Friday, June 4, 2010
I Need A Hero
Okay, so he's cute more than studly. But, hey, is Doctor Who a hero or what? Quirky, special powers, not human, sympathetic, a fighter, etc. etc. And such a cute accent David Tennant had. Got teary eyed at his farewell on the show when he had to morph into a new Dr. Who. And, yes, did have a bit of a crush on him.
Of course, it's hard to get that cute accent in a book. But the way a hero talks is important. He can't be too sarcastic, too mean, or, in my opinion, too mushy. Oh, yes, we(and the heroines) all want to hear the hero say something wonderful to the heroine but - IMHO - too much complimenting, too much flattery, too many odes to her beautiful eyes, just doesn't sound real, maybe even a little too much like a guy who just wants to get in her pants(or under her skirts since I write historicals) I'm not saying there aren't guys out there who can really spread the butter and do so honestly, but there're a lot more who don't. Doesn't mean they don't care deeply, they - well - they're just guys. So, our heroes need to be better at it than real guys, but maybe not so good they sound too good to be real.
A hero should also be strong and brave when it matters. Hence the proliferation of SEALS, Black-Ops, Paranormal He-men, etc. Those guys who can face off the baddies to save the heroine and the world. And - as a bonus - they should also be handsome, studly, and comfortable enough financially to keep the heroine in a decent house and well clothed. A little sense of possession is also nice, a hint of jealousy(if only to wake him up to what he really feels) and a sharing, excellent lover. With great abs and a nice butt.
And speaking of being a great lover. It may be just me but I don't exactly find it attractive to read all sorts of info on just how many women he has had or how often or how much they all still want him. Isn't that sort of a given? He's of the age where we know he's no virgin, he's handsome, got a full wallet, built like a brickhouse, and so on. Of course he's had women. And since he's a hero, of course he's had enough experience and has enough sensitivity to know how to please a woman. If you read all about the heroine's vast experiences, all the men she's thrilled, etc, wouldn't the word 'slut' whisper through your mind? Why doesn't it count the same way when you read such things about the hero? And if it's a contemporary, a man who's been boffing anything decent in skirts all the time - well, I'd want to see some paperwork showing he's had recent tests to prove he's clean. Even in an historical you're talking about a guy who could easily be carrying some serious diseases. And I'm excluding the erotica/romantica here as that's a whole different ball of wax. But, to me, if I keep reading about how many women he's had, how he's a reknowned lover, etc. too much it starts to detract from his hero status for me. I know - the classic rake tamed by the heroine story line can still be good, but maybe tone down the details of just how many women he screwed - literally and figuratively.
I think constructing a good hero is harder than constructing a good heroine and not just because so many romance writers are women. We the readers want the macho, the kickass, the attitude, the better-than-the average-man stuff, but we also want the softer side to show. It's something that can be really tricky. If he's too soft and vulnerable, it's hard to believe it when he starts to kick ass and if he's too hard, it's hard to believe when he goes all soft and dewy-eyed over the heroine. I think you really have to know the man you set up as a hero to get it right.
And, one last note. For the vulnerability - I really think it has to be more than - he was hurt by a woman in the past. A man who hardens his heart because one woman broke it just doesn't cut it for me. As the pages go by and he keeps falling back on that old heartbreak I find myself thinking - enough. Get over it. Deal with it. We all have. It has to be more than a simple heartbreak, maybe a deep betrayal, maybe something that caused lives to be lost, or it was more than one, or he saw it(bad marraiges, bad relationships, infidelity, betrayal) over and over as a child. We all know childhood lessons, good and bad, stick longer than others. Give him a good, deep emotional scar that makes anything unheroic that he does make sense and draw sympathy.
But that's just my opinion - I could be wrong.