What type of hero/heroine do you prefer to read or write about?


There are a wide variety of main characters that we can see in written works.  Some protagonists are ironic and funny, while others are dark and brooding.  We can see strong men and women who take challenges head on.  Other times, stories begin with insecure characters that are made to grow as the plot progresses.  The variations are numerous, though some are more common than others.

For me, I used to favor a dark and brooding hero and a determined, but weaker heroine.  Now, I have grown to enjoy strong and mysterious male leads.  Female character should be strong as well, but must also fight with the best of them.  They both need to be able to face obstacles head on without hesitation (unless it would be really stupid of them to do so).  Also, I have begun to prefer characters that are comfortable with who they are.  That is not to say the don’t have some hang-ups, but that they accept the basics about themselves and work to improve the things they don’t like.  These are my favorite, but not the only ones I enjoy.  Really great authors can endear me to just about any kind of character.  Also, the genre I am reading can make a difference.  The characters I named above go great for romance, urban fantasy, sci-fi, and paranormal.  They might not go as well for some thriller and horror novels.

I will admit one of the few attributes that can be annoying is a very weak character.  By this, I mean one who is constantly scared to do anything that requires even a little courage.  They complain or cry or try to get anyone else to do their task for them.  Now, they might be tolerable for me if they grow throughout the book and stop being a pansy (I have another word yet don’t feel it is appropriate for this venue), but if they don’t change, I will not finish the story.  I read fiction because I want a good tale that pushes the characters to their limits, and in the end, they triumph (unless it is horror and then the ending is never really all that happy).  Other than this annoying flaw, I can handle just about any other personality if they are strong and are well written.

Now I pass the ball onto everyone else.  Readers, do you have a lead character (male/female or both) who you prefer to have certain attributes?  Are there particular characteristics you just can’t tolerate?  Authors, do you have a specific personality type you like to write for your books?  Are there certain kinds you will not do?  I would love to hear everyone’s answers on this!

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~ by Suzie on June 4, 2011.

54 Responses to “What type of hero/heroine do you prefer to read or write about?”

  1. Susan, interesting question – has really had me thinking hard. And I can’t come up with a particular type main character that I prefer. I’ve enjoyed books with wise-cracking chauvanistic men (Robert Parker), bumbling ditzy women (Janet Evanovich), spooky creeps (Stephen King), etc., etc., etc. The story seems to be the big draw to me – so long as the lead characters fit the story, I love ’em all!

    • Well, I acknowledge genre has a lot to do with it. Stories with a lot of comedy need a very different character than a thriller would. That was why I made sure to note the genres I had in mind when desribing my favorite character type. The story can certainly influence the character’s behavior. My idea for this post actually came because you can find people in the romance/paranormal forums on Amazon all the time requesting recommendations for certain character types in books. I thought I would see what people had to say here.

      • Maybe because I am such an indiscriminate reader, that’s why I’ve never gotten tired of reading. I can’t imagine reading one type book all the time. I do tend to gravitate towards certain genres, and dismiss some genres altogether, but will try almost anything anyone else recommends! Since I’ve been involved in some of these discussion threads, I’ve read books I never would have considered – just because the author’s personality was so pleasing to me. And I haven’t been disappointed yet!

        • I agree that reading books recommended by others can certainly open you to new genres. Many times I have enjoyed stories I would never have considered before as well. There will always be certain ones I fall back on though. I have to get my fix of romance or I would go crazy. Well, more crazy than I am now, if you can imagine that!

          • It’s funny to me that you like romance! Your tough warrior persona just doesn’t suggest that to me. That’s one genre I usually take a pass on. When I was very young, a group of us got into one author’s particularly steamy “bodice rippers” (and I can’t even think of the author’s name now). We must have shared a dozen of her books – couldn’t wait for the next one to come out!! That was practically all I read for several months. It finally dawned on me that it was the same story told over and over – downtrodden helpless girl meets brooding hunky guy, they hate each other at first sight, fight all the way thru the novel, and gradually realize they really love each other, and end up happily ever after. The only things that changed were the characters’ names, the location, the era, and the clothing they ripped off each other. Bleh.

          • I don’t actually read many bodice rippers. Not for a long time. I’m more into the tough heroines. If you go to my Amazon profile page, look at my favorites list at the bottom. Every one of the women in those books kills the bad guys with no hesitation and they fall in love with some great heros that appreciate their toughness. I will admit they are all series so some don’t settle down with the hero until later books. Yet these types have become the number one kind I look for.

        • Good morning, Mountainmama 🙂 I love your comment that you’ve read books just because you’ve liked the authors, and have found you enjoyed them. I wonder of some of the books that we all like or don’t like really aren’t inherently bad as books, but maybe it’s the peronality of the author that echos through or becomes a problem for us? In the reverse, as you described, I wonder if spending time with an author’s personality, regardless of the exact nature of the book, is why we gravitate towards certain works?

          • I would imagine it would be hard to keep your personality out of your books (so does that mean Stephen King is totally creepy? And does that mean I like creeps?). Hmmmm. More pondering required!

          • Tim, I am willing to bet there is a bit of the author in every book they write. Actually knowing the author and understanding their personality probably does help us appreciate (or not) their book even more.

  2. Yeah, those don’t sound like what I think of when you say “romance” novels. I’d like those too.

    • They are definitely different MM. Nothing like what you described from the bodice rippers. Try one of those books some time and let me know what you think. If you can’t decide which one, I will be happy to recommend.

  3. Good Morning, Susan, Everyone. ‘Hope you all have a great weekend 🙂 For me, story characters can run the gamut. A novel character, for me, requires three things to be an enjoyable read: a character must have at least one redeemable feature that makes it possible to forgive him or her for any evil motives; a character must act for his or herself, for better or worse (I think similar to your weak character comment, Susan); and, finally, I have to see some heroism in a character to truly like the story enough to talk about it, remember it fondly. I particularly like characters who flail around trying to fix a mistake, thereby making things worse and worse, until somehow – preferably because of their central weakness – they find an ultimate solution that allows them to come out the other side victorious and successful in helping someone besides themselves.

    • Tim, I too like characters who “flail around”, but I’ve read a few books where they never manage to overcome, and those have been great books too. Maybe just because they’re so true to life (how many real people have you actually known who emerged victorious – we mostly just bumble our way through our entire life). But is sure is uplifting to read a story about someone who does succeed, and gives us hope that our own story will end well.

    • Good morning Tim, what is left of it anyway, lol. I agree with a lot of what you said about how the character needs to have some redeeming qualities. It is also important they do grow and work at their weaknesses. Having some flaws (as MM said) is also good too, but it does have to be done right. I have seen some authors really pull off having their characters bumble around the whole book and loved it. Other times it can be annoying. It’s hard to explain how some make it work well while others don’t.

  4. Wow…what I’d like to know Susan is where you get your images!

    • She does find some good ones, doesn’t she, Sandy?

    • Thanks Sandy, I was hoping people liked the images I put up. The pictures actually come from:

      http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

      If you load them for free, you have to attribute the photographer, which is done on a few of my pages. In the case of this one, and a couple other threads, I paid a few dollars for them so I wouldn’t have to attribute them. May seem silly, but the picture looks nicer without the wording on it, lol. They have tons of great pics so I just search for the ones that fit.

  5. I, for one, hope you all find a great ending for your stories today 🙂 I’m off to do some serious shoveling and landscaping, mostly helping a relative. I can already feel the blisters to come 😦

    Be well!

    • Have fun with that Tim. Better you than me. There are some advantages to living in an apartment, lol. Though in your case, it is for family so that doesn’t really help.

      • I definitely don’t enjoy the apartment life. I have a little over 7 acres here in Southern Maine. Though I built the home (on the foundation of a ramshackle house we bought and tore down) it is still a mighty project to keep things in order. I still have an old barn on the property that I spent $15,000 on 15 years ago just to lift it from the swamp and save it. I need to spend at least another $30,000 to complete the renovation. Every year it gets a little closer to having a refaced life 🙂

  6. Hi everyone

    I agree, I love to read (and write) about very realistic characters, who have the courage of their convictions, but don’t always get it right. I try to write so it isn’t always a foregone conclusion that the hero wins every fight, the romance goes to plan, or the lead characters say or do the right things, but their hearts must be in the right places. I want the reader to connect to them as human beings, not superheros, and accept them warts and all. That said, I also want my characters to be on a learning curve, facing a number of life changing challenges that bring them to the end of the story a stronger person than they started off.

    • Janet, I love the way you put it. The heroes cant get it right or win every time or else it gets too predictable. I definitely appreciate it when I’m kept guessing as to what the outcome will be.

    • Janet, I totally agree – characters who are always right just don’t ring true. Even Superman screwed up occasionally (just ask Lois).

  7. Both my currently available books revolve around main characters who are outwardly normal, work-a-day folks who have hidden gifts. From the comfort of their daily lives, they are thrust into conflict with forces and powers that would be expected to get the best of them, yet…

    IN both The Red Gate and The Gatekeepers, the element of luck plays an important role, as does an affinity for being aware of what is going on below the surface of things. Finn, for example, for all of his seeming simple, reclusive life, had an ability to see through devious subterfuge as it occurs. Maybe he’s a bit fey, or maybe it’s just the common sense drowned out in our busy world. His wife, Claire, is sharp as a tack, but also in possession of spiritual sensitivities and an inborn facility with understanding languages and dreams. She can interpret signs others would miss.

    All of my characters, including the bad guys, are real people, in this world, coping with what life has thrown their way. The nature of the threats are real, even if they way in which the main characters prevail against the odds… may not be on this plane at all.

    • Richard, that is the key. Making your characters seem normal while having them face extraordinary circumstances. Makes for great books.

  8. I agree with the above about the “learning curve.” I definitely want to see some kind of growth in a character. I also prefer characters who are self-aware. I don’t care if they have flaws or irrational tendencies; as long as they know they do, and either accept it or want to change, then I admire them. Characters who are “I’m always right and there’s nothing wrong with me” really annoy.

    I love the strong heroine who kicks butt and doesn’t let people take advantage of her, which probably stems from a childhood plagued with feelings of helplessness. (But I don’t want her to be so tough she’s like a rock no one can get close to.)

    Oh, and I love sarcastic humor. Whether it’s part of the character’s outer dialogue, or just part of the “voice” in the narration, I love wry commentary.

    • Ah, Angela, I love sarccastic humor too. Wry wit just slays me. I find myself making mental notes to use some of the lines myself, but of course, they never come to mind when needed!

    • Angela, characters who think they are right and perfect are annoying. I agree, unless they are e antagonist or enemy, then it makes sense. Readers need to hate those guys, and that attitude certainly does it.

  9. Hi everyone! I like the female lead characters to be independent and maybe even a little feisty. I know some think that Kay Scarpetta has been done to death and that is a possibility but if you consider how much she endures throughout the decades she has been a character, it’s a wonder that she isn’t in an insane asylum. Dee Henderson female characters are also a bit…well…formulated. Still they are independent thinkers and truly believe they don’t want to be involved with a guy but some how love trumps that belief because they have seen another side of their man that you wouldn’t when just simply dating.

    Hmmm, now that I think of it, our main female characters are feisty independent thinking females who have experienced life up close and personal too.

    Lynn

    • My female lead is about as unfeisty as you could possibly get. I deliberately wanted to make her something different.

      She’s been in an abusive relationship for nine years, basically locked in a palace her entire life, and when she escapes and finds herself confronted with the outside world she’s terrified, and often comes across as very stupid in the early books as she literally doesn’t have a clue about a lot of everyday things that other people take for granted. But she learns and she grows, she makes some mistakes and learns some more, and she has a great deal of instinctive emotional intelligence, even if she isn’t classically clever. To me, she is courageous because she isn’t feisty by nature, but she faces her fears and gets on with it anyway.

      • Hey that works, too. The character grows and doesn’t stagnate. Did you ever see the movie, “Tangled” while not in an abusive situation, well perhaps verbal, she is conflicted about her feelings of being out in the real world…not even a spoiler as this was in the trailers.

        Lynn

      • Lynn, that definitely works. Maybe the key to a great character is that we can relate to them, and if they have problems and flaws, we can understand that and want to find out how to overcome those problems in our own lives.

        • Mountainmama, I think you hit the nail on the head with that one. I know that on more than one occasion I’ve seen part of myself reflected in a certain situation. Sometimes the characters handle it better than I would and sometimes not.

          I’ll put this question out there. Am I the only one that cries during certain parts of a book, just out of sheer emotional connection with a character or characters situation?

          Lynn

          • It doesn’t happen often, but I’ve definitely gotten teary-eyed reading some parts of a book. That’s part of what convinces me I’m reading a superb author (Patricia Briggs Mercy Thompson series). I hadn’t thought that maybe it was because I saw part of myself reflected in the situation, though I could see that being true subconsciously.

            What I definitely connect with emotionally (and I’m not sure it’s a good thing) is when the protag takes revenge against the bad guy who held her prisoner and tortured her, physically, sexually, and/or emotionally. In urban fantasy it’s certainly easier for the protag to dish out personal justice without fear of “human law.” And I’m ashamed to admit it sometimes, but when she rips out the guy’s throat, I cheer.

          • Angela, I love Patricia Brigg’s books too, especially the Mercy Thompson series. I’m pretty sure I know which incident you are talking about that got you emotional. It did me too.

          • Lynn, I have definitely cried during certain moments in books. Actually, I got a bit misty eyed with the current book I’m reading by Sharon Reddy during one scene.

          • Cried? OMG, I have cried myself sick over certain books. Needless to say, they’re some of my favorites.

          • Ever read the Chicken Soup for the Soul books? I cry like a baby reading those stories. Especially the ones with pets.

  10. I think I prefer the strong action character who doesn’t always end up with the love interest. My current best example is Lee Child’s Reacher.

    And I said character because while tendency is male – it doesn’t have to be that way. Elmore Leonard is great with this. He can give you Rayland Givens (basis for the great TV show Justified) and Karen Sisco.

    Also to Parker’s credit – while Spenser is a chauvinistic pig – he then wrote Sunny Randall series. Which is basically mirror to Spenser for Hire – but with a woman as Spenser character. And a large gay man as the Hawk character. I suspect, I’ll actually end up missing new Sunny books overall how that he’s passed away.

    Best Regards,

    Mark

    • Mark, we all have our preferences and it doesn’t have to be that the main character ends up with the love interest. To be honest, I’m a romantic at heart so I hope for it, but there are some good books that don’t have the main characters fall for each other. The recent upswing of urban fantasy has been great because it could take several books for the main character to “fall in love”. Instead, they are out dealing with whatever threats the author put in front of them. I like the suspense of this method and that the book isn’t relying on romance to make a good story.

    • Mark, even romantics (or maybe especially the romantics) also love a story where the main character doesn’t end up with the love interest. Who could forget the love story in Casablanca or Gone with the Wind?

      • Oh, Gone with the Wind, that love story didn’t end so well. Wonderful and touching movie though.

        Like an idiot, I keep watching movies based on books by Nicholas Sparks. Talk about depressing, but I keep watching them anyway. “Message in a Bottle”, “Dear John”, and “The Notebook” to name a few. Can’t read the books, that might cause me to break down and never recover.

  11. I’m so glad that I’m not the only one that cries or even gets misty-eyed during certain parts of a book. Dee Henderson is the one that I’ve been reading lately and it seems I do have tears welling up without even realizing it.

    As for ripping some male a new one, well I can understand because I’ve felt like that a time or two myself. Don’t think that I’ve ever been enraged enough to actually try it but felt the emotion.

    • Lynn, I love Dee Henderson, especially the O’Malley series. What are you reading?

      • I read the Uncommon Heroes Series first, then Danger in the Shadows (Prequel to the O’Malley Chronicles) and right now I’m reading The Negotiator. IMHO, if you haven’t already read the O’Malley Chronicles you should read the prequel first.

        I’m staying with a friend that could start her own library. She recommended Dee Henderson’s Uncommon Heroes series to me first. I really loved them. I was hooked on Dee Henderson. So I have to finish the O’Malley Chronicles.

  12. Oh lord, don’t ever let me read a book about a pet dying – I’m sick for days!!!

    • MM, I read a story in one of the Chicken Soup books about a woman who was so depressed she resoved to kill herself. She went to the bathroom and poured a bottle of pills into her hand. Just as she was about to lift them up to put in her mouth, her cat came,sat on the sink, and put it’s paw on her hand to stop her. The kitty just gave her a look like “don’t do it”. It saved the woman’s life. She knew at least her pet cared and also realized there would be no one to take care of her beloved pet if she died. That story really touched me.

      Years later after reading that story, when I was depressed and still waiting for my husband to get his visa to the US, I had something similar. I wasn’t suicidal, but I was definitely in really bad shape. One night I was crying so hard because I was alone and had no family or friends at the newest duty station the Army had sent me to. A lot of things were going wrong at the time. All I had was the kitty you saw in my post about pets. She was young then, only about five or six months, but she came and climbed onto my chest. Then she gently licked the tears from my face and laid with me after. In her own way, she was saying she loved me and was there for me. I couldn’t have asked for a better companion. She has never done it again, so she must have known how bad off I was.

      • My friends have a cat and I’ve pet/house sit for them before. Now that I’m here, he tends to stay close to me. Lately he is everywhere I am. Hasn’t tried reading over my shoulder at the computer but does like to sit on my lap or lay on me when I’m reading a real book.

    • Mountainmama: My wife received an Advance Reading Copy of “A Dog’s Purpose” by W. Bruce Cameron. She was alternately laughing and crying for several days. I read it next, and have to admit it was an emotional story of one dog–from the point of view of the dog. Well worth a pet-lover’s reading time 🙂 One of the most emotional novels I ever read was Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. The torture that little boy endured seems real to me to this day. And I first read it back in the 1980s, I think.

  13. No Susan, I’ve never read those. I think my friend has those in her library. I might just have to check those out next.

    • Lynn, they are amazing stories and since they are short it’s easy to just read one or two when you have free time. Unless your masochistic (like I can be) and keep reading and sniffling through them. Truly inspiring stories. I have about ten of the Chicken Soup books. You will not regret picking them up.

      • I’ll definitely check them out. I’ll finish up the O’Malley Chronicles then hit the Chicken Soup ones next. Like I said my friend has a library of books and is kind enough to share them with me, even if I wasn’t currently living under her roof.

  14. Thanks, Everyone. I’ve been asked to be a LOT more public this year with the new releases, and I’m really trying to make the time. I find it comes easily when I’m surrounded by nice people who like to read as much as I do. In short, thanks so much for allowing me to hang out. If you know of other equally pleasant blog groups, threads, please email them over 🙂

  15. Nice subject great exececution on your site

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