After some deep thought I have come up with an answer : our characters have to do everything that we wouldn't do.
Anyway if I was the one wearing that ascot, no way I would go into this house, listen to the floor boards creek, find some footprints that look like they belong to the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and say: "Let's split up, Stoner and dog, you go search the basement, me and the girls will check out the master bedroom."
Hmm... wait a minute - I might actually say that, at least until I got slapped.
But than, post slap, as some horrible groaning noise emanated from the attic, I would certainly not say: "That sounded like it was coming from the attic, lets go check it out." Unless the groaning was more of a pleasant moaning and was coming from the master bedroom, and then I would say: "Stoner, you and the dog go check out the spooky basement, me and the girls are going to investigate that moaning."
Okay - this is isn't going so well.
My point is. Our protagonists have to do things we wont do. And cant do. They fight armed thugs with their bare hands. Jump off cliffs and race cars, have shootouts in public squares.
Even when their actions are similar to ours - they are not in the same realm.
In Black Rain, Hawker pilots a helicopter along a snaking tributary of the Amazon river, avoiding gunfire from a helicopter chasing him, overhanging tree limbs and flying fish (okay I added that last part in).
I flew planes - real slow planes - so slow that sometimes I looked down at the highways far below and the cars were going faster than I was.
In Black Sun, Hawker and Danielle (the other protagonist), scuba dive through a school of Hammerhead sharks to find an energy emitting object that is drawing the sharks toward it (sharks have sensory organs in their snouts that detect electric fields - hammerheads in particular - so this isn't actually that far fetched).
The part that is far fetched is the thought that I would ever ...EVER do something like that. No way, not for all the tea in China - which really is actually not all that enticing - but the point is - I'm not even getting in the pool if someone is floating around on a inflatable shark raft...
Unless... the pool is the grotto... and there's plesant moaning and then I say: "Stoner, you and the dog go order a pizza, me and the girls are going to take off our clothes and...
Wait for it...........
SLAP. (there it is)
But you see my point. We - or at least I - am not that interesting. If there's trouble, I'm gonna call the police, hope the 911 operator hasn't been outsourced to India and say something about tax dollars, yada, yada, yada - and then "can you guys come down here and take care of this Creature from the Black Lagoon. He appears lost. He's all kinds of slimy and uhmm... yeah he said something about the Taliban. Just sayin. Thanks. See you guys at bake sale."
Is that exciting? Nooooo - no one wants to read that. What they do want to read is about someone willing to take a risk, someone willing to step out of the ordinary and do the extraordinary. Someone willing to say:
"Stoner, you and the dog go lure that Creature back here and me and the girls will wait here in this hot tub and when he comes through we'll pop up and catch him. I know you don't want to do it, but I'll give you one of these dog treats if you do. You'll do it? Great."
Now that's a leader - that's a hero you want to read about.