Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Thoughts on the Non-human Hero

Thoughts on the Non-human Hero
By Jennifer Ashley / Allyson James

Rowena kindly asked me to guest blog here with thoughts about non-human heroes, since lately I’ve been writing many of them: Immortal demigods, dragon shapeshifters, were-panthers, genetically enhanced males, and my own made-up creatures.

I have to say that when I read or write paranormal or futuristic heroes, I never think: “But these guys aren’t human!” Perhaps this is because I’ve been reading fantasy and scifi since age twelve, and I’m used to alternate universes and allegorical worlds, but it never occurs to me to dwell on the non-humanness of heroes (or heroines).

I look at each hero, human or non, as a character. Whether he is a Regency cavalry captain or an Immortal demigod or a logosh from my Nvengarian series, I approach each the same way--he (or she) is a character with a history--wants, needs, quirks, flaws, and strengths. All characters have a background that makes them them. Whether or not they are homo sapiens sapiens doesn’t bother me at all.

Before I start a novel, I love to write my hero’s autobiography, beginning with where he was born, who were his parents, were they good parents or bad (or dead), what he had to struggle with while growing up, and how that shaped him.

It’s amazing what comes out when I free-flow a hero’s bio--I become him for a time. Whether he was raised in a rigid Regency household with an uber-strict father, or he’s a two-thousand-year-old warrior who learned to fight in a Roman legion--each hero’s background shapes him into something unique.

I think the most fun heroes I’ve created are the Shareem characters I write as Allyson James. These men were born in a factory from a mixture of donated DNA (no parents), then they were sexually enhanced and raised for one purpose only--to pleasure women.

The scientists claim they’ve taken all emotions from these men and turned them into the ultimate slaves--but of course they haven’t. Each of the Shareem has a distinct personality and a different way of dealing with their lives and fighting their genetic programming.

I am amazed at how much scope for character the background to the Shareem gave me. These men are not human, or maybe they’re super-human, but underneath, they are the most human characters I’ve ever created.

Do I have a point? Probably not. But I thought I’d share some of my techniques for creating heroes who are richly layered and unique. The alpha hero is the most popular type of romance hero (he really is), but he doesn’t have to be the same-old, same-old.

Dig into his background, figure out what happened to him in all the years before the story, and you’ll have a memorable character, whether he’s human or vampire or were-thing or an alien born in a vat.


  1. Oooh, ultimate slaves!

    That sounds intriguing.


    Thanks, Jenn.

  2. Jennifer Ashley is one of the fun ones! How can you not love a sexy shapeshifter? Or a hot love slave? Or a shapeshifting love slave? :D

    This was a real treat! Thanks, Jennifer and Rowena! The Immortals series has been on my TBB list for months, so the day I see each book in the book store is the day it's mine!

    I have two of the Tales of the Shareem books in my TBR list, so I'm also interested in what Jennifer's alter ego, Allyson James, writes. :D

  3. Thanks Jen! I love writing the Allyson James stuff--I'm always as creative as possible, but I feel like with Allyson I can really let loose and reach beyond boundaries. The Shareem slaves are very dear to my heart--I love those guys.
    :-) Be warned, though that the Tales of the Shareem books are very, very erotic. Lots of romance, of course, but off-the-scale in heat.

  4. Anonymous2:14 PM EDT

    Your Shareem Tales sound like my kind of book :D Shall have to add them to my wish list - darn thing is growing like topsy with all you great authors around!!

  5. Very intriguing post! I love reading about nonhuman heroes, and while I agree with everything you said about creating individual characters regardless of species, the fact that they're not human IS important to me. I'm enthralled by the motif of finding love across a gulf of difference (e.g., the Beauty and the Beast theme). That's why I prefer vampire stories in which the vampire is NOT "cured" or the human partner transformed. Those Shareem slaves sound fascinating. Emotions eliminated? Of course not. Just as slave-holders in our world's history, for their own peace of mind, convinced themselves that the enslaved race didn't "feel things the way we do" -- or the Simes in Jacqueline's series force themselves to continue believing Gens are just prey animals who happen to look human.