What is a hero?
Images of heroes across the TV or movie screen flash through our minds - fireman entering burning buildings to rescue a child, paramedics bringing someone back to life once their heart stopped, a man diving into icy water to save a drowning woman, and the list goes on ...
What does a romance writer's hero look like? I don't mean on the outside. He could be the ultimate alpha male who becomes sweet and kind with the woman he loves or the ordinary everyday man who sweeps the woman off her feet. Whatever he is, he has to be good. I don't mean good as in perfect but good as in - he has to make the reader fall in love. Face it, most readers of romance are women, and they want the hero to be attractive to them.
I've recently read two books written by ladies in the Romance Writers of South Africa Group that had compelling heroes. The first one was A Valentine Challenge by Kiru Tayo and her hero was marvelous. He was very male in every way, yet the tenderness and kindness he showed towards the woman he loved, made him, oh so good. Then there was the hero in The Devil of Jedburgh by Claire Robins. (Spoiler Alert!!) Wow! In the beginning, I really didn't like him. By the end, I was crazy about him. Both books had me pondering on them for days afterwards. There's something so compelling about a lovable hero who is fully man.
What makes a hero good? Here's a list of my ideas, but I'm sure everyone has a different idea. That's what makes each of our books unique.
- Flawed. There's nothing more off-putting than someone who isn't real or human. Give him some foibles or eccentricities but even more important, give him something that stands in the way between loving his woman completely - something that will no doubt be resolved at the end of the book.
- Masculine. That's obvious, but I know that someone made a comment when critiquing one of my books that I should watch out for my dialogue as sometimes my man said things that were characteristically female. I think it was something like, "Oh, that's horrid!" Very female. He should show the traits of the male species which sometimes annoy us ladies - short sentences, speaking in headlines, getting to the point straight away, sometimes a bit harsh. But of course, they're not all like that. Maybe it's a good idea to read up on male psychology to understand what goes on in their heads. Another idea is to be married for a while. Or have sons.
- Protective of his woman. If a hero isn't the safekeeper of his woman, he isn't a hero in my books. He has to defend her against danger (probably more in a romantic suspense novel), against social hurt and against her own self when she's hard on herself.
- Passionate. Who wants to read a romance without passion - either a sweet romance with restrained and respectful passion or a more spicy one with tender, giving love.
- Essentially kind and loving inside. There's nothing more off-putting to me than a hero who has an evil streak. Maybe in the beginning, you can give the reader the impression that he is mean and hard, but then, through his love for his woman, the real inner soft centre emerges.
- Likeable. Of course, this one is very subjective.
I know that I certainly need to work on making sparkling heroes in my books. Sometimes I've spent too much time making my heroine real and human, that I have neglected the male. What do you like the most in a hero?