Tuesday, 11 December 2007

What makes a good romantic hero?

For the Enchanted Faerie, each author was given a character and a situation (the Gypsy Alishandra Orona charging each heroine a hundred gold for the use of the faerie). As these are tales of romance, that meant we had to come up with a hero.

We had to consider what elements make for a good romantic hero:

1. In the end, he must love the heroine.

That is not to say he must start out loving her. He could start out hating her, and then come to the realisation that it's not hate but love he feels. Or it could be that he loves her from the beginning but needs to convince her. Whatever happens, by the time the story ends, there can be no doubt that he recognises and acknowledges that he loves her.

And we're not talking that he's made her his lust puppy to be turfed out of bed the next morning without a second thought. We're talking the deep, abiding love. Agape, as well as eros. (Okay, maybe there's a lust-puppy moment, but we know he'll be coming back!)

2. He must have at least one quality that appeals to the readers.

And it doesn't have to be that he's extremely handsome. Rochester from "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Brontë is a plain looking man who suffers some disfigurement later, but that doesn't stop us from wanting him to get the girl in the end. Dashing heroes may look well on the silver screen, but on the printed page, it's the other aspects of his character that come forth.

He could be deeply intelligent, he could be a risk-taker, he could be patient (or not, depending on how he is portrayed). He could have a rarely-shown sensitive side and be good to his mother. Perhaps his quality is fidelity, either longstanding or newly-discovered.

Now, we all know what makes for a good man in real life, the sort of man you want to marry and keep forever, but those qualities aren't necessarily found in a good hero. Often he'll use, abuse and lose the heroine sometime in the story, end redemption notwithstanding. You may find one or two (or ten or twenty) of your personal "Husband Qualification List" items absent in many a good romantic hero.

This is fiction, honey! We don't require that we'll know he'll be able to hold a steady job or that he'll be a good father to the children. He's just gotta catch our attention with his one good, redeeming quality and make our blood burn.

But if we can't understand what the heroine sees in him, we ain't buying it.

3. He must be ambitious.

You might not have considered this, but think back on all the romantic heroes you've read. How many of them were slack bastards? Not many, if that. Whether Duke or Doctor, Pirate or Politician, we like a hero with drive.

Our hero is a man who knows what he wants then he goes and gets is. (Hopefully one of those things is the heroine. If not, she'll convince him in the end.)

Part of that ambition is that he's off in the story doing stuff. He's not sitting around waiting for things to come happen to him. He's not a fop or a loser. We like a carpe diem-type of guy. He makes the plot move, provides conflict, intrigue and excitement.

4. He must not kick puppy dogs.

This is a given.

1 comment:

EJ McKenna said...

All very good qualities listed there. I think that list has always been in my subconscious somewhere, and now it's all coming out in my writing.