Thursday, October 18, 2012
You Need More Scoundrels in Your Life: How to Write a Han Solo Hero in Six Easy Steps!
Last month on Janice Hardy’s blog, we had a nice long talk comparing Luke Skywalker to Han Solo. We learned that Han Solo is the real hero of the Star Wars world because, unlike Luke, he has a compelling character arc. We learned to look at our own heroes and decides if we’d written dynamic Han Solos or flat Luke Skywalkers. But what if you’re just starting your book? How does one write a Han Solo-esque hero, a real alpha scoundrel for the ages? Well, I’ve got six easy tips to give your hero a Han!
#1 – Be a scoundrel.
The best heroes are often the worst people. Annoying, infuriating, arrogant, these are the people born for heroism. Read the Old Testament and you’ll find that many of God’s chosen heroes have some of the biggest character flaws (King David the adulterer, Jacob the trickster). Modern heroes need to be equally wicked or they won’t have a character arc in our books readers can believe in. If they start out nice and kind and giving…where do we take them? Nowhere anyone wants to go. But an asshole? He’s got lessons to learn, hearts to break, and damsels to save along the way. I have a hero in my Original Sinners series who is so much of an asshole in book one that some readers called the ending of THE SIREN a tragedy. HA! Then they read book two, see a different side of him and shuffle back to me with an apology for misjudging him. Taking your characters on a journey from scoundrel to redemption also forces your readers to reexamine their own prejudices. Everyone gets to be the hero then.
#2 – Wear a uniform.
It’s impossible to picture Han Solo without his stripy pants and vest. That’s his uniform and it’s as part of him as his wit and his blaster. In books, we need our heroes to stand up off the page. A good visual cue always helps. Give your hero a uniform that makes him stand out from a crowd. I have one hero in my Original Sinners series who always wears riding boots. Like Han, he’s a former military man. He’s also bit of a French nymphomaniac so the boots give him better traction during, you know, thrusting maneuvers. Another hero of mine wears a different sort of uniform but you better believe he stands out in a crowd. And he definitely stands out on the page.
#3 – Be bad every chance you get. And be good only at the last second.
In STAR WARS, we have a character who is good almost every chance he gets—Luke Skywalker. There’s nothing particularly interesting about a totally good character. Usually there’s only one right thing to do, but there are an infinite amount of wrong things to do. So if you have a character who always does the right thing, he’s going to be dull and predictable. A scoundrel like Han Solo is morally flexible. Nine times out of ten he takes the money and runs. But there’s always that chance he’ll surprise us, and we’re all the more delighted as readers when someone we thought of as a lost cause shows up out of nowhere, shoots the tie fighters off our back, and helps us save the world. My book series isn’t finished yet. And nothing puts a more wicked happy smile on my face than knowing my most reviled hero will humble all the haters by the end.
#4 – Have a dark past you don’t talk about.
I love a good dark backstory. I’ve had reviewers call me a sadist because of the stuff I put in my characters’ backgrounds. Guilty! Nothing makes a character more interesting than a dark past he or she tries to keep secret. What do we know about Han Solo? Not much. He brags about his smuggling credibility but that’s it for his past. Yet there are clues. His stripy pants? That’s part of a military uniform. Who was this former Imperial solider who turned against the Empire. And why? And his companion Chewbacca? Chewie would kill for Han. Where did that loyalty come from? The man has secrets, dark ones, things he done he doesn’t talk about. Give your hero a past full of mysteries. Even if you don’t solve his mysteries, the reader will have a blast trying.
#5 – Be funny.
This is a hard one for a lot of writers but you’ve gotta give your hero a sense of humor. Humorous characters exude confidence, sex-appeal, and humanity. When’s the last time you heard a woman say, “I want to marry a man who is totally humorless”? A character who cracks a joke during a tense moment seems tough. A hero who teases the girl about her crush on him seems confident. A woman who summons her sense of humor when heartbroken seems undefeatable even in defeat. Even at her lowest moment in THE SIREN, my female lead is making dirty jokes to prove that while bruised, she’s not broken. It’s easier to make a character funny than you think. When the woman of his dreams finally declares her love for him, take a lesson from Han Solo. Don’t say, “I love you too.” Say, “I know.”
#6 – Get the girl (or guy) in the end.
Your Han Solo hero goes through hell in your books. He or she starts out a wreck of a human being, a scoundrel with no redeeming qualities but a sexy smile and a quick wit. He gets shot at, yelled at, kicked out, thrown out, beat up, tortured, and sometimes frozen in carbonite. After all that, the very least you can do is let your hero get the girl in the end. Yeah, maybe there’s another guy out there who was nice and kind from page one. But he was nice and kind from page one! He’s already okay! Your Han Solo hero has done the hardest thing any human being on Earth (or in space) has to do—change, REALLY change, for the better. His soul has been forged by a dozen trials of fire. He’s earned a happy ending. Give it to him. Or her. And yes, you better believe these lessons apply just as well to female characters as male. My leading lady Nora in my Original Sinners series has a lot of Han Solo in her. And if Nora was here, she’d make an “I had Han Solo inside me…then we broke up” joke just about now. Since she’s not, I made it for her.
That’s it! How to Write a Han Solo Hero In Six Easy Lessons!
NOW LET’S BLOW THIS THING AND GO HOME!
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.