Thursday, September 20, 2012

Han Versus Luke – Who’s the Better Hero?

By Tiffany Reizs, @tiffanyreisz

JH: I'm delighted to announce a new column for the blog: Contributing Authors. This column will continue to develop over the next few months, but the goal is to bring a regular guest author to the blog every Thursday. Four authors, four Thursdays (for those rare fifth Thursdays I'll have to find a wildcard post or maybe do a critique contest or something fun). I have two contributors lined up so far. One for fiction and one for poetry, and my plan is to fill the last two spots with an agent, editor, and/or marketing person to get some inside tips on the business side of fiction.

Kicking off the column is the always informative and fun Tiffany Reisz, and you'll see posts from her every third Thursday (don't worry, I'll have a schedule if you forget).

Take it away Tiffany...

As a kid, I was a STAR WARS nerd. As an adult, I still am. My love of STAR WARS has changed and grown up as I’ve changed and grown up. At age eleven, I adored Luke Skywalker. When he stood on the edge of a Dune and stared into the twin sunsets, my young heart trapped in Western Kentucky felt his longing for adventure. Han Solo seemed okay but he didn’t speak to me. Still very much a child, I had a child’s desires to just get out of the house and go magical places.

But now I’m a grown-up and while I still think Luke’s a darn nice guy, I see the real truth about STAR WARS. Luke was never the hero. It was Han Solo all along.

Why do I say this? Because I’m a fiction writer and I now know what to look for in a hero. And when I look for a hero in STAR WARS, I find Han.

Don’t believe me? Let’s put them to the test. Luke versus Han in a battle of the heroes. And as we compare them, let’s think about he heroes in our own books. Are they Lukes—flat heroes? Or are they Hans—dynamic heroes?

A dynamic hero has attitude.

Think about your favorite heroes in movies. They have attitude, right? Often BAD attitude. Grumbling, barefoot Bruce Willis in Die Hard. Suave James Bond. Feisty, fearless foul-mouthed Erin Brockovich. And of course, self-centered and cocky Han Solo. Whereas Luke Skywalker in STAR WARS is, well, just kind of whiny.

A dynamic hero is funny.

Humor is an author’s best tool for creating affection for a character. You can pile on all the angst and damage and drama you want onto the head of a fictional hero but he or she won’t really capture the heart of a reader until they can make ‘em laugh.

Villains get good lines. The heroes get the great lines.

I say “Han Solo” online and people throw quotes at me left and right. It’s almost a race to see who says, “You need more scoundrels in your life” first. I bet in the last month you’ve run across a Han Solo quote or reference. “We don’t have time to discuss this in a committee!” or “Never tell me the odds!”

When’s the last time you quoted Luke Skywalker? Yeah, thought so.

A dynamic hero changes from un-heroic to heroic.

Here’s the main problem with Luke Skywalker as a hero. He’s a hero on page one. From the very start of the STAR WARS saga, he’s brave and kind and willing to rescue Princess Leia without even stopping to think about how he’s going to do it. But Han? He’s a mess. He’s greedy, self-centered, cocky, and only agrees to help rescue the Princess because he knows he’s going to get paid for it. Soon as he can get the money and run, he gets the money and runs. So when he shows up at the end and makes blasts the tie fighters off Luke who is now safe to blow up the Death Star, it means something. The Luke of the first scene of STAR WARS: A New Hope is the same Luke in the last scene—he’s done nothing but moved to a new planet and changed his clothes. But Han, he’s truly grown as a person. He’s not a loner in it for himself anymore.

He’s a hero.

So when it’s time to populate your novel with a hero or two, ask yourself who you’d rather hang out with in a cantina—Luke Skywalker or Han Solo? Personally, I’d go with Han Solo for anything.

After all, he did make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.

Tiffany Reisz's books inhabit a world where romance, erotica and literature meet and do immoral and possibly illegal things to each other. She describes her genre as "literary friction," a term she stole from her main character, who gets in trouble almost as often as the author herself. Reisz's debut novel, The Siren, was published by Mira on July 24, 2012. Reisz describes it as "not your momma's Thorn Birds." Reisz lives in Lexington, KY.


  1. "When’s the last time you quoted Luke Skywalker?"


    I've been thinking about this topic for a while, specifically "Designated Protagonist Syndrome", when the supporting cast outshines the "boring" protagonist. This is a further reminder to write about it.

  2. Amen sister! I've always been a huge Han Solo fan. In a way he was the start to the whole "bad boy" hero syndrome for me. ;)

  3. Love this post! When I watched StarWars as an adult, I realized how whiny Luke was. I love that he grows up over the course of the three movies. But, though he grows powerful, he doesn't have Han's charisma.

    Han Solo is the spice in the movie, the wild card. He makes it fun and full of tension.

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Even as a kid when the movie came out, all my friends were swooning over Luke and I was Han Solo all the way. And yes, watching it again, Han is the character that holds up better.

  5. You're right, Han is definitely the more quotable. :) When I first watched the movie as a kid, I didn't know if he was trustworthy or not, so it took me longer to warm up to him -but that's not a bad thing. Characters you have to warm up to tend to stick with a person longer than the ones you like right off, no questions asked. :)

  6. I never thought of it like that, but it's so true. I remember having a Harrison Ford calendar when I was about 13. Took all the pictures out so I could stick them all over my room. Han's such a well-rounded character. Definitely the one who stands out and steals the movies.

  7. "When was the last time you quoted Luke Skywalker?" Ha! Love this.

  8. But I was heading into Toshi Station to pick up some power converters...

  9. IMHO, that last point is the one that really matters. Humor and attitude might make characters more fun to watch, but so do other things like mental illness, a wild imagination, or extreme competence. Now that I think about it, my favorite books have positively dull heroes—but they all change through the course of the story. So, yeah. That's important.

  10. Han Solo is why I am a pilot today. I too am a Star Wars geek from way back, thanks for the insightful post!

  11. I've always liked Han better. Now I know *exactly* why!

    Luke always made me think of the Elsie Dinsmore books: a boringly perfect hero. The curious thing is that he is, in fact, vulnerable and human. He makes some stupid mistakes, he angsts like crazy...but Han Solo takes everything with attitude.

    "Laugh it up, fuzzball!"

  12. As always, Tiffany writes the right words!! Now what am I going to do with my love for Anakin Skywalker?

  13. I've always thought of Han Solo as the hero of that story but never thought about why. Thanks for this illuminating article.