Friday, April 2, 2010

B is for Bravery

If our main characters aren't brave, if they don't have the courage to confront evil, face their fears, and fight back to defend themselves or their loved ones, they're not likely to be sympathetic characters. Most readers of mystery, suspense, and thrillers expect the main character to live up to the challenge, to be a hero.

From Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple to Lee Child's Jack Reacher, bravery is one of the most important traits of the genre's protagonists.

Interesting enough, bravery in a main character is often accompanied by a reckless disregard for his own safety, and sometimes a big streak of stupidity.

In my two amateur sleuth mysteries, The Prairie Grass Murders and The Desert Hedge Murders, 60ish characters Sylvia Thorn and her brother Willie Grisseljon are actively involved in solving crimes. Sylvia, although she should know better, impulsively sticks her nose in places it doesn't belong. She has a heightened sense of responsibility and wants bad guys apprehended. If she thinks the law isn't up to it, she steps up to the plate.

Willie, a more cautious soul, would prefer to leave the sleuthing up to the police. He tries to talk Sylvia into abandoning her detecting activities, but when the chips are down, he'll do anything to keep his sister safe.

Have you ever read a book from this genre where the main character gave in to his fears and never showed the slightest sign of courage? Would such a character be appealing?


"Bravery never goes out of fashion."
--------------------William Makepeace Thackery (1811-1863)

16 comments:

Mason Canyon said...

I think it's always interesting to read about a character who wants to give in to their fears, is tempted for a little while, but jumps right in anyway. Interesting post.

Sugar said...

It is always hard to separate bravery with stupidity sometimes. I am going to keep this in mind when reading from now on..Thanks for the insite.

Jemi Fraser said...

Good question. I think all of the characters I enjoy reading about are brave - or get brave as the stories go along. :)

Talli Roland said...

Great point about bravery. I can't imagine a story where the character is so passive they never stand up for themselves, and just get carried along. I'm not sure I would enjoy a story where a character doesn't take a stand for something. And I can't think of such a book!

Karen Walker said...

The reason I read fiction is to read about characters that say and I things I'd never be able to, nor want to do, in some cases. So, yes, I would like characters to be brave, not wimpy.
Karen

catwoods said...

That would be a sad read, indeed. I have enough cowardice in my own life. I don't need my MC's to shrink away out of fear!

irishoma said...

Excellent points about how a character needs to be brave to be appealing. For me, I think the most appealing characters are the ones who grow and change (for the better) as the story progresses. If a character is weak or unsure in the beginning then becomes strong and decisive--for me that's an appealing character.
Donna Volkenannt

ModernDayDrifter said...

I agree with you on how a character needs to have bravery for themselves and family for the reader to be sympathetic toward them. Without that, the character just seems like a hollow shell. Nice blog!

Kay said...

Bravery on the part of characters is necessary for characters in other genre's too. They have to stick their necks out to confront the conflicts/challenges that face them.

Doing nothing or running away (except to make the situation worse) isn't an option if you want readers.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I'm loving this blog challenge, and today I found a great resource -- I'll tell you all about it tomorrow.

And for all who are visiting and wonder why I'm not visiting back, I had laptop problems yesterday, Blogger wouldn't let me leave comments at about half of the blogs I visited, and I have a precious 1-year-old grandaughter (and her parents) visiting so am seriously distracted (and enjoying every minute of it). Now I'm off to try blog hopping again -- hopefully Blogger will let me do my thing today.

Galen Kindley--Author said...

In the army, this has many names, one of them is Personal Courage. It's expected. We act like we have it. We hope we have it. But secretly, I at least, wondered how I'd react if...

In addition, I think the older you become, the less spontaneous your personal courage. Not saying it goes away (exactly), just saying you're not quite so ready to volunteer to fly that night vision goggle, bad weather, two hour, nap-of-the-earth flight, over water, within range of enemy gunners. The hand goes up just a little more slowly.

Best, Galen.

Terry Odell said...

It's all about testing the protagonist. If they fail, then the reader would be cheated. I think the character is all the braver if he has to overcome fear to accomplish a task. Remember Indiana Jones and the snakes? He was afraid of snakes, but came through when he had to. Likewise, MacGyver was afraid of heights. One of my current projects has a claustrophobic hero. You just know I'm going to stick him in tight places!

AchingHope said...

I've actually been thinking about this lately, because in my current wip I'm afraid my character is TOO courageous, and deals with things too easily. It's funny how an author needs a balance between courage and fear.

Thanks for the insights, and thanks for commenting over at my blog. It always means so much to me that people are actually reading, AND caring enough to comment.

Dee said...

Thank you so much for stopping by my blog. It led me here. I love the sound of your books, and am having the hubby pick them up for me, as that's one of my fav genre!

Stephen Tremp said...

There's a saying, Brave men die once, cowards die every day. And thanks for the #FF on Twitter today. Much appreciated.

Stephen Tremp

Marvin D Wilson said...

Interesting scenario - no book jumps to mind, but a good idea for a plot I think. Kudos on accepting the ABC challenge thingy. :)

The Old Silly