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Some Assembly Required
of building a hero is a little different than creating
other characters. You are looking for a different
response to him from the reader. Romance readers are for
the most part women so for purposes of this article, that
is the reader Im addressing. You want to create a
heroine the reader will like and respectafter all,
shell identify with this character (you hope!) and
live the story through her. However, you want to create a
hero the reader will fall in love with.
In a romance novel hero, his macho, alpha male
characteristics are a given. Yes, there have been a few
successful beta heroes, but even then their manliness and
sex-appeal quotient are never in question.
So if writing your hero as a sexy, take charge kind of
guy makes him merely ordinary, how do you create a hero
so unique your reader is going to fall for him in a big
way?--By showing the little boy within the man.
I dont mean you should have him exhibiting
childish, immature behavior, but rather show what hurts
him, excites his enthusiasm, makes him proud. Show his
soft spot. Is he a sucker for kids, does he love animals,
worry about his mother? You can get away with a lot in
terms of macho behavior (romance heroes tend to be larger
than life in this aspect) as long as he demonstrates what
Suzanne Brockmann refers to as the save-the-kitty factor.
But what is his softer side? The best way to find it is
to ask the man himself. Personally, I find the character
interview to be interesting, but of little real help when
constructing my other characters, but for building (or
discovering) the hero, it is invaluable.
If youve never tried this before, youre in
for a surprising treat. This is one of the best ways to
breathe life into a hero that previously has been only a
collection of attributes youve cobbled together.
Find a time when you wont be interrupted, have your
questions ready, and just begin. I sit at the keyboard so
I can type the answers my hero dictates to me.
Start by asking if he is willing to help you out by
answering some questions. If he says no, thats
interesting in itself. Ask why he objects and youre
off and running. This may seem completely woo-woo, but
try it anyway. Youve got nothing to lose except the
blank space on the page.
good questions to ask:
-· Who was your first girlfriend? What did you like most
-· Did you have a pet as a child? What happened to it?
How did you feel about that?
-· What do you think your greatest weakness is? (Note
that this may be something only the hero would think is
-· What do you think is your strongest attribute?
-· What are you proudest of?
-· What do you regret?
-· What embarrasses you?
-· What is something no one knows about you? Why do you
keep it a secret? What would happen if everyone found out
-· Why do you do the work you do?
-· What do you find most appealing in a woman? Least?
-· What is your favorite possession? Why?
-· What do you like most about where you live? Least?
-· Whats your favorite thing to do on a rainy
-· Whats your most vivid memory of your mother?
Notice these questions have little to do with his actual
history. You will have already determined the facts of
his life. Now were trying to discover the soul of
the man. As you start getting answers, the answers will
lead to even more questions until you are having a whole
conversation with this person. Some of the answers you
get may surprise you. Congratulations! Your hero has come
The answers will give you ideas for plot developments you
hadnt considered. At the very least youll
have material for scenes that demonstrate some of the
heros hidden emotions. And do put these emotions
and memories into action scenes. Memories make for boring
reading unless they relate somehow to the current action.
Perhaps the thing no one knows about your hero is that he
is afraid of lightning because as a child he was in a car
accident with his mother on a stormy night. She was
killed when lightning struck nearby and she lost control
of the car. Now that he is an adult storms are a living
hell for himracing heart, sweaty palms, the whole
nine yards. Perhaps his fear of storms even dictates
where he lives. Build a scene where he and the heroine
are in a storm.
Maybe the heros favorite possession is the key to
his first car that his father gave him just before his
dad left for Desert Storm and was killed. Write a scene
where the heroine learns about this.
The whole point of discovering the hidden aspects of your
hero is to make it believable to the reader when the
heroine falls in love with him. Weve all read books
that make us think the heroine is an idiot for falling in
love with a hero whos such a jerk. Dont let
yours be one of those! Give this tough, strong,
there-in-a-crisis man a few mitigating human elements and
your reader will sigh with regret when she finishes your
book and wait impatiently for the next.
Copyright 2006-2007 Cynthia VanRooy. All Rights Reserved
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