Does Your Hero Have an Achilles Heel?

Achilles Heel

Photo by School Rocks 101

The term Achilles heel refers to a person’s weak spot. It comes from the Greek hero Achilles in the epic poem called The Iliad. Thetis, Achilles’ mother is a nymph. When Achilles was born, she dips him in the river Styx to make him immortal. His heel doesn’t get wet since she is holding him by his foot. An arrow shot into his heel causes Achilles’ death. Therefore, we refer to a person’s weak spot as an Achilles heel.

One might assume that a writer is someone who reads all the time. You might also assume a writer is someone who reads well or reads fast. Did you know that there are many productive, successful writers who have dyslexia? Dyslexia is a very broad term defining a learning disability that impairs a person’s fluency and/or comprehension accuracy in reading.

Agatha Christie

She created Miss Marple and wrote about her adventures. She gave Hercule Pierot his monocle and fussy ways. She holds the Guinness Book Record for best selling writer of books. Learning to read was a great mystery for Agatha Christie.

She said, “I, myself, was always recognized . . . as the “slow one” in the family. It was quite true, and I knew it and accepted it. Writing and spelling were always terribly difficult for me. My letters were without originality. I was . . . an extraordinarily bad speller and have remained so until this day.”

Patricia Polacco

This talented lady has written over 50 children’s books. She describes her school days like this:

“When I was a student in elementary school I wasn’t a very good student. Had a terrible time with reading and math. As a matter of fact, I did not learn how to read until I was almost 14 years old. Can you imagine what it was like to see all my friends do so well in school and I wasn’t! I thought I was dumb. I didn’t like school because there was this boy that always teased me and made me feel even dumber. When I was fourteen, it was learned that I have a learning disability. It is called dyslexia. I felt trapped in a body that wouldn’t do what everybody else could do. That was when one of my hero’s, my teacher, found what was wrong with me and got me the help I needed to succeed in school. Of course , now that I am an adult, I realize that being learning disabled does not mean DUMB AT ALL!”

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Famous for his novel, The Great Gatsby, he is deemed one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century, He had a learning disability, mostly likely dyslexia. Fitzgerald was kicked out of school at the age of 12 for not focusing or finishing his work, and he had a very hard time spelling.

Fannie Flagg

She put her writing career on hold for many years, working as an actress and comedian instead. Dyslexia challenged her writing ability and she felt discouraged and embarrassed because she couldn’t, and still can’t, spell. She is best known as the author of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, which was made into a movie and earned her an Academy Award nomination for the screenplay adaptation. She returned to writing in the 1980s, much to the celebration of Fried Green Tomatoes fans.

Matti Flanders

If my daughter, Matti, were here to talk to you, she would probably tell you she completely understands Flagg’s heart. She struggled in school but like these great author’s she didn’t let that hold her back. She studied hard, much harder than most children because that’s what it took to make the grade. I admire her determination. It’s one of many qualities that make her special and strong.

Matti’s all grown now and she enjoys reading fiction. She earned that pleasure. She has a family of her own, a husband and 4 children (number 4’s in the oven in this photo). I couldn’t be more proud of her. Obstacles, tough things come her way and she keeps her head held high, reaching for the stars of hope to be all she can be. She’s one of my heroes. Today is her birthday and I am so glad she was born.

The common thread I see in Matti’s life and the successful author’s above is a spirit to overcome the odds. I admire these writers and my sweet daughter.

What about you? Do you have an Achilles heel? How do you overcome it? Does your hero have an Achilles heel?

Want Help Starting Your Book Club? Read This Post.

Want Help Starting Your Book Club? Read This Post.


  1. Happy birthday Matti! lol. Ali – what a sweet post for you baby girl. Hope you get to spend some time together – although finding time with a young mother of 4 may well be impossible. 🙂

  2. Aww, happy birthday to your sweet daughter!

    Achilles heel? Trying to do it all. Learning achilles heel? Math. I just don’t get it. French was easier for me to understand than all those ‘solve for x’ questions. I think all of my characters have a flaw in them, an achilles heel of some sort. They can’t be too perfect or they aren’t believable, so I give them something they have to work hard to overcome. Your daughter is truly an inspiration, as are these fabulous writers.

  3. You learned French with ease? That’s fantastic. I wish I knew another language. I took four years of Spanish in high school. We learned to read it well. For me the practicality of being able to talk to people in other cultures is more inciting. I have friends from many countries but poor things they all have to speak English when they’re with me.

    Do any of your characters ever “keep” their Achilles heel or do they completely overcome?

  4. Excellent post! Very inspirational to think all these people continued to push for excellence when the road was extra bumpy for them. I like the idea of running headlong into what is trying to stop you from living your passion. And bravo to your daughter!

    I relate to this because my Achilles Heel is social anxiety disorder. If I let myself I would give in to agoraphobia symptoms and never leave my house, but my push back is to go other places to write and create and encourage others to do the same on my blog. It’s scary but fun!

    The Achilles Heel of my protagonist in my WIP is that she is a people-pleaser and slowly loses her self-respect and has to make a major choice to stand up for what she believes in or give in to what society says she should do.

    • Kristin, I am so glad to meet you. You are a brave woman facing your Achilles heel straight on and what courage you have to be vulnerable and talk about it. I think you must have patterned your protagonist after me because we share the same Achilles heel. I believe I will like reading your book. What genre is it?

      • Nice to meet you, too, Ali. Thanks for the kind words. I wouldn’t say I’m brave, just tired of letting circumstances dictate to me. God says I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, so I try to act like that on most days. I succeed once in a while. 🙂

        My WIP is historical fiction set in the Midwest from 1890s through the 1920s. It’s the story of an orphaned German immigrant and her struggle to figure out what makes a ‘life of intention’ in the midst of strict cultural and societal roles she is expected to fill because of her cultural background, gender and economic status. I’m still in the story structure and research process at the moment. I better get going if I have someone who wants to read it! 🙂

  5. Hi Ali,

    What a great post! My son ‘s Achilles Heel is ADHD. He struggles to sit still and focus, which makes learning a challenge.

    • The first thing that comes to mind is, “I wonder what extraordinary understanding or gift or ability will result in the heart and mind of your son because this Achilles heel is in his life.

      Someone once said, “That which does not kill you, makes you stronger.” Wish I could remember who said that.

      How old is your son?

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