Please, Thriller writers, no more heroes who shed tears. No more manly weeping.
Thrillers are about tough guys. Often, far too often, I'll be reading along and suddenly I can almost hear the writers' mind-gears begin to grind:
OK, I've had a bunch of action scenes, I've had my guy kill when he has to, he's shown he has the skills and the guts to get the job done. Hmm, what I need now is to prove that he's also got a soft side, that he cares, especially about the love interest, that he has depth. I've got to hook some women readers, everyone says they're the only ones buying books these days. I know! I'll have him cry! Women love it when a man cries!
Sorry. Actually, women hate it when a man cries. In real life and in books.
Men hate it as well.
In a thriller, it's just sooo obvious, such a cheap ploy to try and snag reader sympathy. Instead of figuring out an interesting, novel way for the hero to show emotion, the author takes the low road and sure enough, the hero's eyes begin to “well with tears.”
“He turned his head so she couldn't see the tear that trailed down his cheek.”
“He felt hot tears spring to his eyes.”
And I'm not talking about first novels or wannabes, Big Guys (you know who you are) do this over and over. I think it's always a mistake. Even though I may love the rest of the book, it's always tainted for me if the hero cries.
It makes the author look exploitive. It makes the character look foolish, and what is worse, weak.
Which is the kiss of death for a thriller character.
I think Lee Child's series character Reacher is pretty much the epitome of a thriller hero. He's beyond tough, but at the same time readers know he can be emotional, that he has feelings. I haven't read all the books in the series, but has Reacher ever wept? I'm asking the question of those of you who are aficionados of this series. Has he ever shed a tear? I'll bet not. Or let's just ask Lee Child. Are you out there? Has Reacher ever wept?
OK, here's a challenge to writers and to readers. Writers, if you've ever had your hero weep, tell us where and why you think it worked. Readers, if you disagree with me, send me an example of a thriller hero who weeps, cries, sheds a tear or two and who comes off looking the better for it.
I'm the most unreligious of men, but the only one that I can come up with that does work is in The King James Bible, the Gospel of John, Chapter 11, verse 35. In its entirety.
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