For the sake of argument, everything I’m about to share with you is absolutely my opinion unless I am citing a statistic, in which case, I’ll tell you where I got it from. Cool? Great.
What makes the best stories tick? How much we, the audience, empathize with the characters. Take a step back with me for a moment as I roll the clock back to 1984. I could go back farther, but I am specifically going back to the day I saw the first Terminator movie. I was 12, and I saw it on a Saturday afternoon at my favorite theatre. Me, my popcorn, and my mom settled in to watch the movie.
As a side point, I love sci-fi movies, and Terminator had time travel, so check! I loved big action pieces, with lots of booms, and the film definitely had those. I loved characters I could invest in, and go on this journey with—and guess what, yep, Terminator had that in spades.
More, it had characters I empathized with. Sarah Connor didn’t seem to be particularly special. She was a waitress and had a roommate and was just trying to make ends meet. She could have been my neighbor, or my friends or even one of my parents. My mom was a waitress. So right away, I’m invested in her. Now she spends half the movie getting chased by some unstoppable killing machine and kidnapped by a guy who feeds her this story about being from the future.
Her reaction is what any one of us would have. Are you crazy?
Yet, in the end, she falls in love (or at least some mad survival lust) with Reese, and then in a final battle, manages to kill the Terminator. She does it. Reese keeps her alive long enough to help, and he survives long enough to do some damage, but Sarah rescues herself at the end.
Holy crap. This was like when Princess Leia grabbed the blaster and started shooting. Or when she told them all to jump into the garbage chute. Leia, who’d been held captive, actively participated in her own rescue. In later films, Leia is part of the strategy, the straight-up fights, and eventually strangles Jabba the Hutt during the rescue of Han. Leia was a bad ass.
Sarah Connor inherited that mantle.
Now I can go on and on about the badass heroines of action movies (trust me, I could), but here’s the thing—too often I heard when I was growing up that action movies were for guys. Rom coms were for chicks. We even call them “chick flicks”. My parents wouldn’t get me Star Wars toys, cause those were for boys. But I could have this pretty pink Barbie, cause it was for girls.
Action-Adventure whether it’s Terminator, or The Bourne Identity, or The Avengers isn’t just for “boys.” In fact, according to Deadline.com (see I told you I’d cite the data), Avengers: Infinity War had an audience of 40% women. Of course, it also had a huge audience period as culmination of 10 years of franchise building. A franchise I have wholly supported and am a tremendous fan of.
Cause I can empathize with those characters whether he’s a king of a hidden country with mystical powers or a narcissistic billionaire in a suit or a remnant of the cold war era spy with varying shades of gray to her morality. I can empathize because the writing, and the action, and the characters themselves have invited us along on this journey.
At the end of the day though, my love of action adventure with elements of romance or not, dates back to that Saturday afternoon in a theater as the end credits began to roll on Terminator. The film didn’t have a happily ever after, if anything, the ending was ominous. A promise that all the horrible things Reese warned her of were coming, yet we also had this sense of hope and Sarah was invested in saving her son and eventually the future.
I love writing these types of stories in some fashion whether it’s a paranormal adventure about wolves on the hunt or military insertion to save someone or a humorous romp of royals trying to deal with life. It’s about the adventure, and yeah, the action. I love reading them, too. Or watching them. Sometimes we’ll pick up a book or go to the movie because it looks cool, but we only stick around or come back for more if it takes us deeper.
Whether it’s saving your kids, saving your house—hell saving the cat—we can live vicariously through the heroes and heroines in our books, and our movies. I love multi-dimensional heroes and heroines. My heroes are not all alphas, and my heroines are not all helpless, needing to be saved. Sometimes the battle is intense and physical, sometimes it’s haunting and emotional.
It’s always about the journey.
Okay, and the hot guys. Yeah, I’m a little shallow.
What do you love about action/adventure and romance? Do you have a favorite film?
Don’t Miss Heather’s Brand New Releases in the Special Forces & Brotherhood Protectors series:
Shayna Morgan has been a little bit of everything in her life—a daughter, a niece, a sailor, an investigator, and homeless. Nerve damage has left her with only partial feeling on her right side, and pain threatened to cripple her. Family pulled her home from where she slept in her car outside of DC, but it was the men and women of the Brotherhood Protectors who inspired her and gave her a purpose. She may not be able to fire a gun with any accuracy, but her new project fulfills her in so many other ways—helping other female vets just like her. It’s all hard, honest work and good sweat until a shadowy threat takes aim at her ranch.
Purpose comes in all shapes.
Fergus “Oddjob” Roper went into the Air Force at 18, before making a lateral move to the Navy, and then left the SEALs when he was 33. After 15 years of service, two wars, multiple deployments and 3 degrees, he’s looking for his next mission. After a year in Texas working with a horse trainer specializing in equine support animals, he’s heading to Montana to visit with old friends. He came for the beer, and stayed for the women…one woman in particular. Oddjob doesn’t mind mucking stalls, or helping out on the project—but what he wants is to shield the woman who saved his life, even if she doesn’t know it.
Retired Navy SEAL John Jacob “Jacko” Johnson earned a reputation for being cool under pressure, having more kills from behind the scope of a sniper rifle than anyone else active on the teams, and being a total smartass. Some things don’t change, and not even a traumatic brain injury sidelining him keeps him from kicking in when his friends need it—most recently a top-secret mission to retrieve a lost asset.
Bolt action is louder than words
Coco Adler’s military career ended abruptly on a dishonorable discharge. Or so reads her military file. Recruited for a top-secret program, she digs in deep. When her cover is nearly compromised and she can’t reach her handler, she goes dark but stays on mission. The last thing she expects is a lunatic in a Hawaiian shirt to take her down a moment before a sniper’s bullet would have.
Forced to work together, Jacko will do everything to cover Coco’s extraction—even if it kills him.