Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Writing the Countercultural Hero or Heroine

Jill Elizabeth Nelson writes what she likes to read—tales of adventure seasoned with romance, humor, and faith--well-suited to her tagline: Endless Adventure, Timeless Truth. 

She has been delightfully astonished to receive several awards, including the prestigious Carol Award through American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). Jill speaks regularly at conferences, writer’s groups, library associations, and civic and church groups. When teaching classes for writers, she thrills to bring the Ahah! moment to her students as they make a new skill their own. 

Jill and her husband live in rural Minnesota where they raised four children and are currently enjoying their grandchildren. 

Visit Jill on the web at: or look her up on Facebook: or Twitter:!/JillElizNelson. Her latest release and tenth book is Betrayal on the Border from Love Inspired Romantic Suspense. 

In my most recent release, Betrayal on the Border, my heroine is an ex-Army Ranger, and the hero is a television news reporter. As the story progresses, the heroine becomes the hero’s bodyguard as he digs into the truth behind a massacre of army and law enforcement personnel perpetrated by an infamous drug cartel. Who within their own group betrayed them to the cartel?

The premise is a bit futuristic as the Army is considering the admission of females to the elite Rangers but hasn’t formally made that decision yet. However, I wanted my heroine to be at the extreme end of the spectrum as far as what might appear to be a “man’s occupation.” I was careful to give her distinct touches of femininity within her countercultural career choice—like preferring bubble baths to showers.

I painted the hero as intelligent and insightful and brave and <gasp> sensitive. Not that he’s prone to emotional outbursts himself, but he empathizes with the feelings of people around him. On the other hand, the heroine feels deeply but keeps her feelings—and her tears—bottled up inside her. One of the pivotal moments in the story comes when she finally releases those pent-up emotions.

One of the Questions for Discussion at the end of the book asks the reader to take a look at the reasons why the heroine has refused to allow herself the release of tears. The reasons have their roots both in her upbringing and her training. I hope they are apparent enough that the reader can pick them out and discuss them.

I also made the hero self-assured and unthreatened by the heroine’s military competence. My heroine is totally appreciative of his lack of resentment toward her abilities. She views this as a mark of true manliness. Do you agree?

As a reader, how do you feel about countercultural heroes and heroines? Are you okay with role reversals? What makes stories like that acceptable to you? Is there anything that would irk you in a book like that?

The Bible also features countercultural heroines—like the story of Deborah and Barack in the book of Judges. Can you think of any other examples?

For an opportunity to win a signed copy of Betrayal on the Border, please leave a comment that answers one or more of these questions. If possible, give an example of a book that you’ve read that featured countercultural characters and what you thought about it.

I’m all ears to hear your insights.


  1. I really like the concept of role reversals. I think the Lord has given us all different interests and talents, and some of them certainly don't follow gender lines!
    I love learning about females in traditional male roles, as long as they don't lose their femininity!
    I am very sure I would love this book :)

  2. Thanks for the input, Betti. I, too, enjoy a story where a character pursues a career or goal that is off the beaten path. The factual biographies of people who have braved uncharted territory are also fascinating.

  3. I love "role reversals"! DiAnn Mills and Lynette Eason both have series with women who have chosen fascinating professions (Smoke jumpers! Border patrol agents!) - the reasons behind the choices these characters make are what fascinates me the most. :-)

  4. And the winner is . . . both of you! Congratulations, Betti and Lynn. I simply cannot choose between you, so I choose you both. :-)

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