Romance novel writing tips: Heroes and Heroines
As a reader, I want to meet a hero with flaws and room to become heroic. Very few heroes are born heroic; they have to grow into it. For that metamorphosis to occur, the writer must provide a certain climate for growth. First, the hero must have some character fault, some weakness he must overcome. It can be as simple as fear of snakes (Indian Jones) or more complex, such as inability to commit (Rhett Butler). A character flaw adds a dimension of vulnerability, an opportunity for conflict and most importantly, the vehicle for growth. Flaws make me want to root for the guy who isn’t perfect, just human.
Second, a hero must have a heroine in danger, whether it is physical or emotional peril. He must grow from his own world and concerns to meet her in her world and make her concerns his own. This doesn’t mean he loves her the minute he meets her, but he is drawn to her by some unknown force he later realizes is his desire to rescue her and take care of her.
Third, a hero must overcome adversity. The writer cannot solve his problems for him and the heroine should not. The hero must rescue both of them from the snake pit. He must learn how to commit and possibly teach her how as well. The reader must be able to trace the hero’s growth through the story in order to grow to love him herself along with the heroine for the book (and the writer) to be successful. When the hero has some flaw he deals with, a heroine he rescues and challenges he masters, the story will end happily ever after.
When it comes to heroines, I am rebelling. Enough with the “feisty” heroines. I want to read about a woman who wasn’t ahead of her time, out of step with her peers, or a feminist in the wrong century. When I read a historical novel, the heroine should be the product of her times, who supercedes the expectations of women in her environment.
Who says she must be “feisty?” What happened to sweet, honest, compassionate, caring, and vulnerable. Give me a heroine who needs a hero and isn’t afraid to admit it. Give me someone who loves being in love, who knows from the minute she meets him that this is the man for her and, if she has to fight with him, let it be over whether he is the man of her dreams.
A heroine doesn’t have to be tough, independent, or, heaven forbid, manly. There are enough of those in real life. Let’s have a heroine who flirts outrageously and gets away with it, who sheds real tears, and maybe even swoons with the proper motivation. Make her triumph over adversity with the skills and experience and use her brain as much as her feminine charms. Aim her toward the “happily ever after” and let her run away with the story.