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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Flawed Hero

I was chatting with a good friend of mine the other day and she sent me some pictures in an email of a gorgeous male model as a suggestion for a future Wake-Me-Up Wednesday feature. I, or course, anxiously viewed the photos and I noticed the man had a considerable sized birthmark on his bicep.

Now while this does nothing to lower the appeal I have of him, I was surprised he had not removed it given his choice of career—a male model. I mean in this day and age, the idea and pursuit for the perfect human body has drastically increased over the years, and often times, people go to extremes to achieve it.

Now before I dig myself into a hole, let me make myself clear that I in no way, shape, or form, think this man (or anyone else for that matter) should have birthmarks, scars, or any other permanent blemishes removed. In fact, I loved the mark on the male model. It gave him character, depth, and when I looked past all the beautiful muscle and skin, my mind automatically thought he was the bigger man for not removing it—especially given the career he was in.

So, by now I’m sure you are all saying, “What is Renee’s point?”

Glad you asked.

Gerard Butler as Erik in Phantom
of the Opera
I, as a writer and a romance fan, love to read about the flawed hero—the hero who is either scarred emotionally or physically, and feels they are forever haunted by their imperfections. There are many famous ones: Claude Frollo from Hunchback of Notre Dame, Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights, Edmond Dantes from The Count of Monte Cristo, and of course, my favorite, Erik from Phantom of the Opera.

But I also have a flawed hero in my historical, Ræliksen. At the time, when I was writing it, I realized my Norse warrior hero, Dægan, was too perfect. He needed something to make him more “human”. And so I dabbled a bit in tarnishing his perfect facade.

In the story, Dægan Ræliksen has a large unsightly scar upon his right bicep, which he acquired long before the heroine, Mara, comes to know him. But later, I wrote in that he gains another wound, on his inner thigh, as he battles to save her. This scar, while it doesn’t necessarily haunt Dægan, is the one that convinces the reader he is indeed a mortal being with limits, and it also becomes the very thing to which Mara differentiates him from his twin brother.

But still, that was not enough for me.

Ræliksen: Book One
of the Emerald Isle Trilogy
Another “flaw” I gave to Dægan is that he kills a man—a man who is supposed to be a loyal follower but becomes a turncoat character—and this is the blemish which tortures Dægan the most because his vengeance gives him nothing but the desire to do it all over again. He cannot help but feel he is a wretched man and unworthy of Mara at this point, though she never fears him thereafter. In truth, she tries to comfort him as he deals with the betrayal and pain of it all.

That being said, I felt closer to Dægan than I ever have the moment I wrote his imperfections in. And I think many of us are that way. We sympathize with the tortured hero and, as nurturers, we want to console, heal, and mend their tormented soul to the best of our abilities. We can even look at scars, blemishes, and imperfections as items of interest when it comes to sex appeal—case and point, the male model with the noticeable birthmark.

So, what is your preference? Would you rather read about the ideal man who is almost godlike in appearance with flawless skin and perfect features, and never does anything wrong? Or would you prefer the hero who might have a troubled past, a slight scar on his muscled body, and/or a crooked tooth in his cute little smile? If so, who's your favorite tortured / flawed hero?

Visit Renee Vincent at

Ræliksen is available in both print and ebook formats at


tonya kappes said...

I love a real man, flaws and all. My DH has a beautiful birthmark on his leg. It's so sexy!!

Renee Vincent said...

I forgot to mention....I have a birthmark as well on the back of my right arm and the back of my right leg.

Thanks for visiting me, Tonya!

Virginia C said...

A wonderful post, Renee! I say kiss the birthmark, kiss the man, and embrace his flawed masculinity. He is beautiful : )

"The Phantom", Erik, and "The Beast" from "Beauty and the Beast" are my favorites. I love all my Phantoms: Claude Rains, Michael Crawford, and Gerard Butler. They were each a different Phantom, physically and vocally, but they were each magnificent!

I fall for the lovelorn "beast" every time! I love "Beauty and the Beast". Does it not touch on aspects of human nature which are far uglier than the cursed Beast? Does that make the love story even sweeter? To truly love someone is to love them with your mind, and see them in reality, and to soften that image by seeing them with your heart. Actor Ron Perlman portrayed Vincent (the beast) in TV's "Beauty and the Beast. He also portrayed the title role in the "Hellboy" films. With his mesmerizing voice and amazing talent, Ron Perlman's characters touch the heart of the beauty with the powerful and tender paw of the noble beast!

I always enjoy your posts, Renee, but this is one of my all-time favorites. Thank you : )

Tina Donahue said...

Hey, Renee - all of my heros are flawed emotionally and at times physically. Makes them that much more human.

Absolutely love the cover of your book. :)

Renee Vincent said...

Virginia: Oh I am so glad you came by! And I totally forgot about the Beauty and the Beast! How could I forget that one?! *big sigh*

Anyway, your description of the tortured hero plays out like music. You certainly have a knack for the whimsical prose.

And thank you for your comment on this post. I was going to blog about something else but our conversation and those pics struck a chord with me. Thanks for putting the bug in my ear. *wink*

Renee Vincent said...

Tina: Thanks Tina! I love my cover too!

And when I wrote this post, I thought of your hero in IN HIS ARMS....didn't he have some scar or something?

Anyway, thanks for visiting with me today.

Katalina Leon said...

Renee, wonderful post!
Not long ago, I watched in awe as several men stood in front of a large mirror at a crowded gym, stripped down to their shorts, and showed off their horrific scars and I mean lucky to be alive scars... The guys were proud of their scars in a way I can't imagine women ever stripping down to boast about. The men understood the scars only made them tougher and more of an individual.
To me, the emotional scars in a fictional or real life hero are the interesting ones, and far more telling about a man's character.

Renee Vincent said...

Katalina: Thanks for that little story. I would have loved to have been there to see it. Course, I would have been one of those who'd go up and say, " did you get that one?"

My DH has a huge scar that runs down his shin from a horse accident - the horse fell over on him and split his leg wide open on a rock and can you believe it, he didn't break any bones! But that scar is impressive and it seems to make an appearance when someone else chats it up about horrendous scars. haha

Fiona said...

How about the heroine? Does she have to be perfect? A size zero, flawless skin, and preferably a virgin? Ew...boring! I want both characters in a romance to be real, the kind of women I would want to have as my friend (or to be) and the men the kind I would willingly fall in love with (were I not so happily married!)

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Great post, Renee. I feel more connected to heros with flaws. Their imperfections make them human and vulnerable. What's the fun in perfection? I love it when a hero suffers and struggles with his imperfections and, of course, he needs the right woman to help him with that.

Anonymous said...

Great post!! Love flawed heroes. Gerard Butler as the Phantom is awesome!!!

But I think we have already agreed that he is our perfect hero...hehe!!!

in Germany

Viking Princess said...

I too love a flawed hero. A few weeks ago I read Lorelei James book Shoulda Been A Cowboy. The hero Cam is a soldier who has just returned home from Iraq after loosing his leg in the war. Shoulda Been A Cowboy was chock-full of issues, Cam feeling less than whole being an amputee; Domini feeling the same with her missing uterus. It's a love story about acceptance and this book also turned out to be one of my favorite books in the series. It really touched my heart.

Renee Vincent said...

Fiona: I agree with you on the heroine...but I am enthralled by the hero and so he gets a spot on the blog. That would be another post for me. haha

Sarah I couldn't agree more! Heroes are great when they put up a fight to succumb to the heroine's love while struggling with their own imperfections, only to realize she is the right woman for him. They might as well not even fight it...

Valeri: So great to meet a fellow GB fan! Thanks for introducing yourself from Germany! So cool! GB made the best POTO!

Renee Vincent said...

Viking Princess: Wow, that sounds like a really great book! Thanks for sharing. And you know....I think I heard that book before because it struck me being the same as the country song...I know if I saw the cover I'd know for sure - I'm a visual person. haha

Marianne Stephens said...

Real men are flawed...they're who I want to read about! "Mr. Perfect" doesn't exist. Whether a man has a physical or emotional "scar", that will make him real for me...being sexy helps, too!

Renee Vincent said...

Thanks Marianne for commenting on my post. And you are right. Mr. Perfect is only perfect if he has flaws.
Have a great week!

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