Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Ingredients Of A Perfect Hero, part two: The Warrior

Last month I covered compassion as the first ingredient of a perfect hero. This time I'm looking at what it means to be a warrior hero. The warrior/protector archetype is the one I'm most drawn to as a reader, and as an author. It's also the archetype my dad fulfills in my own life. Which tells you everything you need to know about why it's my favorite. I'm a daddy's girl.
Image courtesy of maniaroom
via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

For many people the word warrior brings up images of knights and soldiers and cops and firefighters. And for good reason. Merriam-Webster defines warrior as this: a person who fights in battles and is known for having courage and skill.

The expanded definition includes this: a man engaged or experienced in warfare; broadly: a person engaged in some struggle or conflict.

Our final definition is for the archetype of Warrior, via Tami Cowden. "The WARRIOR: a noble champion, he acts with honor. This man is the reluctant rescuer or the knight in shining armor. He's noble, tenacious, relentless, and he always sticks up for the underdog. If you need a protector, he’s your guy. He doesn’t buckle under to rules, and he doesn’t go along just to get along. Think Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry, Russell Crowe in Gladiator, Mel Gibson in Braveheart.

(I highly recommend her pages about Heroine Archetypes and Hero Archetypes. When I started fitting characters into these categories a whole new world of plotting and conflict opened up for me.)

Now that you know where I'm going, off we go!

To have a hero fit this archetype he does NOT have to be in the military, or be a cop, or an enforcement agent of any kind. He is a man engaged in some kind of struggle or conflict. What is good fiction? Conflict. To be a warrior, the hero faces this conflict head-on. He doesn't hide from it or try to wish it away. He wades into the fray, digs in, and fights with everything he is and every skill he has. Because he knows no other way. He couldn't live with himself if he gave up.

This is a man who isn't afraid to face outward struggles. That doesn't mean he never knows fear, it means he knows how to not let it paralyze him. It means he's capable of making sacrifices, and is willing to make them. A warrior also fights for the underdog and those less well off than him, no matter the circumstance.

A good warrior does it with compassion, as we talked about last month.

Even warriors have flaws, though, and flaws make us love characters. A warrior hero may be unafraid of facing external conflict, but facing the internal conflict brought up by the heroine can scare the pants off him. When he acknowledges this fear, and uses his warrior skills and mindset to face it anyway, we love him all the more.

One important thing to remember. Archetypes are NOT defined by their actions. They're defined by their motivations. For the warrior, his motivation is often linked to protecting those he loves, protecting what he considers his, or trying to right some injustice done to him or someone he loves. And this is just what I came up with typing. If I sat and really thought about it and dug deep I could make a pretty big list.

In my novel My Name Is A'yen, A'yen is a warrior. Often a reluctant warrior, but still a warrior. He fights the injustice of slavery at every opportunity, usually with words because he's a smart-ass who has trouble keeping his mouth shut. To him actions are intimate things and never to be displayed in public.

Fighting for the person he loves is a new concept for him. He loved someone before he met Fae, and that person acted as a warrior-protector of him. A'yen knows what it looks like to sacrifice and be fought for. It slowly dawns on him no one has ever done it for Fae. When his internal desire to be free collides with his external desire to keep Fae safe so she can prove she's found his species' home-world, he meets the challenge and becomes a sacrificial warrior. 

What is he sacrificing? His personal freedom, because if Fae is destroyed his personal freedom remains unattainable. His motivations are complimentary, but at the same time at odds with each other. He wants to be seen as more than a slave, yet making this sacrifice leaves him as nothing more than a slave. This tension in his goals and motivation is part of what has reviewers raving about the novel. It makes him real and three-dimensional.

It's stepping up and facing the challenge head-on, instead of backing down or finding another way, that shows A'yen is a warrior. It's not enough for me to tell the reader he's a warrior. He has to have the actions to prove it.

Question for you: Who's your favorite warrior archetype hero? He can be from any medium.

Next month we'll look at the hero as a protector.


Rachel Leigh Smith writes romance for the hero lover. She lives in central Louisiana with her family and a half-crazed calico. When not writing, which isn’t often, she’s hanging with her family, doing counted cross-stitch, or yakking about life, the universe, and everything with her besties. Her debut novel, My Name Is A'yen, is available at Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Google Play, iBooks, and Smashwords.

She blogs sporadically atwww.rachelleighsmith.com, can be found on Twitter @rachelleighgeek, and hangs out on Facebook. You can sign up for her newsletter here.

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