What Makes a
Copyright Judy Bagshaw - All Rights
Ask a hundred women
this question and you'll get a hundred different responses.
Ask a woman in her twenties, and she'll no doubt give you a
different list of attributes than a woman in her fifties.
But read enough romance novels, and you'll find that
certain qualities appear over and over.
In her delightful book, All I Need to
Know in Life I Learned from Romance Novels, Victoria
Johnson has this to say about the nature of the hero:
"...He has a fantastic body and is a
phenomenal lover. He may have a prominent name. He shows
kindness to others. He is responsible and may have great
kids. But these aren't the things that draw women to him,
because true heroes aren't made by body type or name, but
She goes on to say, "It's a man's
zest for life, his drive, his initiative that make him
interesting. He has a passion for his profession, he treats
women with respect, he's intelligent and has a sense of
He sounds like a dream, doesn't he? This
is what the romance reader wants in a hero--someone she can
see herself falling in love with. And you as the writer
should be able to fall in love with him too.
Today's hero can still be the alpha male
we're so familiar with from romantic fiction of the recent
past, but these days he can also be charming, possess a
sense of humour, have a sensitive underbelly. We can write
a hero who is playful and relaxed, who has some flaws, and
who can express his feelings. Today's hero is a
well-rounded individual with strengths and vulnerabilities.
He's confident without arrogance. He's always successful in
whatever his field of endeavor. He champions the underdog,
and has no fear of commitment. He might fight his immediate
attraction to the heroine, but he will find that she is
always in his thoughts.
What a hero isn't, ever, is a wimp, or a
boor, or a bully. He certainly can have flaws to his
character, but none that would make you question the
heroine's intelligence or good taste in being attracted to
Not all women are necessarily attracted
to the strong, silent type, or Mister Tall, Dark and
Handsome. So, as a writer, you have a broad scope of
physical types you can bring to the page. He can wear
glasses, or have more brain than brawn. He can be more
boyish than dashing. He may have facial hair, or a little
grey at the temples. But however you create him, he needs
to trigger a primal response in the heroine. He must have
that charisma that makes her take a second look and feel
the blood pound through her veins. In a nutshell, you need
to create a hero to die for.
In life, we say, actions speak louder
than words. This is also true with our romance hero. His
actions speak directly to his character. He is decisive and
driven, determined and willing to take charge. But it's not
good enough to just have him rampaging through the story,
interfering in things. It is important to ensure that the
hero has a good reason for his actions, a motivation that
we, as readers, will understand and admire.
Your hero needs to have goals. He may
not necessarily have to be rich to sell in today's romance
market, but he certainly needs to have drive and
aspirations, to desire to be the best in his field be it
horse rancher or oil magnate. The reader must know that the
hero could achieve anything he set his mind to.
So what makes a hero? In this day and
age, it's a "real man". And what is a real man? Victoria
Johnson sums it up like this:
"A real man works hard, plays hard,
laughs deeply, pays bills, votes, cares about his loved
ones, appreciates and respects his woman. He has intestinal
fortitude, determination, and foresight. He is a guy who
quietly, day in and day out, helps to keep the country
going. A real man isn't a liar or a coward, nor is he
envious, vain, untrustworthy, or cruel."
Now, that's my kind of hero!
About the Author: Judy
Bagshaw has been published since 2000. Writing
romance featuring full-figured heroines, her
publishing credits include 4 novels, 1 collection of
short stories, and short stories in three
anthologies. She was also part of the writing team
for the Ginn Reading Series, and Reaching Readers
Series, used in many elementary schools. Retired from
teaching, she writes full-time from her home in
Ontario, Canada. Visit Judy's website: www.judybagshaw.com