Monday, June 5, 2023

Writing Strong Heroes - 7 Qualities to Include

By Kristen Hogrefe Parnell @khogrefeparnell

Gilbert Blythe. Mr. Knightly. Mr. Darcy. Doc MacNeill.

That is the short list of strong male heroes who wove themselves into my heart as a teenage reader. 

Gilbert Blythe may have called Anne “carrots,” but he did so to get her attention. He was a teasing schoolboy, but he grew to genuinely care about our favorite red-headed heroine.

Mr. Knightly. Where to begin? He was hard on Emma because he loved her, a truth she didn’t realize until much too late.

Mr. Darcy will forever be remembered for his flaw of pride but also for his loyal friendship and generosity that he would never speak of himself.

Doc MacNeill drove me crazy the first time I read Christy, but by the third or fourth reading, he had won me over. He was brave enough to move past his brokenness to love again.

These characters are all different, but they all have one thing in common: They are strong male characters. 

And the world needs more of them. We writers must write them.

In honor of Father’s Day this month, let’s recognize seven qualities of strong male characters that matter more than ever in today’s world.

7 Qualities to Include in the Heroes You Write

#1: Flawed but forgiven

There are no such things as “perfect” men. (Same goes for us ladies!) But our flaws make us relatable and become the foundation for future strength we can share with others. Let’s write relatable heroes who show us how to move past failures and how to both extend and receive forgiveness. 

#2: Stronger for their weakness

Often, a physical limitation or some other “thorn” they must overcome gives our male characters depth and an opportunity to showcase strength. We Christian fiction writers know that the Source of that strength comes from outside ourselves. 

#3: Faith over fear

Whether our male heroes discover faith throughout the story or begin with a faith foundation, they can show us how to choose faith instead of fear.

#4: Sacrificial, not selfish

Does our hero put others before himself—even at great cost? Now there is a model our world needs!

#5: Broken but not beaten

Maybe others broke him. Maybe life circumstances have bruised him. But our hero won’t stay down, and he’ll model how to get back up again.

#6: Masculine, not feminine

In today’s world, masculinity is no longer applauded. However, it should be. Hard pass on anything effeminate. Our heroes know how to be men. Show me the cowboys, green berets, pastors who stand on God’s Word, policemen, firefighters, brave fathers, loyal husbands, and rugged outdoorsmen. 

#7: Lost but now loved

Perhaps the most loved character I’ve written to date is a man named Gath. A slave turned cruel Gage enforcer, his journey to faith and his sacrifices along the way show how God can take a lost man and make him beloved.

Who is your favorite fictional hero, and what quality draws you to him so much?


Kristen Hogrefe Parnell writes suspenseful fiction from a faith perspective for women and young adults. Her own suspense story involved waiting on God into her thirties to meet her husband, and she desires to keep embracing God’s plan for her life when it’s not what she expects. Kristen’s books have won the Selah Award and the Grace Award, among others, and her inspirational romantic suspense novel, Take My Hand, is now available. An educator at heart, she also teaches English online, enjoys being a podcast guest, and blogs about biblical encouragement for mamas. Kristen lives in the Tampa, Florida area with her husband and baby boy. Connect with her at

Featured Image: Photo by Thomas Lefebvre on Unsplash


  1. 🎯 great list!!!

  2. Seven qualities to give a male character depth. Good article!

  3. Current trends teach girls to be fierce which is all good. Boys want to know how to be masculine which a solid yet imperfect hero is an example.