Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Hero Worship?

What I'm reading: RITA entry #5

Thanks to Grace for her cheerful post yesterday. There's still time to leave a comment to be entered in the drawing.

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?


Caridad Pineiro said...

I am with you on Roarke! One of my all time favorite heroes. Wulfgar from WOLF AND THE DOVE is another. Thanks for the great blog.

Terry Odell said...

Caridad - who ISN'T crazy about Roarke? Another hero (although from a mystery, not technically a romance)was Anthony in Barbara Parker's "Suspicion" series. I'd just finished writing my first romantic suspense, and I thought my Randy was the perfect hero--but I liked Anthony better!

Thanks for stopping by.

Mario said...

Great post. My heroes are Joe Pike, Elvis Cole, and David Bowie.

Laura said...

I have no idea who Roarke is (might have to look that one up) but Oh, my sweet Jamie. I have been in love with Jamie for a decade now I think. I always look forward to spending time with him and listening to him talk. That he is so irrevocably in love with his Sassenach just makes him more irresistible. I look forward to the few hours I get to steal with him and when I do he whispers in my ear, in his Scottish accent, "dinna be afraid, there's the two of us now" and I smile. :)

Terry Odell said...

Mario - Love Joe Pike. Probably shouldn't have limited my post to talking about romance heroes -- all are welcome in the comments!

Laura - you HAVE to read Naked in Death by JD Robb (who is really Nora Roberts). That's first in the series, and it helps to meet the characters from the get go.

Hart Johnson said...

Oh, that button detail is nice. I agree with a lot of what you've said--not too perfect, not too masterful. I never want a male who diminishes a female. I want my female leads strong in their own right. (though if the female is TOO strong, i would love a male who could make her admit to a vulnerability.)--I think what I love is the ability to bring out something in the OTHER that they didn't know was there.

Monica Manning said...

I like a hero who appears to be secure in himself, lives with the illusion he has it all together; but when we get to know him, he's really quite awed and dumbfounded by the female species. I'm a sucker for the geeky hero, too. Nora Roberts does geeky like no other.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Rhett Butler comes to mind. Sense of humor, attractive, smart, flawed. :)

Joanie said...

Terry, I'm so with you on Roarke. There's nothing sexier than a man who loves his wife. That's exactly the top reason I watch White Collar now. Yes, Matt Bomer is a cutie, but the part of each show that lingers in my memory is always the loving interactions between the married couple Tim DeKay and Tiffany Theissen.

Good call!


Terry Odell said...

Hart - definitely. It's a matter of completing each other, I think.

Monica - yeah--alphas don't do it for me. Give me the sensitive geeky nerdy hero.

Elizabeth - good qualities.

Joanie - Hubstar always looks away at the 'mushy' stuff, but I'm all for relationships.

Maryann Miller said...

I like a bit of mystery with the heroes I enjoy reading about. I'm reading a Lee Child's book right now and remembering why I have always liked his character, Jack Reacher. He is a very unusual character, very flawed, but somewhat of a knight as well. Wonderful contrasts in character, and I think those contrasts make him memorable.

Terry Odell said...

Maryann - yes, Reacher has quite a following, and I agree that contrasts are important. They add depth and layers to the characters.

Jemi Fraser said...

Great choices! Roarke is a fantastic character. I love the relationship between him and Eve - so well done.

Brockmann is another of my favourite authors - and you're so right - her heroes are awesome.

Terry Odell said...

Jemi - yep. Guys you wish you'd run into at the grocery store!

Leigh D'Ansey said...

Carrying that button around says so much about Roarke. Seems so simple yet it speaks volumes. Very thoughtful, clever writing.

Terry Odell said...

Leigh - Nora Roberts isn't called the queen for nothing!