December 31, 2012

Holiday Cheer - Unlikable Heroes (Part I)

Just leave a comment on today's or any other
November 25-December 31

By Rebecca Lynn

I have a book coming out this week (1/4/13) with what has been called an "unlikable hero". I finaled in the Genesis contest (ACFW's version of the Golden Heart) after first having written this book and all of my first round judges obviously "got" him. But when I entered the exact same manuscript in an RWA-sponsored chapter, I had all three first-round judges come back to me with various iterations of "I hated the hero from the first sentence." And apparently, three chapters wasn't long enough to like him again. But after this, I entered the book in three other RWA contests and had the same responses as my first two contests. Either I had judges who adored him or hated him. Either I finaled, or I was just about dead last. There was absolutely no middle ground. Everyone reacted so strongly to him, but no one's reactions were the same.

As the result of one contest, I received a full request from Harlequin and gladly sent it in. I waited about three months and got a rejection, but the editor loved my hero. Don't change him, was her advice. Change the plot, but don't change the hero. She "got" him. After revisions, I submitted to Pelican, who accepted the book for their White Rose line. This editor also "got" Sean.
But I still had readers (critique partners, as well) who thought he was too harsh. This constant struggle over his character got me thinking about unlikable heroes. And since the book is finally out, I thought it only appropriate to do a series of blogs on the unlikable hero. The first one will be part of the Holiday Bash book blog, where you can win lots of cool prizes for commenting. The second and third parts will happen during my release week, so check my blog ( for the conclusion to this series.
So what made my hero unlikable? Well... the very first sentence of the book is him firing a nurse. By throwing shoes at her. He misses intentionally, but still, the guy is throwing shoes at a nurse. Not exactly endearing. Of course, when you understand the context, and how she was pushing him to put on shoes he'd explicitly told her he couldn't wear anymore. You see, Sean lost his ability to walk, and he has a closet full of old climbing and hiking equipment whose only purpose is to taunt him with his old life. The nurse skips over some easier-to-wear shoes and decides to push him into his Mad Rock Sharks instead. After challenging him, taunting him, disobeying him, and then manhandling him, Sean has had enough. We see him at his lowest moments, in the first couple of chapters. Yet we see something in him (perhaps it's only what Jaclyn sees, but it's still something) that is vulnerable and hurt.
What made my hero unlikable was the fact that he gave in to his baser instincts. There are several ways you can use the "unlikable hero" trope, and perhaps one of the most dangerous (in my experience) is having him commit actions that are unlikable. Throwing shoes at a nurse is pretty low. And even though the heroine never sees it, we (the readers) do see it, and we know that he has an unguarded heart. Granted, he shows a lot of anger in the first five chapters. None of it is pretty, but it does get more manageable, once Jaclyn starts to have an affect on him.

Writing Sean was a challenge, because there were times that I didn't even like him. In fact, there were times when I wasn't sure that he and Jaclyn deserved to end up together. She has so much pain in her past, and pain in her present. Sean aggravates that, for sure, but he also alleviates it. And that's what eventually won me over about Sean. He makes her want to be a better person.

What about you? Have you ever read a book with an unlikable hero? How did you feel about him? What did he do? Did he end up redeeming himself (or being redeemed) in your eyes?

Please stop by and see me on Twitter (@beck_a_tron) or Facebook (@rl-syme), or my blog ( for more on unlikable heroes, and more on my new release, His Wounded Heart that releases on Friday! Don't forget to comment here for chances to win the Holiday Bash prizes. But I'm also giving away a gift bag of His Wounded Heart swag to one commenter on my Unlikable Heroes blog posts. So comment away and win away! Hope you enjoy. Happy Holidays!

Bacon Pinwheels 

6 strips bacon, diced
6 oz cream cheese, softened
½ cup mayonnaise
1 can (4 oz) mushrooms, steams and pieces, drained
½ tsp garlic powder
1 tube (8 oz) refrigerated crescent rolls 


Heat oven 375.

In a large skillet, cook bacon until crisp.  Using slotted spoon, remove to paper towel to drain.  In a small bowl combine cream cheese and mayonnaise until smooth. Add mushrooms, garlic powder and bacon.

Separate crescent dough into four rectangles, seal the perforations.  Spread cream cheese mixture over each rectangle to within ¼-inch of edges.  Roll up jelly-roll style, starting with a short side.  Pinch seams to seal.  Cut each roll into six slices.

Place side down on greased baking sheets.  Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown.  Serve warm.  Refrigerate leftovers.


Caroline Clemmons said...

I happen to be one who loves wounded heroes. Throwing shoes at a pushy nurse when he didn't hit her makes it more throwing shoes in frustration. Best wishes for mega sales.

Karen Michelle Nutt said...

I love reading about wounded heroes and their struggles find their footing in life once more. (no pun intended for your hero who can't walk.)

I know this is a movie, but the character in Gran Torino was a hero that at first you're not sure you're going to like.

The disgruntled Korean War vet Walt Kowalski ends up stepping up and being a man you didn't expect from the way he spoke to people. But his crass words and grumbles were really facade. You can't help but fall in love with him for sacrificing it all.

Karen Michelle Nutt said...

I wish you the best success with your book.

Happy New Year!

kmnbooks @ yahoo . com (no spaces)

Mary Preston said...

I'm sure I've read many a hero who had to grow on me before I fell in love with them or at the very least respected them.


Kathryn Knight said...

I think it sounds like a refreshing change from heroes that are way too perfect. Reminds me a little of my "Bad Boys with Good Hearts" blog post...I have a thing for them. Best of luck.

Maggie said...

An unlikable hero is a great example of the human capacity for change. We root for them, root against them, then root for them again. Can't wait!

Rebecca Lynn said...

Wow! I am sorely mistaken about people liking wounded heroes. It sounds like y'all represent the crowd I'm looking for! :) Thanks so much for stopping by!