Who doesn’t love falling in love? One of my favorite parts of being a writer is the experience of falling head over heels in love with a character.
That’s also why I devour romance novels like they are some sort of peanut butter and chocolate concoction. Every time I pick up a book, I hope that the hero in this story will be one of them… you know, one of the few who joins the ranks of fictional men I’ll never forget.
I was recently told by a reader that the hero of my novel Dharma and Desire is on their list of favorite characters ever. I was honored — and floored. I’m not saying this to brag. I don’t imagine my hero is everyone’s cup of tea. But it got me thinking. What about him touched this reader (and me) so deeply?
Why do some heroes ingrain themselves in our minds and hearts while others don’t? What sets them apart?
Being a good person with passion and purpose is the foundation for a great hero. Add the following traits and conflicts to the mix and you have the recipe for an irresistible character…
1. He’s wounded.
I know, describing the hero as some sort of wounded animal is pretty cliche. But we can’t argue with what works.
And why does it work? An animal that is wounded is both vulnerable and dangerous. All women possess a primal instinct to heal. And if the animal they want to heal is dangerous because it is in pain — she’ll want to help even more. And so will your reader.
It’s also humbling to have a wound or limitation. Generally speaking, heroes are a bit arrogant, so an injury is a good way to temper that arrogance.
The wound can be mental, emotional, or physical — or a combination of them all. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long is it makes him vulnerable, dangerous, and a little bit humble.
2. He has a damn good reason why he can’t (or shouldn’t) be with her.
Every woman wants a man who wants her desperately, madly, and passionately. A hero who will launch a thousand ships to reach her shore. A lover who will go mad if he cannot be with her. So give him a reason why he can’t be with her and watch him go mad. A hero who is deeply conflicted over his desire for the heroine is oh so intriguing. (Mr. Darcy, anyone?)
Keep in mind that the reason he can’t (or shouldn’t) be with her can be minor to the heroine, the reader and the world, but it must be a damn good reason to him.
3. He knows something the heroine, and possibly the reader, doesn’t know.
We all want a mysterious hero and this trick certainly helps. It can be applied in two different ways:
- He has worldly knowledge or wisdom that your heroine and/or reader does not have (and wants to have.)
- He has a secret that the heroine and/or reader should (and eventually will) know.
If you want your hero to be especially mysterious use them both! I did. My hero possesses deep spiritual wisdom. My heroine desperately needs the guidance and wisdom he can offer. My hero ALSO has a secret: knowledge of a dark prophecy about the heroine which is not revealed until the end.
(And by the way, that dark prophesy is also one of the damn good reasons he can’t be with her.)
So there you have it. Combine one or more of these and you’ll write a hero your readers will never forget!
What makes a hero unforgettable to you?