This young man stole my heart the other day at the end of a news broadcast peopled with lowlifes. He’s dressed all macho, secure in his manhood, and just watch what he does.
Way to melt our hearts, right? We’ve all seen pictures like this. We’ve seen stories like this on the nightly news. Running into a burning building to save lives is heroic enough, but tending a tiny kitten afterward? Now that’s heroic and downright irresistible.
Creating a hero out of thin air, you set about finding ways to show that soft underbelly—you know, without telling—and putting an animal within his reach is fairly surefire. The best scenes stick with you long after you’ve read and re-read them. The hero in one of my old favorites–Tom and Sharon Curtis’s Lightning That Lingers–was so sweet with little critters. His favorite was a little owl he’d rescued. The deeply wounded hero in Laura Kinsale’s Flowers From the Storm showered the heroine with kittens.
I love a hero who’s kind to animals, but I love him even more for being kind to vulnerable human beings, especially when he tries to distance himself (because he’s tough) but can’t bring himself to walk away. Cleve Black Horse from This Time Forever is that kind of man. I gave him maybe the most difficult challenge I’ve ever given a character in this regard, and seriously challenged myself into the bargain. Early in the book Cleve goes to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. He’s aware that he’s fallen short over the years in many ways, but he doesn’t appreciate getting punished for the wrong sin. And it really irks him when the one juror who seems to be listening—his instinct tells him just maybe she believes him—declares him guilty. It’s enough to turn any man’s heart stone cold. But the greatest challenge of Cleve’s life is only beginning. He’s going to need all the strength he can muster and then some. The unbroken animals he’s bested in his wilder days were no test compared to the people he’s about to meet who need a champion.
Who are your most memorable fictional heroes, and what is it about them that touches you unforgettably? I’m going to draw a name among those who comment today and send them a print copy of one of my recent books.
Oh, and guess what I just discovered? Many of my books, including This Time Forever, are available from iTunes. I don’t know why I didn’t know this, but my family thinks it’s the coolest. (That’s where the singing heroes reside.) Amazon offers a nice variety of formats of This Time Forever, and Barnes & Noble has the paperback for sale, soon to be joined by the e-book. Just in case you were wondering…