© Cynthia VanRooy - All Rights
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
What do you find most appealing in a
What is your favorite possession?
What do you like most about where you
live? Least? Why?
What’s your favorite thing to do on a
What’s your most vivid memory of your
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
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
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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