The other day, I went to our local RWA chapter meeting. There were several 'early birds' and one of the members said she was bogged down in her writing because she wasn't "in love" with her hero, so we had a brainstorming session to see what her hero would have to be in order for her to love him.
As romance writers, we expect our hero and heroine to fall in love. And I think some of the same qualities that work on the page for these characters also help us connect with our characters, and I think we do have to be at least a little in love with them as we write the book. Of course, we're fickle—we're going to have to fall in love with the hero of the next book, which probably wouldn't work well in a real life monogamous relationship.
So, what makes the reader fall in love with the hero? Not (at least I hope not) because he's too good looking for words. Not (for me, anyway) because he's all alpha and can master any situation. I want to see how the hero thinks of the heroine. Not because she's too good looking for words. Not because she needs him to rescue her, although that might be one of his goals.
I think the strengths of a good relationship lie in two people completing each other. I think they need to listen to each other (which is why a book based on something that could be fixed if the two of them merely talked for five minutes is a turn-off). I think they need to respect each other. And I think, more often than not, it's the little things that make me love a character.
One of my all time favorite heroes is Roarke from J.D. Robb's "In Death" series. Not because he's a kazillionaire. Not because he's gorgeous. A lot because of the way he dotes on his wife, even though she seems oblivious to the workings of a marriage. But the one defining moment is the button he keeps in his pocket—the one that fell off her suit the day they met. This button grounds him, and it's a talisman that appears throughout the series. For a man of Roarke's confidence, for the image he strives to project, admitting he's got a keepsake like this to anyone would be mortifying. It's his secret. Could he put it in a nightstand drawer? Sure. But he carries it with him every day.
In Susan Wiggs' The You I Never Knew, I love the way Sam McPhee deals with the son he doesn't know is his, and the woman he loved.
Jamie in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series is another hero I love. A warrior to be sure, but he's undone by Claire.
And Suzanne Brockmann writes killer heroes. They're well-rounded long before they meet the heroine.
For me to love a hero, I want to see some vulnerability. I don't want him perfect. Show me a man who's not ashamed to cry. Show me what he'll do for the heroine.
Okay, then. Who are some of your favorite heroes? And what made you love them?
Causes Terry Odell Supports
Pro Literacy Worldwide, The Nature Conservancy, The Adult Literacy League, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society