What Makes a Hero Stand Out
by Sloan Parker
I’d like to
talk about the hero of romance novels, particularly the type of
hero I find myself drawn to lately. Not in terms of appearance,
I believe fictional characters should be crafted in such a way that they pop off the page and stay with the reader hours after the story is finished. These men can have ordinary, even flawed, qualities that make them real, but the way in which they are depicted, the way they move through the story, and how they evolve should stand out as extraordinary for the reader. I think this is accomplished best through the author’s deep understanding of and passion for their characters. The more passion I can put into my hero’s characterizations, the more three-dimensional he becomes and hopefully the readers will find themselves drawn to him.
On the surface, I think my gay male characters are fairly diverse, but as I started considering this blog post I realized several of my heroes do have qualities in common, qualities that I find interesting and appealing in a male hero:
Tough, but sensitive.
I love when a strong man lets his emotional barrier down, when he shows his vulnerabilities, lets passion, and eventually love, drive him. And vice versa: the man who initially appears physically (or emotionally) weak can be revealed as the strongest person in the story.
A man who puts others before himself. His priority is to protect and care for his family and those he loves. Maybe he’s the older brother who is concerned about his little sister’s safety. Or the man who watches after the lone, elderly woman living next door.
Knows how to love.
Even if he’s never let himself fall in love with a romantic partner, he isn’t afraid to love his family and friends. He may be avoiding romantic love right now, but he’s had love in his past or wants to find love in his future.
Flawed but willing to grow.
He doesn’t have to talk about his feelings all the time (that would be too much), but he does feel things and learns through the course of the story how to deal with those emotions. He cares about the world and the people around him. He’s not selfish, even if he does appear that way in the beginning. He’s learning to accept and improve his flaws, instead of ignore them.
This list describes heroes I found incredibly sexy. How about you? What do you like in a romantic hero? What characters do you remember long after you’re done reading their story?
I think those questions should be at the heart of every romance writer's characterization of their heroes. Write characters that you are drawn to and your readers will be too.