I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Monday, February 13, 2012

What Makes a Hero?

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Lisa here...I’m a happily ever after gal who needs that heart-sighing conclusion that romance novels promise. In order to reach that satisfying conclusion, the romance novel needs a solid hero.

Heroes come in three forms: alpha, beta, or a combination of the two. Alpha males are the dominant, larger than life men who live and love dangerously. Beta males are the best friend kind of heroes. Their qualities allow them to be solid sidekicks for the alpha male. And, of course, the combo hero demonstrates qualities of the alpha and beta male. 

Think about your favorite novels, TV shows and movies. Was the hero someone you could root for? Maybe he started out jerky at the beginning of the book or show, but by the time you finished the novel or the credits rolled, you were in his corner.

What qualities does a heartthrob hero possess?
·       Physical appeal
·       Charisma
·       Loyalty
·       Sensitivity
·       Self-sacrificing
·       Willingness to help the underdog
·       Ability to overcome incredible obstacles
·       Risks his heart for the woman he loves

Give your hero flaws. When I wrote the initial version of Lakeside Reunion, Stephen was too perfect. I needed to give him a flaw, so readers could relate and root for him, a reason for change. When we create perfect characters, they have no reason to change. And let’s face it—none of us is perfect, so who wants to read about perfect characters. Giving your hero a flaw allows him to grow and change during the course of the story.

Make your hero brave. I don’t want to read about a wuss who isn’t willing to step in and protect the girl. Courage gives your hero backbone to stand up for his noble cause. 

Give your hero something to fight for—a drive that pushes him through the story.

In my second novel, Lakeside Family, that comes out in August, my hero Nick doesn’t feel like anyone’s hero. Due to a tragedy in his past, he feels undeserving. After all, surely God can’t use someone like him. What Nick learns is heroes are not extraordinary people, but ordinary people whom God uses to do extraordinary things.

One of my favorite quotes about heroes comes from Christopher Reeve—a man who knows a little something about being a hero:

“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” 

Your Turn: What qualities do you look for in a hero? What's your biggest challenge about creating believable heroes? What kind of heroes do you like to read about in novels?

Lisa Jordan


  1. Without a doubt, my hero has to be brave. I'm not a very fearful person, so I have a very hard time relating to, as you put it, a "wuss who isn’t willing to step in and protect the girl." And it's not just bravado, but honest bravery to stand up for the truth, what's right, and the girl, regardless of what it costs.

  2. Great post, LJ. One to refer to again and again.
    When I was working on my first novel, I wanted to make sure my hero sounded like a guy not what I thought a guy would sound like. So I asked my husband to help me out by reading a scene. He ended up reading re-reading my ms. And he gave me some of my best lines!
    One of the things I best is when a hero risks his heart for the woman he loves -- when he's willing to be vulnerable.

  3. Donna, you're absolutely right--the hero needs to stand up for justice and what is right too. And it's not always easy. Sometimes taking a stand comes with a price.

  4. Beth, digging deep into the male POV and writing like a guy is tough, but doable. I'm so glad your hubby is a valuable resource to you. I ask my hubby or sons how a guy would respond in certain situations. Allowing the hero to show his vulnerability is one of the quickest ways for me to fall in love with him.

  5. Thanks, Lisa, there's much good to consider here. I love Beth's glimpses, too, of how Rob is an available hero. Hmmm, can't help thinking there's a strong connect between Ames last post on absolutely fun if pesky brothers and more mature flawed heroes easy for a good woman to love. I'm hanging on to that, believe I'll use it.

  6. Lisa, what a great post. I'm pondering it as I think about beginning re-writes on my wip. I'll definitely be referring back to this post, when I begin my next wip. :)

    In a hero, I look for one who knows how/or learns how to affirm his lady, how to treat her. Being her protector. The think that scares me the most about creating a hero is making him believable. Since I'm not a man, I always hope I am writing him realistically.

  7. I look for pensive eyes, just the right amount of facial hair and a sense of humor.

    Oh. Wait. We're talking fiction here...

    Yeah, I'm a big fan of flawed heroes...if the hero feels to perfect, I have a seriously hard time liking him. Also, I get REALLY annoyed at heroes who overly coddle heroines. I love a hero who is willing to sacrifice!

  8. Oh, great post, Lisa!

    I agree with flawed heroes. Who could live with Mr. Perfect?

    I'm more comfortable with Beta guys, probably because they're the opposite of my alcoholic father. But a Beta can't come across as a wimp. When the pressure is on, a hero has to be a real man, willing to sacrifice for those he loves. It's great when he's humble enough not to think of himself as a hero, even though others do.

  9. Loved the post, LJ. Hmmm gets me thinking about my hero. I think he's more of a beta guy. But I might need to dive a little deeper into his flaws, I know he's got them, but not sure they are coming out!


  10. Much of my life growing up, I was forced to defend myself so I grew up a tough girl. Not even being a tomboy kept me from yearning for someone who would defend me and take care of me. Handsome is not perfect but he has learned to defend me. He has come a long way, like most heros should.

    I have a friend who is a single mom. She came up to me one day and said, "It must be nice to be so pampered and protected all the time."
    Yes it is :)

  11. I think it's hard to write a hero who is still likable but with flaws. Necessary, but difficult.

    I write women's fiction with romantic elements, so the hero isn't necessarily a MC, but I did realize that both of the guys in my novel (the good guys, anyway) were too perfect. So I gave one a temper.

    So yeah, this whole concept is a WIP for me as I work on my WIP... :P

  12. Dee, living in a house full of men has shown me men and women can be so completely different in their thought processes. I believe flawed heroes are easier to love because they tend to show their vulnerabilities to those they care about.

  13. Jeanne, I completely agree about having heroes who know how to treat their ladies. My heroes tend to have a lot of qualities I find in my husband. If you worry about writing a realistic hero, ask your hubby for insight.

  14. Melissa, I'm with you on the heroine coddling. Today's women are strong and can stand on their own two feet. It's great to have someone who has your back, but totally different to have someone who wants to wrap you in cotton for fear of breaking you.

  15. Roxanne, I tend to fall in the middle with my heroes, I think. And you're right--no wimpy heroes. They need to have backbone and a willingness to take a stand.

  16. Ames, the deeper you get into your story, I'm sure your hero will reveal his flaws. His flaws could be tied to his lie and his greatest fear too.

  17. G, you have a good man! And you deserve to be pampered and protected. Even tough girls want someone to take a stand for them.

  18. Lindsay, your hero's flaws could be subtle. Think about the men in your life. They're not perfect, but I'm sure they're likable. See how you could add those elements to your male characters.

    And we're all striving to grow stronger as writers.

  19. Love this post, Lisa...even if I am late coming to the party. Was knee deep in taxes yesterday...forgot what day it was.

    Did you ever think about why heroes need flaws? It's the same reason girls are drawn to the bad boys in school. We want to fix them. lol

    I'm going to make sure I have this post handy as I start my next book.