Marji Laine

I Love a Good Mystery!

Heroic Greatness


After my frolic with all things romance last week, I decided to investigate the details and depth of heroes. Have you ever wondered what it is that makes great heroes great? Me too. I’ve had so much fun researching different opinions about them. If you enjoy fiction, whether books or movies, I’m thinking you’ll have opinions about what makes a good hero. The characteristics might not be what you think.

Knight and MaidenI even found a list from the author of of the top ten heroes of all time. Most of them I’ve never heard of, so I can’t agree or disagree with her ideas. She includes Ned Nickerson of Nancy Drew fame and Prince Charming, saying about them that one or the other would be a young girl’s first boyfriend.

She also added a number of vampire slayers along with Edward Cullen from Twilight. Good thing she didn’t put them too close together on her list. Coulda been messy.

Some guy from North and South made the list because he was so Darcy-esque. Then she added Darcy because he was, well, Darcy.

Her last hero on the list was Romeo. He didn’t rank any higher than 10 because he was stupid enough to get himself and his heroine killed.

Interesting concept. I couldn’t help wondering just who of these actually had characteristics of a hero. And who would I pick for my top ten?

Characteristics of a Hero

Doing research, I found a number of blogs listing character traits. I came across a great article at by Aparna Jadhav that suggest 10 significant traits common to characters. I loved the way that the blogger had quotes for each one, but I think some of them were redundancies.


Jadhav’s list courage and bravery as two separate traits. Except for the great quotes for each, I can’t imagine keeping them apart. My impression of courage is quieter than bravery, but that’s only a personal opinion.

One of my students defined courage as acting without any fear. Do you think so? I would consider that to be recklessness, foolhardiness. My idea of courage is taking action despite fear. Moving forward through fear.

Now I can think of some heroes with that characteristic:

  • Virgil Tibbs in The Heat of the Night by John Ball (book, movie, and TV show)
  • Sergeant York
  • Any of The Avengers
  • Caleb Knight of My Foolish Heart by Susan May Warren


A hero is willing to sacrifice his own needs and desires to accomplish great things. Again, more than one of Jadhav’s items falls together. He puts selflessness, valor, and sacrifice as separate items, but I see them as the same thing. Sacrifice and selflessness are obvious synonyms. Valor isn’t quite as easy to see, but Jadhav defines it as found when life is more terrible than death.

Heroes with that attitude of sacrifice:

  • Sydney Carton in Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities
  • Any soldier who ever went to war
  • Matthew Crawley in season 2 of Downton Abby
  • Miles Rutledge in Keli Gwyn’s A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California


Antonio del Drago also published a blog about heroes. Only sacrificial and courageous appeared on both lists. He explained skilled as having specific talents, particularly supernatural or magical, but then he’s a fantasy writer.

I’m not sure I’d include a special skill (non-magical for the contemporary or historical romances I normally read) as essential for a hero, though again, it can add to a character’s well-rounded arc. A few that strike me are:

  • Sherlock Holmes – naturally
  • Patrick Jane in The Mentalist
  • Shawn Spencer in Psych
  • and of course Harry Potter

Your turn: There are more qualities coming up next week, but just for grins what qualities would you include?

Author: Marji Laine

Marji is a recently "graduated" homeschooling mom whose twin girls have blessed her by sticking around the nest for a little longer. She spends her days directing the children’s music program at her church and working with the authors of Write Integrity Press to put out the best possible version of their books. Raised in suburban Dallas, she got her first taste of writing through the stories of brilliant authors of their day, Mignon Eberhart and Phyllis A. Whitney, and through stage experience. After directing and acting in productions for decades, Marji started writing her own scripts. From that early beginning, she delved into creating scintillating suspense with a side of Texas sassy. She invites readers to unravel their inspiration, seeking a deeper knowledge of the Lord’s Great Mystery that invites us all.

10 thoughts on “Heroic Greatness

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  2. Great series, Marji. The traits listed are all heroic. I like three included in the comments as well: loyal, humble, and obedient to the Lord. I’d add trustworthy and integrity. I’m sure I could come up with more if I thought about it. I’ll be interested to see the others you highlight.

    It was cool to see Miles Rutledge listed as one of your examples. Thanks for that. 🙂


    • Miles was a no-brainer for Selfless! I love the way he lost his heart! I also love the idea of integrity. Honor, honesty, faithfulness – so important!


  3. Pingback: Four More Heroic Traits | Marji Laine: Author

  4. My 15 year old son recently wrote an essay on heroes. He picked these as qualities of a hero: humble, brave, and willing to obey God. I was especially thrilled to see that 3rd one on his essay!!


    • LOVE THAT! Sounds like he’s growing in grace! What a blessing! I also like the humble card, too. Not many people, especially of the male persuasion would include that trait.


  5. Loyalty is a great quality in a hero. I don’t want them to switch sides all of a sudden. I do have admit a little mystery or intrigue never hurt.


  6. Marji, great post! If someone is labeled a hero I think the follow-through would be that he/she does not ‘talk’ about their heroism–others do. If the hero does, then it diminishes it somehow. Or is it just me?