Thursday, March 19, 2009


Don't ask me why, but lately I've been thinking a lot about characters and redemption--and being able to forgive characters' transgressions. The heroine I'm currently writing (from A MIDNIGHT CLEAR, Oct. '09) did something really stupid in the past, which led to another occurrence that I hope modern readers can forgive her for. I *think* they will be able to, mostly because I've made it clear that she isn't the stupid 19-year-old girl that she was then, that she's 'paid' for it, and--here's the biggest part--in many ways, she was simply a victim to her time (the Edwardian era--so, early 1900's) and circumstances.

Many writers and readers are drawn to 'bad boy' heroes, but they must be redeemed, or we, as writers and readers, must at least be able to understand why they do what they do, and be able to forgive it. In romance, you see a lot of "He's a thief, yes, but he's secretly stealing to feed his starving siblings," or "He's a rake, yes, but he was abandoned/rejected by both his mother and father and therefore is emotionally detached and afraid to get close to someone, lest they abandon/reject him, too." (I confess, I used a variation on this in my June 2007 release, TO LOVE A SCOUNDREL). Even some of our favorite romantic movies have had similar 'excuses' when our hero has done something cruel to our heroine ("Becoming Jane," for instance. How could you NOT forgive poor Mr. Lefroy? Jane did.)

But where do you draw the line? Just last week, we brought up Anakin Skywalker as an example of a hot, tortured hero. I confess, I'm a major Star Wars nerd, and while I can easily point out the negatives (and there's tons of them!) in the three newer Star Wars movies, I still loved them, and mostly was intrigued by Anakin's character arc. What made him turn from the curious/smart little boy who grew into a young man passionately in love with Padme, a Jedi with rare talents who had the potential to 'bring balance to the Force'-- to the evil Sith Lord, Darth Vader?

Just as I assumed, it wasn't just some fanatical quest for power that led him to the Dark Side--it was his love for Padme (by then his wife, pregnant with his child). He was convinced she was going to die, and he would have done *anything* to save her, including casting his lot with the 'bad guys.' And that's exactly what he did. But what about there near the end of "Revenge of the Sith," when his pregnant wife showed up and tried to reason with him...only he'd become so twisted that he became jealous and crazed, and strangled her, almost killing her?

At that point, can we still sympathize with Anakin? Can we still forgive him, since he only started down that dark path *because* he loved her so much and was desperate to save her? Is it easier to forgive him because we can see that he takes no joy in doing 'bad stuff' (see the top picture--notice the tears)? Is it easier because we've already seen "Star Wars: Return of the Jedi," and we know that ultimately Anakin/Vader kills the Emperor and saves Luke, redeeming himself? Does it change the way you look at Vader, if you see the original three movies now?

Can you fully accept a 'redeemed' hero (or heroine!) who's done some really bad things in the past? Does he need to have had sympathetic reasons for having done his misdeeds in order for him to be fully redeemed in your eyes (i.e., stealing to feed starving siblings, or Vader's fanatical desire to save Padme's life)? If so, is there somewhere you draw the line? (for example, I could *never* accept a redeemed rapist--no matter what the circumstances were--but I am able to sympathize with Anakin/Vader). Some thoughts to ponder...


Anonymous said...

Great question! I think that when you have a hero, or even heroine who have made mistakes but are looking to be forgiven it makes them all the more human. It also makes it easier for me as a reader to connect with them. They aren't perfect. WOW! I'm a sucker for not so perfect heros or heroine's because that's real life.

So long as what they did wasn't something repeated and done without any remorse, then yes, they deserve the chance to be redeemed.

Amanda McIntyre said...

Oh defintely I can accept a redeeemd hero. I prefer my heroes to come with baggage frankly, makes them much more interesting than if they are perfect! Same with my heroines, perhaps less accepted though than their male counterparts,I think. But I think thats the straggling double-standards we as a society cripple along with.

Example: A man can have several lovers and be called "experienced" a woman in the same boat, is still thought of as "loose."

That said, there are some things I would not be able to forgive easily, but things like mistakes that we all make in life-bad choices, experimentation, dependence on drugs,getting wrapped up with the wrong people-- all of those type of things can be redeemed.

and like Barb said, if there is remorse and a desire to change, then I think redeemption is possible.

Even Darth Vadar/the dark side of Anikan finds redemption-true, its just before he dies, but better late than never, eh?

Aren't we all at times lured by the glamor of the dark side?


Anonymous said...

I think without redemption and forgivness we as a human beings can't move on. We can't change and learn from our mistakes.

Somethings that are done by humans can never been redeemed in my eyes, but if this person is willing to change and try to redeemed themsleves then that's the making or a true hero or heroine and one I do enjoy reading about it

flchen1 said...

Excellent question, Kristina! I do think that redemption is a very powerful theme and one I really enjoy reading. I would have a very hard time with rape or with child abuse, but I think ultimately if the person is truly penitent and truly shows evidence of a heart change, there is hope. As everyone's said, some sins are harder to forgive than others, and I imagine that being a victim of someone's misdeed might make forgiving him/her much harder to do.

Amanda McIntyre said...

you bring up a very powerful point, flchen1. Forgiveness and redemption. Can we forgive the offense and not forget it?

Especially of the love interest. If the offense was against him/her to begin with. What then?

Is it possible that to have the HEA, our characters must forgive , bit also forget?

tough question and even tough to write...


Charlotte Featherstone said...

What a great post, and awesome pics as well! You know how much I love Star Wars!

Sorry to be chiming in late, just got home from three days at a waterpark. We had fun but I'm whipped! And now it's back to deadlines.

So, can I forgive a hero who has gone to the dark side? I could, but like others who have commented, it would depend on what he had done. But, I will admit that I feel it's much easier to forgive than forget. How do you forget when you have the memories and anything can bring them rushing back, from a certain word, a look, a smell. It's impossible sometimes to bury those painful memories, and that's why I think it's harder for people to forget as opposed ot forgive.