Hero, Some Assembly Required


© Cynthia VanRooy - All Rights Reserved



The process 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 I’m addressing. You want to create a heroine the reader will like and respect—after all, she’ll 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 don’t 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 you’ve never tried this before, you’re 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 you’ve cobbled together.

Find a time when you won’t 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, that’s interesting in itself. Ask why he objects and you’re off and running. This may seem completely woo-woo, but try it anyway. You’ve got nothing to lose except the blank space on the page. 

Some good questions to ask:

Who was your first girlfriend? What did you like most about her?

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 weak)

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 about it?

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? Why?

What’s your favorite thing to do on a rainy Sunday?

What’s your most vivid memory of your mother? Father?


Notice these questions have little to do with his actual history. You will have already determined the facts of his life. Now we’re 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 alive.  

The answers will give you ideas for plot developments you hadn’t considered. At the very least you’ll have material for scenes that demonstrate some of the hero’s 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 him—racing 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 hero’s 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. We’ve all read books that make us think the heroine is an idiot for falling in love with a hero who’s such a jerk. Don’t 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.

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Now that you've written the book, does the hardest part seem to be getting an editor to read it? Let award-winning romance author Cynthia VanRooy, published in both print and electronic formats, teach you in her information-packed ebooklet The Secrets to Query Letters That Work how seasoned professionals, even unagented ones, circumvent the slush pile and get their fiction in front of the decision makers. For more information click on http://www.cynthiavanrooy.com


Easy Way to Write Romance - by Rob Parnell