What Makes a Hero?

Copyright Judy Bagshaw - All Rights Reserved


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 by character."

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 humour."

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 the him.

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



Easy Way to Write Romance - by Rob Parnell