Sunday, March 24, 2013

Writing Fantasy Heroes Giveaway

Writing Fantasy Heroes
Jason M. Waltz, edl
Rogue Blades Entertainment

I recently wrote a post about my copy of Writing Fantasy Heroes arriving and how eager I was to dive into it.  That post got more traffic, and certainly more comments, than most of the posts I've done in the last couple of months. 

Since then, two things have happened.  First, I've read about 1/3 of the book, and it's every bit as good as I hoped.  I'll review the book once I've finished, so I won't go into details here.

The second thing that  happened, and the one that has a direct bearing on readers of this blog, is that I received an email a few days ago from Jason M. Waltz, the publisher of Rogue Blades Entertainment and the editor of the aforementioned book.

It seems a couple of years ago, I took advantage of a special RBE was running and prebought several titles.  Writing Fantasy Heroes wasn't one of them, probably because it wasn't conceived of at the time.  That's a guess on my part.  What isn't a guess is that this is the book Jason had intended to make a part of the prepurchase deal, subbing this book for another one.  But then I went and bought the book before he had a chance to send me my copy.  He asked what I wanted to do about it, and I quickly decided to do a giveaway.  Since Jason is the person who has the copy of Writing Fantasy Heroes in his possession and will be handling the mailing, this is a joint giveaway between Adventures Fantastic and Rogue Blades Entertainment.

So, here's the deal.  Between now and when I post the review, which will probably be just after Easter if I can keep the schedule I've sketched out, anyone who posts a comment here answering the following question will be entered.  The question is:  What one characteristic above all others is essential for a fantasy hero and why?  Your answer could be long or short, but you have to say why that characteristic is the one you think is the most essential.  Hopefully, this will generate some thought provoking discussion as well as a little buzz for RBE.

Once the review of Writing Fantasy Heroes goes live, I'll put all the names in a hat and draw one at random.  Actually, I probably have my son draw the name.  He'd enjoy my involving him like that.  I'll announce that person's name the day after I post the review.  I'll also contact that individual directly and/or pass that person's name directly on to Jason.  He will be mailing the book.  This is an unread copy, not the copy I've got.

There is one other thing.  The winner will be requested, but not required, to post a review of the book once they've read it, either on their own blog, Goodreads, Amazon, or some combination of the above.


  1. Oh, Keith, Keith, Keith ... why do you do this to yourself? And to me? ;-)

    It sounds like such an easy question. "What one characteristic above all others is essential for a fantasy hero and why?"

    A half dozen answers pop into my head, then right after I think of all the exceptions. I try to think of answers other authors might give, and then I realize there's a good chance there would be plenty of disagreement. Moorcock and Tolkien, for instance, would probably not see eye to eye on such a topic.

    Then I start thinking about the term "hero," a loaded word in and of itself. What is a hero? More specifically, what is a fantasy hero? Would the Mouser be considered a hero? Not by some, but perhaps by others. Aragorn is obviously a hero, as is Frodo, though in a different way. What about Elric? Eh, probably not, at least not by many readers.

    Though perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps I'm over thinking all this. Perhaps I should set aside thinking about what pertains to the term "hero" and simply face a simple, straight forward acceptance of the word. Perhaps, after all, there is one element that is "essential" for all fantasy heroes.

    What could it be?

    Upon thinking further, I'll steal a quote from the late John Gardner: "Every hero's proper function is to provide a noble image for men to be inspired and guided by in their own actions."

    So, my answer is nobility, or more correctly, that "noble image."

    Now, there are some who might argue against this for various reason. First, let me point out that it should be obvious that Gardner and myself do not use the terms "noble" or "nobility" in a political sense. Not all nobles are truly noble, so to speak.

    Let me also point out that even anti-heroes and even out-and-out villains can, to some extent, serve a similar purpose. Such characters might not shine in their nobility of purpose, but their lack of such can still stand as example of what not to become, or what not to do, or how not to behave.

    Thinking further, I change my answer.

    Now stop cursing me. I'm sticking with the same idea, but refining my terms.

    Instead of "nobility," I'll go with the answer that what is essential to a true hero, a true fantasy hero, is the ability to inspire, to be inspirational, to others, at least to readers.

    There. That's my answer.

    And a final note ... Keith, I'm sending an e-mail your way.

  2. Note: Don't add my name to the hat, as I have a copy coming directly from Jason as well, for similar reasons. However, I like this discussion, so I thought I would share my thoughts. :)


    Ideally, a "hero" will think of the good of others before himself. He may not ALWAYS do so through the course of his journey, but in the end, his actions are for the betterment of others, even if in only a small part.

    One of my favorite illustrations of this was Disney's Hercules, where this was the entire theme of the film (btw, I could do a whole dissertation on why I love that movie, depsite its "deviation" from "real mythology").

    For a more subtle example, I have been reading the Punisher Max series in Graphic Novel format, and the story called "Mother Russia" featured the Punisher, that seemingly soulless killer of bad men, showing a spark of humanity and self-sacrifice for the sake of a small girl, even risking global thermo-nuclear war to save her. That struck me as a rather "heroic" thing, especially in the context of the character.

    Even Conan, though his adventures often began with selfish motivations, showed this heroic quality more often than not by saving those who couldn't save themselves.

  3. Very good question. I will add my two cents. I think the most key characteristic of fantasy heroes need to be that they "act." They may make mistakes, but they do something. They don't sit around, they don't over think. They act. While others are afraid or confused, the hero makes a decision and follows on it.

  4. Skills, attitude, all the rest are important. But to have a story, there's gotta be obstacles and setbacks. Hence I'm gonna throw "Just doesn't quit" in as the one characteristic for a fantasy hero(ess) that both defines that hero(ess) and keeps the reader engaged.

  5. As of 2 years ago my requirement has changed. It is now, that they must be available to read on my Kindle.

    1. Shameless plug...


  6. Dagnabbit, everyone's answers are good!

    What came to mind when reading the question is "strength of character".

    Yeah, yeah, I know. "A character must have character? Well, duh!"

    What I mean is this: He (or she) doesn't have to be perfect, but has mental, emotional, moral strength. When he screws up, he makes it right. He can be brash, but he can also be humble. He knows when to act, and when to wait (even if this must be learned somewhere along his journey). He can have a lame sense of humor or a sharp wit, but the ability to laugh at himself makes him likable. He sacrifices for friends. He might be tempted, he might even fail, but in the end, he does the right thing because it's right, not because it's easy or gains him the most in the short term.

    Yeah, well, maybe I did set up the fantasy hero to be perfect, but wisdom, knowledge, and skill are learned along the way, so even a coward or a thug can be transformed into a hero as he earns trust and respect throughout the story.

  7. To be believable as a character, they need to have HUMANITY. It's hard to define, but it's those individual quirks that make the hero come alive to us as a person we can recognise and identify with. Without it, they are generic and boring. Robert E. Howard's heroes have bucket-loads of humanity; you just need to hear the names 'Conan', 'Kull' or 'Solomon Kane' to have three very distinct personages appear in your mind.

  8. It's hard to nail down one thing, I need a likeability, charisma helps and of course a strong sword arm, but ultimately for me there needs to be an indomitable will that can persevere through whatever punishment (and there has to be punishment)is thrown at the character an inner strength to do whatever it is that must be done and I see that in all my favorites from Kane to Conan, Logen Ninefingers to Aragorn and Bilbo.

  9. Wow. I've been swamped at work today and this evening, so I've not had a chance to respond and take part in the discussion today. And believe me, as wiped out as I am, you don't want me responding now.

    All of these answers are well thought-out and well presented. There's definitely a lot to consider here.

    Thank you, all, for participating. It's been great, and the discussion and contest aren't over. I'll try to put in a couple of thoughts myself tomorrow if I can steal a few minutes.

  10. Update: It seems I'm not the only one running a giveaway. Black Gate is as well. They're giving three copies away, and their rules basically involve writing about your ideal hero. Here are the details to the Black Gate giveaway:

    There's no restriction against entering both contests, so go for it!

  11. It's hard to select only one characteristic that defines a hero, but to differentiate a hero from another kind of protagonist, I think the hero needs to have a strong set of values and beliefs which are mostly aligned to what is commonly considered 'good'. He'll stick to those values and they'll be the cornerstone of his actions and motivations.

  12. Excellent responses one and all (and a few humorous ones too!)

    Thank you for hosting this contest Keith. Not only will some lucky adventurer nab a book of high quality, we all get to discuss what we deem important in our heroes.

    Though banned from winning (perhaps I should take this up management?), if I were asked what the most important characteristic of a fantasy hero is, well, I'd have to reply, "Read." :)

    1. You're welcome, Jason. The contest is turning out to be a lot of fun. And the responses are really excellent.

  13. "What one characteristic above all others is essential for a fantasy hero and why?"

    He is an agent of resolution and/or Destiny.I'm thinking of K.E.Wagner's Kane and T.C.Rypel's Gonji.They are Outsiders, swept by the winds of fate, but they are central to the cosmic plot their stories revolve around. Their anti-hero or unheroic characteristics make them relevant to their sagas. They couldn't be substituted by any stel-thewed barbarian sword-slinger...

  14. I held back from reading any of the comments so as not to be influenced so let me do this quickly so I can have a look.

    For me, the fantastic hero should end up on the side of right (and there IS a right). The hero should serve as an exemplar of to those around him, standing tall though the sludge of corruption threatens to overwhelm him. In the end he's able to discern what's really right from what's really wrong. He can be fallible, but when things matter, he will be on the right side.
    Anyone protagonist can just go for what he wants, be it gold, women or power. The hero is ready to forgo those things in order to protect the innocent and help ensure justice is delivered.

  15. I know I am to late for the contest because I got busy with the gaming convention and then got sick from it but I really wanted to put in my two cents worth because although I feel that all of the traits listed above are necessary there is one trait that heroes need above all other trait.


    Courage seems like such a pedestrian answer but it is not simply courage that is necessary but it is courage in the face of immobilizing personal fear. Frodo and Sam are the smallest creatures around and the whole journey they go through is as frightening as one can imagine but they soldier on. Harry Potter is a child fighting a monster who has slain so many people he loves but Harry faces his fears and soldiers on. Even Mrs. Frisby in Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh faces all of her fears to save her family.

    So my answer is courage in the face of deep personal fear.

    1. Colleen, I'm sorry you missed out on the contest, but I'm glad you commented anyway. You make a very valid point about courage. It's one thing to be the biggest, baddest barbarian in the room and display what people call courage. It's another all together if, like you say, you're the smallest creature around. The personal fear in the latter case is likely to be much more pronounced.