Thanks to Amanda Young for posting this on

I’ve been looking back to Japan quite a bit lately, and one of the things from the trip that I really took to heart concerns heroes. Yes, the all-too-perfect, always good-looking heroes who never make mistakes. They are continually chivalrous, infinitely clever, and heaven forbid they ever make the wrong choice. The world is golden to them, and girls swoon for them…even if they only exist on paper.

So how does this link to Japan? Well, while I was there, I was introduced to Studio Ghibli movies. For those of you who don’t know what they are (and might be too indifferent to research it), Ghibli is the Japanese equivalent of Disney, specializing in young adult anime. Yes, I watched anime. My apologies to everyone I just disappointed. But looking back, I learned something important from watching one movie with some Ghibli fans.

I sat down in my hotel room with two other girls to watch Princess Mononoke, one of the better known Studio Ghibli movies. One of the girls, an elementary age sweetheart, commented that she really liked the movie’s hero, Ashitaka, because he actually failed. This made me take a step back. A large step. For most of my life, I’ve grown up with movies starring good heroes. The perfect hero was my companion, and I didn’t like heroes that failed. I hated Aladdin because he never learned his lesson: You can’t keep lying to people and expect them to not figure you out. But that’s an entirely different rant.

So the point of this? As authors, our future readers are looking for something new. I think a major breakthrough into this realm would be to exemplify the imperfect hero. Just looking at my own life, I have guy friends that I consider to be my good friends and heroes, and I am well aware that they are not perfect; they would never claim to be so. But that’s what makes them real. A hero can’t be perfect and wise, because people learn from mistakes. The only guys who don’t make mistakes are dead ones. Either that, or you are an unreliable narrator who ignores the things that your hero does wrong.

Your hero can fall and still be a hero. It may even take several failings before he actually learns his lesson (unlike Aladdin, cough cough). But just play with it. I know I’m especially guilty of this. I like my heroes; but the ones that give in to anger or desire, the ones that make rash decisions based on impulse, the ones who sit by or run away when they are desperately needed: those are the ones who are real. I recently started a story where I intentionally set up my hero to fail. I know he’s going to, and I am proud of him for it. He’s one of my favorites now, and I know a couple of people who are fans of him already and like him better than previous, perfect heroes.

So what are your thoughts? Are imperfect heroes annoying or endearing? Any other thoughts or experiences would be awesome to hear as well.