Monday, February 7, 2011

Monday's Writing Tip: Real Life Insight to Help Craft Your Tortured Hero


Dave Draveck
"My arm to me was what hands are to a concert pianist, what feet are to a marathon runner.  It's what made me valuable. What gave me worth in the eyes of the world. Then suddenly, my arm was gone." Dave Dravecky


In the June 2010 issue of Romance Writers Report, Romance Writers of America's Librarian of the year, Jennifer Lohmann, said her favorite romances involve a tortured hero. "...bring down that duke with stroke in his 30s, ruin a painter's painting arm and take away his eye...give him a stutter, have his mother abandon him, his father hate him..."

When the hero you've created is tortured, just the right woman--your heroine--can come along and pull him out of the lowly depths to which he has sunk. Regardless of the obstacles, and what your hero has suffered, your heroine can restore him to the man he once was, only better. Don't you just love happy endings?

After I read Ms. Lohmann's quote, I started thinking about some real life tortured heroes. Sometimes, the torture can be self inflicted, through lapses in judgement, such as alcohol abuse or drug use. But sometimes, unavoidable circumstances can bring about life altering change.

Michael Phelps is a star athlete and Olympic champion. We all know his story. With the world at his fingertips, Phelps made a rather pricey error in judgement. Once photos circulated of him indulging in an illegal substance, his multi-million dollar endorsements slipped right through his fingers and down the drain. Those Wheaties boxes featuring his picture were distributed to third world countries.

Ludwig van Beethoven, brilliant German composer and pianist, began to lose his hearing while still in his twenties. He ended up completely deaf, but despite this still continued to compose, conduct, and even perform. The cause of Beethoven's deafness is unknown, but it has been attributed to syphilis, lead poisoning, typhus, an auto-immune disorder, and even immersing his head in cold water to stay awake.

Lou Gherig, the great baseball player from the 1920's and '30s, is remembered for his prowess as a hitter, his consecutive games played record, and his farewell to baseball at age 36. Then he was stricken with with a fatal neurological disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, now known as "Lou Gherig's Disease." Motor function of the central nervous system is destroyed, but the mind stays in tact, and life is cut short. Gherig died at 38.

Dave Dravecky is a Christian motivational speaker. At one time, however, he was a major league baseball player. He's remembered for his battle against cancer, which ended his baseball career. After undergoing surgery to remove cancerous cells in his pitching arm, Dravecky began playing again. But the cancer returned. Eventually, his left arm and shoulder were amputated. After the first surgery Dravecky wrote a book entitled Comeback. He later wrote a follow-up, When You Can't Come Back.

While preparing this post I read Dravecky's encouraging and inspirational website.  I saw that he's written another book which examines how he coped with the amputation. As women, we don't understand that men see themselves defined by their careers. In The Worth of a Man, Dave says he felt stripped of his identity. He began to ponder many questions men ask themselves. Where does my worth come from? What creates my value and identity? Is there more to me than what was my career? After a long search, Dave discovered that his true worth could never be shaken by adversity or loss, and now he's inspiring others!

Sounds like The Worth of a Man is an awesome read that also offers insight into the soul of a real life tortured hero. A hero able to rise above adversity through faith, and his real life heroine wife, Jan.

What real life tortured heroes can inspire your writing? Tweet me @: maria_mckenzie. Thanks for visiting!

5 comments:

Nas Dean said...

Hi Maria,

Thanks for a great post!

Old Kitty said...

My tortured heroes/heroines who inspire me to write tend to be ones I see in films!

For general life inspirations however I'd list people like Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, and all those persecuted (past and present) for fighting the good fight so to speak!

I hope your child is feeling better! Please take care
x

Norma Beishir said...

This is a great blog, Maria! I tend to favor damaged characters myself....

Maria McKenzie said...

@Nas: Hi, Nas! Thanks:).

@Old Kitty: Your heroes for general life inspiration are quite phenomenal!

BTW, one child is better and back at school, but now the other one is sick at home! Hopefully Mr. McKenzie and I won't catch that nasty bug!

@Norma: Norma, thank you! Damaged characters can be more exciting;).

William Kendall said...

The damaged characters are far more interesting, of course. They feel much more real.