Tag Archives: Heros

Fast Five: What I look for in a Hero

Hero 1It’s a holiday weekend, I need to get a post up by the end of the month, and I’m dry as a bone for inspiration. So in my desperation, here is a list of qualities I love to see in a hero. I’d love to get feedback from others about works for you in a hero.


Qualities in a hero that make me melt:

1. Kindness: However secretively and grudgingly it’s offered, even the most cynical, badass hero has to be able to scrounge up sympathy for at least one living creature besides the heroine.

2. Fidelity: To family, friends, platoon, mentor, his own moral code — I don’t care which. If a guy can’t show heartfelt loyalty to anyone or anything else, I’m going to have a hard time believing he’s going to stand by the heroine in the long run.

3. Sense of humor: Because there is nothing in this world better than a soulmate who gets your jokes.

4. Master of the Game: The ability to think ahead and to think fast shows smarts. Brawn is great for the heroine to run her hands over, but I love a man who formulates a plan to solve his problems. And then formulates Plan B. And Plan C. And . . . well, you get the drift. There’s a reason I have a soft spot for Batman.

5. Man Brain: If the character is meant to be a straight cis male, please don’t give me a chick in a cravat. I will make serious side eye at a straight hero who analyzes his innermost feelings to his  fellow male BFF. Actual, breathing men have assured me that while they do have All The Feels, they would undergo torture rather than discuss them with another man, no matter how trusted. Men also tend not to notice details like the difference between sea green and sage green unless they’re something like a painter, where knowledge of colors is necessary. Ditto for familiarity with women’s clothing, unless he’s a clothes horse himself or has a lot of female relatives. He’ll register impressions like ‘pretty’ or ‘sexy’, for example, but probably won’t know who designed the outfit.

So that’s my list — what turns you on in a hero? Comments welcome!


The Shameless Escapist

photo by Anna Cervova

My daughter brought home a four-inch-thick volume of fairy tales (Spells of Enchantment, 1991, Penguin Viking, ISBN 067083053) from her high school library yesterday.  She picked it because fairy tales and folk tales convey so much of the culture they originate in.  That’s an excellent reason to read fairy tales, but I leafed through it because my two favorite genres, romance and fantasy, have the fairy tale a few branches up their literary family trees.  I skimmed a telling of ‘Cupid and Psyche’ that had more folk elements than the usual myth and read a French version of Rapunzel written by a contemporary of Charles Perrault (he of Cinderella fame).

Only then did I read the introduction.  The editor, Jack Zipes, provides an overview of fairy tales from the second century to the twentieth.  One of his phrases especially reminded me of why I like writing (and reading) romance: “…fairy tales are written and told to provide hope in a world seemingly on the verge of catastrophe…”  I’m enough of an optimist to believe that the world may not be on the verge of catastrophe, but one of the reasons I enjoy romance novels is that the best ones give the reader hope as well as entertainment.

I’ve always seen romance as an escapist genre, even for those of us who are happy in our relationships.  I am okay with this.  Sometimes you have an awful day at work and your child got an F for not turning in homework and the cat just produced a hairball the size of Massachusetts on the good rug.  I’ve been there.  (Some days I still am, at least for the hairball part.)  If I can write books where somebody can lose herself in another era with a hero and heroine that she can really care about, my work here is done!

What books and authors do you turn to when you’re stressed and need an escape?  How do they help you?  Georgette Heyer‘s civilized tone and her humor soothe me, and I love Mary Jo Putney’s tortured heroes.  Or I’ll turn to J.R.R. Tolkien for the sheer beauty of his language and the fabulous heroes he writes (in the non-romantic sense, lol).

Alpha Males and Cheese Fondue

Okay, whatever mental picture you just conjured up, this article is probably not about that.

Heroic qualities have been on my mind lately, mostly because I’m writing a hero that I don’t think will come off as alpha  right away.  He’s actually a decent guy with heavy baggage, while my heroine is the loner with a black reputation.  I’m in that place where I’m worried the characters who have presented themselves to me won’t sell.  I know, everyone says to write what’s in your heart, but I’d be really thrilled if I could contribute significantly to our part of the college tuition bills.

To keep from spinning my wheels over characters I know I’m going to write anyway, I read this cheese fondue recipe at One for the Table.  It called forth a lot of memories.  My parents discovered fondue while my dad was stationed in Europe and we ate it often.  When I married, I registered for a fondue pot like my mom’s, but alas, did not get one.  I still have the same DH though, so everything turned out all right.

Fortunately, while in France a few years later on our delayed honeymoon, I discovered a marvelous fondue set.  Handsome red enamel, unyielding cast iron, strong enough for meat fondue and gentle enough for melting cheese.  It was the fondue pot of my dreams, and I wanted him — um, it — the moment I saw it in the store window.

My DH  acquiesced to my demands to obtain it, or rather an identical twin boxed up on the shelf inside.  (I only wanted the pot for its physical attributes.  Shallow but true.)  We emerged triumphantly from the store with my new love clutched to my bosom, and headed back to DH’s second cousin’s house.

This relative lives a good distance away from the small town where we made our purchase.  DH and I had enjoyed time alone on a bright summer day as we strolled in.  On the walk back, however, the fondue pot had joined us.  The cast iron fondue pot.  The sucker got heavier with every block we passed.

No one looks at my DH and thinks ‘alpha!’.  He wears glasses.  He insists on a conservative haircut due to his job, and prefers suits and ties to open shirts and tight jeans.  It took him awhile to figure out that the fondue pot was causing my shoulders and back to ache, probably because the first seven times he asked if he should carry it, I said “No, it’s fine.”

Eventually, he took the box and carried it the rest of the way back to his second cousin’s.  He also had to take it to the post office and the railway station to try and ship it back to the U.S.  Thanks to convoluted French regulations in place at the time, he ended up carrying it onto the plane  (before 9/11 you could still do that) and argue with customs in New Jersey to get it into the country.  He hated that fondue set, but he put up with so much inconvenience because it was important to me.  Which in my mind makes DH an Alpha Plus.

As for the hero of my WIP, I still think he qualifies as alpha.  He’s a master strategist who knows what he wants and goes after it.  He accepts the responsibilities life has handed to him.  Besides courage and determination, he also possess an innate sense of fairness, and he is fiercely protective of the people he loves.  He also responds to the heroine like no other man, and needs her as desperately as she needs him.  And he would totally lug a fondue pot halfway across Europe for her.