One of the things I love about romance is reading the wonderful, intriguing heroes. The ones that make your heart patter faster, tug a wry smile to your lips or make you search for a set down even while you're secretly enjoying his take charge attitude. A well painted hero is worth his weight in gold. Strong but not completely overbearing. Wounded perhaps but salvageable. Charismatic and fascinating or maybe endearing. Witty or stern. Heroes come in all types. The trick is to make them believable.
We recognise the archetypes whether we label them or not. Types like the Bad Boy, roaring in on his bike. The Warrior, finding release if not redemption in action and the need to protect. The Charmer, always ready with wit and charisma. The Professor, clever but perhaps not in the ways of the world. The Boy Next Door, decent and dependable. The Best Friend, the Lost Soul, and so on.
But the best romance heroes aren't memorable because they fit the mould of some archetype. They're memorable because they're real. They're vulnerable as well as strong, unique individuals who are perfect in their own way for the heroine.
I can't claim to be a guru on the subject of creating fantastic heroes but along the way I've picked up a few thoughts to share with you.
One of the things I've noticed in reading contest entries for instance, is the number of times a hero is referred to as being strong or decisive or troubled or whatever yet we never see him being any of those things. It's not good enough to TELL us the hero is a natural leader if you never show anyone following his lead or jumping to do his bidding. If he's the ruler of all he surveys with the power of life and death over his nation, so awe-inspiring the heroine trembles at the thought of standing up to him, it's no good only showing him being hen-pecked by his female relatives. SHOW him as a statesman, a strong leader.
Give the man a past. It doesn't have to be a terribly troubled past, but the man we see today was forged by something. Was it a loving family? War? Loss? If he's a warrior he'll have scars. If he's a charmer what made him into a man who uses his charisma to get what he wants? If he's a bad boy, what impact did that have on him? I don't mean merely giving us a chunk of back story. I mean having those past experiences reveal themselves in his way of thinking, his actions and his preferences. When does he feel comfortable and why? What does he shy away from?
Remember, even though he's your hero, he's allowed to be afraid. A man with no fear is a scary specimen and not one I'd like my heroine to fall for. Even if his fear is not for himself, but that he may not be able to protect those he loves, that will make him more real, more believable, and more appealing. Does he fear love? Or loss? Or failure? Show us his secret weakness and then make him face it. He'll be all the more heroic then. One of the mistakes I fell into in my early writing days was trying to make my hero too perfect. I'd rather a flawed hero who was realistic.
Being imperfect doesn't mean he has to be wrong all the time. A heroine who is continually finding fault (and being proved right) can get annoying. As can a hero in the same situation. Make sure your hero is competent at something. Whether it's boat building or being a father, protecting the weak or keeping the peace, allow him to shine. Give him a purpose.
Dialogue is a fantastic way to make your hero real. We can see him being heroic, but hearing his words in our ears, possibly witty or self deprecating, authoritative or seductive, will add colour to the man you're creating. Let the changes in dialogue reflect changes in mood and feeling, perhaps highlighting the way this character changes in a big way due to his interaction with the heroine. Remember too that man tend to be much more concise with their words than women.
Finally, the big ace up your sleeve is to use your hero's point of view. Whether you prefer to see the story from his perspective or find it easier to stay with your heroine's outlook most of the time, think carefully about how you can use his point of view to best effect. It's a great way to show his attraction to the heroine for instance. But don't forget it's also perfect for revealing his innermost fears and hopes, the things most men would die rather than voice out loud. Use this to show the weakness he's fighting to overcome and the feelings he'd rather hide.
Do you have a favourite hero? A hero you're grappling with perhaps? What makes a hero stand out for you? Have you any suggestions to share about what makes a hero real?
Annie's thrilled to have TWO releases out this summer. RAFE'S REDEMPTION is a Presents release available now from eHarlequin. Sadly it's not in stores but you can buy it in paperback or ebook from their site. It's been described by one review as "sizzling, emotional and poignant". Meanwhile PRINCE OF SCANDAL is an August Presents release (actually on sale 19 July) which scored a lovely 4 star review from Romantic Times. It's available from all the usual places. If you want to read more about either book or enter a contest to win copies, visit Annie's website.