What Makes a Hero?

I’ve been writing romances and mysteries for years now, but this week has had me truly thinking about the hero—my hero in particular. No, not the one in my latest book. I’m talking about the one I married.

As a writer, I sometimes wonder: Why did I pick him?

Most writers are familiar with characterization sheets. “How-to-write-a-novel” books usually have a chapter on characterization, often with a sample “character work-up” sheet. These charts can also be found on-line. (Google “Characterization Sheet” and you’ll find hundreds of examples.) They vary from simple to complex, but generally start out with age, height, hair and eye coloring, physical characteristics (scars, limps, lean or muscular, etc.), and then go into occupation, family, likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. And, if the chart’s creator is into GMC (goal/motivation/conflict) the list might also include those aspects: What is your hero’s main goal? Why does he want to achieve this? What is stopping him from achieving this?

I didn’t know any of this when I met my husband-to-be, I just knew I’d always been attracted to red-headed/blue-eyed hunks and this guy was one. He’d spent his military years in the Marines overseas and had a self-assurance that I liked. But he wasn’t a bragger, was willing to listen to me and to others, and, at the time, was working with mentally challenged young people, helping teach them skills. A group of writers, several years later, who spent some time with the two of us, said my husband is a walking contradiction. He’s an Alpha Male, but he’s also a Beta Male.

I think I sensed that from the beginning. He was someone who could protect me, if necessary, but he could also be gentle and comforting. His biggest weakness, in my opinion, was he didn’t like to talk. Or maybe that was his strength because I do like to talk. (And I’ve noticed over the years he’s gotten so he talks more…just to get a word in.)

We always hear opposite attract, and that’s certainly true with us. He’s a pessimist who worries about what might go wrong. I’m the optimist who is sure things will turn out all right. Most of the time I’m right, but maybe that’s because he’s made sure everything is working correctly so there won’t be a problem. I’m out-going; he’s shy, yet if there’s a person in need, he’ll go out of his way to help.

Over the years of our marriage, his goals and mine have changed, along with our motivations, and we’ve had conflicts (some external and some internal), but I think what has worked for us is we balance each other, and we want the best for each other.

When I create a hero for a story, it’s easy for me to picture someone who’s strong and capable, but one thing I’ve learned from “my personal hero” is no one’s perfect. There are days I gripe about the clothes he leaves on the floor and the cupboard doors he never shuts, the way he flips through TV channels, or forgets to pick up something from the store (that I specifically asked him to get). Then, again, if he were perfect, I’d have to be perfect, too. So whenever I do create a hero for a story, I remember I need to make him human. Even Superman had weaknesses.


The Merlin

Today I’m writing about my hero because he’s a dot on a map at mile marker 277 on the Illinois River, sitting on a 26’ sailboat, trying to achieve one of his goals, which is to do at least a part of the Great Loop. I miss him like crazy, and I worry about him, but I also admire him for doing what he’s always wanted to do. For years he’s given me the freedom to pursue my dreams. Now it’s his turn, and I hope he makes it at least to Kentucky Lake if not Florida.


Dark line shows the Great Loop route.

If you’re interested in following his journey, whenever he can, he’ll be blogging at:


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11 Responses to What Makes a Hero?

  1. A lovely post, Maris. Congratulations to both of you, and many years together. And to Mr. Soule, congratulations on reaching for that dream! Safe travels!!!

  2. Super good post. I learned a lot by reading this. Whoever said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks is way wrong. This from me-Charmaine Gordon, age 83- finishing my 17th book for Vanilla Heart Publishing.
    Thanks so much.

  3. Such a heartfelt post, Maris. There is so much truth in what you share. Best of luck to your red headed wonder as he follows one of his dreams. PS turns out I have a hero of my own who is very similar to yours.

  4. Great post, Maris. I read his blog, too – you’re right, he’s very succinct. But at least he’s checking in. And he’s doing something he’s always wanted to do rather than wishing he’d done it.

    • Maris Soule says:

      I just wish the weather was treating him a bit nicer. It’s been raining for two days now and with the sailboat, when he’s moving, he’s exposed to the elements.

  5. Really admire your hubby’s determination to pursue his goal and wish him smooth sailing all the way! You both deserve applause for giving each other the opportunity to fulfill your own goals. Love and respect…you two have it!

  6. Lucy Kubash says:

    I admire anyone who follows their dream, despite the setbacks and difficulties. I hope Bill makes his goal but it’s just great that he’s trying. Safe travels to him. Don’t worry too much. (Ha-ha.)

  7. Melissa Keir says:

    What a man. I’m so glad to hear that he’s following his dream. All the best to him!