Genre Police! Heroes that are too many tropes

When the hero is several things, e.g. a vampire and an alien and the second coming of Jesus

As if the author couldn’t decide which (sub) genre she wanted to write and tried to do all of them at once

There’s a difference between a hybrid hero and a hero that’s too many things. Hybrid heroes, such as Christopher Beckett, a wizard-wolf in Dana Marie Bell’s Shadow of the Wolf, have to cope with their multiple aspects. The hero, and coincidentally the heroine, must deal with his dichotomous existence, and the problems brought about by straddling two worlds/two states of being. A hybrid creature is a trope in and of itself.

When a writer creates a hero that’s too many things, she has to fill the reader’s expectations for that hero, plot-wise and romance-wise. Juggling too many and fitting them all in one book is difficult—though not impossible—and makes the story and the hero seem over the top.

Examples (Spoiler Alert)

I recently tried to read Loup Garou by Mandy M. Roth, and honestly, I couldn’t finish. Not only is the hero, Exavier, all the tropes, the heroine fails to recognize any of his true identities, and is stunned when she discovers them one after another:

  • Long-lost Childhood Sweetheart
  • Rock Star
  • Dark Fae Prince/Prince of Darkness

…WHAT? I had hoped that the author would fulfill the challenge she’d set up for herself, in tackling all three in one hero, and even though I was willing to indulge the surfeit of the hero’s character, the heroine’s unrelenting obliviousness killed it for me. (Although I have other complaints about the book.)

Abducting Abby by S. E. Smith also features an immoderate hero. Although I did enjoy the story more than Loup Garou. Zoran is an alien and a king and a dragon shifter, not to mention he has a living metal symbiot. The latter on its own would have provided enough material for a book. There were multiple villains, as if for each aspect of his existence:

  • the enemy aliens who tortured him at the beginning
  • the human stalker who tries to abduct Abby before he can
  • the evil dragon-shifter who kidnaps and tries to rape Abby
  • (and the back-stabbing relative who isn’t quite dealt with)

A multitude of enemies, each dealt with one by one, made Abducting Abby seem even more like it should have been several stories, instead of smooshed into one.

I wonder if these authors are confusing quantity with creativity. We’ve seen these tropes before: the childhood sweetheart, the rock star, the alien, the dragon-shifter… and we love them, that’s why we read them over and over again, sometimes in only slightly different incarnations. Reading exorbitant heroes is like trying to eat a burger with too many toppings. And sometimes certain toppings, like blue cheese, a fried egg, and chili, don’t work well together.

I’m not saying that a hero who tries to be more than one trope won’t work, but pinning several badges to his chest won’t give him depth or individuality, and in fact, the more tropes layered onto his surface, the harder it is to get to the meat. (And I do mean meat as in substance and as an innuendo.)

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