Reluctant Heroes

When I write — whether for kids or adults — I seem to be drawn to characters who are going about their normal, everyday lives, when BLAMMO, something weird happens and forces them into a different trajectory.

In my kids’ funny adventure series (no, don’t look for them, but I hope to update and publish them someday), they find themselves zapped back in time BLAMMO and have to figure out how to get back. They’re like Peabody and Sherman meet Quantum Leap. I’ve written one where they go back and meet Billy Shakespeare, one where they learn the how and why of the Easter Island statues, one where they meet a female Civil War spy, and one where they meet Mona Lisa.

In a historical mystery I would LOVE to find a home for (because it’s very loosely based on my grandmother’s life), a young girl sets out to find the truth about her mother who has disappeared after a Kansas tornado, but nobody else seems concerned. BLAMMO.

In my Dunne Diehl Mysteries, BANANA BAMBOOZLE and MARSHMALLOW MAYHEM, Cassidy Dunne and Dan Diehl are middle-aged best friends from college. She’s straight, he’s gay. She’s short, he’s tall. She’s a secret eater, he tries to ignore it. She’s rash, he’s pragmatic. She hasn’t been on a date since the Reagan administration, he’s got a new boyfriend. But their lives are thrown into chaos when Cassidy is convinced she sees her teenage niece at a party. Problem is, that niece died in a house fire as an infant. Did she imbibe in too many Banana Bamboozles at the party like Dan thinks? BLAMMO. (Yes, the recipe is in the book!) In Marshmallow Mayhem, they’re on a road trip and the RV campground manager turns up dead and they’re prime suspects. BLAMMO.

In my Mystery Writer’s Mysteries, mystery writer Charlee Russo only wants to write mysteries, she doesn’t want to solve them. Too bad for her that her literary agent gets murdered in FICTION CAN BE MURDER, and her friend’s daughter gets kidnapped in FOUL PLAY ON WORDS, and an author she’s scheduled to do an event with gets on the train but never gets off. BLAMMO times three.

In PUZZLING INK, the first of my new crossword puzzle mysteries, Quinn Carr is back home, nursing her psychic wounds, trying to manage her OCD, and pull herself out of a deep depression. She can barely drag herself out of bed most days, but takes a job at a local diner in an attempt at a normal life. She’s going through the motions of putting her life back together, but is nowhere near done, when her boss at the diner is arrested for murder. BLAMMO. In the upcoming PUNNING WITH SCISSORS, Quinn is minding her own business when she’s asked to care for a suspect’s dog and clean up a crime scene. BLAMMO.

Can you see a theme here? Nobody wants to do any of this, solve any of these mysteries, leave their comfy cocoon. But they’re forced.

When I hear about women throughout history, I’d try to put myself in their place. Could I travel the Oregon Trail? Could I help Jews hide or escape during the Nazi era? Could I be a Civil War spy? Could I be a destitute tenant farm wife in 1930s Kansas? Could I solve a real-life crime?

I think writing these types of stories makes me feel like I could. But, really, could I?? I hope I never have to find out!

Who are your favorite reluctant heroes? Does it bug you when the protagonist is reluctant? Do you think you’d have been able to travel the Oregon Trail and make a new life for yourself? Or would you fall out of the wagon and just sit there bawling like Lucy Ricardo when Ricky wouldn’t let her perform with his band? Could you solve a real-life crime?

3 thoughts on “Reluctant Heroes”

  1. I often wonder if I would be able to step up and move to another place knowing little about and to suffer the rigors of the Oregon Trail plus all else you mention. I hope I would be able to. I helped pioneer homeschooling in our school district maybe that was kind of like other s doing things out of their comfort zone. My mom stuck with my dad when we lost everything comfortable in the 50’s due to a move to help his mother. We lived a nice life in Erie,Pa but moved to rural PA. He kept getting laid off ,our new home had no central heat,no indoor bathroom and a coal stove to cook on, a coal heater for hot water. Fairly primitive for 1952.It was hard for many years just scraping by for my parents. We traded the 1950 Lincoln Continental for a 48 Ford,had a big garden and a weekly credit bill at the local grocery store. No TV for years but we had a library and books and love. It was enough mostly. I admire my mom for sticking to my dad who worked so hard for us. 3 jobs ,2 part time. I would hope I would do as well if tested..Enjoyed your thoughts.

    1. Candy, based on this, I think you could not only survive, but thrive in any sort of predicament. I’d bet money on it. I’d want you on my Zombie Apocalypse team!

  2. Tracy X Hartman

    I really enjoy reluctant heroes because for me, they are just so relatable and real. We all have at least one struggle. At LEAST one. To me, this just adds more dimension and draws me closer to bonding with the character.

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