thoughts. But that he had the thoughts and DIDN'T stop. Instead the Christian hero enjoyed imagining the Christian heroine in her undergarments.Should we continue to sin that grace may abound? Temptation isn't a sin.Acting upon that tempation is.Is it more heroic for a hero to have realistic lustful thoughts about a heroine and wallow in that lust?Or for him to recognize the battle for his mind and then battle to take those thoughts captive?My issue with that particular hero is that he NEVER felt shame or remorse over lusting after the heroine. I don't expect (or want) Christian heroes and heroines to be perfect, flawless. I do expect them to overcome their flaws and sinful behaviors because it seems to me that's far more glorying to God than showing "realistic" for a man behavoir.Seems to me that God calls us to be salt and light? How can we be that if we look, speack, act, WRITE, and behave like the world?

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  • Nike Chillemi

    I've always been perplexed by those Christian readers who absolutely don't want any sensuality in Christian fiction at all…but, bu they go to general market fiction and read all kinds of sex scenes. What's that about? That's so hypocritical to me.I have to make it clear that I've yet to write a sex scene. But as I wrote GOODBYE NOEL, my characters this time were not the innocents that my hero and heroine in the first book were. In GOODBYE NOEL they are aware of their physical attraction. Yes, they're attracted mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. But whoa! They've also got this physical attraction going on too and they know it.

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