No, not the TV show about people with supernatural powers. Not the classical Greek statue of a chiselled figure of the perfect man. Not even the everyday rescued-a-cat-from-a-tree variety of hero.
Or, just maybe, a little bit of all three.
What do you, as a reader or as a writer, need from a hero?
Good looks are a given, right? But who agrees on what constitutes good looks? And how do we account for those actors or colleagues or friends of friends that we’ve always had a bit of a shameful crush on, even though they’re not conventionally gorgeous?
My answer to this, I think – and I’d be interested to hear yours, because I’m still formulating this myself – is that because we fall in love with a hero through our heroine’s eyes, he has to be irresistible to her. In some of the best romances I’ve read, the hero might not even register on our heroine’s hotness scale until she starts to fall for him – it’s the act of falling in love with the whole package that makes him her Adonis.
Yes, there are constants. Who doesn’t love a pair of broad shoulders, or deep soulful eyes. But the physical attractiveness of a hero might not be what first attracts our heroine – for some heroines, one hurt by a good looking charmer in her past, for example, it might even be a turn off.
So, if the perfect Greek statue body isn’t the be all and end all, what else makes our hero heroic?
Feats of impossible strength? Saving our heroine from certain doom? In a paranormal, maybe. But what about a contemporary?
I think some of this still holds. While a modern day heroine is just as likely to save herself, or the hero, that doesn’t mean that we don’t want heroic feats from our leading men. But what those heroic feats will be have to again depend on the heroine herself – after all, she’s the one who’s falling for him.
Impossible strength? What about being the one to stand by her, even if it might destroy his reputation, his business, and all he holds dear?
Saving the heroine? What about being the man who brings her just what she needs to save herself – the hugely expensive truffle, for example, that she needs to create the perfect dish for her VIP guest, on whose review her whole career rests?
But what about our everyman hero, the one saving Grandma’s cat? Where does he fit in?
Well, as much as we like our heroes to be a cut above the men of the real world, that doesn’t mean that we want them to be unattainable. A hint of the familiar about a hero can be what really brings him to life, what makes him linger long after the last page. If we can believe that a man like this – who cares about cats, or likes to watch the football sometimes, or who drinks beer with his brothers on Sundays – can also be the man who makes our heroine swoon, who saves the day, risks everything, then gets down on one knee, then we can believe in the romance in a way that is much harder with a peerless heroine and a Adonis hero.
For me, a real hero needs faults, but human ones. And they have to be faults he wants to overcome, so that he can be a better man, for his heroine and their future together.
So, what about you? What makes a hero real, or heroic, or gorgeous to you?
As a reader, who are the heroes that have stayed with you, a hundred novels later?
And as a writer, how do you fall in love with your own heroes, and when do they become real to you?
Can’t wait to hear your thoughts!