A little while back, I promised a look at the various hero archetypes, and why I chose to write a truly flawed hero rather than stick with the tried-and-true standards. The ultimate reason, as we’ll eventually see, is tied to my personal preferences. Yet quite a bit of my decision has been drawn from a careful review of the different hero-types.
So, The Paragon.
That pillar of virtue, the strong, unyielding, often silent Prince Charming every young maiden dreams of at night. Handsome, virile, all-knowing, compassionate, strong, and of course, awesome in bed. Let’s face it ladies, we all worship this ideal idol in our innermost thoughts. Who wouldn’t want the perfect man?
Of course, The Paragon is not really that perfect, at least not in well-crafted tales. But he is close – he’s manly, powerful, brave, with a heart of gold and some hidden weakness that makes him vulnerable to the right woman. He’s the man your mother always wanted you to marry, the guy who does the laundry, mops the floor, and holds down that awesome job in construction or wields a high-powered position as an elite businessman.
When I was sixteen, I yearned for some random prince of some hitherto unknown country to fall at my feet, smitten with love, begging me to become his princess. My heart longed for The Paragon, the man who would sweep me off my feet like Cinderella, spying the hidden beauty in my angsty teen heart. In other words, I wanted a fairy-tale prince, not a real man.
The Paragon is easy to write, but far too easily made into a fairy-tale caricature. Paragons do exist (my mother married one the second time around), but they hide their identities well, just like Superman. The true Paragon is the single dad who’s figured out the hard facts of life in raising daughters without a woman around. The businessman whose machismo is unruffled by working under a female boss, or the young man who defies his circle of friends to invite your shy, awkward daughter to the prom because he likes her smile.
It’s easy to love a Paragon. And as much as I admire (and yes, still swoon for) that perfect man, the character growth arc of a Paragon is relatively straight-forward. Despite the care used to craft 3-dimensional characters, all too often Paragons either overshadow their heroines, or are overshadowed by their heroine’s issues. When your hero doesn’t have room to grow, it’s far too easy to turn him into a 2-dimensional paper doll that you dress up with emotions here and there. There’s no real challenge to you as a writer to create The Paragon, although he has his uses. Exercise him with caution.
Besides, isn’t it more fun to tame a Bad Boy? Now you know what’s up next…